March 7, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Fit to be tied. That’s what’s going to happen on Saturday night, when the 2012-13 Conference USA men’s basketball regular season is complete.
Marshall is going to be tied with someone, in some place, before the 11-team bracket is designed for next week’s C-USA Tournament at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
If you want to know what’s what before Saturday night, you’ve come to the right place. With some standings-unraveling in concert with Steve Cotton, longtime broadcast “Voice of the Herd” – I’ve never seen him wear a tie, by the way – read on to see how it can all shake out.
The Saturday games have the Herd at East Carolina, UAB at Memphis, UTEP at SMU, Houston at Tulane, Tulsa at Rice and UCF at Southern Miss. Of those six, only the game in Hattiesburg will have no bearing on tournament seeding.
Here’s what we know after Wednesday’s games:
Memphis, Southern Miss, UTEP and East Carolina have the Nos. 1-4 first-round byes, respectively. There is one more to be gained, and the Herd cannot get it. The highest seed Marshall can land is No. 7, and to get there Coach Tom Herrion’s club would need a four-way tie at 7-9, or to still win at ECU and have a three-way tie with UAB winning at Memphis and Tulsa losing at 1-14 Rice (an unlikely daily double, right?).
The last-place Owls have clinched the 11th seed, and will meet No. 6, whoever that is.
(As most reading this know, UCF is ineligible for the tournament because of NCAA sanctions. Hence, an 11-team bracket with an extra bye.)
As for the tiebreakers as they affect the Thundering Herd, here goes … (records used are potential C-USA marks, pending Saturday’s results).
With a Marshall victory at ECU:
*If Tulsa (8-8), UAB (8-8), Marshall (7-9) win, it leaves the Herd tied with the Houston-Tulane winner (7-9). In that scenario, the Herd gets the No. 8 seed, because it loses the head-to-head tiebreaker to Tulane and Houston (regular-season MU losses). In that one, the Blazers get the No. 5 seed over the Golden Hurricane, too.
*If Memphis, Tulsa (8-8) and Marshall win, it leaves the Herd, UAB (7-9) and the Houston-Tulane winner (7-9) in a three-way tie. A “mini-conference” is created to compare the three tied teams via regular-season records within the group.
The Herd is eighth no matter who wins the game in New Orleans. If Tulane wins, the seed order (Nos. 5-9) is UAB, Tulane, Marshall, Houston. If Houston wins, it’s Houston, UAB, Marshall, Tulane.
*Another three-way tie – although it seems less likely – would be created if Rice beats Tulsa, UAB downs Memphis and Marshall wins at ECU. That one leaves the Herd, Golden Hurricane and the Houston-Tulane victor tied at 7-9 and in the mini-conference.
Marshall is the No. 7 seed in that scenario, no matter who wins Houston-Tulane. The ranking with a Green Wave win is Tulane, Marshall, Tulsa. If Houston wins at Tulane, it’s Tulsa, Marshall, Houston (the Cougars were swept by Tulsa this season.
*There also could be a four-way tie at 7-9 with wins by Marshall, Memphis and Rice to go with the Houston-Tulane survivor.
In that mini-conference, if Tulane wins at home, seeds 5 through 8, in order, would be UAB (bye), Tulane, Marshall, Tulsa. If Houston gets a road win, the order is UAB (bye), Tulsa, Houston, Marshall (which is only 1-3 against those other three this season).
Hey, we’re not finished yet … what if the Pirates win on their Senior Day over the Herd? Glad you asked.
If Marshall loses, the Herd is 6-10, and then an SMU win at UTEP could throw the Mustangs into the tiebreaking mosh pit.
*A Marshall loss and SMU win would throw the Herd, Mustangs and the Houston-Tulane loser into a three-way tie. Marshall comes out last in that one (because it lost to SMU, Houston and Tulane), and the Herd gets the No. 10 seed.
Houston gets No. 8 if it loses at Tulane. If Tulane loses to fall to 6-10, then SMU would get No. 8 ahead of the Green Wave, thanks to the Mustangs’ split with UTEP. The Miners beat Tulane twice.
Either way, the Herd is No. 10 in that scenario.
*Finally, if the Herd (6-10) falls at ECU and SMU (5-11) loses at UTEP, there is no tie between 9 and 10. The Herd would then be tied with the Houston-Tulane loser for Nos. 8 and 9, and get the 9 seed because of regular-season losses to both.
(That one is really, to determine which color uniform you wear in the 8-9 first-round game).
Pass the aspirin, please …
In next Wednesday’s first round of the tournament, the seed matchups are 6-11, 7-10 and 8-9. Games times will be determined once host Tulsa knows its seed, because C-USA allows the host team to pick its game time before the bracket is set.
The 8-9 winner gets No. 1 Memphis in a Thursday quarterfinal. Southern Miss plays the 7-10 winner, and UTEP faces the 6-11 survivor. East Carolina’s quarterfinal will be against the team that emerges this Saturday with the No. 5 seed.
In all scenarios, the Herd will play Houston, Tulane or SMU – three teams that are a combined 3-0 against the Herd this season.
And if you want to consider another way in which the confounding Marshall season (13-17, 6-9) is even more so, consider that the Herd is 5-4 against UCF and the likely five bye teams in the standings entering Saturday’s games, and 1-5 against the other five in the bottom half.