Home » Columns »Conference Notes » Currently Reading:

2013-14 Conference USA Post-Mortem

June 4, 2014 Columns, Conference Notes No Comments

Determining who the very best teams in Conference USA were last year is like trying to find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

Perhaps only Mr. Owl could sort that out in a league that is just way too big because of the chase for football money. It’s a shame, too, because this could be a really good hoops league, but as it was this year, it was impossible to separate the top teams. Not helping the cause was 16-game conference schedule in a 16-team conference (this year’s incarnation after welcoming eight new members), resulting in numerous inequities in who played where as well as who one drew as their lone opponent to play twice.

The top five teams – Southern Mississippi, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, Middle Tennessee State and Texas-El Paso – were all good. The first four tied for the league title at 13-3, while UTEP was one game back at 12-4. The narrow difference among them also was a curse, though, when trying to make a case for any of them as NCAA Tournament contenders.

It’s very possible C-USA could’ve put one or maybe even two more teams in the NCAAs if those five could’ve replaced 3-4 games against the rest of the league with games against each other, allowing for chances at separation at the top. Instead, all were lacking for quality wins and just one of them got in-Tulsa, which finished its C-USA term with a championship before jumping to the American Athletic Conference.

Conference USA can and should do better. A number of its current programs – UTEP, Louisiana Tech, UAB, UNC Charlotte and Old Dominion – have had periods as consistent top 50-75 programs. There’s no reason C-USA can’t have success along the lines of the Atlantic 10, but something about this league just seems to keep that from happening. With the prior exception of Memphis, it’s as if C-USA members collectively drag each other down into a pool of mediocrity. That needs to change for this to become the basketball league it still has the potential to be, even now after how much realignment has hammered it.

Final Standings

C-USA Overall
Southern Mississippi 13-3 29-7
Louisiana Tech 13-3 29-8
Middle Tennessee State 13-3 24-9
Tulsa 13-3 21-13
Texas-El Paso 12-4 23-11
Old Dominion 9-7 18-18
Tulane 8-8 17-17
Alabama-Birmingham 7-9 18-13
UNC Charlotte 7-9 17-14
Florida International 7-9 15-16
North Texas 6-10 16-16
East Carolina 5-11 17-17
Florida Atlantic 5-11 10-22
Marshall 4-12 11-22
Texas-San Antonio 4-12 8-22
Rice 2-14 7-23

Conference Tournament
The Conference USA Tournament consisted of five rounds, the same number as the NIT and just two less than the NCAA Tournament.

Even with so many teams and games, the tourney was rather uneventful. The most entertaining game may have been the final one of the first day, as No. 12 seed East Carolina held off No. 13 Texas-San Antonio 79-76. Akeem Richmond shot 11-for-19 from the field and the three-point line en route to 36 points. No. 14 seed Marshall pulled the only upset that day (63-59 over 11 seed Florida Atlantic) while 10th-seeded North Texas rallied from seven down late in regulation to nip poor Rice 63-62 in overtime.

Second round and quarterfinal games all went according to seed with one minor exception, as No. 9 UNC Charlotte knocked out No. 8 UAB 80-70. No. 7 Tulane also rallied from 13 down in the second half to defeat North Texas 66-61. The top four seeds then advanced to the quarterfinals by an average margin of 16 points, the most notable result being No. 4 Southern Miss dumping tourney host UTEP 64-56.

No. 2 seed Tulsa stopped Middle Tennessee State 76-69 in the first semifinal with James Woodard scoring 19 points, and in the second semi top-seeded Louisiana Tech had a surprisingly easy time in handling Southern Miss 88-70. The final saw the Golden Hurricane take control of a tight game in the second half, holding Tech to 23.3% second-half shooting the last 20 minutes. Woodard scored 27 points to earn the tourney MVP award and Tulsa won its first NCAA bid in 11 years.

