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2009 - 2010 Conference USA Preview

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Conference USA Teams: East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, Southern Methodist, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF, UTEP

 

How vulnerable is Memphis this year?  Everybody in Conference USA hopes to take full advantage of the Tigers’ situation and end their dominance; for now at least.  Memphis’ Coach John Calipari left for the University of Kentucky.  He needed company, so he brought his loaded recruiting class along with him.  On top of that, the Tigers lose their top 4 scorers.  Look for teams like Tulsa and UTEP to find their way to the top of Conference USA, with Memphis as a stepping stone.

Read on for a brief 2009-2010 season preview and conference record prediction for each basketball team in Conference USA.  Standings/Predictions are listed at the end of the conference preview.

Conference USA Regular Season Champions: Memphis
Conference USA Tournament Champions: Memphis

East Carolina

2008-2009 Record: 13-17, 5-11
The Pirates had another tough season last year, winning only 5 in-conference games, and 13 in the league.  Unfortunately for East Carolina, things aren’t looking much brighter this season.  The Pirates lose 26 combined points with the departure of James Legan and Sam Hinnant.  They’ll have to rely on some talented young players to do some big things if they hope to have a better season.
Predicted Conference Record: 4-12

Houston

2008-2009 Record: 21-12, 10-6
Expectations are high for the Cougars this year.  Houston won 2 conference tournament games and played in the College Basketball Invitational in what many hope to be a step towards getting back to the NCAA Tournament.   Sure, expectations were high for the Cougars last season as well, but fans have even more of a reason to be optimistic this year.  They only lose one key player, and return 19.4 point per game, Aubrey Coleman.  Predicted Conference Record: 10-6

Marshall

2008-2009 Record: 15-17, 7-9
Marshall took a step back last season with a 15-17 (7-9) record.  Injuries played a large part.  The Thundering Herd loses Markel Humphrey (12.5 ppg), but hangs on to a large group of healthier, more experienced players.  They return 6 solid players, all capable of making some large team contributions.  Marshall should take a noticeable step forward this year and see themselves somewhere closer to the top of Conference USA.
Predicted Conference Record: 9-7

Memphis

2008-2009 Record: 33-4, 16-0
Not many teams see 37 games in any given season.  The Tigers went 33-4 in a campaign that earned them the number 1 spot in the conference and an NCAA bid.  They were 16-0 against Conference USA opponents.  Memphis won their first 2 tournament games before a postseason-ending loss to Missouri.  This year’s Tigers’ team has potential, but wins won’t come as easy with four top scorers departing.  The worst news: Coach John Calipari left for Lexington, and brought his recruiting class with him. The newcomers are looking good, but with so little experience, they’ll likely find themselves a few spots lower in the conference soon.
Predicted Conference Record: 11-5

Rice

2008-2009 Record: 10-22, 4-12
It’s hard to say whether it was the Owls’ offense or defense that contributed to their 22 loss season the most.  They were 12th in the league in scoring, and 10th in scoring defense.  Looking at Rice’s record, you’d think that one would be wrong in saying that their season was a success.  In fact, their 5 overall conference wins gave them 5 more than they had the season prior.  In order to make further improvement, the Owls will need to tighten up on defense and find a way to develop double-digit scorers.  They will be without leading scorer Rodney Foster who averaged 12 points per game.
Predicted Conference Record: 3-12

Southern Methodist

2008-2009 Record: 9-21, 3-13
People were willing to give Coach Doherty time to get the Mustangs off the ground.  The only problem is, it’s been 3 years…and nothing’s happening.  Southern Methodist went 9-21 overall last year; 0-12 on the road.  They’ll be lacking depth this year and will need to rely on Sophomore Paul McCoy to get something going.  McCoy averages 13.4 points per game.  Southern Methodist will probably sneak in a few more wins, but will settle near the bottom of Conference USA again.
Predicted Conference Record: 5-11

Southern Miss

2008-2009 Record: 15-17, 4-12
Southern Miss finished 10th in Conference USA with only four wins last season.  Despite this, Coach Eustachy doesn’t think that their 2009-2010 season will be a rebuilding one.  They lose 3 double-digit scorers, but welcome a hot recruiting class.  That, and 2 division 1 transfers, should help them make up for lost points.  At a minimum, the Golden Eagles should be able to tack on a few more wins.  Ask Larry Eustachy, however, and he’ll tell you that this will be their “breakout” season.
Predicted Conference Record: 6-10

Tulane

2008-2009 Record: 14-17, 7-9
After a 16-14 season the year before, The Green Wave had their first losing record in three years; A surprise considering their high rank in most Conference USA defensive categories.  Tulane’s future success will depend on a couple factors:  Point guard Kevin Sims ability to keep up and or/improve his double digit scoring, and quick adjustments by potentially explosive newcomers.  Tulane welcomes JC transfer Aaron Holmes, and local high school player Keith Cameron.  Aaron Holmes averaged 21 points per game with Santa Fe Community College last season.
Predicted Conference Record: 8-8

Tulsa

2008-2009 Record: 25-11, 12-4
It wasn’t the NCAA Tournament, but the NIT and 12 conference wins was enough to get Coach Wojcik a six year contract extension.  The Golden Hurricanes can expect even better things with 4 starters and 6 of the 7 top scorers returning this season.  Returning starter Ben Uzoh (14 ppg) has 20 points per game potential.  If some of Tulsa’s top players can live up to their expectations, fans might see the Golden Hurricanes make an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since ’03. 
Predicted Conference Record: 13-3

UAB

2008-2009 Record: 22-12, 11-5
The Blazers went 22-12 and earned an invitation to the NIT last season.  They were booted out in the first game by Notre Dame.  Final Score: 70-64.  They had a decent season thanks to a talented roster.  Bad news:  They lose nearly all of their top players.  The Blazers have some hopeful newcomers, but will probably take a step back this year while they try to develop new talent. 
Predicted Conference Record: 8-8

UCF

2008-2009 Record: 17-14, 7-9
The Golden Knights finished with 17 wins, tied for 6th in Conference USA, and missed an invitation to any postseason tournament last season.  The departure of Jermaine Taylor will be devastating to UCF.  Taylor was among the top scorers in the country with 26.2 points per game.  Fortunately, the Golden Knights return some experienced players.   If they can find a way to fill the scoring void, and tighten up the defense, they’ll do alright.  Predicted Conference Record: 9-7

UTEP

2008-2009 Record: 23-14, 10-6
The Miners are feeling good entering the 2009-2010 season after making it to the final round of the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.  The Miners lose top scorer Stefon Jackson.  Jackson averaged 24.5 points per game and was the top scorer in the conference’s history.  Still, UTEP is confident that they’ll move forward this year with some insta-fix transfers Derrick Caracter, Christian Polk, and Myron Strong. 
Predicted Conference Record:  12-4

Conference USA Standings Prediction for the 2009-2010 Season:

  1. 1. Tulsa 13-3
  2. 2. UTEP 12-4
  3. 3. Memphis 11-5
  4. 4. Houston 10-6
  5. 5. Marshall 9-7
  6. 6. UCF 9-7
  7. 7. UAB 8-8
  8. 8. Tulane 8-8
  9. 9. Southern Miss 6-10
  10. 10. SMU 5-11
  11. 11. East Carolina 4-12
  12. 12. Rice 3-13

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