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The Southern Miss Golden Eagles and Marshall Thundering Herd will wrap up Conference USA Tournament quarterfinal action at the Ford Center in Frisco, Tex. on Thursday night. Southern Miss secured the third seed and a first-round bye thanks to an 11-7 record in conference play, winning various tiebreakers in a logjam with plenty of other teams. That group includes the sixth-seeded Thundering Herd (11-7 C-USA), who defeated Rice in round one on Wednesday.
Herd gathering steam
Marshall is back to defend its C-USA title and may be one of the favorites to get it done. But for a while it did not look that way, as the Thundering Herd went through a terrible stretch in which they dipped below the .500 mark in league play and have for the most part been on a roller-coaster ride. After being humbled by the likes of Maryland, Texas A&M, and Virginia in the non-conference schedule, the Herd began its C-USA slate by downing five straight opponents–including two of the league favorites in Old Dominion and Western Kentucky. But then things went wrong, with seven losses in the next eight games that included their worst loss of the season: a 101-51 humiliation at the hands of none other than Southern Miss on Jan. 26. Now, however, the Thundering Herd are on a hot streak. They are in the midst of a season-long six-game winning street that most recently featured an 82-65 first-round victory over Rice on Wednesday.
Marshall seems to have caught fire at the right time. The Thundering Herd reeled off five consecutive wins at the end of the regular season, with road victories at Louisiana Tech and North Texas and double-digit home defeats of FIU and Florida Atlantic. This team is going to try to push the pace as much as possible; it boasts the fourth fastest offensive tempo in the country. Guard Jon Elmore was named to the All-Conference USA First Team this week. Elmore has hit 44 percent of his three-point attempts during this five-game winning streak. Backcourt mate C.J. Burks was named to the Third Team and Teavion Kinsey earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team.
Southern Miss also rolling
Southern Miss has exceeded expectations all season long and it remains in fine form despite brief two-game losing streak at the end of February and beginning of March. The Golden Eagles preceded that skid with six straight wins and they have since won two in a row–most recently concluding the regular season with an 81-48 victory over UTSA. In that contest Southern Miss drained 16 three-pointers (most-ever against a Division I team in school history) while holding the dangerous Roadrunners (79.5 ppg in league play) to their fewest points in the last 80 games. All five seniors earned the starting nod for USM, with Dominic Magee scoring a game-high and season-high 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting. The Golden Eagles also extended their halftime-lead streak to 10 games. They are just the third team (UTEP in 2017 and Marshall in 2010) in the last decade to earn a bye in the 12-team, C-USA Tournament despite an 0-3 start to conference play.
The stage is set, and so are we. This is March! #SMTTT
— Southern Miss MBB (@SouthernMissMBB) March 14, 2019
The duo of Cortez Edwards and Tyree Griffin has combined for 27.3 points, 10.6 assists, 9.9 rebounds per game this season. In the past two years, Edwards and Griffin have combined for four of the top five single-season steals performances in program history. Griffin’s 415 career assists in two years puts him No. 3 all-time in school history. Edwards is averaging 25.8 ppg in his four career C-USA Tournament games and earned All-Tournament honors last season, scoring 29 against FIU, 23 at Middle Tennessee State’s expense, and a career-high 30 against Marshall. He is the only player in Southern Miss history to rank in the top 20 in scoring (1,375 points), top 15 in rebounds (624), and top 10 in assists (360), all while having a school-record 197 steals.
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are:
The Marshall Thundering Herd are:
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Southern Miss is the only C-USA school to have not allowed 80 points in a single game this season. It happened to the Golden Eagles eight times in each of the last two seasons, and this current 30-game streak is their best since Dec. 28, 2006 to Jan. 16, 2008. This team also ranks No. 4 nationally in assist-turnover ratio (1.65-to-1) and No. 15 in fewest turnovers (10.4 tpg). In league play, the Golden Eagles rank first in field-goal percentage (47.8 percent), three-point shooting (41.2 percent), assists (16.5 apg), and shooting defense (40.4) and while ranking third in steals (7.8 spg). Most importantly, their 50-point rout of Marshall during the regular season is too much to look past.
Prediction: Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Full-Game Total Pick
The Thundering Herd are 38th in the nation in defensive turnover rate. Southern Miss’ defensive prowess is also well-documented, and Marshall knows that better than anyone. Look for this one to stay under the total.