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Chuck Landon: Herd can still earn good spot for tourney

Feb. 08, 2012 @ 12:32 AM

Marshall is playing for a No. 4 seed in the Conference USA Tournament.

That is how the rest of the basketball season basically plays out.

There are seven games remaining, and six of them are crucial.

Wednesday night's contest?

It's a wash.

It will be difficult for fifth-place Marshall to defeat fourth-place UCF at 7 p.m., Wednesday, in rabid UCF Arena at Orlando, Fla. Besides coach Donnie Jones, his Knights and the UCF fan base all making this rivalry game a cause célèbre, there's the indisputable fact that the home team wins 75 percent of the games in C-USA.

That's because of officiating.

The home team in C-USA always seems to get two or three calls at crucial times that affect the outcome. Just ask UCF. The Knights fervently believe that happened to them in their 65-64 loss to Marshall on Jan. 14.

Maybe it did.

As for Marshall, it certainly occurred in both of the Herd's last two road games -- Jan. 28 at Memphis and Saturday at Tulsa.

Odds are it will happen again tonight.

That's why the Marshall-UCF game is a wash.

But the Herd still could salvage a first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament, which begins March 7 at the FedExForum in Memphis, if Marshall wins its final six games.

That's what it will take. The Herd has to win out. And, yes, it's possible.

After the UCF game, Marshall is home to East Carolina at 7 p.m., Saturday. Next, the Herd visits SMU on Feb. 18 before returning to the Henderson Center for critical home games against Houston (Feb. 22) and Memphis (Feb. 25).

Then, there's a road contest at East Carolina on Feb. 29 before an absolutely must-win home game against C-USA leader Southern Miss on March 3 in the season finale.

Those are four winnable home games, considering Marshall took Southern Miss to the wire before losing, 67-63, in Hattiesburg, Miss., and played Memphis relatively even before falling, 83-76, in the FedExForum.

As for the two road games, SMU is in last place in the C-USA standings and East Carolina is tied for eighth with Tulane and Houston.

Enough said.

If Marshall takes care of business, the Herd can indeed end the season on a six-game winning streak. The key word in that sentence, of course, is. ... if.

This Marshall team needs to put up or shut up. No more of these "We're baaaaack" comments after one win and, then, allowing an opponent to shoot an unforgiveable 55.6 percent from the floor and out-rebound Marshall in the Herd's very next game.

Talk is cheap.

League victories aren't.

It's going to take more than talking a good fight.

GOODBYE MEMPHIS: The Tigers finally got their wish and are leaving C-USA to join the Big East in 2013. Sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed Memphis' departure.

That means Big East football just got even weaker.

Memphis joins UCF, SMU and Houston as C-USA defectors to the Big East. That would leave C-USA with eight members in 2013.

Time to worry?


Read why in my Thursday column.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.



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