C-USA: Wrapping It Up From Tulsa

By Jean Neuberger - October 12, 2006

It's been an eventful day in Tulsa, as Conference USA's Media Day is coming to an end. We've heard from all the coaches, who all have stated one thing: Conference USA is a highly competitive conference that will surprise a lot of people this season.

As the media begins to depart from the Reynolds Center, the sound of kids laughing and cheering can't go unnoticed. Walking down the tunnel and standing near the floor, a group of C-USA coaches, along with Tulsa players, were smiling and laughing as they played with elementary school kids, who were thrilled to take their love of the game to a place like the Reynolds Center.

With all the flashbulbs and media hype of the regular season, it's always nice to see these players and coaches truly enjoying the game of basketball. They were loving every minute they were out on the floor, and for at least one day, the pressure of competition was replaced by the joy of playing the game.

"We're all friends off the court," said Houston's Joe Curl. "All the coaches here are like a family. Of course, we still want to beat the snot out of each other for 40 minutes when we take the court."

The camaraderie of the coaches is evident, though. There was constant joking and laughing among the various coaches, and all of them fully support each other. They know Conference USA isn't considered a major power in women's basketball...yet. Non-conference wins are wins for everyone, and each coach stressed the importance of C-USA getting four to five bids in the NCAA Tournament, instead of one or two.

As a darkhorse, take a look at UAB. Coaches who are brimming with enthusiasm are always ones to watch, and Audra Smith is a very energetic coach. Plus, one thing about installing a "40 Minutes of Hell" defense is that a team doesn't need to be the most talented to win; they simply need to be the best conditioned, and have lots of depth. Smith has preached conditioning, and the Blazers now have depth. If they can install a swarming pressure defense, they will be a team that no one wants to play.

There is no doubt that, despite Rice being picked to win, Tulsa is the team that everyone is targeting. Stopping Jillian Robbins is on every coaches' to do list, and with the C-USA Tournament at the Reynolds Center, teams are going to be more focused than ever on finding a way to stop the Golden Hurricane. This is also beneficial to Rice though, as the pressure to win the conference is lessened thanks to the Tulsa target.

All in all, it should be a very interesting basketball season for the teams in Conference USA.

My thanks to the staffs of C-USA and Tulsa for their great hospitality. We'll see you on the court!

Posted by Jean Neuberger at 11:05 PM on October 12, 2006

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