Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Goodbye Old C-USA

November 10, 2003 Columns No Comments




Farewell to the “Old” Conference USA

by Zach Van Hart

Finally, it’s official. The best Conference USA has to offer in college basketball is bolting for the “new” Big East. In two years, the likes of Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville will be replaced by SMU, Marshall and Rice. So before C-USA goes through its major changes, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember what the “old” C-USA was all about.

During the early days, all of eight years ago, C-USA looked like a great idea gone bad. Remember how solid teams like DePaul, UAB and Saint Louis were during the early ’90s? With the always dominant Louisville, resurgent Cincinnati, spectacular Memphis and the steadiness of Marquette and Tulane, it seemed like C-USA was going to be the next powerhouse in college basketball. Yet as soon as the engine turned on, the wheels fell off.

DePaul went into the dumps. UAB suddenly was not as strong as it had been. Coaching strongholds Charlie Spoonhour, Larry Finch, even Denny Crum, were out or heading on their way. Basically, a basketball dream was becoming a basketball nightmare.

Cincinnati kept C-USA afloat for quite a few years, only to reinforce the conference’s mediocrity by bowing out of the NCAA Tournament during the second round every year.

A flash in the pan would come almost every season, like the 1999 DePaul squad. Led by Quentin Richardson, the Blue Demons spent most of the season in the Top 25. But then Richardson bolted for the NBA and DePaul went downhill soon after.

Then came the 1999-2000 season, the year it seemed C-USA would finally get on the map. Cincinnati held the No. 1 ranking for most of the season and appeared to be the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship. Until a fluke leg injury happened to Kenyon Martin, the National Player of the Year, during the opening few minutes of the Bearcats’ opening round conference tournament game ended his season. Cincinnati lost in the second round, again.

The following season may have been the worst in C-USA history. No team was good. Two teams made it into the NCAA Tournament; Charlotte because they won the conference tournament (someone had to) and Cincinnati because its name is Cincinnati.

But that was also the year it appeared like the conference would be saved. John Calipari became head coach at Memphis, starting a string of big-time coaches coming to C-USA breathing new life into the corpse of a conference. At the end of the season, Rick Pitino became head coach at Louisville. The resurrection was on.

Two seasons later, the 2002-2003 season, C-USA was finally the power conference it set out to be eight years ago. Cincinnati, who had won the regular season title every year since its inception, finished fifth. Louisville reached as high as No. 2 in the national rankings, and only finished third in the conference. And as we all know, Marquette advanced to the Final Four, the first C-USA team to accomplish that.

Then just like that, the conference is now staring at a two-year trial before it will likely sink back into the ranks of a mid-major conference. So let’s say goodbye to these five schools who will taking their sneakers and rafters eastward.

Goodbye Marquette. Your Golden Eagles made everyone proud of C-USA last year with your magic run to the Final Four, knocking off tournament-favorite Kentucky in the Elite Eight to get there. You also play smart, unselfish basketball, the way it should be. Your coach Tom Crean is a class act and is one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the college ranks. You will do well in the Big East.

Goodbye Cincinnati. You kept C-USA going during the late ’90s when seemingly every other school could not put successful back-to-back seasons together. You have advanced to twelve-straight NCAA Tournaments and played with a target on your back every single time you have stepped on the court for a conference game. You will also do well in the Big East.

Goodbye Louisville. Last year you announced your return as one of the elite programs in college basketball. With Pitino at the helm, we expect nothing but greatest from you. This season, your sophomore stud Francisco Garcia has been anointed the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year by the coaches. In a few years, you very well could become the best team in the Big East. You will do fine.

Goodbye DePaul. Lost in all of the hoopla of Louisville’s awesome start, Marquette’s late finish and UAB’s surprising turnaround last year was the Blue Demons’ improvement. First-year head coach Dave Leitao has turned the program around, not into a NCAA Tournament team, but a NIT team nonetheless. They will be a good, solid team in the Big East.

Goodbye USF. While the Bulls have been a decent team in the past, the main reason they are going to the Big East is so the conference maintains a football presence in the Florida market. USF is going to struggle during the next few seasons, but with new head coach Robert McCullum at the helm, the Bulls have potential to succeed in the Big East.

Next time, we will take a look at the new teams coming to C-USA for the 2005-06 season.

     

Comment on this Article:







Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville

Advertisement


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – August 17, 2017

August 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we check in with some good news from a few teams overseas after a big scare, plus a big addition for a championship contender, a conference on the rise, and a great coach thinking about a return to the bench.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about the NBA Draft, of course, but spend much more time on the happenings at Ohio State and Louisville and the implications starting next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 17, 2017

May 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we start with the NBA Draft Lottery, then talk about a big pickup for Duke, important transfers, the coaching carousel winding down and much more.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017 by

In our first off-season edition, we look back on the season that just ended, including redemption for one team and a big development for a conference that has had more questions than success on the hardwood. We also look at players coming and going, as well as big coaching news on a day where there was a lot of it.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.