By Kyle Jones
Since the Conference USA lost a majority of its talent to the American Athletic Conference when it was founded in 2013, its teams have struggled to establish dominance in the conference.
Save Old Dominion.
This season, the Monarchs have been the class of the conference, leading by three games, but the Monarchs could face competition from a Western Kentucky team that consistently makes the NCAA tournament.
The C-USA has been very impressive this season, with 10 out of the
14 teams having winning records. This plethora of success will only make the tournament better.
Although Old Dominion is looking strong this season, I’m tabbing Western Kentucky as my favorite to win the C-USA Tournament this season.
The Hilltoppers hold non-conference wins against Arkansas and No. 21 Wisconsin, and have beaten nearly every C-USA opponent they’ve faced (Old Dominion, FIU, and Louisiana Tech are the only exceptions).
WKU is the third best team in the conference in terms of field goal percentage and leads C-USA in shot blocking.
The Hilltoppers also have a pedigree of success, appearing in the NCAA Tournament four times between 2008 and 2013. Old Dominion, by comparison, has appeared 11 times in program history, the last appearance being in 2011.
That doesn’t mean that Old Dominion will simply roll over and let the ‘Toppers take the title. The Monarchs won the regular-season conference championship for a reason, and are led by electric scorer B.J. Smith. He has averaged an amazing 18.1 points-per-game this season.
Even if Smith has an off night, he’s anchored by Ahmad Caver, who’s averaging 17 points per game.
The Monarchs average just under 68 points per game, and are shooting 42 percent from the field this season.
The Monarchs are also rebounding their opponents by almost 6 per game, and have a knack for utilizing possessions.
The ‘Toppers and the Monarchs aren’t the only two teams who are in with a shout. The Mean Green of North Texas are my dark horse to win the C-USA Tournament.
The Mean Green finished with a disappointing record of 8-10 in conference play, but they are the only team in the C-USA besides Old Dominion who have 20 overall wins.
UNT has wins over Hawaii and conference tournament 3-seed Southern Mississippi.
The Mean Green have been on a poor stretch coming into the tournament, an abysmal seven game losing streak, but all they need is one game to get back on track.
The C-USA Tournament has plenty of storylines to be intrigued by. It tips off Wednesday with Louisiana Tech vs. Florida Atlantic.
Edited by Garrett Jones | Gcjh23@mail.missouri.edu