Inside Marshall Sports

Brace for Case Keenum

Looks like the Herd will face the Houston gunslinger, as he was granted a sixth year of eligibility.

Memphis licking its wounds

In my preseason rankings, I overrated Marshall’s next opponent, at least for now. I did, however, say the Tigers set up to be better late in the season, and this isn’t late.

They’ve got to get better, because it probably won’t get worse than the 64-58 loss at SMU on Wednesday. Did I read this straight: The Tigers went 0-for-9 from the line in the second half? Wow.

And the Mustangs scored 17 points in a row? Wow.

You know the drill … good news is these bunch of Tigers aren’t that good; bad news is they’ll be a little surly when the Herd arrives for an 11 a.m. Central Time tipoff. The Herd will want to be awake for this one.

Here is the Memphis-SMU game from the Dallas Morning News.

A word about Gary Parrish

Some time after I skimmed his upbraiding of Marshall fans in their reaction to Donnie Jones, the question bugged me: What in his background gives him any knowledge of the MU situation, and contributes to this tripe?

Finally, I broke down and looked at his bio and it hit me hard: He came to CBS from the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.

Now let’s get this straight: I always look forward to reading that paper. Even in this day of cheapness, the leadership there seems to give their staff the resources to do bang-up work. But from time to time, those folks come off arrogant as hell, even by industry standards — witness the time the C-USA tournament came to town and they did a perfectly timed spread that essentially said, “Y’all suck!”

That in mind, Parrish’s piece could be a matter of “pot, meet kettle.” I distinctly remember the CA raising as much hell as possible about John Calipari’s departure to Kentucky and its aftermath. On that alone, I found nothing to criticize, and it seemed to reflect that city’s feeling.

What Parrish has written about Calipari, I haven’t kept track. Other things to do, you know. But I suspect his stand on Calipari leaving Memphis has similarities to how MU fans feel about DJ.

If that’s the case, I say, “BS.” That, and get a sensible hairdo, dude.

Up next: Southern Miss at home

Marshall will be at home, but this won’t be easy. After watching/listening to James Madison’s Denzel Bowles play three good halves against the Herd, here comes Gary Flowers to Cam Henderson Center.

Here’s what he did in the Golden Eagles’ 85-73 win, both in the Hattiesburg American and on the USM site. He was a beast in the 2010 C-USA tournament, going for 55 points, 35 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. As I have said, this is the best PF in the league.

Much more for Friday night/Saturday morning …

A little dose from Orlando

Just a few tidbits of UCF coverage from this morning, including a look at what the Orlando Sentinel calls the Knights’ five toughest C-USA games.

When you get over to that site, track down the follow-up on apparent punch thrown after the Liberty Bowl. Ooops …

Back to basketball, the Knights landed the No. 4 center in the nation, according to Rivals.

C-USA update

As much as I disdain New Year’s resolutions, I’ll try to post more this basketball season. With that, we have Conference USA stars from Sunday, plus the upcoming schedule. Thanks go here to the league office.

Memphis freshman Antonio Barton (Baltimore, Md.) scored a career-high 24 points, including five three-pointers, as the No. 21/22 Tigers defeated Tennessee State, 91-86. Freshman Tarik Black (Memphis, Tenn.) also established a new career-high with 22 points, scoring 15 in the first half, and Will Barton (Baltimore, Md.) added 19 points and team-high eight rebounds. Memphis improves its winning percentage to 81 percent (73-17) in the month of January since the 1999-2000 campaign. 

UTEP senior G Julyan Stone (Goleta, Calif.) was just two rebounds shy of a triple-double as the Miners defeated Sam Houston State, 74-65. Stone tallied 12 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. He had zero turnovers for the 20th time in his Miner career. With his 10 assists, he became the third C-USA player in history to register more than 600 career helpers. He now needs just (five?) more assists to break the conference record currently held by USF’s Reggie Kohn (606). UTEP has tied the school record for most wins entering league play.

Marshall junior G Damier Pitts (Charlotte, N.C.) scored a career-high 25 points, including 17 in the second half, to lead the Herd to a 74-65 road victory at St. Bonaventure. Pitts helped MU make a run in the second half before finishing the night hitting 7-13 shots, including five three-pointers. 

Sophomore F Arsalan Kazemi (Esfahan, Iran) scored a game-high 20 points as Rice knocked off TCU, 70-61. Kazemi was 10-for-11 at the line on the night and went 5-for-7 from the field, but the reigning C-USA Player of the Week had a streak of four straight double-doubles come to an end with an eight-rebound effort. Rice trailed by as many as 10 points early in the first half, but Frizzelle drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 30-all at the half. Out of the intermission, the Owls scored the first 11 points to go up 41-30.

