Conference USA Notebook
by Zach Van Hart
Dropping like flies
Louisville did lose their third straight game this week, 78-73 to Marquette
Thursday, but the loss was the least of their concerns. They not only lost
their power forward for the remainder of the season, but their starting
center is now suspended indefinitely. Unless Rick Pitino adds twelve inches
and 100 pounds to his frame and suits up, the Cardinals are in serious
The first blow came near the end of the Cards loss to the Eagles. With just
1:15 remaining in the game, Ellis Myles grabbed his eleventh rebound,
collecting it off a Louisville missed shot. Myles then went up for the
putback, but when he landed back on the ground, he planted his right leg
The result: Myles ruptured his patella tendon. While the play did not look
too serious, a nationwide audience witnessed one of the most gruesome
reactions to an injury ever captured on camera. He screamed in tremendous
pain for the next several minutes, shouting words not meant to be heard on
television. The trainers were able to get Myles to his feet, but they could
not walk him off the court. Eventually a stretcher came out to escort him
off the floor. Myles showed his devastation by covering his face with his
jersey as he was carried off the court.
Myles underwent surgery later that night, to apparent success. His full
recovery is expected to take six months. Myles had started all 24 games for
the Cards and was the team’s leading rebounder, averaging 7.9 boards per
game, which placed him sixth in C-USA.
After Thursday’s game, the Cardinals decided to withhold starting center
Marvin Stone from playing while the NCAA investigates his relationship with
his former AAU coach, Mark Komara, in Alabama. With no set time for the
closing of the investigation, Stone is out indefinitely. The situation is
puzzling to many, especially to Pitino.
“The university has to make the decision,” Pitino said. “If I would’ve made
the decision, he would’ve played. That doesn’t mean I’m going against the
university. I’m a soldier in their army.”
Luke Whitehead and Kendall Dartez started in place of Myles and Stone
against East Carolina Saturday. The two combined for just twelve points and
eight rebounds during the Cardinals 82-76 win.
Down for the count
After the weekend’s events, the seeding for the conference tournament is
still up in the air. What is for certain is which two teams will see their
season come to a close after this week’s regular season finale. East
Carolina and TCU will conclude their seasons after Saturday and will not
play in the C-USA Tournament in Louisville, March 12-15. Only the top twelve
teams compete, leaving the last two in the league as the odd ones out.
For the Pirates, the season that started out so promising ended up going
splat. On December 30, ECU defeated Marquette, 73-70, in their conference
opener. After an easy non-conference win three days later, the Pirates were
10-2 overall. Since than, they have won just two of fourteen games. Their
record is now 12-14 overall and just 3-12 in conference play, leaving them
last in the American Division. For the second straight season, the Pirates
went 0-8 on the road in conference. Wednesday was a prime example of their
close but no cigar results this season. Against Cincinnati Wednesday, they
lead for a great deal of the second half and were tied with five seconds
remaining when the Bearcats’ Jason Maxiell made one free throw to win the
game, 53-52. East Carolina closes out its season when they host Saint Louis
at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The other team that will not make the trip to the River City is TCU. The
Horned Frogs have struggled from the get go this season, never finding any
kind of defense or enough offense to win. TCU is 2-13 in conference play and
8-19 overall. Like ECU, the Frogs went winless on the road. Their lone
conference wins of the season came against Tulane and Southern Mississippi.
While TCU does have the fourth best offense in C-USA, averaging 76.7 points
per game, their defense is atrocious. Not only is their 81.1 points allowed
per game the worst in C-USA by ten points, it ranks as one of the worst in
college basketball. The Horned Frogs finish their season at home against
South Florida at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Making things interesting
Marquette and Memphis are assured first round byes in next week’s C-USA
Tournament. Louisville is all but assured the third bye. However, the fourth
bye is completely up for grabs. As many as five teams have legitimate shots
at ending up with the No. 4 seed come tournament time. Two teams who have
come on strong during the past few weeks to contend for this spot are the
Billikens and the 49ers.
Saint Louis continued to stay hot last week, winning a thrilling 76-74,
double overtime game against Tulane Saturday. The win brought the Billikens
to .500 in conference play for the first time all season, at 7-7. It was
also SLU’s fifth straight win overall and their fifth straight at home. They
are also developing a knack for winning the close games. Out of their
five-game win streak, four of the games were decided by three points or
less. Twice Marquee Perry hit the game-winner with less than four seconds
remaining. One game went to overtime. The other saw their opponent miss a
game tying shot at the buzzer.
The other team throwing their name into the mix is Charlotte. The 49ers have
won three straight and are now 8-6 in conference play. The 49ers finally
started to find players other than Demon Brown to score, and have flourished
since. Their only loss during the past six games came on the road against
conference leader Marquette. As luck would have it, these two face off
Wednesday during the final week of regular season games. This match-up is
just one of many important games this week, so the “Games to watch” section
is being expanded.
The week ahead
We will start at the top and work our way down. Marquette is sitting pretty
with a 13-2 conference record and at least a tie for the regular season
title. All they need is a win during their final game to earn the No. 1 seed
in the tournament. They will face Cincinnati at home Saturday. The Bearcats
are just 3-4 on the road in C-USA play this season.
Memphis probably will earn the No. 2 seed, but have an outside chance at the
top spot. They travel on the road to Houston and UAB. If they win both and
Marquette loses, Memphis will receive the No. 1 seed because of their better
record against the league’s next best team, Louisville. This is assuming the
Cardinals finish with the league’s third best record.
Louisville needs to win one game during the week to earn the No. 3 seed.
They should accomplish this, even with the losses of Myles and Stone. The
Cards first travel to DePaul, who is reeling, having lost four straight.
Then Louisville wraps up the week with a home game against Charlotte.
The 49ers however possess the inside track at the No. 4 seed. If they win
their final two games, the will receive the bye thanks to owning tiebreakers
over both UAB and Cincinnati. However, they must not only travel to
Louisville but Saint Louis as well.
If Charlotte loses one of their final two, the next two teams in line are
the Bearcats and the Blazers. Yet both of these teams have a very tough
battle. First, the two will meet each other in Cincinnati Wednesday. Then,
as stated before, Cincinnati travels to Marquette and UAB faces Memphis at
Saint Louis and Tulane, despite being a game behind these teams with 7-7
conference records, have more favorable schedules the final week. The
Billikens, after hosting Charlotte, travel to face East Carolina. The Green
Wave goes on the road against struggling South Florida before hosting
Southern Miss Saturday.
Players of the week
Dwyane Wade, Marquette and Chris Massie, Memphis – The league’s two best
teams received huge performances from their star player last week.
Wade averaged 27 points, seven assists, five and a half rebounds, three
blocks and two and a half steals during the Eagles’ wins against Louisville
Massie averaged 23.5 points and nine and a half rebounds during the Tigers’
wins against TCU and Cincinnati.