C-USA tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info
A four-way tie for first in the league standings suggests C-USA's automatic bid is very much up for grabs -- especially considering UTEP will have a homecourt advantage.
What: Conference USA championship.
When: March 11-15.
Where: Don Haskins Center in El Paso.
Bracket: View tournament field here.
TV: Semifinals on CBS Sports Network on March 14th at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ET. Championship game on CBS on March 15th at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Last year's champ: Memphis (30-4, No. 6 seed)
What matters: There is a zero-percent chance that C-USA has a repeat champion because Memphis is no longer in this league, which is, honestly, nice news for the rest of the conference that typically played in the Tigers' shadow. Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee and Tulsa all finished with identical 13-3 league records. But Louisiana Tech is the favorite, and it should be noted that they're 17 spots better than any other C-USA school in the KenPom ratings. That said, watch out for UTEP. The Miners are the No. 5 seed, I know. But they're also on their home floor, and that should be a significant advantage. UTEP has only lost twice at home in the past two months, for what it's worth.
Who matters: Middle Tennessee's Shawn Jones is probably the league's best player. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 58.1 percent from the field. He's the main reason why the Blue Raiders have won 11 of their past 12 games with the lone loss coming at Louisiana Tech last month.
Fun fact: C-USA has 16 members, but only 15 are competing in the C-USA tournament. That's because FIU is ineligible for the postseason because of a poor APR score. Also worth noting is that only eight of the 16 members were actually in C-USA last season.
Prediction: This event is very much up in the air, and I really do believe five different schools can reasonably expect to win C-USA's automatic bid. But put me down for Louisiana Tech, which has won eight of its past nine games and 25 total. The Bulldogs have one of the nation's best 25 defenses, according to KenPom. That should be enough to have them cutting nets in El Paso early Saturday.
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