USA basketball got off to an interesting start last week. After
the first week, four teams are undefeated, four are winless, and four
have split the first two. Here are the five most surprising notes
from the first week in Conference play.
1. Houston – What a
disappointing start to league play for the Cougars. Houston went
into league play 9-5 including upsets of LSU and Arizona, but has lost
its first two conference games. The Cougars lost the opener to
cross-town rival Rice 71-62, before dropping their second contest 66-56
2. Rice – Although it took a
buzzer beater to beat Tulane, arguably the league's worst team, Rice
rode Morris Almond’s 33 points to victory over the Green Wave in New
Orleans. The win improved the Owls to 2-0 in their first season
in conference USA, following Rice’s defeat of crosstown rival Houston
the previous Wednesday. In all, Almond scored 57 points and
pulled down 21 rebounds in Rice’s two victories, en route to being
named C-USA’s player of the week. Rice now sits with an 8-7
3. East Carolina – The
Pirates played an amazing game against 5th ranked Memphis.
Despite falling by 10 at the final buzzer, I don’t think that anyone
that left Minges that night, or any one that saw the game on CSTV,
discount the fact that ECU had a solid chance to win the game.
The Pirates executed the game plan to perfection, the crowd was one of
the loudest in ECU history, and the Pirates nearly pulled off a
monumental upset. East Carolina dropped their second league game
on the road at UTEP, but will look to score their first conference win
when SMU comes to town Wednesday (7 pm).
4. UAB – I don’t think anyone
was surprised to see the Blazers get off to a good start in league
play. The Blazers won over Tulsa at home, and beat Marshall on
the road to extend their win streak to eight games. What was
surprising was the way they did it. UAB dominated Tulsa by
thirty, 84-54. In that game the blazers, the NCAA leader in team
steals over the last two years, set a team record forcing 39
turnovers. Most surprising is the fact that UAB has accomplished
this without its second leading scorer, veteran Demario Eddins, who is
out for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.
5. Marshall – The team picked
to finish last in Conference USA scored a road victory over UCF in the
first week of league play. Marshall trailed by as many as eight
the second half but came back to claim a victory in its debut in
Conference USA. The Thundering Herd won 73-69, before falling at
home to UAB 76-64.