/CUSA’s desperate experiment begins Saturday with UAB playing at Southern Miss

CUSA’s desperate experiment begins Saturday with UAB playing at Southern Miss

“Drastic” will begin Saturday, when the league opens “pod play.” Southern Miss will host UAB for the first of four regular-season games. These were not scheduled until last weekend. The game at Reed Green Coliseum starts at 2 p.m. Not many people, including Doc Sadler, Southern Miss coach, think the new “pod” will increase the number NCAA Tournament bids for CUSA. But at least someone is trying. Judy McLeod, CUSA commissioner, stated that “it’s never been done so it’s a little cautious.” We felt it was an opportunity that we needed to seize. Conference USA isn’t the only one. Nearly all mid-level NCAA Division I conferences have a limit of one bid. This goes to the conference champion. So-called power conferences like the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference, and SEC get multiple bids. The Blue Raiders lost in overtime to Southern Miss in conference tournament after MTSU’s outstanding regular season. CUSA represented CUSA at the NCAA Tournament by representing Marshall, which defeated Southern Miss, Western Kentucky and Western Kentucky. CUSA’s “pod” system was established to ensure that the best league teams face off late in the season. This should lead to a stronger schedule and higher RPI ratings. These are two factors used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to select its field. The schedule records showed that the Conference USA teams had played the first 14 of 18 games. After this, the teams were split into three pods. The top pod includes Old Dominion (11-3), Southern Miss (all 9-5) as well as Western Kentucky (all 8-6) and UTSA (9-5) respectively. Southern Miss will face the four other top pod teams in its final four regular season games. Davis, the Ole Miss coach is now sympathetic to CUSA’s situation, but isn’t certain the new system will work. Davis claims that it would have not helped MTSU last season. Davis stated that it would have not helped them because they finished the regular season with three or four of the top teams. “It would only help if there were three to four top 25-to 75 RPI teams that could be paired against each other.” This is not the case. Old Dominion has a road win over ACC power Syracuse to its credit and is the league’s highest rated with an RPI number of No. 83. Southern Miss is the next No. 95. Former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is the next No. 99. Western has won victories over West Virginia, Arkansas and Wisconsin. UAB is USM’s Saturday opponent at No. 180. The RPI of the Golden Eagles would likely drop significantly if USM loses. Sadler stated that there is nothing we can do to stop it, except to play the games they direct us. “We need to keep winning because the only way to get into the NCAA Tournament is by winning the conference tournament,” said Sadler. The Eagles started the CUSA season with 0-3. They have now won 9 out of 11 games and are on a six-game winning streak. The Eagles led UTEP at the halftime of their last game and won 77-47. Southern Miss will face a UAB team that is hot. The Blazers have won two of their last two road games against Marshall and Western Kentucky. UAB beat Western 68-60 in the last round. Southern Miss and UAB played a previous game in Hattiesburg. On Jan. 12, the Eagles beat the Blazers by a score of 73 to 68. Bottom line: Southern Miss may be able to run the table in the new pod play, but it won’t get an NCAA bid until it wins the CUSA Tournament March 13, 16 at Frisco Texas. Two trivia questions close the article. When was the last time CUSA entered more than one team into NCAA Tournament? The last time a CUSA team received an at-large bid was in 2012. Answers: 2012. Larry Eustachy coached Southern Miss to a 25-8 finish in the regular season. They also received a No. 9 NCAA seed. No. No.