The 2019 CUSA Tournament is over and Old Dominion is moving on to the NCAA Tournament.
USM, UAB, and Marshall will be playing in the pay-to-play tourneys that serve as an extension on well-deserved careers for Jon Elmore, Zack Bryant, and the USM seniors.
Everyone else either chose not to continue, or was hoping for an NIT bid that never came.
The CUSA Tournament served as the only post-season for everyone not named “Monarch” and so we will grade the performances in Frisco.
Sure, winning the tournament automatically earns an ‘A’ but needing missed free throws by the other team’s point guard — twice! — and requiring big buckets to pull victory from defeat mean that you do not get a perfect score. Beating WKU comfortably — relatively speaking — is a good end.
BJ Stith and Ahmad Caver had some good moments but poor overall tournaments. Xavier Green stepping up at the perfect time was, well, clutch.
The Hilltoppers played great defense all week long, shutting down UNT’s Umoja Gibson and USM’ LaDavius Draine in two games. Both are sharp-shooters and both had relatively anonymous games after scintillating performances in the rounds prior.
Jared Savage, Josh Anderson, and Charles Bassey were instrumental in making things awful for everyone not named Xavier Green. The problem was making shots, as head coach Rick Stansbury lamented after the final.
Losing to the regular season champion is not an awful thing. That said, the Hilltoppers played in something like a home game, considering the Frisco crowd was filled with red.
The Blazers beat Middle Tennesse, that old nemesis (Middle won twice in the regular season) and “upset” UTSA. The Roadrunners were expected to make some noise but Zack Bryant, Jalen Perry, and company made adjustments in the second half and won going away.
The Dragons nearly had eventual champs ODU beat in the semifinal. Zack Bryant won his head-to-head matchup with Ahmad Caver handily, outscoring him in 1v1 situations often and playing great defense. Ultimately, Ahmad Caver hit 2 of 2 clutch free throws while Bryant went 1 of 3.
Oh, and Bryant tossed the game-losing turnover in the final seconds.
The Golden Eagles beat defending tournament champions Marshall going away in their quarterfinal matchup. LaDavius Draine went off from distance in that one, while the defense found enough stops to slow down Elmore and Burks.
In the semifinal, poor shooting in the second half gave things away. Cortez Edwards and Tyree Griffin came up short, and had trouble finishing against WKU’s defense.
La Tech B-
Tech played top-seeded ODU close in the quarterfinal after escaping from FAU in the first round. DaQuan Bracey and company overcame a 14-point deficit in the first round and were fortunate beneficiaries of a missed free throw before being the unlucky ones in the next round.
Credit to the Bulldogs for jumping all over the Monarchs and nearly pulling that one out. It took two missed free throws and an offensive rebound plus a fadeaway three-pointer to beat the dunkin dogs.
Marshall blew out Rice before falling late to a very good Southern Miss team. Jon Elmore and company had trouble with defense all season, and lost to this USM team by 50 in Hattiesburg.
They played their quarterfinal much closer but ultimately were not good enough. They had turned things around in the pod portion of the season but their luck ran out on day two.
North Texas C+
Exacting revenge on FIU was cathartic for the Mean Green — you could see their emotion as Ryan Woolridge hit the three-quarter court three to end the first half of that one. Ultimately the Mean Green were too injured, too bad, too limited offensively to compete with WKU in the quarterfinal.
F Zach Simmons and G Ryan Woolridge could be seen limping to their car the day after. Losing here was probably merciful.
FAU nearly had their first-round game won. They were a Silins free throw or a put back away from winning the game. They led by 14 at one point, and probably should have won.
Middle Tennessee C
Middle was giving UAB the business for a while before they broke down toward the end of the game. All-in-all not a bad outcome considering where we thought Middle were going to be early in the season.
Really, UTSA probably deserves a D+ given their seed and expectation. They had a nice first half and we got to see the Jhivvan Jackson we were promised and that we didn’t get to see in last year’s version.
UTSA had nothing for the UAB zone defense and as UAB’s Rob Ehsan said in the post game, UTSA got rattled when Jhivvan Jackson was not performing miracles anymore.
Rice was not going to beat Marshall, but getting blown out handily was not ideal, fun, or a good end to things.
FIU had handled North Texas twice in the regular season, and a little more fight from the Mean Green this time around was to be expected. However, the Golden Panthers came out lifeless and allowed Zach Simmons to do what ever he wanted.