Men's Basketball Championship Pairings Set
March 3, 2012
Regular season champion Memphis will be the No. 1 seed at the 2012 Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship, March 7-10 at FedExForum in Memphis. The Tigers, C-USA regular season champions for the fifth time in seven years, enter the conference tournament as the No.1 seed, owning an overall record of 23-8 (13-3 in C-USA) and a current winning streak of four games.
As the top seed, Memphis (18-2 in its last 20 C-USA Tournament games) will have a first-round bye. Other teams receiving first-round byes include No. 2 Southern Miss, No. 3 Tulsa and No. 4 UCF. Wednesday's first-round match-ups feature: No. 7 Rice vs. No. 10 East Carolina at 12 p.m. CST, No. 6 Marshall vs. No. 11 SMU at 2:30 p.m. CST, No. 8 UTEP vs. No. 9 Houston at 6:30 p.m. CST, and No. 5 UAB vs. No. 12 Tulane at 9:00 p.m. CST. All first round games will be televised on CSS and streamed on the C-USA Digital Network for markets out of the CSS footprint.
In Thursday's quarterfinal round, second-seeded Southern Miss (with its highest seeding since 2001) will take on the winner of the Rice-East Carolina game at 12 p.m. and No. 3 Tulsa will face the winner of the Marshall-SMU match-up beginning at 2:30 p.m. Top seed Memphis will battle either UTEP or Houston at 6:30 p.m., while No. 4 UCF will close out Thursday night against the winner of the UAB-Tulane contest at 9 p.m. All four quarterfinal games will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
The tournament will get underway on Wednesday when Rice (17-14, 8-8) squares off with East Carolina (14-15, 5-11) at 12 p.m. CT. The Owls, who have posted their largest total of league wins as a member of C-USA and highest overall win total since 2004-05, are led by forward Arsalan Kazemi, who holds the Conference USA career record for double-doubles with 44. The Pirates, who advanced to the semifinals of last year's championship, feature senior forward Darrius Morrow, a 2011 C-USA All-Tourney selection who averages 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. East Carolina defeated Rice, 82-68 on Feb. 4 in Greenville.
Marshall (18-12, 9-7) and SMU (13-18, 4-12) meet in the second game on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. CT. Thundering Herd sophomore guard DeAndre Kane ranks fourth in Conference USA in scoring at 15.8 per game and also averages 5.5 rebounds per contest. Mustang senior forward Robert Nyakundi tops C-USA in 3-point percentage and ranks among the NCAA's leaders at 42.5% (82-193). He also places among the conference's top 10 in scoring (15.0) and fourth in free throw percentage (.800). Marshall has won all seven previous meetings against SMU, including a 73-68 triumph in Dallas on Feb. 18.
UTEP (14-16, 7-9) and Houston (14-15, 7-9) will play each other in the first game of the evening session on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT. This will mark the fourth time in the last five C-USA Tournaments that the teams have faced each other, with the last meeting in the 2010 Championship game, won by Houston, 81-73. The Miners have four players averaging double-figures in scoring, paced by freshman forward Julian Washburn, who netted a career-high 21 points at SMU on Saturday and averages 11.5 per game. The Cougars are led in scoring by junior guard Jonathon Simmons, who has a team-best eight games with 20 or more points this season. The teams split their two regular season meetings, with each team wining on its home floor.
The final game on Wednesday pits UAB (14-15, 9-7) against Tulane (15-15, 3-13) at 9 p.m. CT. The Blazers are led by senior forward Cameron Moore, who tops the league in rebounding (10.4) and ranks third in scoring (16.2). Green Wave guard Ricky Tarrant has been named C-USA Freshman of the Week seven times and tops all of the league's rookies in scoring at 15.2 points per game. UAB won the lone regular season meeting, 81-73 on Feb. 18 in Birmingham. UAB and Tulane have not met in the C-USA Tournament since 1997, when the Blazers won a quarterfinal matchup, 74-70.
All games will be played at FedExForum in downtown Memphis. Opening round games on Wednesday, March 7 will air on CSS Sports. In addition to the four quarterfinal games on Thursday, the Friday semifinal games will be shown on CBS Sports Network at 3 and 5:30 (CST). CBS will broadcast the championship game on Saturday, beginning at 10:35 a.m. (MST). For ticket information, please visit ConferenceUSA.com, the FedExForum box office at 901-205-2640 or the University of Memphis at 888-867-8636.
2012 Conference USA Championship Schedule
Wednesday, March 7
Thursday, March 8
Friday, March 9
Saturday, March 10
Championship Game (CBS) - 10:35a
All Times CENTRAL