Regular season champion Memphis will be the No. 1 seed at the 2008 Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship, March 12-15 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. The Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the nation, enter the conference tournament as the No.1 seed for the third year in a row, owning a record of 30-1, the best in Division I this season.
As the top seed, Memphis will have a first-round bye at the tournament. Other teams receiving first-round byes include No. 2 UAB, No. 3 Houston and No. 4 UCF. Wednesday's first round match-ups feature: No. 7 Tulsa vs. No. 10 East Carolina at Noon, No. 6 UTEP vs. No. 11 SMU at 2:30 p.m., No. 8 Marshall vs. No. 9 Tulane at 6 p.m., and No. 5 Southern Miss vs. No. 12 Rice at 8:30 p.m. CT.
In Thursday's quarterfinal round, No. 2 UAB will take on the winner of the Tulsa-East Carolina game at Noon and No. 3 Houston will face the winner of the UTEP-SMU match-up beginning at 2:30 p.m. No. 1 seed Memphis will battle either Marshall or Tulane at 6 p.m., while No. 4 seed UCF will close out Thursday night against the winner of the Southern Miss-Rice contest at 8:30 p.m.
The tournament will get underway on Wednesday when Tulsa squares off with East Carolina at Noon. The Golden Hurricane is led by sophomore guard Ben Uzoh, one of only two players in the league to rank among the top 14 in scoring and rebounding. ECU senior guard Darrell Jenkins tops C-USA in assists at 6.14 per game and is coming off a career-high 30 points against Tulane on Saturday. Tulsa took the regular season meeting between the teams, 66-61, on Feb. 13 in Greenville.
Texas rivals UTEP and SMU renew their rivalry in the second game on Wednesday. The Miners are led by junior guard Stefon Jackson, the conference's leading scorer at 24.4 per game. The young Mustangs feature forward Papa Dia, one of the top freshmen in Conference USA. UTEP and SMU split their regular season meetings, with each team winning on its home court.
For the second time in three years, Marshall and Tulane will square off in the 8-9 game at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The eighth-seeded Thundering Herd feature senior guard Mark Dorris, the league's leader in steals per game who also ranks 10th in scoring. The Green Wave is led by senior forward David Gomez, who joins Uzoh as the other player to rank among the top 14 in both scoring and rebounding in C-USA. The teams met twice in the regular season, with Marshall winning both times. Tulane won the 2006 meeting in the first round of the conference tournament.
The final game on Wednesday is Southern Miss against Rice at 8:30 p.m. CT. Southern Miss enters the championship having won seven of its last 10 games and has won its opening C-USA Tournament game each of the last two years. The Golden Eagles are led by sophomore guard Jeremy Wise, who ranks among the C-USA leaders in scoring. Rice advanced to the semifinals of the 2007 championship and this year the Owls will look to become the first No. 12 seed to win a C-USA tournament game since Southern Miss in 2003. The Golden Eagles won the regular season meeting between the teams, 71-53, in Hattiesburg on Jan. 26.
Memphis has won each of the last two tournaments and is 9-1 in its last 10 C-USA Tournament games. The Tigers have won 39 consecutive games against Conference USA opponents (regular season and tournament). UAB is the No. 2 seed for the second time in three years and the Blazers have won 21 or more games for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Houston is the No. 3 seed for the second year in a row and last year advanced to the championship game. The Cougars 22 victories this season represent their highest total since the 1994-95 UH squad finished 23-7. UCF earned an opening round bye for the second straight season as the Knights were slotted in the No. 4 spot