Conference USA Tournament Preview
This league is yet another that is wide open. The top of the league is separated from the last qualifier, Middle Tennessee, by 5 games. The defending champs Marshall still have their star Jon Elmore but there are plenty of teams that can take home the automatic bid including Western Kentucky who has some of the most highly rated players in the league.
2018 Champion: Marshall
1-seed Old Dominion Monarchs 23-8 (13-5)
The Monarchs are a very strong team defensively, they hold teams to just 61 points per game. The problem is the offense can be streaky. If BJ Stith or Ahmad Caver aren’t scoring the offense can look really ugly. Getting those two going early will be key.
2-seed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 18-13 (11-7)
Talent. That’s why this team can win the league. Charles Bassey is the most talented player on any roster and can completely take over a game.
3-seed Southern Miss Golden Eagles 19-11 (11-7)
This Golden Eagles team is top-100 overall in KenPom. They play good defense holding teams to 64 points and they score it pretty well with 72 a game. They force turnovers and need to utilize that to get some easy buckets in transition.
4-seed UTSA Roadrunners 17-14 (11-7)
Living up to their nickname, the Roadrunner love to get out and run. They are a top-25 fastest tempo in the country. They rely heavily on Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, two guys that average over 20 points a game. They don’t shoot the 3 well but they can rebound with the best, getting 2nd chances points will be crucial.
5-seed UAB Blazers 18-13 (10-8)
Slow tempo is the name of the game for UAB. They work the clock and try to take teams out of their style of play. The defense is pretty good for UAB, but they’re missing the offense. They don’t shoot it well and that has to change to make a run.
6-seed Marshall Thundering Herd 18-13 (11-7)
Jon Elmore, last year’s star for Marshall has been the same this year, but his efficiency is way down. He has a partner in crime this season with CJ Burks who shoots nearly 48% from the field and chips in 17.7 points per game. Efficient scoring is the key to Marshall repeating.
7-seed FIU Golden Panthers 19-12 (10-8)
Brian Beard is a really good player, he leads FIU in scoring and averages 3 steals a game. This team runs the fastest tempo in the entire country, but doesn’t shoot the 3 of free throws very well. Points off turnovers is going to be a big factor in FIU’s success.
8-seed Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 19-12 (9-9)
The Bulldogs hold their opponents under 70 points and this team is missing two of their better players. La Tech has 3 active players who average over 10 points a game but that defense will be their calling card. They need to continue to shut teams down.
9-seed Florida Atlantic Owls 17-14 (8-10)
Florida Atlantic lost their best player Jailyn Ingram early in the season and that changed the course of the year for the Owls. They really struggle with turnovers and 3-point shooting. This team does average 40 rebounds a game and 2nd chance points will be crucial.
10-seed North Texas Mean Green 20-11 (8-10)
The Mean Green were one of the first teams to America to 20 wins and really struggled after that losing 7 straight games. The good news is they hold teams to just 63 points per game, that is one of the best in the country. Rounding up, North Texas has six players averaging double figures (one player has 9.9). Lockdown defense is the key, simple as that for North Texas.
11-seed Rice Owls 13-18 (8-10)
Rice needs a lot to happen to make a run in the league. They run a fast paced offense and need to make the most of every possession.
12-seed Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 11-20 (8-10)
Middle Tennessee needs to cut down on their 16 turnovers a game. Cut down the turnovers and hit the 3 a little better and the Blue Raiders can make a run.
La Tech over Florida Atlantic
UAB over Middle Tennessee
North Texas over FIU
Marshall over Rice
Old Dominion over La Tech
UTSA over UAB
Western Kentucky over North Texas
Marshall over Southern Miss
Old Dominion over UTSA
Western Kentucky over Marshall
Western Kentucky over Old Dominion