With a 56-point, second-half performance, Tulane defeated Texas-Pan American, 88-65, for the Green Wave’s eighth-straight win at Fogelman Arena (and a perfect 7-0 this season). The win marked Tulane’s best start to a season since also opening the 1999-00 season with a 10-3 record. It was head coach Ed Conroy’s 100th career win, with stints at The Citadel and Francis Marion.

SMU posted its seventh-straight home win and the Mustangs have won eight of their last nine games following an 82-49 victory over Dallas Christian on Saturday. Senior Papa Dia (St. Louis, Senegal) scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his 17th career double-double. 

C-USA UPCOMING GAMES
Monday, January 3
East Carolina at North Carolina Central – 6:00p
Wednesday, January 5
Tennessee St. at (21) Memphis (SportSouth) – 2:00p
Marshall at St. Bonaventure – 3:00p
TCU at Rice – 3:00p
Sam Houston State at UTEP (TW Texas) – 3:00p
Texas-Pan American at Tulane – 5:00p

Donnie Jones replies

Donnie Jones and I had a sometimes spirited chat about my Monday column within the past hour, and I will give him some space here.

First, he pretty much hit the roof over my reference to the “Benedict Donald” nickname, and I understand. A few of his family members didn’t take kindly to it. I even apologized to Jones … though I must point out he should have heard that nickname by now. It took, what, 15 seconds to come out after reports of his hiring?

Jones denies, in the strongest terms, that he and UCF had been in contact before Marshall’s elimination from the CBI. I told him the same thing I’ll say here: I don’t buy it for a minute. That would have made the process as short as four days … no way, no way, no way. Bear in mind that UCF AD Keith Tribble is a Florida grad and a former assistant AD there.

(Please keep in mind: ADs always have a short list of coaches and a loaded Rolodex. Always.)

When Marshall struggled to beat Western Carolina and got smoked by Appalachian State, I really thought something amiss. When he was linked to the UCF job, I connected the dots. Shoot, I’m thinking his head was in Orlando when Marshall fell to Tulsa at the C-USA tournament. (Bear in mind, Kirk Speraw had shoveled the last bit of dirt on his stay the night before, when the Knights got waxed by UTEP.)

Jones tells me some Marshall fans are flying down to “support me,” and I do know a lot of Thundering Herd fans who harbor no ill will. But I don’t think Jones realizes the statement he made when he jumped ship to a conference rival. (One mitigating factor: This isn’t 1985, when the visitors’ bench sat in front of the student section, and the students showed little mercy.) I don’t see a warm, fuzzy visit to Huntington for Jones in March.

There shouldn’t be. I’ve long since gotten over coaches leaving for greener pastures (sure beats seeing them get fired), but a West Virginia native bolting for a top conference rival? Could you imagine Rick Huckabay defecting to Chattanooga, back in the day?

Conference USA’s first basketball media day is Monday. Hmmmm …

All-C-USA football

Just 4 Herd players honored, and you can guess ’em.

FIRST TEAM 

 

OFFENSE

 

