If college basketball is included in your weekend plans, you’re in luck. But first, a quick look around Conference USA is in order as teams prepare for the week-long holiday starting Monday, Dec. 23 with play resuming Saturday, Dec. 28.
Southern Miss is still near the top the C-USA leaderboard at 9-2. The Golden Eagles’ losses coming from a 69-38 loss at the hands of then-No. 9 Louisville and a 68-65 loss to Western Kentucky on Dec. 18. Now the Golden Eagles are off to the Virgin Islands for the BVI Tropical Shootout that tips off on the 20th.
East Carolina is the new C-USA leader at 10-2 after beating VMI on Thursday night, 103-94. The Pirates will travel to Raleigh to face North Carolina State on Saturday before beginning their holiday break. UAB is also 9-2. Following its court date with Chattanooga, the Blazers will travel to Baton Rouge for a Dec. 21 pre-Christmas tune-up against 7-2 LSU. The Tigers are 4-0 at the Maverich Center while UAB is 1-0 on the road.
Louisiana Tech will take its 9-3 record on the road Dec. 22 against the Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe.
Middle Tennessee sits at 8-3 while awaiting a Dec. 21date with Cincinnati at the Murphy Center. That same date will see Charlotte play host to USC Upstate. The 49ers will enter that contest sporting a 7-3 record.
Florida International is starting the season strong at 8-4. Head Coach Anthony Evans and his Panthers await what will be a run-and-gun contest against No. 6 Louisville in Miami on Saturday. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are 10-1 on the season.
North Texas is 6-5 and prepping for a home date at The Super Pit in Denton with Wayland Baptist.
INNER-CITY RIVALRY FEATURED ON CSS
If you think the Rice-Houston matchup is just another meaningless non-conference contest between two inner-city schools, think again. Rice is still a member of Conference USA while Houston began play in the American Athletic Conference just this season.
The difference in conference affiliation means little to either school as both are within a 10-mile radius. Besides, why would it implied sixth-year Rice head basketball Coach Ben Braun?
“We have had some great games with Houston and we want to continue this rivalry,” said Braun. “It’s important to our program and our fans.”
The Owls are 5-5 after a hard-fought three-overtime 96-93 home win against South Alabama and a win over Northwood.
The Cougars have one win to show in their last four games and are looking for a breakout game against Rice.
“I know that we’ve had lapses in a game where we’ve had some possessions we haven’t been as good defensively and where we’ve had empty possessions offensively,” said Houston head coach James Dickey. “So, it’s more about playing a complete game.”
It’s also about keeping this yearly meeting going between the two says Dickey.
“They’ve got three guys in double figures and Austin (Ramljak) can really shoot the ball,” said Dickey. “I know that Max (Guercy)really makes them go offensively. They execute at a great pace offensively and they’ll break you down off the dribble. So, defensive awareness is going to be really important for us on Saturday.”
Ramljak averages 13.5 points per game. Sean Obi and Max Guercy average 12.4 and 11.8, respectively.
The Cougars average 74.7 points per game while allowing an average of 70. Tashawn Thomas leads the Cougars in scoring and rebounding at 17.5 and 9.3, respectively. Danuel House, Jherrod Stiggers, and L.J. Rose add double figure scoring respectively with 15.6, 10.2, and 10.1 points per game.
Houston leads the series, 53-14.
Any team can gain momentum and make a run toward the conference championship. That is where UTEP, Marshall, and Tulane find themselves. UTSA, Tulsa, and Florida Atlantic continue to look for that magic. However, all will have an opportunity as each will be in action from Thursday through Monday.
The Holiday break begins for all teams on Monday. Conference play resumes on Saturday, Dec. 28.