Conference USA Championship Game Preview: Memphis Vs. Marshall

The eyes of the bubble world will be watching as Marshall looks to steal an automatic bid by capturing the Conference USA Tournament title.

Marshall, the first six seed to advance to the Conference USA championship game in the league's 25-year history, will be looking to steal a bid into the NCAA Tournament against a Memphis team that has won the league's title in six of the past seven seasons.

The big question for the Thundering Herd is whether or not they have the legs to compete with the Tigers. Because of a triple overtime thriller against Tulsa on Thursday, Marshall has played 135 minutes of basketball over the past three days. The fact that Saturday's title game tips off at 11:30 a.m. ET doesn't help matters either.

The Herd will need every ounce of energy it has remaining to keep up with regular season champion Memphis. The Tigers are currently riding a six-game winning streak in which they are beating opponents by an average of 22.2 points per game. The Tigers won their first two postseason games by 18 and 31 points, respectively, and haven't allowed an opponent to score 60 points in a C-USA Tournament game at FedExForum in 10 straight contests.

Turnovers plagued Marshall in both of their regular season losses to Memphis. In the first meeting, the Tigers scored 28 points off of 14 giveaways by the Thundering Herd. Tim Herrion's team has continued to be loose with the ball at times this week, but they've been able to offset that with hot outside shooting. Marshall lost the turnover battle with Southern Miss. by a whopping 16-3, but they shot 54.3 percent (25 of 46), including 9 of 17 (52.9 percent) on three-pointers, to make up for it.

While the general consensus is that Marshall is on the outside looking in with regards to the NCAA Tournament right now, the Herd might be closer to an at-large bid than some people think. The win over 25-8 Southern Miss shot their RPI up eight spots to No. 41. While it still appears likely that they'll have to beat Memphis to go dancing for the first time since 1987, a competitive loss might at least warrant some discussion.

As far as Memphis is concerned, there's no discussion necessary. The Tigers have won 10 of 11 games since Feb. 1, with only a non-conference victory over Xavier coming by less than 11 points. They rank fifth in the country in field goal percentage (49.2 percent) and have scored less than 70 points just twice since Jan. 21.

While a seventh conference tournament title in eight years would be a nice accomplishment, the biggest thing Marshall have going for it might be the fact that it seems to have significantly more to play for than their opponents. Memphis is the better team, the fresher team and they're playing at home, but if they spend the better part of the afternoon worrying about their NCAA Tournament seed, the Thundering Herd has more than enough offensive firepower to make this interesting.

Most Valuable Player Watch

Will Barton, Memphis

Barton has hit just 5-of-19 shots so far in the tournament, but he's done other things to help the Tigers to two blowout wins. In Friday's game, he grabbed seven rebounds and handed out six assists to go with 10 points. The All-American candidate is fully capable of going for 25-30 today and snagging the award. He averaged 26.5 points in the two regular season meetings with Marshall.

Tarik Black, Memphis

Had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds in Thursday's win over UTEP, and followed that up by going for 13 and five against UCF.

Joe Jackson, Memphis

The speedy floor general had 17 points, four assists and five steals in the quarterfinals on Thursday and then scored 10 more points in the semis. Jackson didn't have a turnover in 25 minutes against Central Florida on Friday. He hit 13-of15 free-throws and scored 21 points against Marshall on Feb. 25.

DeAndre Kane, Marshall

If Marshall is able to spring the upset, then there's almost no question that this is going to be the guy who brings home the individual hardware. Kane enter Saturday as the tournament's leading scorer, thanks in large part of a 40-point performance in the triple overtime win over Tulsa on Thursday.

Damier Pitts, Marshall

The senior guard has had a big week at the FedEx Forum, hitting double figures in all three games including a 24-point performance against Southern Miss. on Friday.


Memphis 81, Marshall 67

The Tigers are the undeniably superior team, and the fact that they'll be playing on CBS and in front of their home crowd won't allow for a letdown this afternoon. Marshall is running on fumes at this point, which may help them get out to a fast start, but I'll be shocked if they can stay in this game well into the second half.

Game Time: 11:30 a.m. ET

Television: CBS

Location: FedEx Forum: Memphis, TN

Previous Meeting(s): Memphis won 83-76 on Jan. 28 at home and 87-67 on Feb. 25 at Marshall.

How They Got Here:


Quarterfinals: Beat 9) UTEP (65-47)
Semifinals: Beat 4) Central Florida (83-52)


First Round: Beat 11) SMU (74-56)
Quarterfinals: Beat 3) Tulsa (105-100 3 OT)
Semifinals: Beat 2) Southern Mississippi (73-62)

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