Around C-USA: Midseason Review

ITV's Patrick Crush gives his midseason review and grades for each Conference USA team.

AROUND C-USA:  Midseason Review

We're approaching the stretch run of the 2002-2003 college basketball season and Conference USA has a wide open race for the crown. With the conference tournament less than seven weeks away, here's the mid-term grades for all the teams in Conference USA.


CHARLOTTE (7-9, 2-3): RPI: 85. LAST WEEK: Lost 83-79 at Cincinnati (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Junior guard Demon Brown. KEY GAME: February 8th at DePaul. COMMENTS: Charlotte has a good chance for a bye in the Conference USA Tournament if they can beat the conference opponents they are supposed to beat and maybe sneak a win at Marquette in late February. The game against DePaul in a few weeks could ultimately decide an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, as the loser of that game will most likely have to win 4 games in 4 days in Louisville. GRADE: C+ 

CINCINNATI (13-3, 6-0): RPI: 11. LAST WEEK: Won 59-53 at East Carolina (Wednesday); Won 83-79 vs. Charlotte (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Sophomore forward Jason Maxiell. KEY GAME: February 5th at Louisville. COMMENTS: The Bearcats are in prime position for a bye in the C-USA Tournament. To land the number 1 seed, UC must win at least 3 of the 4 games they play against Marquette and Louisville. If they can sweep those two and take home their 8th conference championship, there's no reason why a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is out of the question. GRADE: A- 

DEPAUL (10-6, 2-3): RPI: 37. LAST WEEK: Lost 71-43 at Louisville (Wednesday); Lost 72-51 at Marquette (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Senior forward Sam Hoskin. KEY GAME: March 1st at Charlotte. COMMENTS: After starting the season off with one of the best starts in school history, the Blue Demons have come back to earth, but still have a shot at finishing respectable in the American Division. A win at Charlotte seems to be a must for any NCAA Tournament bids as DePaul has lost their last 5 road games dating back to last November. Hoskin is a great athlete who will probably receive recognition on the All-C-USA team after the season, but he has to step his game up a notch or two for DePaul's post-season dreams to come true. GRADE: C  

EAST CAROLINA (11-6, 2-4): RPI: 84. LAST WEEK: Lost 59-53 vs. Cincinnati (Wednesday); Won 68-62 vs. South Florida (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Senior guard Travis Holcomb-Faye. KEY GAME: February 4th at Memphis. COMMENTS: The Pirates won 10 of their first 12 games this season, including a thrilling win against Marquette. However, ECU has dropped 4 of their last 5 games, including two home games against conference powerhouses Louisville and Cincinnati. Still unproven on the road, the Pirate take a trip to Milwaukee this week for the return game against Marquette. If they can make it out of there alive, ECU may have a chance for a possible NCAA Tournament birth. GRADE: C- 

LOUISVILLE (14-1, 5-0): RPI: 3. LAST WEEK: Won 71-43 vs. DePaul (Wednesday); Won 72-69 at Tennessee (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Senior guard Reece Gaines. KEY GAME: Saturday vs. Indiana. COMMENTS: The Cardinals have been on fire, having won their last 13 games, including wins over 2 SEC teams (Kentucky, Tennessee). The Cards are in the drivers seat in Conference USA, and also host the conference tournament. Saturday's game against Indiana in Freedom Hall will be huge as UofL looks to defeat their 2nd Big Ten team, earn a possible top 5 national ranking, and get revenge on the Hoosiers for last year's tough loss in Bloomington. GRADE: A 

MARQUETTE (13-3, 5-1): RPI: 32. LAST WEEK: Won 72-51 vs. DePaul (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Junior guard Dwyane Wade. KEY GAME: February 27th at Louisville. COMMENTS: The Golden Eagles have been on a tear since their loss at Dayton in early January. Wade, the preseason player of the year in C-USA, has been the spark for Marquette, who lost some key players after last season. Wade had led the team in scoring all but 3 games, and Marquette certainly can control their own destiny if they keep on winning. The game at Louisville in late February could possibly decide the number 1 seed in the Conference USA Tournament. GRADE: A- 

SAINT LOUIS (7-9, 1-4): RPI: 78. LAST WEEK: Won 69-66 vs. Memphis. KEY PLAYER: Senior guard Marque Perry. KEY GAME: March 8th at East Carolina. COMMENTS: The Billikens, who started out their C-USA schedule with games against Marquette, Louisville, and Cincinnati, finally got their first win in conference against Memphis on Saturday. Perry has been incredible this season, averaging 15.5 points per game and pulling down nearly 5 rebounds a contest. However, SLU finds themselves at the bottom of the American Division, and their hopes of an NCAA birth have certainly deteriorated. The final game at East Carolina could provide a huge momentum bosst heading into the post-season. GRADE: D+


ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (11-5, 3-2): RPI: 113. LAST WEEK: Lost 75-72 at Tulane. KEY PLAYER: Junior guard Morris Finley. KEY GAME: March 1st at Marquette. COMMENTS: The Blazers, even with a modest 3-2 conference record, are still the leaders of the National Division. A 20-win season is still a possibility in Birmingham, but that would include no more stumbles against the National Division and at least 1 win against either Cincinnati or Marquette. Finley has been the go-to-guy this season for the Blazers, but in order for UAB to have a shot at the post-season, someone else must step up on the rebounding or defensive end. GRADE: B-  

HOUSTON (4-11, 2-2): RPI: 208. LAST WEEK: Lost 77-66 at Memphis (Wednesday); Won 76-75 at Southern Mississippi (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Senior forward Louis Truscott. KEY GAME: March 1st vs. Texas Christian. COMMENTS: It has been a rough season in Houston, one where the fans, players, and coaches all have shown their frustration. Truscott has been the bright spot on this team, and he definitely deserves a spot on the All-C-USA 1st Team for the way he has carried this team this season. It's a shame his supporting cast isn't quite as talented as others, because if it were, Houston would be a consensus top 25 team. Unless they can make one of the biggest runs in C-USA history or somehow pull out 4 win in 4 days against the toughest teams in the conference, Houston has virtually no shot at post-season play. GRADE: D  

MEMPHIS (11-5, 2-3): RPI: 56. LAST WEEK: Won 77-66 vs. Houston (Wednesday); Lost 69-66 at Saint Louis (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Senior forward Chris Massie. KEY GAME: March 1st vs. Cincinnati. COMMENTS: Since returning to the court in December due to academic reasons, Massie has led the Tigers in scoring in every game except for one. The Tigers have been unpredictable lately in their play, but it looks like they will come around sooner or later. The game against Cincinnati will be huge because of the quality of opponent coming into the Pyramid and for the momentum it can provide heading into the conference tournament. GRADE: C+  

SOUTH FLORIDA (9-7, 2-3): RPI: 81. LAST WEEK: Lost 68-62 at East Carolina (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Junior guard Jimmy Baxter. KEY GAME: February 12th at Alabama-Birmingham. COMMENTS: The Bulls have had a rough season to date, losing all three of their games against top 25 teams. On the contrary, they won the annual USF Shootout in Tampa and pulled off a tough win a few weeks ago at Memphis. If the Bulls can take care of business and also pull out a win at UAB, they should win the National Division outright. Baxter has been a huge threat to the opposition, and his supporting cast isn't afraid of anybody after going up against the likes of Florida and Michigan State. GRADE: B- 

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (9-7, 2-3): RPI: 114. LAST WEEK: Lost 76-75 vs. Houston (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Junior guard Greg Johnson. KEY GAME: March 1st vs. South Florida. COMMENTS: Southern Miss had started out pretty well this season, but when conference play started, the Eagles seemed to drop out of radar, losing games at South Florida and at UAB. USM needs to win their games against the rest of the National Division, because they still have a shot at the division crown. When South Florida comes to town, look for Hattiesburg to be rocking as that game could possibly decide the division. GRADE: C 

TEXAS CHRISTIAN (7-10, 1-4): RPI: 144. LAST WEEK: Won 93-84 vs. Tulane (Wednesday); Lost 89-79 at Creighton (Sunday). KEY PLAYER: Senior guard Junior Blount. KEY GAME: February 22nd vs. Marquette. COMMENTS: The Horned Frogs have battled through most of the tougher teams in the American Division and have taken their lickings. Their only tough test left in that division is a home game against Marquette, one in which all the fans in Fort Worth will be up for. If they can steal a win against the Eagles, look for their running style to surprise some teams coming into the conference tournament. GRADE: C+ 

TULANE (8-10, 1-4): RPI: 162. LAST WEEK: Lost 93-84 at Texas Christian (Wednesday); Won 75-72 vs. Alabama-Birmingham (Saturday). KEY PLAYER: Senior forward Brandon Brown. KEY GAME: February 8th at Alabama-Birmingham. COMMENTS: The Green Wave, after a mediocre non-conference season, has really dropped off in C-USA play. There is still a chance for Tulane to take the division as they have no more games against the likes of Marquette, Cincinnati, or Louisville, as many of the other National Division teams do. If the Wave can roll through the regular season, which is a possibility, then their chances of a decent spot in the Conference USA Tournament improve. GRADE: C-



FIVE STARS: Indiana (14-4, 4-2) vs. Louisville (14-1, 5-0) (Saturday, 1:00 PM) 

FOUR STARS: Marquette (13-3, 5-1) vs. Cincinnati (13-3, 6-0) (Saturday, 4:00 PM) 

THREE STARS: East Carolina (11-6, 2-4) vs. Tulane (8-10, 1-4) (Saturday, 3:00 PM) 

TWO STARS: DePaul (10-6, 2-3) vs. Saint Louis (7-9, 1-4) (Saturday, 8:10 PM) 

ONE STAR: Texas Christian (7-10, 1-4) vs. Alabama-Birmingham (11-5, 3-2) (Wednesday, 8:00 PM) 

***RPI ratings through Saturday, January 25, 2003. Special thanks to CardGame for his stats and rankings that were extremely beneficial. Visit his site at

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