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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dan Wolken's Blog - CUSA Rankings

Here we go
Posted by Dan Wolken

For me, the first week of the college basketball season begins right now. Though Memphis Madness isn’t until Friday, my schedule is already booked up with Conference USA Media Day on Thursday, the Tigers’ weekly pre-preseason practice on Wednesday, the arrival of the Chinese coaching delegation on Tuesday and interviews Monday for some exciting preseason previews we’re working on. Hopefully you guys will enjoy our comprehensive coverage of the 2007-08 basketball season, both in The Commercial Appeal and on The Memphis Edge.

Sometime before C-USA Media Day, the league will release its preseason poll. Here’s how I think the poll will look:

1. Memphis
2. UAB
3. Houston
4. Southern Miss
5. Tulsa
6. Central Florida
8. Tulane
9. Marshall
10. SMU
11. East Carolina
12. Rice

Here’s how my ballot looks, with explanation:

1. Memphis — No explanation needed.
2. Southern Miss — They have two ingredients I love: Athleticism and attitude. Larry Eustachy is a great coach who has recruited players with the right makeup. Southern Miss could be the nation’s biggest surprise.
3. Houston — Tom Penders has tremendnus guards, but against good teams, the Cougars get exploited inside. A lot is riding on the play of Seton Hall transfer Marcus Cousin.
4. UAB — Nationally, pundits are putting a lot of faith in the transfer trio of Robert Vaden, Walter Sharpe and Channing Toney. Until Sharpe and Toney prove they aren’t complete flakes — which is pretty much what they were at their previous stops — I can’t rank UAB any higher.
5. Tulsa — Doug Wojcik’s teams play good enough defense to be in every game. But Tulsa is still probably one or two recruiting classes away from having the offensive firepower to contend.
6. Marshall — This team lost a ton of close games last year. I love Mark Dorris and Markel Humphrey, and adding an experienced point guard like Gonzaga transfer Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes should turn some of those L’s into W’s.
7. Tulane — Solid team last year, and I expect them to be solid again. Gomez and Sims are potential all-league players, and Dave Dickerson can obviously coach.
8. UCF – It wouldn’t surprise me if UCF finished higher, but I need to see some of the newcomers in action. Kirk Speraw lost a couple very key players to graduation off last year’s second-place team.
9. UTEP — The Miners are going to be really young. Stefon Jackson is one of the top guards around, but UTEP’s talent last year outside of him was less than mediocre.
10. SMU — Papa Dia is more than just a great name. He’ll be one of the league’s best freshmen. Still, Matt Doherty is a year away at least from making an impact in the league.
11. East Carolina — On paper, they will at least be better than Rice.
12. Rice — No Almond, no joy.

Posted Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at 11:54 pm

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