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It’s hard out here for a Conference USA coach

October 14, 2010 Comments off

Ah, Conference USA. A conference that, for some reason, held its basketball media day in New York City. I suppose it’s for the media exposure. But why not in Dallas? Or Orlando? Oh, the media exposure thing again. Those schools are nowhere near New York (map courtesy of Thunder Treats). It’s 371 miles to East Carolina from New York City, give or take a few miles. And 475 miles to Huntington, WV, where Marshall University is.

Come on now.  “Look at me! I’m a big time basketball conference too!  Look at me!”

Like the league itself, some of the coaches are peddling for respect (from ESPN):

From March 2006 to January 2010, the Tigers played and beat 64 straight opponents from C-USA. It is tied for the longest Division I conference win streak of all-time. So whether it was fair or not, the national attitude about Conference USA was that Memphis steamrolled through an inferior conference….

UAB‘s [Mike] Davis, who has been on the cusp of getting an at-large bid the last few seasons, said Memphis’ dominance under [John] Calipari completely overshadowed the league. Having the conference tournament in Memphis also curtailed getting a second bid for the league. But a year ago, the tournament was in Tulsa and the league was nearly left with just one again after Houston upset UTEP in the championship game.

“Does this league have the opportunity to be better than the WCC, when it had three teams in with Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego? My guess is certainly yes, when you see the history of this league with the coaches and the players,” [Tim] Floyd said. “This league has to do what the Mountain West did last year and get four teams in and win.”

The Memphis Commercial-Appeal’s Dan Wolken responds:

Reality: Tulsa, UAB and Houston have underachieved since ’05 split relative to program expectations/history. Has nothing to do w/Memphis.

True words. Conference USA is where major-conference coaches go to lick their wounds.

It’s the witness protection program of college basketball coaching.

From Larry Eustachy‘s “Party Down” days, to Tim Floyd’s dances around legality, to Mike Davis’ sensitivity, and Matt Doherty‘s unproven ability to coach basketball, it isn’t a place for second chances, or some of those coaches would have been fired once more. If it were a place of actual second chances, the coaches would go back to the money, prestige, and NCAA Tournament-worthiness of high major conferences. Or the Atlantic 10.

In the past 5 years, Conference USA hasn’t ranked higher than 8th in adjusted average rating of conference teams by Ken Pomeroy’s system. And that was with a dominant Memphis team. Before last year – and after the poaching of Conference USA teams by the Big East – the only other team worth a hot damn was Mike Anderson‘s UAB (Alabama-Birmingham) squad in 2006.

One would think that with all of these big coaching names, they’d be able to get enough non-conference quality wins to get another team into the NCAA Tournament, wouldn’t you? The selection committee would happily take another C-USA team… if the numbers didn’t match the perception – mediocre.

Transplanted New Yorker and now Midwesterner Peter a/k/a Pico writes for Johnny Jungle, doing the Calm Before the Storm posts and also for the Church of Bracketology. Pico is also on Twitter, @ECoastBias. Add the East Coast Bias to your rss link.rss feeds; or follow by email linkemail.

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