Postseason Awards
Player of the Year: Shawn Jones, F, Sr., Middle Tennessee State
Newcomer of the Year: Chad Frazier, G, Jr., UAB
Freshman of the Year: Vince Hunter, F, UTEP
Defensive Player of the Year: Kenneth (Speedy) Smith, G, Jr., Louisiana Tech
Sixth Man of the Year: Kenyon McNeail, G, Sr., Louisiana Tech
Coach of the Year: Danny Manning, Tulsa

All-Conference Team
Pablo Bertone, G, Sr., Florida Atlantic
Chad Frazier, G, Jr., UAB
Shawn Jones, F, Sr., Middle Tennessee State
Kenneth (Speedy) Smith, G, Jr., Louisiana Tech
Neil Watson, G, Sr., Southern Mississippi

Season Highlights

  • Tulsa earned its first NCAA bid since 2003, a long break between appearances for a program that was an NCAA tourney regular in the ’80s and ’90s.
  • Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss both reached the NIT quarterfinals.
  • UNC Charlotte defeated Michigan to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tourney in November. UAB also scored a huge non-conference win over North Carolina and Louisiana Tech won at Oklahoma.
  • East Carolina’s Richmond led NCAA Division I with 4.56 three-pointers made per game, while Louisiana Tech’s Speedy Smith was second nationally in assists (8.0 apg), seventh in steals (2.5 spg) and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.24). Southern Miss senior Watson also was fourth in the nation in free throw percentage (91.7%).

What we expected, and it happened: With eight schools joining the league before this season, it was hard to know much of anything to expect. But Southern Miss remained the closest thing C-USA has had to a reliable steed of late, once again winning 20+ games and this year tying for the regular season title.

What we expected, and it didn’t happen: UNC Charlotte came over from the Atlantic 10 and many thought would be at least a solid top half team. The 49ers started the season well with the Michigan win, but in conference play slipped into the mid-pack morass of C-USA.

What we didn’t expect, and it happened: Old Dominion was a pleasant surprise, rebounding from a five-win disaster in its last year in the CAA to be competitive right away in C-USA. ODU finished best of the pack of teams after the top five and won 18 games overall. Tulsa also surprised, overcoming a number of close losses early to heat up in conference play and earn the tourney title.

Team on the rise: UTEP. Tim Floyd is quietly putting together another formidable program. The Miners had some moments last year, defeating Tennessee and scaring Kansas, return much of their team next year, and Floyd is recruiting well, too.

Team on the decline: Never count out a Kermit Davis team, but Middle Tennessee State looks poised to take a step or two back this year. Four senior starters depart from a program that won 79 games over the past three years, including C-USA player of the Year Shawn Jones.

Next Season Conference Outlook
Membership will change again. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa are out while Western Kentucky is in, putting the league at 14 teams, a more manageable number but still about four teams too big.

On paper, Conference USA doesn’t look as strong at the top as it was this year. Louisiana Tech and UTEP will likely be the favorites, with everyone else slated at least a notch below. Both are experienced and talented and have a chance to make some noise nationally, and no less than the NCAA Tournament should be the goal for both.

Southern Miss should still be a contender to win 20 games, while perhaps UNC Charlotte or UAB take a step this year into the top four. Charlotte in particular returns a ton of experience, but that same experience went just 17-14 last year. Western Kentucky could be a good addition…or could slide into the abyss that seems to strike so many in this league. Last year only five teams finished better than 9-7 in C-USA play, while eight squads were separated by just three games. How many teams are able to separate from the clusters that seem to inevitably form in this conference will determine how far Conference USA can go as a whole.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


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

Coaching Changes

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

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!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 26, 2018

April 27, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we spend a lot of time looking at what the Commission on College Basketball came up with, as their report was just produced. We also look at the NBA Draft and transfers, which have many rosters potentially in flux for next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 by

In our first podcast in the postseason, we look back one more time on the NCAA Tournament, which was just what we needed at this time. We also look at the NIT, CBI and CIT, as well as important transactions with players leaving early for the NBA Draft and coaching changes.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018 by

The 2018 national championship is in the books, and with it another season of college basketball. We break down the national championship game and some of its implications to wrap up the season.

College Basketball Tonight – April 1, 2018

April 2, 2018 by

Welcome to our Final Four edition of College Basketball Tonight. In this edition, we look ahead to Monday’s national championship game, and bring on two guests – long-time Villanova radio play-by-play broadcaster Ryan Fannon and Radford head coach Mike Jones – to get their thoughts and insights on the game.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 1, 2018

April 1, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we break d own the national semifinals, where one game went back and forth while the other was never really a ballgame thanks to an impressive performance for the ages by the winning team.

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.