During the 2002-03 season, the Cardinals finished with a 25-7 overall record and an 11-5 league mark, capped by their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000 and 30th overall. Louisville also tied for the second-longest winning streak in the nation last year, reeling off 17 straight victories.
Garcia, the 2002-03 Conference USA Freshman of the Year and All-Tournament selection, becomes only the second sophomore to be selected as the conference's preseason player of the year since DePaul's Quinton Richardson in 1999-00. The 6-7 forward, a member of last season's C-USA All-Freshman Team, is Louisville's leading returning scorer (11.2) and three-point shooter (.425). This past summer, Garcia was also named to the preseason Top 50 candidates for the 2003-04 Wooden Award All-America Team.
Marquette's Travis Diener was selected as a member of the preseason C-USA All-Conference squad, fresh off of helping the Golden Eagles the C-USA regular season title and to their first appearance in the Final Four since the 1977 National Championship season. Marquette became the first Conference USA program to advance to the Final Four in the league's nine-year history. Diener was a second team all-conference pick last year after averaging 11.8 points and 5.6 assists per game, while shooting 81 percent from the charity stripe and 36 percent from three-point range.
Morris Finley is a member of this season's preseason all-conference team after helping UAB make an incredible run in last year's C-USA Tournament. UAB won three games in three days including an upset of top-seeded Marquette before falling to Louisville in the championship game. Making their first postseason appearance since 1999, the Blazers also came within one game of making the semifinals of the NIT. Last season, the 5-11 guard led UAB in scoring (18.3) and free throw percentage (.819). The only Blazer to start in all 34 contests, Finley averaged a team-best 31.4 minutes per game.
DePaul's Andre Brown is making his second straight appearance on the league's preseason all-conference team. The 6-9 forward/center guided the Blue Demons to the NIT, their first postseason appearance since 2000. Brown was DePaul's top rebounder, averaging 9.0 per contest, while ranking fourth on the team in scoring (9.4).
Rounding out the 2003-04 Conference USA Preseason All-Conference Team is Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell, who also joins Garcia as one of the selections for the Wooden Award. Last season, Maxiell led the Bearcats in rebounding (6.7) and was second on the team in scoring (11.9), while shooting 45 percent from the field. This is the 6-7 forward's second consecutive selection to the preseason all-conference team.
The University of Cincinnati and U.S. Bank Arena will be the hosts for the 2004 Conference USA Tournament, March 10-13. The first round and quarterfinals will be carried on ESPN2 and ESPN Plus, while the semifinals will be carried on ESPN. The championship game is slated for Saturday, March 13 at 11:45 a.m. EST on CBS.
2003-04 CONFERENCE USA COACHES PRESEASON POLL
Preseason All-League Team
*Francisco Garcia, Louisville, F, 6-7, So., Bronx, NY
Travis Diener, Marquette, G, 6-1, Jr., Fond du Lac, WI
Morris Finley, G, 5-11, Sr. LaFayette, AL
Andre Brown, DePaul, F/C, 6-9, Jr., Chicago, IL
Jason Maxiell, Cincinnati, F, 6-7, So., Carrollton, TX
* - Preseason Player of the Year