Conference USA BasketballDownload App

Conference USA Tournament: Breaking Down Every Team's Chances to Win the Title

Stephen IgoeContributor IJune 1, 2016

Conference USA Tournament: Breaking Down Every Team's Chances to Win the Title

1 of 13

    From No. 1-seed UAB to No. 12-seed Tulane, every team that takes the court in El Paso, Texas this coming week for the postseason Conference USA tournament has at least some sort of chance to take home the title and earn an automatic bid to the Big Dance.

    The games will be played starting on Wednesday, March 9, when the No. 5-through-No. 12 seeds battle it out in the opening round, while the top four teams get to sit back and relax for a day.

No. 12 Tulane

2 of 13

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Kendall Timmons
    • Overall Record: 13-16
    • Conference USA Record: 3-13
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. SMU, 79-70
    • Worst C-USA Loss: vs. Rice, 71-61

    Overview

    Things looked great for Tulane after they started off the year 12-3 overall and 2-0 in conference play, knocking off SMU and Rice to begin their C-USA slate. However, the Green Wave preceded to go on a devastating 12-game losing streak that saw the team fall apart and become the "easy win" in league play. It wasn't until nearly two months later, in the next-to-last game of the season, that the Wave finally picked up a victory. They knocked off the struggling Houston Cougars, 80-77, at home on senior night. One of the bright spots for Tulane is that the Green Wave can rely on the fact that they were in virtually every conference game this season. Most of their losses came by single digits, excluding just 4-of-16 meetings in conference play.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Slim to none: The Green Wave would have to win more games in the tournament than they won all year in conference play to make it happen. Although they did contend in a lot of games, they just don't have the depth or size to win that many games against top-tier competition.

No. 11 Houston

3 of 13

    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Maurice McNeil
    • Overall Record: 12-17
    • Conference USA Record: 4-12
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. Tulsa, 64-57
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ Tulane, 80-77

    Overview

    After a promising start to the conference season with three consecutive wins over UCF, SMU and Tulsa, the Cougars dropped their next five games and 11 of their last 12 overall to finish the year next-to-last in the regular season Conference USA standings. The suspension of once-leading scorer Adam Brown didn't help the matters in the least and the team wasn't able to find a consistent second scorer outside of him all year long. Senior forward Maurice McNeil is a beast down low, but he doesn't have the ability to take over a game for Houston due to the lack of consistent perimeter scoring.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Slim to none: It hasn't been announced whether Adam Brown will be allowed to return or not for the tournament. Nonetheless, the Cougars shouldn't expect another tournament run like they had a year ago when they won the Conference USA title as the seventh seed. They just don't have the talent or chemistry to do so.

No. 10 Rice

4 of 13

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Arsalan Kazemi
    • Overall Record: 13-17
    • Conference USA Record: 5-11
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. Memphis, 79-70
    • Worst C-USA Loss: vs. Tulane, 85-81

    Overview

    Although their record might not show it, the Owls were one of the more improved teams in the conference from a year ago. Rice gave a lot of teams fits throughout the year and showed why they weren't the cellar dwellers of the league anymore. International recruit Arsalan Kazemi has emerged into one of the best all-around players in C-USA. Just a sophomore this season, he should be a big-time scorer by the end of his career. If they just could have turned around their results in a few of their close losses, the Owls could have been a higher seed than No. 10.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Slim to none: Even with a much-improved team this season, it is tough to imagine Rice going on such an incredible run in the tournament. It is plausible that they could steal the first game, but beating a top-seeded team will be difficult for such an overmatched squad.

No. 9 Central Florida

5 of 13

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Marcus Jordan
    • Overall Record: 19-10
    • Conference USA Record: 6-10
    • Best C-USA Win: @ UTEP, 74-68
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ Houston, 76-71

    Overview

    The Knights started off the season 14-0 and ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in school history, but once they got done with their non-conference slate and ran into Conference USA opponents, UCF found out just how good of a league this is this year. After a narrow win against Marshall in the league opener, the Knights went on to lose their next eight games. They rebounded by winning five of their last seven to close the season as the No. 9 seed in the tournament. It was a roller-coaster ride for the Knights and their fans, but they did show they are as good as anybody in this league when they are playing well.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Low: The goods may be there if UCF can continue their hot streak that they showed to close the season, but it certainly isn't going to be easy. Winning four games in four days is tough for any team to do, let alone a team that has had some injury problems and depth issues like Central Florida has experienced this season.

