The first round of the Conference USA Tournament kicks off today at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. As it's only the first round, none of the top seeds are scheduled to play today, but there are still a number of intriguing match-ups:
First Round: Wednesday, March 7
1:00 PM: No. 7 Rice vs. No.10 East Carolina
3:30 p.m.: No. 6 Marshall vs. No.11 SMU
7:30 p.m.: No. 8 UTEP vs. No.9 Houston
10:00 p.m.: No. 5 UAB vs. No.12 Tulane
In this first round, UTEP is a team to keep your eye on. While No. 1 seed Memphis is the overwhelming favorites to win the tournament, SB Nation's Bill Connelly likes UTEP as a sleeper:
When your favorite has a three-times better shot of winning than everybody else combined, that makes everybody a dark horse, right? But when your No. 2 and No. 3 teams both limp into the tournament on a bit of a cold streak, the dark gets darker. So we'll take a huge reach for Tim Floyd's 14-16 Miners, who really are not very good but could not have ended up with a better draw. A miraculous path to the tourney title could feature wins over Houston, Memphis and Southern Miss, against whom they went 3-1 this year. It still isn't likely, of course -- a rematch versus Memphis would come against a pretty ticked off Tiger squad, plus their semifinal matchup would probably come against either UCF (UCF 63, UTEP 45 on Feb. 25) or UAB (UAB 61, UTEP 60 on Feb. 4). Still, the Miners have performed rather well against solid teams (and less so against lesser squads).
The UCF Knights are the No. 4 seed in the tournament, so they will play in the second round against the winner of UAB/Tulane. That game will air at 10:00pm EST Thursday night. You can find the full C-USA Tournament bracket here.
This first round action will only be available on CSS; for those outside the range of CSS, you can stream games online using the C-USA Digital Network. In later rounds, the games will be televised by CBSSN.