FIU baseball's the athletic department's Duane Bobick or Gerry Cooney. Like those Great White Hope's, FIU possesses talent, but something happens to that talent on the way to harvest. They've been up, down, diagonal, planking, down against the best, up against the rest: losing record in 2013, 36 wins but went one-two-and-out (i.e., Bobick vs. Ken Norton or John Tate) in the 2014 Conference USA tournament, under .500 until battering their way to a CUSA tournament title.
Conference USA's coaches rank FIU at No. 4 in their preseason poll. They went with Rice, 10 for 10 on winning the regular season or tournament title since joining CUSA, as the preseason favorite. No FIU players made the preseason All-Conference USA team. Big deal. The 2014 team had postseason Player of the Year, Aramis Garcia, working his way up in San Francisco's system; Freshman of the Year, pitcher Chris Mourelle; and all-conference starting pitcher Mike Franco.
Conference tournament? KO'd by 2.
Tickets remain available for the Feb. 6 Diamond Dinner and auction (items listed here), with former Detroit pitcher Jack Morris as featured speaker. To buy the $120 per person tickets, call 305-348-7297 or e-mail Carla Garcia at Garciacm@fiu.edu.
FIU, ranked No. 20 among mid-majors by CollegeSwimming.com, got dusted by No. 29 Florida Gulf Coast 141-64 on Saturday. But sophomore Kyna Periera won the 500 freestyle (5:03.14) and 1000 freestyle (10:10.83), extending her winning streak in the 1000 free to five races.
For this Periera was named Conference USA Swimmer of the Week for the second time in the last three weeks and fourth time this season.
Besides the FIU 6-7 senior forward averaging 17.1 points per game in Conference USA play (10th in CUSA), 8.3 rebounds in conference games (sixth) and put up another double-double (17 and 10) in FIU's not-that-close 79-69 win at UTEP Saturday.
What part of Los Angeles did you grow up in and how would you decribe it?
"I grew up in South Central. It's pretty tough in some ways. You learn a lot about being disciplined and what you want out of life.
Which part of South Central?
"I stay at 107th and Broadway, the east side of South Central."
What's on your pregame playlist?
"JCole. Kendrick Lamar."
What's something about you that surprises people who don't know you well?
"I like being around kids. I'm a people person, too."
What age kids?
"Probably 4, 5, 6. I've got a lot of nieces and nephews. I teach them basketball and stuff like that. They look up to me, so I interact with them a lot."
Playing on the playground or Nerfhoop, what player would you imagine you were? And when you were imagining you as you, what team would you be playing for?
"Growing up my favorite player was Kobe (Bryant), I looked up to Kobe, idolized Kobe." As for the team: "The Lakers."
Outside of your parents, who's the one person who believed in your basketball dream and goals?
"All my coaches throughout my life believed I could reach this point. I'd say my grandmother. She's been a big influence on me. She always believed I could make it to this point."
Favorite video game?
Now, when you play, do you always take the Lakers?
"Oh, naw, they're not that good. I play OKC."
FIU's still winless in Conference USA, 0-7 after Saturday's loss to conference leading UTEP 69-57. And that does show progress.
Playing a team with UTEP's 15-1 record and whatever stature being just outside the Top 25 gives you, the Panthers didn't quit after a 22-0 run buried them 22-3. Instead of giving UTEP a Saturday walk in the park -- er, gym -- FIU gave UTEP a full 40 minutes of work. The Panthers got the margin into single digits at 24-16, then kept playing the Miners on even enough terms that UTEP never could cruise.
A year ago, FIU got blasted by conference champion Western Kentucky twice by 39, to Middle Tennessee State by 49, to Marshall by 24, Louisiana Tech by 23. The players looked like they'd quit. One player said recently she felt the coaches quit on them.
First-year head coach Marlin Chinn's talent light, something he's hustling to remedy in recruiting. He also lost last year's CUSA Freshman of the Year, forward Kiandre'a Pound, to pregnancy and 5-10 Katrina Epnere to a knee injury after Epnere started the first three games. But whether it's the energy of a new staff, new players such as Tianah Alvarado and Kristian Hudson or just the roster finding some pride, FIU's taking the first step to getting off the carpet.
