Inside Marshall Sports

Revised C-USA projection after 2/27

(I whiffed badly on ECU smacking SMU around and missed UAB winning at UTEP, which I think is a pretty good win for the Blazers). 

1. Memphis 16-0
2. Houston 13-3
3. UAB 12-4
4. UCF 10-6
5. Marshall 8-8 (will win convoluted tiebreaker … 0-1 vs. Houston)
6. UTEP 8-8 (0-2 vs. Houston)
7. Southern Miss 8-8 (bottom of tiebreaker, 0-2 vs. Memphis)
8/9. Tulsa 7-9 (tiebreaker won’t matter)
8/9. Tulane 7-9
10. East Carolina 4-12
11. SMU 3-13
12. Rice 0-16

This wouldn’t be bad for the Herd… it would smack the Rice Owls, then get into a 5-vs.-4 game with UCF. Memphis would await, but getting into the semis would an *enormous* accomplishment, IMO. Bad news (for me, anyway): Herd would play the first two rounds at 9:30 ET.

If you’re wondering about the Conference USA tiebreakers, they are listed on the league Web site. And yes, going 0-1 against somebody is considered better than going 0-2 … Marshall won the 8-9 tiebreaker that way last year, though it only determined who would wear white uniforms.

A final note: this projection hinges on UTEP losing at Southern Miss on March 4, a pretty shaky pick. Rice finishes with ECU and SMU (at Katy, Texas), but I think the Owls are simply too bad/beat up to beat anybody. 

OK, I stand corrected…

On East Carolina, which is pummeling SMU mercilessly. I thought the Pirates had run up the white flag on Mack McCarthy. That’ll change the bottom of my C-USA projection.

I’m here watching the 8:30 p.m. women’s game in the West Virginia Conference tournament. Tonight, the Civic Center is indeed the Mausoleum…

Herd about to move up without playing

Marshall sits alone in seventh place and gets Wednesday night off. That won’t just give the Herd a chance to heal, get well, etc., it will provide a chance to move up in the standings without breaking a sweat.

First, the quickie standings:
1. Memphis 12-0
2-3. UAB, Houston 9-3
4-6. UCF, Southern Miss, UTEP 7-5
7. Marshall 7-6
8. Tulsa 6-6
9. Tulane 5-7
10-11. East Carolina, SMU 2-10
Dead last. Rice 0-13

Conceivable, all three teams in the 4-6 tie could lose, dropping them into a tie with Marshall. That would be a hoot, wouldn’t it?

Realistically, UCF probably won’t lose at home to Tulane. The Knights are playing really well at their new home. UTEP faces UAB, but does it at home, and I actually project the Blazers to give this one away. Southern Miss travels to Houston and should lose a tough one (and see if L. Eustachy and T. Penders get into it after the game — they really don’t like each other).

Don’t look for Tulsa to rise up and tie the Herd … the Golden Hurricane has a date at FedEx Forum against an angry bunch of Tigers.

Sooooo… I project the Herd to come out of Wednesday no worse than tied for sixth, perhaps even fifth or fourth. Let’s see how the ball bounces.

Revised C-USA projection after 2/23

(Southern Miss won at Tulane, which I didn’t call. If Marshall can win a road game, we’ll move the Herd on up.)

1. Memphis 16-0
2. Houston 13-3
3. UAB 11-5
4. UCF 10-6
5. UTEP 9-7
6. Marshall 8-8 (will win tiebreaker)
7. Southern Miss 8-8
8/9. Tulsa 7-9 (tiebreaker won’t matter)
8/9. Tulane 7-9
10. SMU 4-12
11. East Carolina 3-13
12. Rice 0-16

In-game blog today …

Let’s see what we can do with all these radio timeouts today, since I’m not under the deadline gun. And maybe one of you guys can tell me if Herd All-Access dies again.

Interesting item that didn’t quite make my game preview: UCF has a freshman from Abidjan,  Ivory Coast, the same city that produced Jean Francois Bro Grebe. This guy is Jean Michel Yotio and he’s averaging 9 minutes a game.

If you’re wondering, Shaquille Johnson, the recruit from Jacksonville, is in the house. You can recognize him with a shirt that reads “Lee Generals” on front and “Shaq” on the back with a No. 22.

The C-USA newcomers, year 3

Three-season record of the six new Conference USA members (league games only):

UCF 25-16
UTEP 23-18
Tulsa 21-21
Marshall 18-24
Rice 14-28
SMU 9-32

After watching the Herd snatch defeat against UTEP, here’s a stab at projected Conference USA standings:

1. Memphis 16-0
2. Houston 13-3
3. UAB 11-5
4. UCF 10-6
5. UTEP 9-7
6. Marshall 8-8 (wins tiebreaker)
7. Tulane 8-8
8. Tulsa 7-9
9. Southern Miss 7-9
10. SMU 4-12
11. East Carolina 3-13
12. Rice 0-16

I’m taking a pretty optimistic track, picking Marshall to bounce back and knock off UCF this Saturday, then lose two on the road and beat Southern Miss.

