The Southern Miss men’s basketball team ended up with a decent draw in the Conference USA Tournament this week, but the odds of getting past the quarterfinals don’t appear great for the Golden Eagles.
USM (9-21) slid into the C-USA Tournament as the 12th and final seed. The program is in the tournament for the first time since 2014 after enduring a self-imposed postseason ban over the last two years due to the NCAA’s investigation of the program for Donnie Tyndall’s conduct as head coach from 2012-14.
USM will take on Rice (21-10) at 2 p.m. on Wednesday in the the first round in Birmingham, Ala.. If the Eagles upset the Owls, they’ll face UTEP (14-16) at 2 p.m. on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Rice beat USM twice this season, but both games were tight. Rice topped USM 61-58 in Hattiesburg on Jan. 21. On Feb. 23 in Houston, Rice needed overtime to clip USM 72-71.
USM has shown it’s perfectly capable of hanging with a much deeper Rice team, but it will have to play one of its better games of the season Wednesday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals.
USM beat UTEP 73-65 in Hattiesburg on Jan. 7, but the Miners are a very different group than the team Doc Sadler’s squad faced that night.
Since losing to USM to extend a losing streak to 12 consecutive games, UTEP has won 12 out of the last 15. The Miners handed Middle Tennessee its only conference loss, 57-54, on Feb. 4 in El Paso.
USM will be a motivated group after sitting and watching the tournament the last two years, but Doc Sadler will have to pull off his best coaching job yet to get USM into the semifinals in Birmingham.
With a shallow roster, it’s very difficult for USM to compete on back-to-back days.
Wednesday’s game will be shown on CampusInsiders.com.
The USM women represent the school’s best chance at an NCAA Tournament bid headed into Thursday’s 9 p.m. game against the winner of Old Dominion-UTEP in Birmingham.
The Lady Eagles are 21-9 after winning their final seven games of the regular season. They are the No. 3 seed in the 12-team field.
No. 1 Western Kentucky (24-6) and No. 2 Middle Tennessee (20-9) enter the tournament as the favorites to take home the trophy.
The Southern Miss baseball team didn’t have much luck to open the series at Louisiana-Lafayette with 3-1 and 5-4 losses in the first two games of the series. The Ragin’ Cajuns had a big crowd on hand at Russo Park, which is still in the process of undergoing renovations.
The Eagles (8-3) avoided the sweep by rallying for a 15-11 win in 11 innings on Sunday. Colt Smith and Matt Wallner both made strong appearances out of the bullpen to help the Eagles survive.
Wallner, a freshman who typically starts in center field, has been good in relief with wins in each of the two games he has appeared in. He has no runs allowed, nine strikeouts and just one walk in 6 2/3 innings this season.
With Cody Carroll struggling in two of his three Sunday starts, Wallner gives Berry another option to go with.
Junior right-hander Taylor Braley will take the mound for USM at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the University of New Orleans. The Privateers enter the game with a record of 9-3.
2 p.m., Wednesday — Southern Miss men vs. Rice
9 p.m., Thursday — Southern Miss women vs. UTEP/ODU winner
Radio: WPMO 1580 AM (men)
Video: CampusInsiders.com (both games)