No. 8 East Carolina

6 of 13

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Jontae Sherrod
    • Overall Record: 16-14
    • Conference USA Record: 8-8
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. UTEP, 83-76
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ SMU, 46-41

    Overview

    The Pirates are a team that not many people expected things from coming into this year, but the job first-year head coach Jeff Lebo has done has been an incredible one. He got a team of players who didn't believe in themselves during last season to fully buy into his system in his first year. The emergence of seniors Jontae Sherrod and Jamar Abrams has really helped East Carolina knock off some quality opponents and compete in a lot of games no one thought they would have.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Low: Although East Carolina is a veteran team with four seniors and a couple of juniors, they aren't exactly used to winning. In fact, the Pirates have never won a game in the Conference USA tournament since joining the league. If they can win the first one, though, they have the talent to do some damage with their streaky shooting.

No. 7 Southern Methodist

7 of 13

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Papa Dia
    • Overall Record: 17-13
    • Conference USA Record: 8-8
    • Best C-USA Win: @ Tulsa, 59-58
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ Tulane, 79-70

    Overview

    The Mustangs weren't picked to do much during the preseason, but they ended up surprising a lot of people with some really quality wins throughout the year. After starting off a disappointing 1-3 in conference play, SMU reeled off five-straight victories over solid opponents including Southern Miss, Tulsa and East Carolina. Midway through the C-USA slate, the Mustangs were sitting just a game back of first and things looked good, but they ended the year losing five of their last seven to fall to a .500 conference mark and the eighth seed in the league.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Low: SMU showed that it can beat some of the upper-echelon teams in the conference, but the Mustangs also had trouble against some of the lower-tier competition at times too. Anything is possible in the tournament, but it would be tough for them to win four-straight games with their style of play.

No. 6 Marshall

8 of 13

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Damier Pitts
    • Overall Record: 21-10
    • Conference USA Record: 9-7
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. Tulsa, 79-61
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ UCF, 65-58

    Overview

    The Thundering Herd got off to a rather poor start in league play due to an extremely tough schedule right out of the gate. They sat at 3-6 in Conference USA around the halfway mark, but a huge five-game winning streak after that point got Marshall back into the thick of things. They ended up dropping their next-to-last game to UTEP in El Paso, but still managed to win six of their final seven matchups to rise up the standings heading into the tournament.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Moderate: The Herd have a ton of talent across the board and when they have been on their game, they have been extremely tough to beat. The play of veteran Damier Pitts and freshman DeAndre Kane will be key to them possibly making a run.

No. 5 Southern Miss

9 of 13

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Gary Flowers
    • Overall Record: 21-9
    • Conference USA Record: 9-7
    • Best C-USA Win: @ UAB, 75-71
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ UCF, 65-64

    Overview

    Southern Miss looked to be in prime position to take home a conference title or at the least earn a first-round bye as they sat with a 9-4 record in Conference USA with just three games to go. However, the team suffered back-to-back losses on last-second three-pointers to UCF and UAB that all but ended their chances of winning a league championship. They then ended up dropping the last game of the year to Tulsa to finish the campaign on a three-game losing streak. Even though they finished the year with a mediocre conference record, it doesn't take away from their overall potential and the way they won games against top competition, including defeats of UTEP and Marshall in Hattiesburg, and a crucial road win at UAB.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Moderate: This is a team that has a lot of good players that is certainly capable of doing some damage in the tournament. If they can learn from their close, heart-breaking losses that they suffered throughout the season and find a way to turn those games into wins, don't be surprised to see them in the finals.

