This is a cross-post of the CUSA Report Newsletter. I don’t know how long for this world the league is and thus we do not know how long CUSAREPORT is for this world. This upcoming league tournament may be our grand finale, and we will be in Frisco for coverage.
We will be doing the free stuff, but if you want a different level — all the nightly updates, daily emails and podcasts and the like we are offering a premium coverage option. This may be all she wrote. So let’s do it big, folks. If you are current member, you do not need to do anything.
Both of our current division champions are unlikely finishers. Like, check out one of my favorite season-previews from Three-Man-Weave. They had it all wrong. And they are good at this! They are thorough!
Again, that is not a knock, but simply that these teams were not expected to have these seasons. Yours Truly was even merely skeptical of the situation when we took stock in early February.
Middle has 22 wins, folks. That is the biggest surprise. North Texas has won more than we thought — but really only has beaten UAB, and Tech more often than we thought, right? North Texas being good is not a surprise, but better (record-wise) than UAB and Tech is only a slight surprise. Middle has just about flipped their status. Last year saw them finish second-to-last and get ousted by the eventual champs in the first round of the league tournament. This year, they started slowly (two league losses) but have handled their business in the division. Saturday’s win over Western was a statement game. WKU is the most talented team in the division, and they went down hard vs this Middle squad.
It is a remarkable thing. Whatever happens the rest of the way — the tournament is a bit of a gamble — it should not dim the light of this season. There is some hardware in the trophy case now (see above). Next season there will not be an ODU or Marshall in the East, and soon after FAU, Charlotte are leaving as well. There likely won’t be an "east" division to win, and one big league to contest will be tougher, but it may still be just WKU to really deal with.
Middle is not quite BACK but they are back. Before you complain or anything, consider that Middle lost to two of the three in the West (UAB, NT). They can certainly win this thing, but chances are they will not. Then again, they didn’t care about what chances we or anyone else gave them before the start of this season.
Meanwhile in Denton, NT looks as good as they did in 2020, and as good as they did in the tournament last season. There are some weaknesses, but every team has those. Here is a rough power ranking
- North Texas — So good defensively that they always have a chance. They have had to rely on some individual brilliance, however. That seems shaky.
- Middle — They won’t have to face the top of the west division for a round or two. They put themselves in a great spot. We wonder about their ability to deal with big game pressure but depending on the outcomes, could only have to face one West team.
- UAB — UAB beat NT, and then basically beat NT again at home. They have every reason to believe they can get up and put themselves in a winning situation vs NT. They just need to put them away. The defense + Jelly put hem in a great spot.
- La Tech — They aren’t as good as last year when they were upset vs NT in the semis. With Lofton and Williams and a good coach in Konkol they can beat anyone. But they’ll have to do win four straight in four straight days.
- Western — Barring a collapse against Marshall (two games), they should at least finish even with FAU for the East’s second bye-earning seed. But that also means they’ll earn (likely) Louisiana Tech to start. Not great, Bob.
- UTEP — The Miners are going to get a 4/5 seed and that means a 4/5 from the east. They have the talent (Boum, Bieniemy) to score with anyone, and a good coach. I see at least one in Frisco.
- FAU — They had a good run but went up against WKU, NT, Middle and ODU and fell flat. Confidence looks gone, and that was what was helping them play bigger and better.
- Charlotte — I really do not see much difference between Charlotte and ODU. They are good enough to jump up and bite, but not good enough to win the tournament. That would require consistency, and they don’t have it.
- ODU — see above
- Rice — terrible.
- Marshall — I like Taveion Kinsey
- USM — I like their fight for like 10 minutes in every game. They are hurt though.
- FIU — Bad.
- UTSA — Even worse.