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Last year was expected to be the year that Conference-USA was no longer Memphis’ playground. Well, that was both true and false. Sure, the Tigers lost three games and didn’t win the conference, but they still went 13-3 and finished in second-place. On the other hand, surprising UTEP won its final 14 games en route to a 15-1 C-USA record and regular-season championship. UAB and Marshall finished 11-5, while preseason favorite Tulsa was down in fifth place at 10-6. The league tournament saw Houston make a surprising run to the automatic bid, knocking off UTEP in the title game. UTEP ended up making the NCAA Tournament also, although both Houston and the Miners lost in the first round. I hope the rest of the league had fun last year – Memphis is back on top.
- 1. Memphis: Josh Pastner’s recruiting efforts will get the Tigers back to the top very quickly. Joe Jackson and Will Barton are terrific freshmen, and Wesley Witherspoon returns.
- 2. Southern Miss: If anyone is going to take down Memphis this season, it will be the Golden Eagles. Gary Flowers is productive down low, while Angelo Johnson and R.L. Horton can score.
- 3. UTEP: The Miners lose Derrick Caracter and Arnett Moultrie on the interior, but Randy Culpepper is exciting to watch, while Jeremy Williams is vastly underrated up front.
- 4. Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane struggled last season, and now they lose Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh. However, Justin Hurtt returns on the perimeter, and several newcomers will make an impact.
- 5. UCF: Donnie Jones has done a tremendous job getting the Knights to become a threat. A.J. Tyler and Keith Clanton are a formidable duo on the interior, and Isaac Sosa can shoot.
- 6. Marshall: Pittsburgh assistant Tom Herrion takes over for the Thundering Herd, and he ahs some talent. Guards Shaquille Johnson and Damier Pitts are both playmakers in the backcourt.
- 7. UAB: The Blazers fell short of the NCAA Tournament last season, but they lose a lot from that team. The main returnees are guards Aaron Johnson and Jamarr Sanders.
- 8. East Carolina: Brock Young is one of the more underrated point guards in the country, and he has two wing scorers with which to rack up assists in shooter Jamar Abrams and Jontae Sherrod.
- 9. Rice: The Owls will be led by the inside-outside sophomore duo of guard Tamir Jackson and double-double threat Arsalan Kazemi. Trey Stanton is a load down low.
- 10. SMU: The Mustangs have a bonafide go-to-guy down low in Papa Dia, but not much else on the roster. Match-up problem Robert Nyakundi and some newcomers have to step up.
- 11. Houston: This is quite a fall from the NCAA Tournament, but remember, the Cougars finished in 7th place last season. Maurice McNeil is a good offensive rebounder and can also defend.
- 12. Tulane: Ed Conroy is doing well on the recruiting trail, but that won’t help this season. Kris Richard is a double-figure scorer who will have to adapt to the new Princeton-style offense.
Player of the Year: Randy Culpepper, G, UTEP
- G- Randy Culpepper, UTEP
- G- Brock Young, East Carolina
- G- Will Barton, Memphis
- G/F- Wesley Witherspoon, Memphis
- F- Gary Flowers, Southern Miss
- G- Justin Hurtt, Tulsa
- G- Aaron Johnson, UAB
- G- Joe Jackson, Memphis
- F- Arsalan Kazemi, Rice
- C- Papa Dia, SMU
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