Nov. 26, 2003
Conference Previews: ACC | A-10 | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Pac-10 | SEC
As a new college-basketball season begins, I'm identifying three key questions for each of the eight major conferences. We're going in alphabetical order, and now it's time for Conference USA...
1. How will Marquette do without Dwyane Wade?
|Junior guard Travis Diener averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 assists last season.|
Marquette will get contributions from several players in an effort to make up for the absence of Dwyane Wade, who departed for the NBA after his junior year.
The Golden Eagles will miss him most at the end of games, since he had that special winning mentality to make the big play.
Who could ever forget his performance vs. Louisville last year? Wade recorded 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in Marquette's 78-73 come-from-behind victory in late February.
But with all the winning experience gained over the past two seasons -- and a trip to the Final Four last April -- junior forward Todd Townsend and senior forwards Scott Merritt and Terry Sanders have really improved and figure to contribute more.
Junior guard Travis Diener is a star on the horizon, as long as he's healthy (he had knee problems in the preseason). Diener is a leader and a fierce competitor in the mold of his coach, Tom Crean.
Marquette also has sophomore forward Steve Novak, who has long-distance shooting range. Also, several newcomers are capable of contributing. It all spells success for Crean and the Golden Eagles.
2. How important are Cincinnati's newcomers?
Coach Bobby Huggins' Bearcats will be better with the addition of several key players. The arrival of players with star quality will make a difference, but they must be consistent and do the job in the classroom as well.
Junior center Robert Whaley will give Cincinnati a big post presence inside and strength in the three-second area. Sophomore forward James White is one of the best high-wire acts in America (he becomes eligible in December).
Look for White to create all kinds of momentum, getting the crowd in a frenzy with his ability to dunk in transition. He's an explosive player.
Junior guard Nick Williams is another newcomer to watch. With veteran junior forward Jason Maxiell anchoring this group, Huggins has to be smiling.
3. Can Louisville push further in the NCAA Tournament?
For Louisville and coach Rick Pitino to go deeper in the NCAA Tournament, two sophomores will be key. Guard Taquan Dean has improved immeasurably and has a great feel for the game, while forward Francisco Garcia could be a star.
Garcia, picked as the Conference USA preseason player of the year, has the ability to shoot the jumper and score in transition. He has a tough, winning mentality that makes him special.
Up front, a lot will depend on the improvement of senior center Kendall Dartez. Louisville needs size inside. Rebounding and front-court play will be vital. The team is without forward Ellis Myles, who is redshirting, so senior forward Luke Whitehead must contribute.
This will be a perimeter-oriented team, and the 3-point shot will be important. If you're going to beat Louisville, you'd better jump on them now -- because next year, recruit Sebastian Telfair is slated to come on board as well as a host of other players. Then the Cardinals will be a legit top-10 team!
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