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Conference USA Notebook

March 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Passing the torch

Marquette needed a win Saturday to claim the outright C-USA regular season
title. Fittingly, they played the team that had won the previous seven
titles, Cincinnati. After trailing the entire first half, the Golden Eagles
and certain player of the year Dwayne Wade took over, winning the game
70-61, and in the process the C-USA outright title.

Wade scored nineteen of his 26 points during the second half on a barrage of
shots. From drives, to pull-up jumpers, fadeaways and free throws, he did it
all. Not only did he lead the team in scoring, he also paced the Eagles in
rebounding, with ten, assists with five and blocks and steals, with three of
each.

Never more so than after his stellar performance during the last home game
of the season was there talk of Wade jumping to the NBA next season.
However, Wade just talked about how sweet the win was.

“I just wanted to get the conference championship,” he said. “It was time
for me to step up, make some shots and get my teammates the ball. The only
sentiment I had was my mother was here.”

Marquette ends the regular season with a 14-2 conference mark and a 23-4
overall record. If the Golden Eagles can win the C-USA Tournament this week
in Louisville, they still possess an outside shot at a No. 1 seed in the
NCAA Tournament.

Good Charlotte

Saint Louis finished the conference season at 9-7. Cincinnati finished the
conference season at 9-7. The two split their regular season matchups. So
why did the Billikens receive the No. 4 seed and the first-round bye?
Because of Charlotte, duh.

In C-USA, if two teams in the same division split their regular season
games, the next tiebreaker is how each team did against the top team in the
division. If this record is the same, they continue down the standings. Both
UC and SLU were swept by Marquette and split with Louisville. After each
other, Charlotte is next. While the Bearcats split with the 49ers, Saint
Louis swept them, earning the elusive fourth bye.

To Stone or not to Stone

Will the NCAA just make up their mind? After reinstating Marvin Stone for
the Cardinals loss to DePaul last Wednesday, they again forced Louisville to
suspend Stone while they continued to review his amateur status concerning
his dealings with his old AAU basketball coach from Alabama. The NCAA
refused to give the university a timeline of when they can expect to have
Stone back on the court.

Saturday the Cards did not need him anyway, blowing out the 49ers to the
tune of 100-59. The win improved Louisville’s record to 21-6 and 11-5 in
conference play. They received the No. 3 seed for the conference tournament.
Now it’s just a matter of whether they will have their starting center or
not come Thursday.

Time for the good stuff

Well, the regular season is over, which means time for awards. So, without
further to do, here they are:

First Team All C-USA

Dwayne Wade, Marquette
Reece Gaines, Louisville
Marque Perry, Saint Louis
Morris Finley, UAB
Chris Massie, Memphis
Louis Truscott, Houston

Second Team

Charles Gaines, Southern Miss
Will McDonald, South Florida
Demon Brown, Charlotte
Antonio Burks, Memphis
Leonard Stokes, Cincinnati

Third Team

Robert Jackson, Marquette
Sam Hoskin, DePaul
Travis Diener, Marquette
Junior Blount, TCU
Reggie Kohn, South Florida

Player of the Year: Dwayne Wade

Freshman of the Year: Francisco Garcia, Louisville

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwayne Wade

Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Memphis

Previewing the C-USA Tournament

At the beginning of the season, some thought Cincinnati’s run at the
conference title would end. But probably no one predicted the Bearcats would
fail to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Bearcats
will start their tournament run as the No. 5 seed against No. 12 Southern
Mississippi. In the other first round games, No. 6 Tulane plays No. 11
Houston, No. 7 DePaul faces No. 10 South Florida and No. 8 Charlotte goes up
against No. 9 UAB.

Expect to see the higher seeds take care of business during the first round,
with the only close game coming from the Charlotte vs. UAB game. This one is
a toss-up, but the 49ers enter the tourney coming off a 41-point blowout
loss to Louisville. Not a good note to enter tournament play, so go with the
Blazers in that one.

Thursday’s quarters will feature the UC vs. USM winner against No. 4 Saint
Louis, the TU vs. UH winner verses No. 3 Louisville, the DU vs. USF winner
taking on No. 2 Memphis and the UAB vs. CU winner going against No. 1
Marquette. Regardless of who wins during the first round, the top four seeds
should advance into the semifinals.

This is where it could get interesting. Memphis is playing terrific while
Louisville is staggering. However the Cardinals will have revenge on their
minds after losing at home to the Tigers. Nevertheless, Memphis will advance
to the finals to face Marquette of course, right?

Maybe not. While Marquette is one of the hottest teams in the country, Saint
Louis is hotter. They enter the tourney on a seven-game win streak, which
propelled them from last place in the American Division to a first-round
bye. While the Golden Eagles swept the season series, neither victory came
easy. Marquette won on Jan. 7, 60-54, at Saint Louis and Feb. 5, 68-64, at
home. In addition, Dwayne Wade scored only six and seven points respectively
during those two games; his two lowest point totals of the season and the
only two games that he failed to break double figures. So what does this all
add up to? A big time upset. Look for a Billiken victory.

So a Memphis vs. Saint Louis Championship game is in the works. The
Billikens won the first meeting on Jan. 25, 69-66, at home. Both teams are
hot, both are talented, both are riding the back of their star senior:
Marque Perry for SLU and Chris Massie for Memphis. The difference between
these two is their postseason hopes. Memphis is going dancing regardless
while the Billikens need a win to get in the Dance. This extra desire will
pay off as Saint Louis rekindles the magic of the 2000 tourney when they won
as the No. 9 seed and win this year’s conference tournament.

     

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