Conference Preview: C-USA

Conference Preview: C-USA

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

Conference USA is aptly named, as it is a melting pot of programs. It is a "super conference" based the amount of teams it has. There have always been a few programs with little to no real success either in conference or reaching post season play. It is mid-major all the way. There are some programs with a more storied history as well. The first one that should come to mind is Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are also aptly named, as they sit at the apex of the conference standings pre-season. They possess one of the best centers in the nation, Charles Bassey as well as Taveion Hollingsworth and touted transfer, Camron Justice. Their talent level makes them the easy favorite to be the CUSA's automatic bid for the Big Dance.

Louisiana Tech has also had decent success and some good players in their history, most notably Karl Malone. The Bulldogs have enough talent to challenge WKU.

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is poised to rebound from a disappointing season. It's a program that had lost all its best players, plus its head coach moved to Mississippi to coach the Ole Miss Rebels. Second-year head man Nick McDevitt has Antonio Green returning after having transferred in. He averaged 17.9 points along with 4.0 rebounds and will lead a balanced squad who came more into their own in the second half of the conference schedule.

Texas-San Antonio has two prolific guards who are good enough to carry the team to

Conference USA is aptly named, as it is a melting pot of programs. It is a "super conference" based the amount of teams it has. There have always been a few programs with little to no real success either in conference or reaching post season play. It is mid-major all the way. There are some programs with a more storied history as well. The first one that should come to mind is Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are also aptly named, as they sit at the apex of the conference standings pre-season. They possess one of the best centers in the nation, Charles Bassey as well as Taveion Hollingsworth and touted transfer, Camron Justice. Their talent level makes them the easy favorite to be the CUSA's automatic bid for the Big Dance.

Louisiana Tech has also had decent success and some good players in their history, most notably Karl Malone. The Bulldogs have enough talent to challenge WKU.

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is poised to rebound from a disappointing season. It's a program that had lost all its best players, plus its head coach moved to Mississippi to coach the Ole Miss Rebels. Second-year head man Nick McDevitt has Antonio Green returning after having transferred in. He averaged 17.9 points along with 4.0 rebounds and will lead a balanced squad who came more into their own in the second half of the conference schedule.

Texas-San Antonio has two prolific guards who are good enough to carry the team to a top-five finish, while Florida International is primed to finish high as well. Texas-El Paso (UTEP) is a major sleeper pick to contend in C-USA . Several talented transfers, such as Anthony Tarke and Bryson Williams, can dig the Miners a path to prominence if they can all gel together.

Marshall won the CollegeInsider.com postseason tourney last season, but its exceptional backcourt of Jon Elmore and CJ Burks have graduated. Old Dominion has been right at the top again for several seasons, but its losses may be too much to overcome. The North Texas Mean Green has decent returning talent, despite losing their floor general, Ryan Woolridge to Gonzaga.

The UAB Blazers lead a quintet of squads that will bring up the rear and struggle most nights. The Owls of Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss and Rice will be in the doldrums. At least the Charlotte 49ers have some decent recruits that can help them build towards greener pastures, but will have some growing pains this season.

Top Players

Center: Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

No contest here, as Charles Bassey is not just the best center, but the pre-season player of the year. He averaged a double-double last season w/ 14.6 points and 10 rebounds. He is also a solid defender and athlete in the paint.

Others for consideration: Efe Odigie – UTEP; Jannson Williams – Marshall; Jacob Germany - UTSA

Freshman: Jahmir Young, G, Charlotte 49ers

Young is a DeMatha product coming to Charlotte and expected to take over the point slot. He's quick and athletic. He's one that was probably underrated coming out of high school. He can potentially be C-USA's newcomer of the year.

Others for consideration: Jacob Germany – UTSA; Tyson Jackson - MTSU

Scoring: Jhivvan Jackson & Keaton Wallace, UTSA Roadrunners

Once again, no contest for the backcourt duo of Jhivvan Jackson (22.9 points, 4.1 boards) and Keaton Wallace (20.2 points, 5.0 boards) are the class of the UTSA Roadrunners and all backcourt players in C-USA. They can light up the scoreboard on any given night against most opponents.

Others for consideration: Camron Justice – Western Kentucky; Anthony Tarke – UTEP; Antonio Green – MTSU; Jaylin Ingram – Florida Atlantic; Devon Andrews – Florida International

Rebounding: Efe Odigie, UTEP Miners  

Efe Odigie of UTEP averaged .1 higher than Bassey with 10.1 rebounds. His athleticism allows him to crash the boards. He knows how to go after the ball with tenacity.

Others for consideration: Charles Bassey - Western Kentucky; Jailyn Ingram – Florida Atlantic

Assists: DaQuan Bracey, Louisiana Tech Ragin Cajuns

Bracey fits Louisiana Tech as he plays like a bulldog and leaves it on the court. He averaged 15.5 points and four assists per game last season. I believe his assist total can rise. If it doesn't, it's because he has to take more of scoring point guard role again.

Others for consideration: Zack Bryant – UAB; Taveion Hollingsworth – Western Kentucky; Donovan Sims - MTSU
 

Sleepers

Roosevelt Smart, G, North Texas Mean Green
Smart has been the backcourt partner of Woolridge for a couple seasons, and his stats slid to 10.7 points and 3.6 rebounds last year. Now set to serve as the primary guard, Smart should increase his numbers again. Editors Note: He'll be serving an indefinite suspension to begin the season.

Robert Martin, F, Rice Owls
Martin was actually the Owls' sixth man last year. He was also their best player averaging 12.2 points and 6.2 boards for a dismal squad. I would expect him to move to a starter's role this season, but even if strictly a bench mercenary, he should be productive again all season.

Donovan Sims, G, MTSU Blue Raiders
Sims was a solid floor leader for the Blue Raiders, averaging an assist on 15 percent of possessions as a freshman. He also tallied 11.9 points and 4.2 rebounds to showcase all around skills and launch him as one of the better point guards in C-USA.
 

Top-10 Players*

1. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky
2. Jailyn Ingram, F, Florida Atlantic
3. Jhivvan Jackson, G, UT-San Antonio
4. DaQuan Bracey, G, Louisiana Tech
5. Keaton Wallace, G, UT-San Antonio
6. Antonio Green, G, MTSU
7. Efe Odigie, F, UTEP
8. Zack Bryant, G, UAB
9. Anthony Tarke, G, UTEP
10. Taveion Hollingsworth, G, Western Kentucky

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author and may not necessarily correspond with Rotowire's official 2019-20 player rankings.
 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Drumright
Chris graduated from MTSU with a journalism degree and is a college basketball blogger and columnist for RotoWire. He has previous experience with editing and rankings at Athlon Sports.
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