QB- G.J. Kinne, Jr., TulsaRB- Bryce Beall, Jr., Houston

RB- Zach Line, So., SMU

OL- Kelvin Beachum, Jr., SMU

OL- Matt McCants, Jr., UAB

OL- Jah Reid, Sr., UCF

OL- Willie Smith, Sr., East Carolina

OL- Chris Thompson, Jr., Houston

OL- Cameron Zipp, Sr., Southern Miss

TE- Johdrick Morris, Sr., Southern Miss

WR- Dwayne Harris, Sr., East Carolina

WR- Patrick Edwards, Jr., Houston

WR- Aldrick Robinson, Sr., SMU

DEFENSE

DL- Vinny Curry, Jr., Marshall

DL- Bruce Miller, Sr., UCF

DL- Cheta Ozougwu, Sr., Rice

DL- Taylor Thompson, Jr., SMU

LB- Ja’Gared Davis, So., SMU

LB- Mario Harvey, Sr., Marshall

LB- Jamon Hughes, Sr., Memphis

DB-Philip Davis, Sr., Tulane

DB-Kemal Ishmael, So., UCF

DB-Marco Nelson, Fr., Tulsa

DB-Josh Robinson, So., UCF

SPECIAL TEAMS

K- Danny Hrapmann, Jr., Southern Miss

P- Kyle Martens, Jr., Rice

KR-Quincy McDuffie, So., UCF

PR- Dwayne Harris, Sr., East Carolina

PR- Damaris Johnson, Jr., Tulsa

LS- Brandon Long, Sr., Rice

OFFENSE
QB- Austin Davis, Jr., Southern Miss
RB- Orleans Darkwa, Fr., Tulane
RB- Ronnie Weaver, Jr., UCF
OL- Clint Anderson, Jr., Tulsa
OL- Rod Huntley, Sr., UTEP
OL- Dominik Riley, Sr., Memphis
OL- Chad Schofield, Sr., Marshall
OL- Isaiah Thompson, Sr., Houston
TE- Lee Smith, Sr., Marshall
WR-Cole Beasley, Jr., SMU
WR-Lance Lewis, Jr., East Carolina
WR-Damaris Johnson, Jr., Tulsa
DEFENSE
DL- Anthony Gray, Sr., Southern Miss
DL- Elliott Henigan, Jr., UAB
DL- Cordarro Law, Jr., Southern Miss
DL- Darius Nall, Jr., UCF
LB- Trent Mackey, So., Tulane
LB- Marcus McGraw, Jr., Houston
LB- Youri Yenga, Sr., SMU
DB-Travis Bradshaw, Jr., Rice
DB-Emanuel Davis, Jr., East Carolina
DB-Chris Banjo, Jr., SMU
DB-Justin Wilson, Sr., Southern Miss
DB-Travaun Nixon, Jr., UTEP
SPECIAL TEAMS
K- Michael Barbour, Jr., East Carolina
P- Michael Such, Sr., Tulsa
KR- Damaris Johnson, Jr., Tulsa
PR- Patrick Edwards, Jr., Houston
LS- Charley Hughlett, Jr., UCF

C-USA championship: One common denominator

As SMU takes on Central Florida, can you name the one thing both programs have in common?

Start thinking …

Tick, tick, tick…

tick, tick, tick…

Time’s up! The answer: Steve Orsini.

You may recall that he was the athletic director at UCF, then left for SMU. He was a former Dallas Cowboys offical, as I recall, and has a fondness for the DFW area.

That means he has hired *both* George O’Leary at UCF and June Jones at SMU. Both inherited programs in awful condition, and have lifted them … well, to this game. This is O’Leary’s third time in this game in six years.

O’Leary on Orsini, in his press conference this week:

On his relationship with SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini…

“I knew Steve back from my Georgia Tech days when he was an assistant there. He was the one that really initially got me involved here with Dr. (John) Hitt and the fellows there. Most of the stuff here is his vision as I see it when I got here, as far as a lot of that stuff he had on the drawing board. Again, I think he is a sharp guy.

He is an ex-captain at Notre Dame and he has his ducks in a row and obviously he knew what he wanted to get done at SMU in hiring June [Jones] who has been around. It’s almost the same path there, I think 1-10 [record] the first year [at SMU] and we were 0-11 [at UCF], but I think they have moved the program in the direction that June is wanting to go. I think Steve’s job is to support whatever he needs to have and I think he has done that here when he was here and he has done that at SMU.”

On how Orsini brought him to UCF…

“He asked if I had an interest and then they flew up a bunch of people in a private plane and I was still practicing with Minnesota [Vikings] when that was all taking place. My initial contact was with Steve, who rightfully so he was the AD. I had a good job at the present, I was coordinating in the NFL, but I always wanted to get back and turn one program and see if I could get it going in the right direction. Especially with my age I didn’t think I was going to be bouncing around a lot more.

I thought this was a place that had great potential and great future as far as what could be done.”

Speaking of UCF, the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi makes his latest lobbying salvo to the Big East. He makes a great case — but only if Villanova is really the candidate for the 10th football team.

Got news for him: Houston could get the call. As much as I hate to admit he makes sense, WVU hoops coach Bob Huggins said the league needs to add a good travel partner for TCU, which narrows down to Houston in a hurry (sorry, SMU).

I must say, I have taken great pleasure in watching Memphis and Orlando writhe over conference realignments.

A bowl worksheet

This simply projects simple bowl eligibility, considering there are *70* spots available. If there isn’t 71 eligible, we cannot consider the possibility that any 6-6 team gets shut out.

Heading into today, standings from ESPN.com:

Big East: 3 are in
Next win: UConn, Louisville
Next loss out: Cincinnati

Big Ten: 7 in, 1 out
Next win in: Illinois
Next loss out: Purdue, Indiana (both play 11/27)

Conference USA: 5 in, 3 out
Next win in: Houston, SMU
Next loss out: Marshall, Tulane

Independents: 2 in
Next win in: Notre Dame

MAC: 5 in, 6 out
Next loss out: Kent St, W Michigan

MWC: 4 in 4 out
Next win in: BYU

Pac-10: 3 in, 3 out
Next win in: Cal
Next loss out: Washington, UCLA

SEC: 8 in, 1 out
Next win in: Georgia
Next loss out: Tennessee, Ole Miss

Sun Belt: 0 in, 3 out
Next win in: Troy
Next loss out: Ark St, La-Monroe, MTSU

WAC: 4 in, 2 out
Next loss out: La Tech, Utah St, Idaho

54 in, 27 out, 38 still alive (USC is counted as out)
Next win in: 15
Next loss out: 20