C-USA Notebook: Men’s basketball features surprises aplenty
If this college basketball season has taught us anything, it’s that parity is alive and well in today’s game and March’s Madness should be as great as ever. Conference USA is no exception.
C-USA still has plenty of excitement with teams like UAB, UTEP and Tulsa making a run at the NCAA Tournament. With that in mind, we take a look at the midseason progress report and hand out some hardware.
Most Valuable Player
The nation’s top scorer — UH senior guard Aubrey Coleman — is averaging 26.2 points per game entering tonight for an 11-9 Cougars, coming off an impressive 81-66 win over Marshall on Saturday. Coleman scored season-high 37 points and 13 rebounds in the win and has scored 30 or more points in three straight games to put his season total at six games.
Coleman is scoring in bunches, but his game has grown increasingly balanced, with 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He also leads the nation with 3.2 steals per game.
Freshman of the Year
The first Iranian-born player in Division I college basketball — Rice freshman forward Arsalan Kazemi — is averaging 10.6 points to go, along with 8.6 rebounds per game. Kazemi has looked great for the Owls and seems to be building off his experience of playing in last summer’s FIBA Under-19 World Championships.
Kazemi is coming off of a 14-point, 14-rebound performance in Rice’s 69-58 win over East Carolina on Saturday and has been one of the few bright spots in what has otherwise been a disappointing season for the Owls.
There is another freshman playing outstanding ball this season, and he will have to split this award with Kazemi. Like Kazemi, Marshall freshman Hassan Whiteside has made an immediate impact for the upstart Thundering Herd. The 7-0 forward is averaging 13.4 points per game to go along with 9.3 rebounds and a NCAA-leading 5.4 blocks per game.
Coach of the Year
UAB coach Mike Davis has Blazers fans buzzing over an 18-3 start to the season and a 6-1 mark in conference play. Led by the great play of junior guard Elijah Millsap, younger brother of Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap, the Blazers have wins this year against big name schools like then-No.23 Butler, Georgia, Arkansas and Tulsa.
Newcomer of the Year
Duke transfer Elliot Williams is playing great for Memphis in almost twice as many minutes of playing time than he got with the Blue Devils. Williams is averaging nearly 20 points a game to go along with four rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Memphis is not as good as they were last year, but at 15-6 and led by Williams, the Tigers are very athletic and can still make the NCAA Tournament.
Despite losing four games in a row, Marshall is still in good standing at 15-6. The Thundering Herd have four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Whiteside, and is 4-3 in conference play and 10-3 at home.
Marshall is No.1 in the conference in field goal percentage and 3-point shooting and No. 2 in scoring offense and rebounds per game.