It’s 2014 and time for C-USA conference play to crank up. The clock is ticking and holiday breaks are over. Teams begin to put more emphasis on winning as conference play is where the money is made.
The leader of the pack going into conference play is Southern Miss. Head coach Donnie Tyndall’s group is 13-2 as it prepares to meet the Mean Green of North Texas at the Super Pit in Denton on Thursday night. This will be a big test for the Golden Eagles as they are 4-2 on the road having lost at Louisville and Western Kentucky.
North Texas is 9-5 this season and has defended home court well at 7-1. This, of course, will be the first conference game for both schools.
The same can also be said for Charlotte at UTEP. Both schools are starting to make a push at 9-4 and 10-5, respectively. Head coach Alan Major might have the conference sleeper while UTEP and Tim Floyd are starting to play as expected. The 49ers and Miners face off Thursday night in El Paso.
UTSA is looking for big momentum as they sit at 4-9. It could be the right mix for the Road Runners as Marshall visits the third largest City in Texas on Thursday. Brooks Thompson and UT San Antonio are 3-5 at home while 6-9 Thundering Herd and Tom Herrion are 0-6 on the road.
Florida Atlantic could also use lots of momentum in preparation for a visit to Ruston. Louisiana Tech is the second-best team in Conference USA at 12-3. Head coach Michael White and the Bulldogs are 5-1 at Thomas Assembly Center. Their lone loss is an 89-80 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Meanwhile, head coach Mike Jarvis and his Owls are winless on the road at 0-6.
THURSDAY NIGHT ON CSS
Tulane is looking to stay on the right side of .500 with a visit to 5-9 Tulsa and head coach Danny Manning.
Fourth year Green Wave head coach Ed Conroyand his guys are 8-7 going into Thursday’s tipoff, but 1-1on the road. Tulane averages 68.2 points per game while allowing opponents an average of 72 points.
Conroy boasts three players in double figures. Tulane’s 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Louis Dabney leads the Green Wave with 18.3 points per game. There’s a freshman on the loose by the name of Jonathan Starks. The six-footer averages 16.7 points per game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.
Speaking of 3-point range, the best shooter on the squad at 49.3 percent is 6-foot-3 shooting guard, Jay Hook. The junior averages 16.4 points per game and shoots a team-best 88 percent from the charity stripe.
Tulsa and Manning will need to protect home court. They are 4-2 at the Reynolds Center, their last win a 73-57 victory over Cal-Fullerton Jan. 4. The Golden Hurricane average 72.3 points per game while allowing 75 points a game.
They feature two double-figure-scorers in 6-foot-3 sophomore guard James Woodard and Rashad Smith, a 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore forward. Woodard averages 14.4 points per game while Smith averages 12.4 points per game and is the second leading rebounder on the team. It’s Woodard who leads the team in rebounding with 5.4 per game while also leading the team with a 43 percent average from the 3-point arc.
Picking up the rear at 9.5 points per game is sophomore guard Shaquille Harrison. Like Woodard and Smith, Harrison has started all 14 games this season.
The game tips off Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET.
FULL WEEKEND FOR CSS & C-USA
Conference-USA contests continue throughout the weekend on CSS as North Texas will host Tulane. The Green Wave get to make a second appearance within two days on the network. Tipoff is 2 p.m. ET.
Following on CSS is UAB at Middle Tennessee. This has the makings of a shootout as 11-3 UAB sports the third-best record in the league and averages 77.4 points per game. Four players average double-figures for head coach Jerod Hasse and the Blazers. Chad Frazier leads with 17.6 points per game followed by 14.5 for C.J. Washington, 10.8 for Rod Rucker, and 10.1 for 6-foot-10-inch center, Fahro Alihodzic. UAB also has a 63-59 win over then-No. 16 North Carolina to its credit and are 1-1 on the road.
The home team Blue Raiders and head coach Kermit Davis, on the other hand, are 7-1 at home. Shawn Jones, Neiko Hunter, and Kerry Hammonds lead the scoring for Middle Tennessee. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.
Other Saturday contests include Charlotte at UTSA, Old Dominion at East Carolina, FIU at Louisiana Tech, Florida Atlantic at Rice, and Marshall at UTEP. Southern Miss visits Tulsa on Sunday.