UCF has been very good since joining C-USA, but the Herd under Donnie Jones has bounced back nicely after grating losses. You should see a sense of urgency at the HC — Marshall must have this game, IMO, to stay on the road to 8-8. 7-9 is going to get you in the 8-vs.-9 game at the C-USA tournament (winner gets Memphis).

Some thoughts after the UTEP game:

— Robbie Jackson is starting to play like an honest-to-gosh 7-footer. He’s getting open, catching the pass and going up with authority. And since his free-throw stroke is soooooo much better, it’s good to get him to the line.

— DJ admitted he may have overused Darryl Merthie. He said P-Mac never got into the flow after getting in early foul trouble. Hmm…. As well as Merthie has played in the past month, you wonder if you want him on the floor in the final 10 seconds.

— Actually, I have a feeling the Herd spent a lot of time practicing late-game situations. Between Merthie’s disasters and Mark Dorris trying to re-enact the SMU game, there was some brain-cramping going on with the green squad. As another coach would say, “DJ’s got to get that fixed.”

Anybody got some eligibility?

Another day, another injury in the Herd basketball camp…. I’m sure you’ve heard about Matt Walls by now. Broken hand, out four weeks. (One wag in the office suggests the injury could actually help his shot.)

Coach Donnie Jones doesn’t expect Darryl Merthie to play, and he said Taurean Marshall is awfully sore and probably will sit again. Soooo…. expect a lot of P-Mac, a little Mark Dorris at point guard again, Markel Humphrey at the “3” and all of the big guys getting in and banging — SMU has a lot of height in Bamba Fall and Papa Dia, the two guys from Senegal.

And the Herd had another adventurous journey. The charter aircraft developed mechanical problems and that flight was scrubbed, and the team had to book commercial flights at the last minute.

But SMU is not great and Marshall is a three-point favorite. This is a roadie you need to win.

Mack McCarthy is coming …

Great guy, really… Ran into him a lot the year he was the analyst on the Thundering Herd TV network (may it rest in peace). He often joked that he learned the hard way about his odd little predecessor, Murray Arnold, and told stories about the MU student section back in the day.

As you may know, he’s serving in an interim capacity, though ECU doesn’t use the “i” word. His status will be determined at season’s end. Shoot, that’s a nearly impossible gig — he has doubled last year’s conference win total at two.

For a little trip down memory lane, here are Mack’s previous 12 trips to the Henderson Center, all with UT-Chattanooga:

1/25/86 — UTC 81, Herd 74
1/24/87 — Herd 94, UTC 81
2/29/88 — Herd 93, UTC 77 (UTC later knocks out Herd in So. Conf. semifinal in infamous 71-70 game)
2/12/89 — UTC 79, Herd 78
1/13/90 — Herd 86, UTC 83 (OT)
1/12/91 — UTC 77, Herd 72
2/10/92 — UTC 76, Herd 75
1/9/93 — Herd 78, UTC 77
2/14/94 — UTC 81, Herd 77
1/7/95 — Herd 95, UTC 83
1/22/96 — Herd 86, UTC 69 (Later, MU knocks out UTC in SC quarterfinals … Billy D was 4-1 against the Mocs)
12/23/96 — Herd 90, UTC 83 (MU later hands UTC the SC championship game)

O.J. Murdock, UAB basketball

No, the two subjects are not related.

First, a few words on the commitment reported by Orenthal James Murdock of Tampa. And yes, that’s his full name, as seen on the online court documents.

As referred to previously, Murdock may still be at South Carolina if not for his alleged scheme to pilfer $400 worth of goodies from a Tampa-area Macy’s, with the help of his girlfriend, who worked there. Both were charged with third-degree grand theft, but the cases have been resolved with a pre-trial intervention program, documents show.

But here is something that bugs me a little: The young lady’s case was resolved a lot quicker than Murdock’s… There were some twists and turns to his case, which included a failure to appear or two a capias and a retracted capias, etc. Now, college kids can step into some doggie doo along the way, but the quickest way out includes making it to the courthouse on time!

My other concerns are football-related: He hasn’t seen much game action since graduating from Tampa’s Middleton High. He was redshirted in 2005, caught one pass at South Carolina at 2006 before his suspension and caught six balls in just three games for Pearl River Community College in Mississippi last fall. Have his skills eroded?

I have been told by an MU official that Mark Snyder is loading up on juco recruits to help even out his classes. But this looks like a dice roll from a 12-23 coach. Cross your fingers, Herd fans.

On to basketball, where the Herd plays East Carolina tonight. Looking ahead to the home opponent Saturday, UAB, there will be two changes for the Blazers: (1) Walter Sharpe is gone for the season due to academics and (2) Georgia transfer Channing Toney debuts tonight against Southern Miss. Toney is a hometown product and son of former NBA player Andrew Toney.

The loss of Sharpe, who hasn’t played since UAB beat Kentucky, is going to sting the Blazers. He was an inside force, and owns the league high with 17 rebounds in a game against Rhode Island. The bodes a little better for Tirrell Baines and MU’s inside game.