Conference USA Basketball Tournament 2017 Preview

Photo via Conference USA

 

By Trace Johnson

The C-USA Basketball Tournament gets underway Wednesday from Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama for the third straight season with 12 teams competing for the ultimate prize, a C-USA Tournament Championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.  The past two winners of this tournament have gone on to win a game in the NCAA Tournament and history could repeat itself again this season.  The four first round matchups begin Wednesday with the winners advancing on to play one of the four teams that earned a first round bye into the quarterfinals.  Let’s breakdown the C-USA Tournament and just what fans can expect.

Teams receiving a first round bye

(1) Middle Tennessee (27-4, 17-1)

(2) Louisiana Tech (22-9, 14-4)

(3) Old Dominion (19-11, 12-6)

(4) UTEP (14-16, 12-6)

 

First Round

 

(8) Western Kentucky vs. (9) UTSA

March 8, 2017

12:30 p.m. EST

Campus Insiders

 

The first game of the 2017 C-USA Tournament tips off at 12:30 p.m. EST Wednesday between the 8th-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the 9th-seeded UTSA Roadrunners.  WKU finished the season at 15-16 overall and 9-9 in C-USA play, good for a tie for seventh with UAB in the standings.  But the Blazers own the tiebreaker over the Hilltoppers and they control the 7th seed in the C-USA Tournament.  The Roadrunners finished an up-and-down season at 13-18 overall and 8-10 in C-USA play to earn the 9th seed after winning just three games in C-USA play during the 2015-16 season.  Both teams have showed they can surprise people this season, but at the same time, they have both proven to be unpredictable as well.  This could wind up being one of the better games of the first round and the winner will advance to face the top-seeded Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Thursday at 12:30 p.m. EST and the game will be televised by the American Sports Network.

 

(5) Rice vs. (12) Southern Miss

March 8, 2017

3 p.m. EST

Campus Insiders

 

The resurgent Rice Owls capped off a successful season by earning the 5th seed in the C-USA Tournament and a first round date with the 12th-seeded Southern Miss Golden Eagles.  Rice put forth its most successful season since the 2003-04 season and finished at 21-10 overall and 11-7 in C-USA play while the Golden Eagles finished 9-21 overall and 6-12 in C-USA play.  The Owls have been one of the most dynamic teams in C-USA this season and will be a tough matchup for a Southern Miss team that has struggled this season.  And adding more possible motivation, Rice will come into this game after losing its regular season finale at WKU and will be looking to get back on track just at the right time.  The winner of this game will advance to the quarterfinals to face off with the 4th-seeded UTEP Miners Thursday at 3 p.m. EST on the American Sports Network.

 

(7) UAB vs. (10) Charlotte

March 8, 2017

6:30 p.m. EST

Campus Insiders

 

The hometown UAB Blazers own the 7th seed in Birmingham this season and have a first round matchup with the 10th-seeded Charlotte 49ers.  UAB has been a traditional power in C-USA over the years, but has had an unpredictable season and finished the regular season at 16-15 overall and 9-9 in C-USA play to earn the 7th seed in the C-USA Tournament.  The high-scoring 49ers wrapped up their regular season with a 13-16 overall record and 7-11 mark in C-USA play.  Despite the Blazers’ struggles as of late, they cannot be taken lightly in postseason play.  Especially given that they are playing in Birmingham, nearby their home court of Bartow Arena.  With two teams that seem to be hard to figure out, this could be an entertaining game.  The winner of this contest will move on to the quarterfinals to face the 2nd-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Thursday at 6:30 p.m. EST on the American Sports Network.

 

(6) Marshall vs. (11) Florida Atlantic

March 8, 2017

9 p.m. EST

Campus Insiders

 

Marshall and its league-leading offense begins its C-USA Tournament quest with a first round showdown with the 11th-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls.  The Herd continued its building process this season by finishing with a 17-14 overall record and 10-8 mark in C-USA play to earn the 6th seed in the C-USA Tournament.  FAU improved on its 2015-16 campaign by going 10-19 overall and 6-12 in C-USA play.  As good as Marshall has been offensively this season, it has struggled defensively and in particular games outside of the friendly confines of the Cam Henderson Center.  The Owls come in wounded with back-to-back losses of 20 or more points to close out the regular season and will have a tall task trying to slow down the Herd.  The winner of this game will advance to the quarterfinals for a matchup with the 3rd-seeded Old Dominion Monarchs Thursday at 9 p.m. on the American Sports Network.

 

The full C-USA Basketball Tournament bracket can be found here