Conference USA Tournament Odds and Betting Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 3/8/2011
Up until the last couple years, Conference USA was simply the Memphis Tigers playground. Memphis started to slide a bit last year, and the Tigers are even more down this year. No longer are the rest of the teams in this league playing for second place. This is a wide-open Conference USA Tournament field. There are at least five or six teams that have a legitimate shot of winning the automatic bid.
The tournament will be played in El Paso, so the UTEP Miners will get a nice home court advantage. The action gets started on Wednesday afternoon when East Carolina takes on Central Florida in the opening game of the tournament. The final game will be played Saturday morning, and that game will be televised by CBS.
Here is a look at Doc’s Sports Conference USA Tournament predictions with betting odds from BetUS:
The Favorite: UTEP (+175) The tournament is being held on their home floor, and this is a team with plenty of experience. Randy Culpepper is the league’s best scorer. Culpepper was held to less than 10 points only three times the entire season. The Miners have improved immensely on the defensive end this year, which makes them even tougher to beat. If they have one real weakness it is on the glass, where bigger teams can often take advantage of their relative lack of a low post presence.
The Contender: UAB (+200) UAB is a veteran team that knows how to win. The Blazers are led by seniors Aaron Johnson and Jamarr Sanders. UAB plays at a slow pace and they usually win games with their terrific defense. They probably have the best defense in the conference, largely because of their quickness all over the court. The Blazers won seven of their last eight regular season games. Cameron Moore is a playmaker for this team, and he can be a real matchup problem for opponents.
Sleeper: Southern Mississippi (+600) The biggest thing that will hurt Southern Mississippi in this tournament is that they will have to play four straight days if they make it to the title game. The Golden Eagles are the best rebounding team in the conference, and they have a number of shot blockers down low as well. Gary Flowers is the star of this team and when he gets hot he can carry them for a long period of time. This is the most experienced team in the conference, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run.
The Matchups (Starting With Thursday’s Games):
No. 1 UAB vs. UCF/East Carolina Winner- UAB is a very good team, but they better not look past the winner of this game. Central Florida has the talent to play with anyone in the league if they are on their game, and I suspect the Golden Knights will probably beat East Carolina in the opening game. UAB and their defense must be in top form to win this game.
No. 4 Memphis vs. Southern Miss/Tulane Winner- I fully expect Southern Mississippi to be the Tigers opponent in this game. Memphis has finished the season as bad as anyone in the conference, and I think this is a prime spot for Southern Mississippi to upset Memphis. The Tigers turn the ball over far too much, and Southern Mississippi’s veteran leadership should carry them on to the next round.
No. 3 UTEP vs. Marshall/Houston Winner- I think the Miners will be taking on Marshall in this game. Marshall is another team that finished the season red hot. The Thundering Herd won six of their last seven games. The only loss during that period came on the road against UTEP. Marshall doesn’t really have anyone who matches up well with Culpepper, and I suspect the Miners would win this game.
No. 2 Tulsa vs. Rice/SMU Winner- The Rice/SMU game is a coin flip, but whoever wins that game will have a difficult time beating the Golden Hurricane. SMU did beat Tulsa once this year, while Rice was swept by the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa has some high quality big men and I think they’ll get through this matchup.
Conference USA Tournament Predictions: This is a conference where it would be wise to expect some upsets. There is no dominant team in this league. Southern Mississippi could make some real noise, but they might tire out by the end of their run. My pick to win the tournament is the UAB Blazers. I like the fact that UAB has a solid defense and they consistently control the pace of the game.
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