C-USA Tourney Preview: SMU vs. UCF

With the regular season coming to an end, the conference tournament looms ahead for the postseason tournament hopefuls. What does SMU need to do to make some noise? PonyStampede.com Hoops Editor Kyle Phillippi examines. Come inside for the details.

With the regular season coming to an end, the conference tournament looms ahead for the postseason tournament hopefuls. With UTEP currently ranked in the top 25, and Memphis currently in the field of 65 in Joe Lunardi's bracketology, there is a chance that three Conference USA teams could be headed to March Madness.

The third team would have to win the Conference USA tournament ahead of either UTEP or Memphis. So there is still chance for SMU to go dancing, but they will have to win their first round game against UCF on Wednesday.

SMU will need great defense
to make a run
SMU enters the Conference USA postseason tournament as the number eight seed, and will face off against the number nine seed, UCF. The Mustangs, taking the floor as the higher seed in this game, have already defeated the Knights this season by a score of 65-43. Knowing that they have already defeated UCF by 22 points before will give SMU the confidence they need to come out victorious in their first round matchup.

UCF is coming off a 66-59 win over the #12 seed Rice in their regular season finale, but before their win over the Owls, the Knights suffered a four-game losing streak, including a 121-115 overtime loss to Marshall.

With their poor play hopefully behind them, SMU cannot overlook the Knights, or else they could be packing up their bags for good come Wednesday night.

As for SMU, they are trying to break free of their two game losing streak, including a heartbreaking loss against Tulsa in the final seconds.

The Mustangs will need senior guard Derek Williams to improve upon his recent play in order to win their opening round, and possibly the entire tournament. With his measly nine points in the regular season finale, Williams has completed six straight games without recording 20 or more points.

Can Papa Dia continue his
great season in to the post-season?
But SMU has seen the play of Papa Dia become better and better after each game. Unlike Williams, who struggled in the final game of the season, Dia recorded his tenth double-double of the season. When Dia and Williams are hot at the same time, SMU is almost unbeatable. If SMU hopes to somehow pull off a miracle and claim a spot in the field of 65, they will need to pull of some unexpected upsets along the way, and will need Dia and Williams to play at their highest level in each and every game.

If SMU pulls out the victory over UCF, they will get set to take on the #1 seed, and current No. 21 in the ESPN rankings, UTEP. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; SMU just needs to take it one game at a time – one play at a time.

C-USA First & Second Round Schedule
Wednesday, March 10:

#10 East Carolina - #7 Houston
#11 Tulane - #6 Southern Miss
#8 SMU - #9 UCF
#5 Tulsa - #12 Rice

Thursday, March 11

#2 Memphis - #10/7 winner
#3 UAB - #11/6 winner
#1 UTEP - #8/9 seed
#4 Marshall - #5/12 seed

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