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Tuesday, March 2, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 104

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Conference USA tournament could prove critical

Tournament Preview

Matt Jackson

Cincinnati Bearkats (No. 1, 25-4 overall and 12-4 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Bob Huggins.

Offense -- 75.3 points per game, 46.6 percent field goals, 34.3 percent three pointers and 66.2 percent free throws.

Defense -- 62.2 ppg, 38.4 percent FG, +5.6 rebound margin and +3.2 turnover margin.

Key players -- Kenyon Martin (10 ppg, 7 rebounds per game, 2 blocks per game), Mel Levitt (14 ppg) and Pete Mickael (14.6 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 steals per game, 41 percent three pointers).

Outlook -- The best team in the conference should wind up as the best team in the tournament.

UAB Blazers (No. 2, 19-10 overall and 10-6 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Murry Bartow.

Offense -- 75.4 ppg, 46 percent FG, 33.5 percent three pointers and 69.9 percent FT.

Defense -- 69.7 ppg, 41.3 percent FG, +4.5 rebound margin and -.5 turnover margin.

Key players -- Fred Williams (14.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Damon Cobb (11.4 ppg, 39 percent three pointers).

Outlook -- The home-court advantage could be crucial for the Blazers as is the fact that Cincinnati is in the other half of the bracket. The Blazers must

reach the tournament final for any shot at the NCAAs.

Louisville Cardinals (No. 3, 17-9 overall and 11-5 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Denny Crum.

Offense -- 78.9 ppg, 47.6 percent FG, 34.4 percent three pointers and 68.2 percent FT.

Defense -- 71.5 ppg, 44.7 percent FG, -2.1 rebound margin and +3.6 turnover margin.

Key players -- Nate Johnson, Cameron Murray (12 ppg, 4 assists per game, 43 percent three pointers) and Alex Sanders (12 ppg, 6 rpg).

Outlook -- Denny Crum's team needs a quarterfinal victory to solidify its NCAA status.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (No. 4, 14-15 overall and 6-10 C-USA.)

Head coach -- James Green.

Offense -- 62.1 ppg, 42.2 percent FG, 31.2 percent three pointers and 71.8 percent FT.

Defense -- 60.9 ppg, 41.3 percent FG, +.8 rebound margin and +.3 turnover margin.

Key players -- Neil Reed (18.2 ppg, 37 percent three pointers) and Vandarel Jones (7 ppg, 7 rpg).

Outlook -- Southern Miss gained a first-round bye when UH bricked 17 free throws against Marquette. The Eagles could present some interesting interior matchup problems for UNC-Charlotte in round two.

UNC-Charlotte 49ers (No. 5, 18-10 overall and 10-6 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Bobby Lutz.

` Offense -- 67.6 ppg, 41.8 percent FG, 37.3 percent three pointers and 66.7 percent FT.

Defense -- 65.2 ppg, 41.8 percent FG, +1.7 rebound margin and +1 turnover margin.

Key players -- Diego Gueverra (13 ppg, 4 apg, 38 percent three pointers), Galen Young (14.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg,

1.5 spg) and Kelvin Price (12 ppg, 6.3 rpg).

Outlook -- Bobby Lutz's team is an NCAA lock and has already beaten Cincinnati once this year.

Depaul Blue Demons (No. 6, 16-11 overall and 10-6 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Pat Kennedy.

Offense -- 73.1 ppg, 42.2 percent FG, 32.4 percent three pointers and 65.2 percent FT.

Defense -- 71.3 ppg, 43.6 percent FG, +4.9 rebound margin and -1.4 turnover margin.

Key players -- Quentin Richardson (19.7 ppg, 11.4 rpg) and Lance Williams (13.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg).

Outlook -- This is a very talented team that is too young to do too much damage, semifinals at best.

St. Louis Bilikens (No. 7, 14-15 overall and 8-8 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Charlie Spoonhour.

Offense -- 66 ppg, 42.6 percent FG, 34.5 percent three pointers and 68.1 percent FT.

Defense -- 64 ppg, 43.4 percent FG, -2.4 rebound margin and +2.9 turnover margin.

Key players -- Justin Love (13.3 ppg, 40 percent three pointers) and Virgil Cobbin (11 ppg, 2 spg and 38 percent three pointers).

Outlook -- A very boring team that should make a quick and boring exit.

Memphis Tigers (No. 8, 13-14 overall and 6-10 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Tic Price.

