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Men's Basketball Preview 2010: The competition

By Jonathan Myers     11/11/10 6:00pm

UTEP ended Memphis' seemingly unshakable reign over Conference USA last year, winning the regular season championship behind senior guard Randy Culpepper who took home the C-USA Player of the Year with an average of 17.9 points last season. Memphis looks to have the most young talent in the league, but Southern Miss returns all five starters from their squad last year. MEMPHIS: Second-year coach Josh Pastner had last year to serve as his honeymoon, but it's clear the Memphis faithful will settle for nothing less than an NCAA bid this year after making a foray into the National Invitational Tournament last year. The team will be led by a trio of big men in Wesley Weatherspoon, Will Coleman and Angel Garcia. They will be assisted by the best freshman class in C-USA, including Joe Jackson, the leading high school scorer in Memphis city history.

TULSA: The Golden Hurricane punched another ticket to the NIT last year behind stalwart seniors Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan. Justin Hurtt will anchor the Golden Hurricane backcourt with his outside shot and slashing penetration. Tulsa will look to maintain stability in the frontcourt with 6-11 Steven Idlet.

UTEP: Randy Culpepper is an undersized shooting guard with arguably the best stroke in C-USA. However, several players bolting for the NBA or other schools will make the task of repeating as champions much more difficult, even under the tutelage of former NBA coach Tim Floyd. Jeremy Williams looks to a fill a big man's role in a small forward's body at just 6-7.

HOUSTON: Head Coach James Dickey takes over for the departed Tom Penders, who led the Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament as a result of their magical run to the C-USA Tournament Championship. Guard Zamail Nixon came on to provide the spark for the Cougars late last season with 10 points in their NCAA tournament game against Maryland.

UAB: Shooting guard Jamarr Sanders and point guard Aaron Johnson provide the senior leadership for this Blazer squad that has not been overly impressive in recent years, despite three straight trips to the NIT. Cameron Moore will need to step into a greater role this year after only playing 13 minutes per game last year if the Blazers want to take the next step.

RICE: The Owls lose only Cliff Ghoram from the squad that finished dead last in C-USA. However, sophomore leaders Tamir Jackson and Arsalan Kazemi have had a year under their belts and with the return of senior sharpshooting guard Cory Pflieger, Rice will be expecting to come close to 15 wins and an NIT bid.

SOUTHERN MISS: Southern Miss returns all five starters from last year's squad that played in the CIT Tournament last spring. Gary Flowers paces the Golden Eagles with 15 points per game last season. Maurice Bolden is a big man with a shooting guard's range, knocking down 35.1 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

UCF: Donnie Jones arrives in Orlando for his first season at the helm of the Knights and will rely on All-C-USA freshman team selection Keith Clanton to provide versatility at the forward position. Jones looks to use his depth at the guard position to push the pace on offense.

TULANE: Guard Kris Richard looks to have a breakout season from beyond the arc under new coach Ed Conroy. Still, the Green Wave are weak up front after losing forward Asim McQueen to graduation.

ECU: Jeff Lebo is yet another coach making his debut at his school and will be assisted, literally, by point guard Brock Young, who has led C-USA in assists the last two seasons. Sophomore Darrius Morrow led the conference in field goal percentage last year as well.

MARSHALL: Head Coach Tom Herrion takes over for Donnie Jones, who bolted south for UCF. Damier Pitts can not only pass efficiently, but also provides a reliable shot from the top of the key. Reigning C-USA Sixth Man of the Year Dago Pena is a multi-talented player that will serve the Thundering Herd well.

SMU: Papa Dia is the star of the show for the Mustangs, but guard Derek McCoy's inexplicable decision to transfer leaves him without a sidekick. Freshman Jeremiah Samarrippas will look to step into the point guard hole, but the frontcourt is still a concern without Mouhammad Faye.

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