Conference USA

The 2016 Conference USA men’s basketball tournament will be held in Birmingham this week, do you know where all the teams stack up?

Lets take a look at the seeding and game times:

(1) UAB, (2) Middle Tennessee, (3) Marshall, (4) Louisiana Tech, (5) Old Dominion, (6) UTEP, (7) Charlotte, (8) Western Kentucky, (9) North Texas, (10) Rice, (11) FIU, (12) Florida Atlantic, and (13) UTSA

Tuesday, March 8, at Bartow Arena

(12) Florida Atlantic vs. (13) UTSA, 4 p.m. – ASN

Wednesday, March 9, at Legacy Arena

(8) Western Kentucky vs. (9) North Texas, Noon – ASN

(5) Old Dominion vs. Florida Atlantic/UTSA winner, 2:30 p.m. – ASN

(7) Charlotte vs. (10) Rice, 6 p.m. – ASN

(6) UTEP vs. (11) FIU, 8:30 p.m. – ASN

Thursday, March 10, at Legacy Arena

(1) UAB vs. Western Kentucky/North Texas, Noon – ASN

(4) Louisiana Tech vs. ODU/FAU/UTSA, 2:30 p.m. – ASN

(2) Middle Tennessee vs. Charlotte/Rice – 6 p.m. – ASN

(3) Marshall vs. UTEP/FIU, 8:30 p.m. – ASN

Friday, March 11, at Legacy Arena

First semifinal (1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner), 3 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Second semifinal (2/7 winner vs. 3/6 winner), 5:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Saturday, March 12, at Legacy Arena – Championship

Semifinal winners, 1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1

The top 4 teams and how they can win:

(1) UAB came out with the number one seed in the tournament, which is taking place at their home court. The Blazers finished the season 26-5 and 16-2 in Conference USA play. Their two losses in conference play came against Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech, two teams that are on their side of the bracket. UAB is led by senior guard Robert Brown and sophomore forward Chris Cokley, both of which are averaging 13.2 points per game. If Brown and teammate Nick Norton get hot, watch out. The Blazers are on a 5 game win streak headed into their match-up Thursday against the winner of WKU and North Texas.

(2) Middle Tennessee takes the number two seed with a 21-9, 13-5 record this season. The Blue Raiders are on a three game win streak and made it to 21 wins for the 11th time in school history. MTSU is led by sophomore Giddy Potts, who is averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game. Potts is shooting nearly 50% from three-point range with 66 makes on 124 attempts. Junior Reggie Upshaw has also been a huge part of the Blue Raiders success this year. Upshaw is averaging 13.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. His inside presence, along with the threat of Potts hitting a three, will make Middle Tennessee hard to beat if they can stay hot throughout the Conference USA tourney.

(3) Marshall has the worst record out of the four teams with a first round bye, sitting at 16-15, 12-6 in conference play. But don’t be fooled by their record, the Herd has one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament. Marshall started off the season 0-6 without point guard Jon Elmore, then started off conference play 7-1. Senior forward James Kelly leads the Herd with 20.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Elmore has added on 16 points and 6 assists per game, showing you how much the Herd actually missed having him on the court. The reason Marshall has been so dangerous in conference play is because of their potent offense. The Herd wins games by going on multiple 7 or 8-0 runs that are eventually just too much to keep up with, and should they win the conference, that’s exactly how they’ll do it.

(4) Louisiana Tech fell down to the number four spot after a loss to Western Kentucky over the weekend. The Bulldogs are 23-8 overall and 12-6 in Conference USA competition, including a 3-0 record against the top teams. Louisiana Tech is led by senior guard Alex Hamilton, who is averaging 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. Look for Hamilton to be a huge factor in a Bulldogs championship run. The other big factor will be junior forward Erik McCree. McCree is averaging 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and just like Middle Tennessee’s Reggie Upshaw, McCree will spread the court and make it difficult for teams to play defense.

Non-first round bye team that has the best chance of winning:

Old Dominion – The Monarchs without a doubt have one of the best chances of winning four straight games and heading to the NCAA Tournament. Old Dominion is 19-12 this season and 12-6 in conference play. They got the short end of the stick when it came to a three-way tiebreaker between Marshall and Louisiana Tech with their 1-2 record in the series. The bright side for the Monarchs is that they are going into the tournament on a four game win streak. In fact, they have won 9 of their last 11. So what is it going to take for Old Dominion to make miracles happen? Well, for starters, senior guard Trey Freeman is going to have to have one heck of a finish to his already outstanding career. Freeman has scored 27 or more points on six occasions this season, three of which came against Conference USA’s top seeds. If teams can’t keep Freeman to under 25 points, games are going to be close, and we all know what happens in March when the games are close. Old Dominion, should they win their first round game as expected, would face Louisiana Tech in the Quarterfinals. Earlier this season, the Bulldogs held Freeman to just 21 points, but still lost in a close one, 56-53. The Monarchs picked a good time to start getting a lot of momentum.

My Conference USA Champion Prediction: MARSHALL 

If you take a look at the bracket, Marshall has the best chance out of anyone to win the Conference USA Championship this season. The Herd would most-likely have to face UTEP, Middle Tennessee, and then the winner of the UAB/LA Tech game. Marshall did lose on the road to the Miners this year in overtime, 112-108, but it was following an emotional loss to UAB the week before. Once Marshall gets past UTEP, they’ll have to face the Blue Raiders. The Herd and the Blue Raiders have split their meetings this season, and will look to settle that tiebreaker should they face each other in a 2/3 match-up. If Marshall fails to win against Middle Tennessee, I think the Blue Raiders will win the championship. Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw may be just a little bit too much for the Herd and their ensuing opponents.

In order for Marshall to be successful, they’ll have to avoid flat starts and off-shooting nights. The Herd has the ability to come back from almost any deficit in the blink of an eye, as they trailed by 23 in the regular season finale against Southern Miss, but stormed back for a two point victory in overtime. Marshall also has the ability to open up big leads before you have time to look up at the scoreboard and see that it’s a big lead. The Herd thrives off of their mini runs, often blowing the game open shortly after halftime. Their success has come from point guard Jon Elmore and senior forward James Kelly. Kelly was recently named to first-team all-Conference USA, while Elmore caught the short end of the stick. Regardless, the Herd’s six-game slide to open the season was during a stretch in which Elmore wasn’t with the team. Now that Marshall has Elmore at point, Stevie Browning and Austin Loop at shooting guard, and Kelly and Ryan Taylor at forward, they have one of the most potent offenses in all of March Madness. The Herd averaged 92 points per game in conference play, breaking the previous record of 81 by TCU, who hasn’t been around for a very long time. At the end of the day, Marshall is a team worth looking out for. I think the Herd will get their revenge on Louisiana Tech in the conference championship game, and the reigning champs UAB will fall in the semifinals.

Casey covers Conference USA basketball for MFST. You can follow him on twitter @wxmozz MosrieAnalysisBasketballConference USANCAABNews and UpdatesRecent PostsCollege Basketball,conference usa,conference usa basketball,conference usa tournament,louisiana tech basketball,marshall basketball,middle tennessee basketball,ncaa basketball,NCAA Tournament,old dominion basketball,UAB basketballThe 2016 Conference USA men's basketball tournament will be held in Birmingham this week, do you know where all the teams stack up? Lets take a look at the seeding and game times: (1) UAB, (2) Middle Tennessee, (3) Marshall, (4) Louisiana Tech, (5) Old Dominion, (6) UTEP, (7) Charlotte, (8) Western...