[Moderated by Matt Jones]
***Welcome to the KSR/KSR College Championship Week Challenge. Over the next 10 days, posts will go up on KSRCollege.com that are conference tournament “previews” of each of the 30 conference tournaments in the NCAA. Each day’s post will go up the day before the Tournament begins (with one exception) and you will have until the opening tip of the first game to get your winner picks in. All you do is log into your account and post a comment in the comment section with the winner. It is that easy.***
What you need to know:
-The Conference USA tournament tips off on Wednesday, March 7, when 7th seeded Rice takes on 10th seeded East Carolina at 1 p.m. eastern time. A champion will be crowned on Saturday, after a 11:45 a.m. eastern time tipoff.
-All the games will be played in FedEx Forum, in downtown Memphis. This will be a huge advantage to the hometown Tigers, as they have only lost 2 home games all season.
-The Memphis Tigers are the defending conference tournament champions, winning last year over UTEP. The Tigers also enter this year as the number 1 seed and regular season champions.
-The 2 seed to the 6 seed in the conference all finished within 3 games of each other, with many tiebreakers. The middle of the league is very similar, and could provide some upsets in the tournament atmosphere.
-The Memphis Tigers are by far the favorite for this tournament. They come into it with a 23-8 overall record, and they finished 13-3 in conference play. Here in the bluegrass, we’re all familiar with Memphis, as they were our revered Coach Cal’s former team. The animosity that city has towards UK and Cal himself, is quite hostile. The Tigers are led by Will Barton, who averages over 18 points a game. They’re coming into the tournament on a 4 game winning streak, and boast non-conference wins over Belmont, Tennessee (twice), and Xavier. They’ve come just shy of beating powerhouses this year such as Georgetown (in OT), Michigan, and of course, the beloved Racers of Murray State who they lost to at home.
-The University of Southern Mississippi is the second seed in the tournament, and is a definite contender. They are having one of the best seasons in school history as this is their highest seed in 11 years. They are 24-7 overall, and finished 11-5 in conference play. All 5 of their losses in conference were by 10 points or less, and they were able to beat top seeded Memphis at home, and lost by only 2 points when they played them in FedEx Forum. If the championship feature the top 2 seeds, expect Southern Miss to come out and play Memphis very, very well. They finished the season on a little slide, losing 3 out of their last 5, all on the road to subpar teams. The Golden Eagles are led with a very balanced scoring attack, as they have 6 players that average at least 9 points a game INCLUDING former Wildcat Darnell Dodson averaging 10.6 a game. They also lost earlier this year to the Murray State Racers in double 0vertime, this team was very close to beating them early.
-This might come as a surprise to some, but my upset pick is the UTEP Miners. They enter the tournament with only a 14-16 overall record, and 7-9 in conference, but they always competed very well with the top teams in the conference. They play Houston in the first round, who they beat by 20 at home earlier this year. They would then play Memphis on their home turf…but the Miners have already won there! On February 18, the Miners were able to take down the Tigers by 2 points, so they’ll have confidence knowing they can do so again. They also feature wins over 2 seed Southern Miss, and 3 seed Tulsa, so the Miners know how to fight against the top portion of the conference. Look for them to make surprising run….either that or they lose first round….
As a whole, this conference tournament could go one of two ways: either Memphis will dominate the competition and win the title again, or there will be upsets and a team we weren’t expecting will be in the tournament. I could easily see the Golden Eagles or possibly the Miners find their way to the championship game, it’s just hard to tell because this league has been so inconsistent the whole season. It is March, so I would definitely bet on some craziness happening, it’s only natural.
I’m sure you know the drill by now, enter in your picks for the C-USA tournament below in the comment section, and make sure you’re logged in with your registered email address. Voting will close tomorrow at 1, before the first game starts so hurry! You can view all the other preview posts to vote on the left side under: Championship Week Contest.
On a side note: I also noticed that girls from the C-USA are really good at puckering up to the camera……take a look:
I live the life of a hologram, follow me on Twitter @WilderTreadKSR
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