With an educated guess here and an illogical hunch there … and I hope these all add up, but here is my first stab at projected Conference USA standings:
(large separation between bye teams and other eight)
Southern Miss 7-9
Tulane, ECU and Rice 2-14 (in a nearly unbreakable 3-way tie)
I am trying to be optimistic about the Herd, and I think it will split the UAB-Tulsa stretch. The obvious guess is a loss at UAB and a win against Tulsa at home, because of venue and because … I am thinking the Blazers are pretty daggone good and the Golden Hurricane is not as strong as predicted.
Here’s the big “but” here: I guess I’m going to have to take SMU seriously. Marshall has never lost to the Mustangs since joining C-USA, but finishing the regular season with a trip to Dallas is not very appetizing.
So I’m guessing the Herd will get a 6 seed heading into the tournament, but I may be giving Houston a little too much credit (like I usually do). I’m banking on a 5-2 finish for the Cougs; if that doesn’t happen, Marshall would be a 5 seed.
That wouldn’t be so bad. The 5 seed has beaten the 4 seed in the second round the last two years. And while Tulsa has the home-city advantage, the Golden Hurricane will not be playing on its home floor.
I saw UTEP pull away from Tulsa, and I cautiously like the Miners to win the thing. If UAB finishes 13-3 and gets to the finals or maybe just semis, the Blazers should get an NCAA berth.
If you don’t like this projection, don’t worry. It will get wrecked, soon enough.