Offense -- 76.2 ppg, 44.9 percent FG, 28.1 percent three pointers and 69 percent FT.

Defense -- 75.1 ppg, 43.5 percent FG, -.4 rebound margin and +.7 turnover margin.

Key players -- Omar Sneed (16.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Jimmy Hunter (16 ppg).

Outlook -- Abysmal outside shooting and defense should tame the Tigers.

South Florida Bulls (No. 9, 13-13 overall and 6-10 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Seth Greenburg.

Offense -- 72.2 ppg, 43.5 percent FG, 31.4 percent three pointers and 59.2 percent FT.

Defense -- 66.4 ppg, 42 percent FG, +1.2 rebound margin and +3.8 turnover margin.

Key players -- B.B. Waldon (16.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2 spg) Cedric Smith (10.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4 apg, 2 spg) and Shaddrick Jenkins (11.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2 spg).

Outlook -- This underachieving team should bow out to the Bearkats in the second round.

Marquette Golden Eagles (No. 10, 14-14 overall and 6-10 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Mike Deane.

Offense -- 63.7 ppg, 40 percent FG, 35.8 percent three pointers and 67.6 percent FT.

Defense -- 63 ppg, 40 percent FG, +2.7 rebound margin and -2.5 turnover margin.

Key players -- Brian Wardle (12.5 ppg, 38 percent three pointers) and Mike Bargen (11 ppg, 5.5 rpg,

1.5 bpg).

Outlook -- Two years ago the Eagles won four consecutive games to win the tournament. Deja vu is rather unlikely.

Tulane Green Wave (No. 11, 12-14 overall and 6-10 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Perry Clark.

Offense -- 70 ppg, 42.8 percent FG, 33.2 percent three pointers and 63.4 percent FT.

Defense -- 70.2 ppg, 44.2 percent FG, -.6 rebound margin and +1.2 turnover margin.

Key players -- Byron Mouton (11.4 ppg) and Ledaryl Billingsley (11.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg).

Outlook -- Tulane has no business being on the same court with DePaul, but I would have said the same thing about its game Saturday against South Florida.

Houston Cougars (No. 12, 10-16 overall and 5-11 C-USA.)

Head coach -- Clyde Drexler.

Offense -- 72 ppg, 41.5 percent FG, 33.2 percent three pointers and 67.3 percent FT.

Defense: 79.5 ppg, 43.2 percent FG, -2.2 rebound margin and -2.8 turnover margin.

Key players -- Gee Gervin (21.2 ppg) and Kenny Younger (15.5 ppg, 7 rpg).

Outlook -- Clyde Drexler will have to give his greatest pep talk of his inexperienced coaching career for the Cougars to have any chance of success in the conference tournament. The Cougars are coming off one of their worst performances of the year. Eighteen turnovers and seventeen missed free throws sealed the Cougars' fate as conference cellar dwellers.

Wednesday's first-round matchups

Memphis (No. 8) vs. South Florida (No. 9)

Time -- Noon.

Regular season meetings -- Memphis won 83-70 at home and lost 80-70 at South Florida.

Comment -- Neither team is on a particular hot streak at the moment. South Florida is a deeper, more talented team, but lacks consistency.

Prediction -- South Florida by eight.

UNC Charlotte (No. 5) vs. Houston (No. 12)

Time -- 2:30 p.m.

Regular season meeting -- UH lost 68-66 Tuesday at Hofheinz.

Comment -- The Cougars are coming off an emotionally crippling loss to Marquette that could have secured a first-round bye. The 49ers are playing for NCAA seeding.

Prediction -- UNC-Charlotte by nine.

DePaul (No. 6) vs. Tulane (No. 11)

Time -- 6 p.m.

Regular season meeting -- Depaul 87, Tulane 79 in New Orleans

Comment -- The Green Wave just upset South Florida in double overtime, but the Blue Demons have been beaten in their last two games with Duke and UNC-Charlotte. Fortunately for DePaul, Richardson is more talented than Tulane's starting-five combined.

Prediction -- Depaul by 15.

St. Louis (No. 7) vs. Marquette (No. 10)

Time -- 8:30 p.m.

Regular season meetings -- Marquette won by nine on its home floor and lost by two in overtime at St. Louis.

Comment -- St. Louis seems to play to the level of its competition as evidenced by its upsets of Kansas and Cincinnati this year. Charlie Spoonhour's slow-down tempo plays into Marquette's hands.

Prediction -- Marquette by four.
 
 

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