No. 4 Memphis

10 of 13

    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Will Barton
    • Overall Record: 22-9
    • Conference USA Record: 10-6
    • Best C-USA Win: @ UAB, 76-73 (OT)
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ Rice, 67-52

    Overview

    Talk about a roller-coaster ride. The Tigers suffered through an up-and-down campaign that the fans in Memphis aren't used to. In basketball, Memphis is usually dominating Conference USA or at least in the top two or three of the league. This year, Memphis had to fight and get some help just to squeak out the fourth seed and earn a first-round bye. The good news is that this team showed it is fully capable of knocking off the league's best squads by sweeping the season series' against Southern Miss and UAB. However, losses to mid-level opponents such as ECU, SMU and Rice also proved it is possible for them to lose if they don't bring their A-game.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Moderate: Memphis is an extremely young team with the majority of their top contributors coming in the form of freshmen. Nonetheless, they are arguably the most athletic and talented team in Conference USA. If they can find their rhythm in the tournament, they have the ability to take the title home.

No. 3 UTEP

11 of 13

    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Randy Culpepper
    • Overall Record: 23-8
    • Conference USA Record: 11-5
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. Memphis, 74-47
    • Worst C-USA Loss: vs. UCF, 74-68

    Overview

    After winning the regular season Conference USA crown a year ago, the Miners fell just short of doing the same this season, finishing one game behind UAB in the final standings. If UTEP could have just reversed the fortunes of their triple-overtime loss in Birmingham to the Blazers earlier this year, they could have become the regular-season champs in back-to-back campaigns. Instead the Miners will have to do things the hard way if they want to get another chance at the Big Dance. Though, with conference wins over teams like Tulsa, SMU, Memphis and Marshall, UTEP has shown that it is capable of beating anybody in this league.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    High: The home-court advantage cannot be underestimated enough here. The Miners went 17-2 overall in the Don Haskins Center this year, and 7-1 on their home floor in conference play. With a starting lineup filled with five experienced seniors that have been to the NCAA tournament before, it is going to be hard for any team to knock off UTEP and keep them from protecting their building.

No. 2 Tulsa

12 of 13

    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Justin Hurtt
    • Overall Record: 18-12
    • Conference USA Record: 11-5
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. UAB, 78-62
    • Worst C-USA Loss: @ UCF, 58-57

    Overview

    After a pedestrian non-conference slate that saw Tulsa go just 7-7 against some weak competition, the Golden Hurricane began to thrive once the conference season rolled around. They started off at just 3-3 after six games, but they finished with eight of their last 10 meetings ending in wins to rise up the standings and finish second. Senior leader Justin Hurtt carried this team all season, averaging 20.3 points per game. Wins over UAB, UTEP and Memphis during the regular season should have this team confident heading into the postseason.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    Moderate: It might seem odd that a team with such a good in-conference record has only a moderate chance to win the tournament, but the Golden Hurricane fit this bill. They rely mainly on one player to lead them to victory, and the lack of scoring off of their bench could be worrisome if Hurtt goes cold one game against a solid opponent. 

No. 1 UAB

13 of 13

    Team Information

    • Star Player: Jamarr Sanders
    • Overall Record: 22-7
    • Conference USA Record: 12-4
    • Best C-USA Win: vs. UTEP, 100-97 (3OT)
    • Worst C-USA Loss: vs. Memphis, 76-73 (OT)

    Overview

    There is a reason why the Blazers are the best team in Conference USA: They simply don't beat themselves. UAB plays smart, aggressive and physical all at the same time. They are extremely athletic and defend as good as any team in the country. When their shots are going in on the offensive end, it is nearly impossible to beat this team. Veteran players Jamarr Sanders, Aaron Johnson and Cameron Moore are as gifted as they come and it's hard to imagine all three of them having a bad day at the same time. The only thing the Blazers need to worry about is their performances against some of the top teams in the league. They were swept in two games against Memphis and they were also beaten handedly by Tulsa on the road.

    Chances of Winning C-USA Tournament

    High: UAB possesses the most experienced talent of any team in this league and if they are at their best in the tournament, they will be extremely difficult to beat. Although they probably have an at-large bid wrapped up, the Blazers are looking to improve their resume by winning the tournament title to go along with their regular-season crown.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices