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Sunshine and Golden Hurricanes: C-USA Preseason Power Rankings

Ryne E. HancockCorrespondent INovember 1, 2009

In a season that saw the Tigers win their fourth straight C-USA regular season and conference championships, another 30-win season, and a deep run in the postseason, you would have to think the Tigers would be penciled in for another run at their fifth championship in a row.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.

John Calipari leaves Memphis for Kentucky, making people like my friends Jeffrey Howard and Blake Allen happy, the top-class recruits who were supposed to come to Memphis head to Lexington, and well, you know the rest.

After searching aimlessly for a "wow" hire, R.C. Johnson decides on a guy eight years older than me as head coach named Josh Pastner, who has never coached before at the collegiate level but has prepared for this moment his entire life.

With the decimation of the Tigers' roster, teams that got blown out by the Tigers on a constant basis to finally have a chance to get their licks in.

But not so fast, my friend.

And here are the preseason rankings:

1. Tulsa (25-11) Doug Wojcik has done a remarkable job in turning the Golden Hurricane around in his four years at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane won 25 games last season and reached the NIT. Returning to the Golden Hurricane this year is preseason player of the year Jeremy Jordan, who averaged 13.8 points in 2008-09. Also an incentive for the Golden Hurricane this season is the fact they will host the 2010 Conference USA Tournament.

Doc's Prediction: One and Done


2. Memphis (33-4) Regardless of what one would say, the Tigers are still going to be a threat in the conference. The Tigers return a slimmer Pierre Henderson-Niles, who is going to be a force in the post, as well as sharp-shooters Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie. Expect big contributions from Will Coleman and former Duke standout Elliot Williams, who will add depth to the backcourt.

Doc's Prediction: One and Done


3. UTEP (23-14) The Miners are trying to crash the party in Conference USA, and with the changes by the Tigers this might be their best chance to do that. Led by Randy Culpepper, who averaged 17.5 points last season, the Miners are going to be looking for a better postseason tournament to play in. With the addition of Arnett Moultrie, who made the Under-19 team last summer, the good times will roll once again in El Paso.

Doc's Prediction: NIT


4. UAB (22-12) UAB has always been in the top half of the conference, yet for all that they manage to make the NIT almost every year. The Blazers return Aaron Johnson and Howard Crawford—the team's leading returning scorer—and welcome newcomer Dexter Fields and Heath Gameren from Australia.

Doc's Prediction: NIT


5. Central Florida (17-14) A near-upset of Memphis, coupled with another winning season in Orlando, gives Knights fans reason to have hope. Even better, His Airness' son is playing for the Knights, and it would be interesting to see which shoes he wants to sport.

Doc's Prediction: No postseason.


6. Houston (21-12) The Cougars have done reasonably well in recent years under Tom Penders, earning a trip to the CBI in 2009, their second straight trip to that tournament. Returning to the Cougars is leading scorer Aubrey Coleman, who averaged 19.4 points in 2008-09, and Kelvin Lewis, who averaged 18 points for the Cougars.

Doc's Prediction: No postseason


7. Tulane (14-17) Dave Dickerson has won more games than any Tulane coach in his first first five years, going 60-62 so far. But he is coming off a losing season, the first for the Green Wave in three years. Returning to New Orleans this season is Kevin Sims, who was one of three players in the conference to lead the team in scoring and assists, and Trent Rogers, who is a good point guard for the Green Wave.

Doc's Prediction: No postseason


8. Southern Miss (15-17) It has been 18 years since the Golden Eagles captured the hearts of fans in basketball. Don't expect anything else from the Golden Eagles despite standouts like R.L. Horton and Andre Stephens, who will contribute to the team in 2009-10.

Doc's Prediction: No postseason


9. Rice (10-22) The Owls return Connor Frizzille and Lucas Kuipers to Houston, after having solid starts to their careers for the Owls. The recruiting class that comes to Houston for the 2009-10 season was ranked as one of the best among mid-majors, but it's going to take some time for the Owls to get their wings.

Doc's Prediction: No postseason


10. Marshall (15-17) Marshall could surprise some people in the conference. Don't let the prediction fool you.

Doc's Prediction: No postseason


11. SMU (9-21) The Mustangs look ready to climb out of the basement in the conference. Good thing about this is the players this year were recruited by Matt Doherty, so it's time to see what can transpire in Dallas.

Doc's Prediction: No postseason


12. East Carolina (13-17) Strange thing I learned from Tuesday's football game between the Tigers and East Carolina is that Memphis football suckage is equivalent to East Carolina basketball. Same thing is going to happen in 2009-10 for the Pirates.


And there you have it, the C-USA Power Rankings. Let the debating begin.

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