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Conference USA Quarterfinals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments




Conference USA Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Zach Van Hart

No. 3 Cincinnati versus No. 6 Louisville
It’s always a battle when the Bearcats and Cardinals take the floor. Thursday shouldn’t be any different as these two square off in the quarterfinals of the C-USA Tournament. While the game is being played in Cincinnati, the Cards will bring a large contingency of fans, providing an atmosphere that will rival the Indiana-Kentucky game. Louisville advanced to the quarters with a hard-fought, 61-54 win against East Carolina. The two teams split their regular season meetings, with Louisville blowing out Cincinnati in Freedom Hall, 93-66, while the Bearcats got the better of them in Fifth Third Arena, 66-61. While this game will likely be closer than game one, it seems clear that the Bearcats are playing better basketball at the moment.

The Cards went 3-7 during their final ten games and struggled again versus East Carolina. They went nearly six minutes without a point during the first half Wednesday and had trouble finding offense in the half court. Besides Francisco Garcia’s 22 points, no one on offense played with consistency. Luke Whitehead and or Taquan Dean will need to step up. The team’s defense continues to play, it’s the offense that is off. Cincinnati has employed a bigger lineup during the late season, using 6-foot-8 Armein Kirkland and 6-foot-7 James White at point guard. Either Tony Bobbitt or Field Williams needs to be on for the Bearcats to win. Whichever team can control the boards and hit the big shots will advance to the semifinals.

No. 2 Memphis versus No. 7 Saint Louis
Thursday’s finale will be a battle of different philosophies: Working the shot clock down to nothing before taking a shot, and jacking up three-pointers like it was going out of style. This will be the case when the Tigers and Billikens meet at 9:30 in the quarterfinal action at the C-USA Tournament. Earlier this season, Memphis defeated Saint Louis in the Pyramid, 63-54. The Tigers actually struggled with their outside shot that game, going 6-of-21 from beyond the arc, but pulled it out. The Billikens will need another poor shooting night from their opponents if they are going to pull the upset.

For Memphis, they are led by senior point guard Antonio Burks and freshman forward Sean Banks. Both players were First Team all-conference and are prolific scorers. Banks is the team leader and is not only an outstanding offensive player, he is a stud on defense, too. It’s going to be tough for Saint Louis to keep up with all of Memphis’ weapons, as they showed last week when Louisville dismantled them, 75-48. For the Billikens to win, they will need to control tempo, limit Memphis to one shot and then get some second chance points. Unless this all happens, look for the Tigers to advance to the semifinals.

No. 1 DePaul versus No. 9 TCU
There will be no Diener vs. Diener matchup Thursday in quarterfinal No. 2 at the C-USA Tournament. Instead, it will be the upset-minded Horned Frogs, which will try to knock off top seed DePaul at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Earlier this season, the Blue Demons defeated TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, 61-54. That game though was back in mid-January; neither team bares any resemblance to the ones that took the court then. Coming into that game the Demons were 9-6, they went 10-2 the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs have now defeated Marquette twice, both away from home, along with its 25-point drubbing of Louisville. The Frogs advanced to the quarters with a thrilling, 64-62 win against Marquette.

Backcourt play should be pretty even, as Sammy Meija and Drake Diener will go against Corey Santee and Marcus Shropshire. Meija and Santee both like to get it and go, while Shropshire and Diener can be aggressive with their shots, but like to pick their spots as well. Points in the paint will be important, as the Demons like to get their points from Delonte Holland and rebounds from Andre Brown. Chudi Chinweze and Femi Ibikunle will have their work cut out for them to contain DePaul’s inside play. If this game is helter-skelter, it will favor TCU. But if the Blue Demons can dictate tempo, they should move on to the semifinals.

No. 4 UAB versus No. 5 Charlotte
Perhaps the best No. 4-No. 5 game in the country, these two co-champions will kick off an incredible day of quarterfinal games at the C-USA Tournament. Earlier in the season, the Blazers handed Charlotte only its third home loss of the season, 69-62, Jan. 24. “UAB’s had our number,” said Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz. “They beat us in the conference tournament last year and at our place this year.” If the Niners repeat their 1-of-18 performance from downtown, than UAB should advance to the semifinals. Don’t expect that to happen though, as the 49ers are playing great basketball right now. Both teams are very quick and athletic, relying on several players to make contributions on both sides of the ball. Expect a close game throughout.

In the backcourt, Morris Finley and Carldell Johnson will match up with Brendan Plavich and Demon Brown. Besides Johnson, all three like to fire away from beyond the arc. Despite their size (Johnson is 5-foot-10, Finley is 5-foot-11), they are one of the best defensive backcourts in the country and will pressure the outside shot of Plavich and Brown. Inside, Charlotte has an advantage with First Team all-conference Curtis Withers and underrated Eddie Basden. Both teams have a solid bench, with the Blazers owning the advantage. This game could go either way, but look for the Niners to move on to the semifinals with a close win.

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