Column: Marshall men’s basketball: C-USA Tournament and a potential Capital Classic rematch

The Conference USA tournament is upon the Herd after a regular season filled with excitement, frustration, heart-breaking and heart-stopping finishes.

Now, the time of the postseason is here, and Marshall is in a prime position to make some noise in the C-USA tournament.

The Herd has had its share of heart-stopping and heart-breaking finishes. The past two home games fulfilled both qualifications, as the Herd suffered a 97-94 defeat on a last second half-court shot by Louisiana Tech University.

Conversely, the Herd pulled off an exciting finish against lowly University of Southern Mississippi by getting a last second tip-in by James Kelly in regulation and then winning the game on Austin Loop’s heroics with a last second long two-pointer to win the game, 108-106.

Home has been good for Marshall, especially in conference play. The team only lost two games at home, one to the above mentioned Louisiana Tech and the other to regular-season champion University of Alabama-Birmingham amidst some questionable officiating toward the end of the contest.

Yet, Marshall has to finish its season out on a (neutral) court in Birmingham and even further if the team makes it to the NCAA tournament.

The C-USA tournament started Tuesday with Florida Atlantic University defeating the University of Texas at San Antonio, 82-58. The championship game will be held Saturday.

For teams who can fight through the first couple of games and make it to face the top teams in the conference, it can be a long, tiresome road for any team who manages to win four or five games in as many days.

Fortunately for Marshall, it has a double-bye and does not play until the quarterfinals. There, the Herd will face the winner of the No. 6 verses No.11 game Wednesday, between the University of Texas at El Paso and Florida International University.

The double-bye helps immensely, but it can be a trap as well.

While Marshall has clearly earned the spot directly in the quarterfinals based off its improved conference play, the players are still at risk for having too much rest, and coming out flat against a warmed up UTEP or Florida International squad with a game already under their belt.

If the Herd come out flat like it did in the first half of Senior Night against a now 8-21 Southern Miss then expect the Herd to be bounced from the tournament early. The Herd cannot afford to go 1-17 from 3-point range in the first half like the team did against Southern Miss.

Look for the Herd to come out swinging in its first game. However, because the team is behind the philosophy of head coach Dantoni and believes that it is the best team in the conference, more than likely, the Herd will have to prove it against regular season champion UAB, who Marshall could end up playing in the championship.

If the team is hitting shots and not turning the ball over, its got a real chance at snagging the C-USA birth away from UAB.

As of yesterday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the UAB Blazers as a No. 14 seed playing in the West region, interestingly enough, against No. 3 seed West Virginia.

If the Herd won out in the conference tournament to secure the C-USA birth, would the committee consider pitting both Mountain State teams against each other in the opening round?

It is certainly a peculiar scenario to wonder about. West Virginia won the Capitol Classic earlier this year 86-68, and there are no plans to continue the series after this season concludes.

If the C-USA tournament goes Marshall’s way and the team wins out, the committee could put the two together for a headline grabber.

It may not be guaranteed Marshall even secures a No. 14 seed. If the committee deems the Herd weaker than other automatic qualifier conference champions, Marshall may fall down the list to a No. 15 seed at worst.

With that being said, if West Virginia does well in the Big 12 tournament, then it could see itself jumping to a No. 2 seed.

The scenarios seemingly have to play out perfectly in order for the two teams to be matched up together.Herd nation would certainly enjoy one more shot at a Mountaineer team that finished second in the Big 12 conference.

If this all does align together accordingly, this would be a fantastic way as an ending before a temporary break in the rivalry ensues.      

John Fauss can be contacted at [email protected]