We're on the eve of the Conference USA Tournament, and I'm really looking forward to the event. I was over at the Forum this afternoon, just checking things out, talking to some SIDs and working out the kinks before I do my part in Sports 56's coverage of the tourney.
I happened to be one of the 4 or 5 media members with John Calipari as he discussed the state of the Tigers going into the tournament. Interesting stuff. I asked him about Rodney Carney--I think we all want to know where Rodney's head is at, especially after the last two home games. Carney's something like 1 of his last 19 from the field in his last two home games. So, he's, uh, struggling a bit. I asked Calipari about Carney, and he said that Rodney was nervous. He has been forcing shots, rushing everything, and Cal told him to relax. That's all well and good, but Cal's been the one screaming at Carney and everyone else throughout the season--there's a reason a lot of guys, Carney included, are nervous and scared to make any mistake. They know Cal will be all over them if they screw up. I think it's a little late to be trying relaxation techniques with Rodney.
The Tigers need to get hot early in their game tomorrow night against St. Louis, especially Carney. If Carney can get on a little streak early, the Tigers will win, and win easily. If they start slowly, like they did in St. Louis, they will not win. It's that simple. I think the first 4 minutes against SLU will tell you all you need to know about the Tigers.
Congratulations to Darius Washington, the Conference USA Freshman of the Year. If someone else had won this award, it would have been the biggest crime of the year. D-Wash is a good kid who has worked very hard to get better--you've gotta remember that he had always been a combo guard in high school, never a true point guard. However, over the span of 4 months, he's learned the PG position, and is playing at a very high level. He's still got a long way to go, though, and so much upside to tap into--it will be fun to watch him mature. He better be on top of his game this week, though.
Had a good time at the Tournament party over at the Gibson Guitar Lounge. Let's be honest--when you've got free drinks and food readily available, I'm down. I'm predictable like that. A lot of big names there, including Commissioner Britton Banowsky, UAB coach Mike Anderson, Kevin Kane, Jarvo, Harold Graeter, Steve Ehrhart, and even Eli Savoie. Does it get bigger than that? It does? Oh well.
Here are my picks for tomorrow's games:
TCU vs. Marquette: TCU (no Travis Diener means no win for Marquette)
DePaul vs. Tulane: DePaul (too much size and talent)
Memphis vs. St. Louis: Memphis (SLU's not as good on the road; Memphis wins easily)
Houston vs. South Florida: Houston (Tom Penders--C-USA Coach of the Year?)
That would give us the following matchups:
TCU vs. Louisville
DePaul vs. UAB
Memphis vs. Charlotte
Houston vs. Cincinnati
I see a lot of upset potential there. I can't wait to see how it unfolds in the Forum tomorrow.
One non-basketball note: I talked with Jennifer Rodrigues, she's the Tigers' football SID--she told me, without revealing too many details, that the University has something unprecedented planned for DeAngelo Williams' Heisman campaign. It's already in the works, and it's going to be very memorable, apparently. She wouldn't tell me anything more, no matter how much I tried to ease it out of her. And I tried, trust me.