Conference USA Tournament 2013 Championship: Game preview for Southern Miss vs. Memphis

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis went 16-0 in conference, but a steal-happy Southern Miss squad will try to spoil their final C-USA tournament.

Memphis is just one win away from completing an undefeated run through its final season in Conference USA, although Southern Miss has had an easy run through the tourney that they'd love to cap with an upset and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

For Memphis, this game isn't that meaningful. Their bags are already packed for the Big East next season, and their ticket is already punched to the NCAA Tournament as they're almost guaranteed to get an automatic bid. The No. 20 team in the nation, they've shown their superiority over the C-USA in every way this season. They ran roughshod through the regular season, going 16-0 with 12 double-digit victories. They've kept it going so far in the C-USA tourney, beating Tulane 81-68 behind 17 points and eight rebounds from Adonis Thomas and handled hosts Tulsa behind a career-high 30 points and eight threes by Chris Crawford.

But this game could be everything for Southern Miss. Led by Juco transfer Dwayne Davis, the Golden Eagles have surprised many by finishing second in the conference with a 12-4 record.

On the offensive glass, senior Jonathan Mills rips 3.4 offensive boards per game, and while Daveon Boardingham doesn't have an impressive rebounds-per-game number, he manages to grab more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds, which is rare. Altogether, they get 39.4 percent of their misses, ninth in the nation. And then there's their defense, where Southern Miss gets a steal on 13.7 percent of opposing possessions, No. 8 in the country, with six players averaging over a steal a game. If they can get second opportunities and force Memphis into turnovers, this could be a game.

However, the regular season match-up between these two squads does not bode well for the Golden Eagles, with the Tigers winning each game by double digits, including a 25-point outing for Geron Johnson and a win at home that clinched the C-USA title.

Bubble teams around the country should keep their eyes glued on this game. If Memphis wins, they're okay. If Southern Miss wins, the Golden Eagles get the auto bid to the NCAA Tournament while Memphis will likely get an at-large, meaning there will essentially be one fewer spot in the field of 68 up for grabs.

Here's the info on the game:

No. 1 Memphis (29-4, 16-0, Kenpom ranking 38) vs. No. 2 Southern Miss (25-8, 12-4, Kenpom ranking 53)

11:30 a.m. Eastern


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