By Kyle Jones
Conference USA had an eventful regular season, with the top three teams in the conference all notching 20 win seasons. Naturally, an eventful regular season should lead to an eventful postseason, and those 20 win teams will be vying for the championship come Saturday, March 14. Here’s what to watch for in Conference USA.
Player to Watch
FIU may not be the best team in the conference, but the Panthers certainly have one of the most exciting players. Osasumwen Osaghae, the 6 foot-9 inch, 250 lbs Forward from Miami, leads the CUSA in blocks, FG percentage, is fourth in rebounds, and is in the top 20 in scoring. The senior has made it a habit of showing out in big games, scoring 22 points in the Panthers’ February 1 win against second place WKU. Look for him to use his dominating size to control the post both on offense and defense.
Team to Watch
Stuck between being a sleeper and a favorite, Louisiana Tech sits at a strong 22-8, the best overall record in the conference. The Bulldogs have an impressive resume, scoring wins over Mississippi St. in Starkville, a season sweep of Southern Miss, a strong win over FIU, only a narrow loss to top-seed UNT. While the team from Ruston may not be the number one squad going into this week’s tournament, don’t be too surprised if they hold the trophy aloft on Saturday.
FIU is a strong sleeper pick. The Panthers sit at the fifth seed, and will play Rice in their first game. FIU players feature prominently in the conference stats leaderboards, with Antonio Daye, Jr. leading in assists and Osasumwen Osaghae’s plaudits already being mentioned above. The Panthers’ leading scorer, averages 15.4 points a game, and four of their starting five average double figures in the scoring column. FIU could potentially face UNT in the semifinal, but if they can clear that hurdle then expect them to book their place in the NCAA Tournament.
The Mean Green have been meaner than any other team in the CUSA this year, grabbing a final conference record of 14-4. Tough non-con losses to Mountain West champion Utah St., Dayton, and Oklahoma have served to harden this team and prepare them for not only their conference but for the NCAA Tournament as well. The Mean Green hold wins against every team in the conference and look poised to rule the CUSA Tournament. Look for the team from Denton to take home the championship on Saturday in Frisco, only 38 minutes away from their own campus.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org