Inside Marshall Sports

NIT watch 10 p.m. 3/3

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Tracking the regular-season conference champions. Herd fans will want to root for them to with their tournaments, lest they snatch an NIT bid.

Big South: Coastal Carolina at home, playing VMI in the semis.
America East: Vermont to play Binghamton, quarterfinals at 2:15 p.m. Friday at West Hartford.
Atlantic Sun: Belmont plays Lipscomb-Mercer winner at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Tournament at Macon, Ga.
Horizon: UW-Milwaukee plays Valparaiso-Detroit winner Friday in a Saturday semifinal at home.
Northeast: Long Island hosting Central Connecticut State at noon Sunday.
Ohio Valley: Murray State plays Tennessee Tech at 8 p.m. ET Friday in semifinals.

Southern Conference and several others get going Friday.

Donnie Jones story coming

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Some quotes from that January “chit-chat” will be used. I hope nobody thinks those were “off the comment” remarks. For one, he didn’t ask that they be and second, I would have refused. After his little lecture, that won’t change.

Get your tickets, if you haven’t for Saturday. Keep it clean, and keep your quarters in your pocket.

The standings and current tiebreaker situation:
1. UAB 11-4
2. Tulsa 10-5, 3. UTEP 10-5
(Teams split, Tulsa buried UAB, UTEP lost to UAB in 3ot)
4. Memphis 9-6, 5. Southern Miss 9-6
(Memphis swept USM)
6. Marshall 8-7, 7. SMU 8-7, 8. ECU 8-7
(MU 2-1 in that grouping, SMU 1-1, ECU 1-2)
9. UCF (this seed is clinched)
10. Rice 4-11, 11. Houston 4-11
(Rice up 1-0 but teams will settle this Saturday)
12. Tulane 3-12

Games Saturday (times converted to Eastern):
UTEP at SMU (TW Texas) …………………..3:00p
Tulane at Memphis (CBS C) ……………….4:00p
Rice at Houston ……………………………….6:00p
UCF at Marshall ……………………………….7:00p
East Carolina at UAB…………………………8:00p
Southern Miss at Tulsa (CBS C)…………..8:00p

I’ll doublecheck, but I do not see any tiebreaker favoring the Herd cracking into the top 5. It’s 6, 7 or 8. I’ll get to possibilities at some point later today.

MU-UTEP previews

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My 2 cents on the game tonight, in which the Herd will have to do a better job on Randy Culpepper and Julyan Stone.

One little advisory tonight: With the late start tonight, we’ll be economical with the game story. With our too-early print deadline, we will be holding for it. (And in the slim chance you go to the West Virginia Conference women’s tournament today, stop by and say hello.)

Not sure what we’ll do if the Herd draws the 10 p.m. Eastern slot next week.

Here is the El Paso Times’ preview. Note at the bottom that tickets start at $14. And take a gander up top at the local weather. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Conference tournaments fired up Tuesday, so let’s start the NIT watch. As you know, conference regular-season champions are guaranteed a spot in the NIT (Great West excluded), and will suck a spot from the 32-team field. There were eight such teams last year, though the seedings indicated that Kent State could have gotten in otherwise.

The Big South started on campus with Coastal Carolina winning. Both semifinals are Thursday at Coastal, with the finals Saturday at the highest seed. 

The Atlantic Sun kicks off at Macon, Ga., with Belmont the top seed.

The Horizon began Tuesday on campus, with action moving to top seed UW-Milwaukee for Friday and Saturday. Milwaukee and Butler received two-round byes to the semifinals, and Cleveland State also is an NIT candidate.

The Ohio Valley and Patriot begin today. The OVC is in Nashville, with champ Murray State and Morehead State getting a two-round bye. Morehead merits NIT watching. The Patriot is on campus, with Bucknell the champ and American No. 2. Not sure American meets the NIT cut on its own.

UTEP items, UCF and Donnie Jones

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First, my story this morning on what Marshall faces on its journey to Texas-El Paso.

On the UTEP front:
The semi-big news out of El Paso is the suspension of two freshmen, guard Michael Perez and center John Bohannon.

Most interesting is Tim Floyd’s postgame press conference after the Miners dismantled Memphis, where he busts on ESPN’s Andy Katz and defends Conference USA. C-USA’s perceived disrespect may have been the topic of today’s coaches’ teleconference, had it not been canceled. (The teleconference situation remains the No. 1 disappointment in Marshall’s membership in C-USA.)

