Tigers figure to be class of new-look C-USA
From staff, C-USA and ECU reports
Conference USA's reconfigured
membership roster has prompted much preseason speculation about how the
league's new basketball power structure will shake out.
But there's little
disagreement on who will be the leader of the pack.
One prediction the
conference's coaches agree on is that traditional powerhouse Memphis will be
the program the other 11 teams will be chasing in the upcoming 2005-06
Led by Conference USA
Preseason Player of the Year selection Rodney Carney, the Tigers are the
coaches' unanimous favorite to win the regular season title when the six
C-USA holdover teams mix it up with six new members to determine the
league's new pecking order.
The preseason prognostications
were announced by the league office Tuesday in conjunction with C-USA's
basketball media day in Irving, TX.
Memphis, coming off its fifth
straight postseason appearance under John Calipari — the league's
highest-profile coach — welcomes back a pair of standout starters in Carney and
Darius Washington, Jr.
Carney, a second team
All-Conference selection last season, averaged 16.0 points and 5.0 rebounds
per game, while Washington, a point guard, was named the C-USA Freshman of
the Year in 2004-05.
While the departures of a host
of schools — Charlotte, Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, South
Florida, Saint Louis and Texas Christian — to new conference homes depleted
C-USA of some of its marquee programs, it also opened new opportunities for
other teams to rise to the occasion in pursuit of postseason bids.
C-USA's returning teams — East
Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Tulane and UAB — will
compete with newcomers Central Florida, Marshall, Rice, Southern Methodist,
Texas-El Paso and Tulsa in the new 12-team format, two less teams than the
league's sometimes unwieldy previous configuration.
In this new landscape,
according to the votes of the coaches, UAB and Houston figure to reside with
Memphis in C-USA's upper quartile. The Blazers, with back-to-back NCAA
Tournament appearances under their belts, were selected to finish second,
while Houston was picked third.
UAB returns three starters,
including forward DeMario Eddins, the team's leading returning scorer (12.5
ppg). Senior guard Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson, a defensive wizard, is also
back after leading C-USA in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Houston was one of the
nation's most-improved teams in 2004-05, making a return to postseason play
for the first time in three years. The Cougars return four starters coupled
with a highly-regarded recruiting class. Junior guard Lanny Smith led
Houston with 134 assists and is the team's top returning scorer (14.6 ppg).
Former Western Athletic
Conference member UTEP, a team that played in each of the past two NCAA Tournaments, was
chosen to finish fourth. The Miners have a pair of returning starters in
Jason Williams (11.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg ) and John Tofi (6.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg).
Rice, also a former WAC
member, and UCF, whose basketball team previously competed in the Atlantic
Sun Conference, were tied in the voting for fifth place.
The Owls have participated in
the NIT the past two seasons and return three starters in 2005-06, led by
senior forward J.R. Harrison (9.1 ppg, team-leading 31 blocked shots).
The Golden Knights won the
A-Sun title each of the past two years and have three regulars back in
the fold, including junior guard Josh Peppers (13.1 ppg), the Golden Knights'
leading returning scorer.
SMU, another WAC transplant,
was chosen seventh, just ahead of Southern Miss and Tulsa, which will be led
by first-year head coach Doug Wojcik.
East Carolina, under new head
coach Ricky Stokes, has been picked to finish 10th, ahead of Tulane and
The Pirates are led by senior
forward Corey Rouse (10.6 ppg), C-USA's leading rebounder last season (10.2
rpg), and sophomore guard Tom Hammonds (8 ppg).
Last season, Conference USA
produced a league-record nine postseason teams. Memphis advanced to the
semifinals of the NIT and UAB went to the second round of the NCAA
Tournament, defeating No. 6 LSU in the first round.
UCF and UTEP also earned NCAA
berths, while Houston and Rice participated in the NIT.
Memphis will serve as host
city for the 2006 Conference USA Tournament, March 8-11, at the FedExForum.
The quarterfinal and semifinal games will be carried on CSTV. The
championship game, scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 11 at 11:45 a.m. EST, will
be broadcast by CBS.
2005-06 CONFERENCE USA
COACHES PRESEASON POLL
(First place votes in
1. Memphis (12) 144
2. UAB 126
3. Houston 119
4. Texas-El Paso 111
5. Rice 76
5. UCF 76
7. Southern Methodist 64
8. Southern Mississippi 56
9. Tulsa 52
10. East Carolina 44
11. Tulane 42
12. Marshall 26
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE
Rodney Carney, Memphis, F,
6-7, Sr., Indianapolis, IN
2005-06 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Corey Rouse, East Carolina,
F, 6-8, Sr., Kinston
Tom Hammonds, East Carolina, G, 6-4, So., Crestview, FL
Lanny Smith, Houston, G, 6-2, Jr., Missouri City, TX
Ramon Dyer, Houston, F, 6-6, Sr., Wilson, LA
Mark Patton, Marshall, C, 6-9, Sr., Barboursville, WV
Chris Ross, Marshall, G, 6-1 Jr., San Antonio, TX
Rodney Carney, Memphis, F, 6-7, Sr., Indianapolis
Darius Washington, Jr., Memphis, G, 6-2, So., Winter Park, FL
J.R. Harrison, Rice, F, 6-6, Sr., Gainesville, TX
Morris Almond, Rice, G, 6-6, Jr., Powder Springs, GA
Bryan Hopkins, SMU, G, 6-0, Sr., Dallas
Devon Pearson, SMU, F, 6-6, Jr., Miami, FL
Mildon Ambres, Southern Miss, F, 6-6, Jr., Opelousas, LA
Quincy Davis, Tulane, F, 6-9, Sr., Los Angeles
Taylor Rochestie, Tulane, G, 6-1, So., Santa Barbara, CA
Anthony Price, Tulsa, F, 6-8, Sr., The Woodlands, TX
Brett McDade, Tulsa, G, 5-11, So., Denton, TX
Demario Eddins, UAB, F, 6-7, Sr., Chicago
Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson, UAB, G, 5-10, Sr., New Orleans
Josh Peppers, UCF, F, 6-6, Jr., Memphis, TN
Anthony Williams, UCF, F, 6-8, Sr., Omaha, NE
John Tofi, UTEP, F, 6-8, Sr., San Francisco
Jason Williams, UTEP, F, 6-6, Sr., Marrero, LA
Conference USA and
ECU Athletics reports.
Copyright 2005. All rights rights reserved.
Bonesville.net contributed to this report. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
02/23/2007 11:45:14 AM