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Bailey's Take on Conference USA

C-USA Hoops Preview

By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Bearcats, Memphis Geared for Success


American Division

1. Cincinnati —  The Bearcats are the preseason pick in the American Division. Cincinnati is competing in its 101st season of college basketball this year. In one hundred years of hoops, the Bearcats have a record of 1,401 wins against 824 losses, good for a winning percentage of .630.

Bob Huggins enters this season as the ninth winningest coach in the nation. That 'other' Steve Logan, the Bearcats' gifted senior guard, is the preseason Player of the Year for Conference USA. Logan enters this season with 1,215 career points.

If the Bearcats play better down low this season, they should roll to the American Division title.

Dates to Remember: January 5th Cincinnati at East Carolina, January 29th East Carolina at Cincinnati.

2. Charlotte — The 49’ers should battle for an NCAA berth led by Coach Bobby Lutz, who holds a 9-1 record in the Conference USA tournament in three seasons, including two tournament titles.

Charlotte finishes strong, and is one of only 15 schools that have advanced to the second round of the NCAAs in four the last five years.

Jobey Thomas is the all-time leader in three pointers in Conference USA history with 236. Charlotte was second only to Duke last year with a school and league record 305 three pointers made.

Dates to Remember: January 12th Charlotte at East Carolina, January 26th East Carolina at Charlotte.

3. Marquette — will challenge for an NCAA berth this season. The Golden Eagles return five of its top six scorers along with the top four rebounders from last season. Marquette led the league in free throw shooting last season.

Senior guard Cordell Henry returns after ranking second on the team in scoring last season. Head Coach Tom Crean worked with the USA Basketball team trials back in June.

Dates To Remember: February 6th East Carolina at Marquette, February 26th Marquette at East Carolina.

4. Louisville — picked 4th in the preseason poll, but I think they’ll battle Cincinnati and Charlotte for the division title. Rick Pitino is the man in the 14-carat gold tie, and he brings a championship attitude to the Cardinals.

Pitino has a record of 26-7 in NCAA tournament play. He has coached in four Final Fours, and he is one of only 11 coaches to lead two different teams to the Final Four.

Louisville’s recruiting class was ranked in the top 10 by several national publications.

Dates To Remember: January 16th Louisville at East Carolina, February 19th East Carolina at Louisville.

5. Saint Louis — The Billikens are one of the league’s youngest teams, playing their first season in 70 years without a senior on the roster. Marque Perry is the lone returning player to average in double figures last season, scoring 10.1 points per game.

St. Louis has ranked among the nation’s Top 25 in average attendance among Division I programs for the past seven years and ranked as high as sixth in 1997-98.

Dates To Remember: January 19th East Carolina at Saint Louis, February 2nd St. Louis at East Carolina.

5. DePaul — Tied with St. Louis for fifth in the preseason balloting. Former Florida State coach Pat Kennedy is a master at recruiting, and he needs to be in this division.

Imari Sawyer makes the Blue Demons tick. He’s one of the most dazzling players in the league and had 179 assists last season. However, he also had 126 turnovers last year.

DePaul was just 12-18 last year, 4-12 in Conference USA.

Dates To Remember: January 23rd DePaul at East Carolina, February 9th East Carolina at DePaul.

7. East Carolina — The Pirates expect a very difficult year in Conference USA, especially in this division. The Pirates will face teams with better athletes almost on a nightly basis.

Pirate Coach Bill Herrion can’t wait to get Gabriel Mikulas and Moussa Badiane, who are still waiting to hear from the NCAA about their eligibility.

Erroyl Bing has been awesome in the early going, and will only get better with a little more help down low.

National Division

1. Memphis — John Calipari and the Tigers are the pick to win the National Division title.

Dajuan Wagner, who once scored 100 points in a high school game, is the Tiger’s top recruit. Eight returning letterman and Wagner, along with several other top recruits, make this a deep, talented team.

Among the new Tigers are 6’8” forward Chris Massie, a Top 25 junior college transfer, and Top 100 prep recruit Anthony Rice.

Kelly Wise is the best returning player. He was the only player in the league to average a double-double, (15.3ppg and 10.1 rpg).

Memphis and East Carolina are not scheduled to play in the regular season.

2. South Florida — Altron Jackson and B.B. Waldon should finish this season as the top two all-time scorers in Conference USA history. Unfortunately, these two have only had one post-season appearance in their careers. That should change this season, after the Bulls brought in a Top 50 recruiting class.

South Florida at East Carolina are not scheduled to play in the regular season.

3. UAB — The Blazers could cause some problems in the National Division. Only Cincinnati and Charlotte have more total wins over the last five years.

The Blazer’s recruiting class was ranked 33rd by one national publication, plus, the team returns two players who were injured all of last year. Myron Ransom and Morris Finley both return for the 2001-2002 season. Tony Johnson also returns, after missing the last eight games of last season with an injury.

Date To Remember: January 8th East Carolina at UAB.

4. Southern Miss  —  Last year’s Coach of the Year, James Green, returns a very athletic team that tied for the Conference USA title last year. That run allowed the Golden Eagles to gain an edge in recruiting.

The team’s top scorer and top rebounder are gone, but big junior college transfers Ben Lambert and Carey Rigsby should carry the load down low.

Reed Green Coliseum is another of the toughest places to play in Conference USA, and a return trip to the post season is a very real possibility for Southern Miss.

East Carolina and Southern Miss are not scheduled to play in the regular season.

5. Texas Christian — Billy Tubbs has already announced that this will be his last season with the Horned Frogs.

The nucleus of this team is no mystery — it’s guard Nucleus Smith.

Last year the Frogs led the nation in scoring at just over 96 points per game. Graduation took its toll on TCU, but Bingo Merriex averaged over 21 points per game over the last seven games last season.

Date To Remember: March 2nd East Carolina at TCU.

6. Houston — Four starters return from a team that went 9-20 and 6-10 in Conference USA last year. Big Alton Ford is the lone defector, opting for the NBA after his freshman season.

The Cougars under Ray McCallum were still an improvement over the days with Clyde Drexler at the helm. They shouldn’t compete for the title, but hope to show continued improvement this season.

Date To Remember: February 23rd Houston at East Carolina.

7. Tulane — The Green Wave was very green in running off a 2-14 record in Conference USA.

Shawn Finney will go about year two of his rebuilding program in much the same way he went about things in year one. The Wave will look to run, and will look to jack up the three point shot.

The worst part about Tulane is that they are not on the Pirate schedule this season. Tulane is among the teams that the Pirates should be able to handle in the league.

East Carolina and Tulane are not scheduled to play in the regular season.

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02/23/2007 01:19:55 AM

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