Rick McCann: Marshall team takes long road home
TULSA, Okla. -- Marshall's travel party didn't stick around Tulsa any longer than it had to.
Originally booked for a Friday flight home, which obviously would have been changed if the Thundering Herd men's basketball team was still playing in the Conference USA tournament, everything changed after a Wednesday night defeat that ended the season.
A new travel plan was concocted and the team left town Thursday morning by bus to Dallas to catch a flight to Austin, Texas. The flight out of Austin went to Louisville where a bus carried the group back to campus and a middle of the night arrival. Estimate time of arrival was 2 a.m., Friday -- only about 12 hours earlier than first scheduled.
Maybe the thought was saving a few bucks.
Apparently, the Herd women's team stayed and will come home sometime Friday.
JUMP BALLS: Maybe the jump ball does matter.
Marshall lost the opening tip only seven times in 32 games -- and the Herd lost all seven games. Granted, the official tossed up a bad ball Wednesday night, but Tulane still controlled it and scored the first basket.
The other times Marshall lost the tip and the game were at Hofstra, at Kentucky, Delaware State, at Ohio, at UAB and at Houston.
COURTSIDE SEATS: Former University of Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie is in town for the tournament.
Gillispie was once a University of Tulsa assistant coach before getting head coaching jobs at Texas A&M, Kentucky and Texas Tech. He resigned at Texas Tech last fall after having some health problems.
During the Marshall game Wednesday night Gillispie had a conversation with another former UK coach, Eddie Sutton. Gillispie had a seat in the second row of the stands while Sutton took a chair on press row.
Another familiar figure is former University of Houston and NBA legend Elvin Hayes, who does work on the Houston Cougars' radio network.
ROUGH START: SMU head coach Larry Brown is the only man with NCAA (Kansas Jayhawks) and NBA (Detroit Pistons) championships on his resume, but had a rough first season with the Mustangs. UAB knocked SMU out of the tournament Wednesday, 53-52, leaving the Mustangs with a 15-17 record.
Brown closed the book by saying, "We just have to learn from this and move on and get better. Effort and quality of kids, this was a good group, but I don't think any of us were happy with the results."
SMU is moving on as one of the new members in the league formerly known as the Big East.
LOOKING AHEAD: Marshall's women also had a rough season with a 9-21 finish under first-year head coach Matt Daniel. UTEP beat Marshall in the tournament, 70-59.
At least one Herd player thinks it will get better.
"I think the future will be good with more time and work and the more we get used to each other and grow as a team," said sophomore guard Shay Weaver.
Sports editor Rick McCann covers Marshall men's basketball for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or email@example.com.