Seriously, you have to respect a conference who adds this to your media gifts …
That’s a three-sports-card pack including Chad Pennington, Randy Moss and Karl Malone, highlighting the star power of former athletes at C-USA schools. (Malone is from Louisiana Tech, which joins the conference next season. No time like the present to tout your future).
Observation 1 — When highlighting the professional accomplishments of former C-USA athletes, why, yes, Marshall is featured prominently.
Observation B — They seriously included a stick of gum with the pack. Nice touch.
I’ll be heading back to West Virginia from Tulsa this evening, and likely will be in the air when they announce the NCAA men’s tournament bracket. So here are some thoughts from what I’ve seen this week from what finally became a pretty exciting tournament.
– Memphis is not to be trifled with and might even be underrated coming into the tournament. Joe Lunardi’s final bracket prediction Saturday had the Tigers as a 7-seed. That may change today and, in my mind, that number should get smaller, probably between a 4 and a 6 seed. Memphis looks like a team that can make it to the Sweet 16, even though it hasn’t won its first game in the last two tournaments.
Chris Crawford is the big-game guy who can shoulder the load, and he has a solid supporting cast around him, especially athletic freak D.J. Stephens, who can do all the dirty work grabbing rebounds and blocking shots while Crawford drains 3s. If this group plays the way it did this past week, it can make a run.
– Southern Miss has a nice record. It has a lot of conference wins. It took Memphis to the limit Saturday.
It’s probably not making the Dance.
Zero RPI top 50 wins in five tries. Only three wins over teams ranked 95th or better in the RPI. The rest of the Eagles season was spent beating up lesser foes … except at the end of the season, when the Eagles lost to a Marshall team with an RPI of 211 that it had beaten by 56 earlier in the year. Both USM Coach Donnie Tyndall and Memphis Coach Josh Pastner stumped for the Eagles’ inclusion — and Pastner made a harder sell than Tyndall — but it’ll likely be the NIT for Southern Miss.
– Speaking of Pastner’s salesmanship, if he ever leaves coaching, he’d make a hell of an agent. Friday, he was at the podium telling Tulsa it should lock up Coach Danny Manning to a 10- or 15-year deal. Saturday, he was back at the podium saying Southern Miss could finish in the top three of some Power 6 conferences. Big Whatchamacallit Commissioner Mike Aresco will love this guy. He might have found the one person who can convince outsiders that this new mish-mash of schools actually was a good idea.
– I’d be remiss in not mentioning what might be the true MVP of the C-USA tournament, the Memphis pep band. Now, if you’re playing in a pep band in Memphis, you’d better be good, and these guys didn’t disappoint, especially the percussion section led by drummer Freddy Dickerson Jr. Not only was the music good, they had a choice selection for its supersized head collection — Yelling Josh Pastner, Elvis and a rack of ribs. The ribs were a premium move.
Check out Monday’s Daily Mail either in print or online for my story on next year’s new-look C-USA men’s basketball lineup. Until then, Happy Selection Sunday, y’all.