An El Paso Times blog tells of a rumor of suspended zebras in connection with the Tim Floyd ejection at East Carolina. The item from the UTEP-Memphis game is interesting, even moreso after the aforementioned suspensions.

From Orlando: AD Keith Tribble is among candidates for the Miami job, which is logical given his background. Which begs the question: If there is a change in that office, does Donnie Jones automatically look for another job? If you read CBS Sportsline’s Gary Parrish’s lecturing Marshall fans about Jones’ defection, you would think there isn’t a coach in the land that could handle a new AD.

This much is clear: Donnie Jones didn’t like Mike Hamrick and probably didn’t from the get-go, in part because of disagreements over scheduling. Hamrick did not care for seeing Brescia, Rio Grande and Salem International on the schedule, and he shouldn’t. This much is clearer: Jones darned near helped Parrish write this column. He had the stage to lobby a writer that basically does not respect Marshall in the first place, and he used it.

That out of the way, watch a fan’s footage of A.J. Rompza’s game-winning shot against Southern Miss … if you dare.

C-USA projection entering March 2

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Here is the main projection, including hunch picks. I am leaning heavily to the home teams, only picking Memphis to win at ECU and UTEP to win at SMU.

I am picking Southern Miss to dump UAB on Wednesday, denying the Blazers a clean C-USA regular-season title and a No. 1 seed.

I am picking Tulsa to lose at Rice but beat Southern Miss at home. Also picking Houston to lose at Tulane but beat Rice at home.

1. Memphis 11-5
2. UAB 11-5
3. Tulsa 10-6
4. UTEP 10-6
5. Southern Miss 10-6
6. Marshall 9-7
7. SMU 8-8
8. ECU 7-9
9. UCF 6-10
10. Rice 5-11
11. Houston 5-11
12. Tulane 3-13

Put Marshall against Houston, with winner getting Tulsa, all at 3:30 p.m. ET March 9-10.

OK, here is the “Marshall wins out” scenario:

1. Memphis 11-5
2. UAB 11-5
3. Marshall 10-6
4. Tulsa 10-6
5. Southern Miss 10-6
6. UTEP 9-7
7. SMU 8-8
8. ECU 7-9
9. UCF 6-10
10. Rice 5-11
11. Houston 5-11
12. Tulane 3-13

Marshall would get Houston-UTEP winner, probably at 7:30 ET. (Host team gets prime-time spot the first two rounds, which has been 7:30 ET. I have asked the league office if UTEP will get that or the 8 MT spot. Haven’t heard back.)

2012 C-USA tourney to Memphis

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ADs had voted on it a few weeks back; just needed to dot the i’s. The release follows.

2012 C-USA Basketball Championships Will Make Return to Memphis

Games to be played at FedExForum and Elma Roane Fieldhouse 

 IRVING, Texas – Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky and Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson announced Friday that the C-USA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships will be hosted by Memphis in 2012,
as approved by the Conference Board of Directors. Events will be held March 6-10 at FedExForum and Elma Roane Fieldhouse.

“Memphis has been a wonderful host in the past for our premier basketball events,” Banowsky said. “The Memphis fans and community have truly embraced and supported the event, with FedExForum serving as a spectacular venue to crown our champions.”

The 2012 C-USA Basketball Championship will be the eighth time overall that the City of Memphis has played host to the men’s postseason tournament and the second time for the women. The Men’s Championship was hosted at FedExForum from 2005-09 and was played at The Pyramid in 1996 and 2000. The 2003 Women’s Championship was also held at The Pyramid.

C-USA tiebreakers after Wednesday

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To save you the effort in figuring them out …

The 9-4 teams are 1. Memphis, 2. Southern Miss, 3. UAB.
The 8-5 teams are 4. UTEP, 5. Tulsa, 6. SMU.
Marshall is alone in 7th at 7-6.
East Carolina is alone in 8th at 6-7.
The 4-9 teams are 9. Rice, 10. Houston, 11. UCF.
Tulane is 2-12, gunning for the cellar.

After Wednesday’s smackdown of Tulsa, you get the feeling that yes, the Herd can climb higher than 6th … Since the UAB disaster, this team has been very, very fun to watch.