Life changes fast in FBS. So fast that FIU head football coach Ron Turner's now in the middle of the FBS head coach pack as far as longevity at his school.
That's according to FootballScoop.com's annual list of FBS coaches by longevity. Turner ranks 67th out of 128 on the list, which lines up the coaches by hiring day.
According to the list, Conference USA coaches hired after Turner: FAU's Charlie Partridge, Dec. 17, 2013; Western Kentucky's Jeff Brohm, Jan. 10, 2014; North Texas' Sean Littrell, Dec. 5; and UTSA's Frank Wilson, last Friday. Louisiana Tech's Skip Holtz and UTEP's Sean Kugler were hired the December before Turner. So was Southern Mississippi's Todd Monken, who just resigned to be Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator.
You'll notice in the above item, I didn't just use the information from FootballScoop's list. I told you it was their list and provided a link to it. You'll also notice early in the FootballScoop.com story, the writer pokes fun at himself while giving credit to the former colleague who began doing the list three years ago.
This is what you do when you want to use information or quotes gathered by another media entity or if you want to localize a national story. You don't just lift quotes and copy entire blocs of prose, then use them as if you'd done the interviewing and writing.
Which is what The Beacon's Cayla Bush did for her The Shade Locker column that ran Wednesday in print and online. The story she ripped off was my Miami Herald story that ran online Jan. 14 and in print Jan. 15. The Beacon was made aware of this Wednesday when I called them. Bush's column remains online unchanged.
Perhaps Ms. Bush and I share a Vulcan mindmeld of which I haven't been previously aware. As you can see here in screen grabs from the start of my Herald story and the early part of her Beacon column from six days later:
And, from The Beacon...
Nice of her to add in a little of her own prose between the Horner and Calabrese portions and take out the earlier paragraph she stole that appears in the print version of The Beacon.
She didn't do that for the next chunk of prose she stole from The Herald story. The next two screen shots come from The Herald:
Completely unaccredited, this is what appeared in Bush's column. She made a token -- if lazy -- attempt to change the time element in referencing the FIU-Kansas swim meet by adding the date, but left "last Friday," which it no longer was by the time her column ran.
Hint to plagiarists -- when you want to steal copy, at least change the less-pedestrian word usage, such as "Promethean" from earlier in the story and "omnipresent" in the following screen grabs:
And, from The Beacon...
Some Beacon writers and reporters approach their task with great professionalism and gusto. Others don't. It's the nature of a college student newspaper. But plagiarism's a big no-no in middle school. You'd think college students would know better.
Or at least show a smidgen of shame when busted on it.
Besides FIU men's basketball's starting point guard and leading scorer, that is. McGill's 17 games removed from Vincennes junior college and two seasons removed from Division II Goldey-Beacom College.
Tell me something about Newark, Delaware or your neighborhood in Newark, Delaware...
"It's pretty nice. I moved out of Philadelphia when I was younger. It's a pretty good neighborhood. Not too much going on. I get to relax and focus on what I need to do.
"It's like a small city area, almost. There's a little bit of crime, stuff going on. I just try to stay focused and out of that stuff."
What's on your pregame playlist?
"Chief Keef. Some of my friends (Chan Andreas) rap, too, so I listen to their stuff. I really just put my phone on shuffle and let it play."
What's something about you that surprises people who don't know you well?
"My work ethic. I feel like I worked very hard to get here, coming from a Division II school and a junior college. I've focused on working hard, always staying determined and knowing where I wanted to go in my life. As I got here, I've been double of what I did before."
How'd you find Vincennes?
"There's a guy I don't know too well. I sent him an e-mail with my numbers from Division II and sent him some videotape. Taht was the first school that called me. They were ranked Top 5 in teh nation for junior colleges. So, it was a good fit right off the bat. I was really blessed to get that (offer). All those top players get to leave there and go to good schools. I felt like it was just supposed to happen."
What'd you think about the town of Vincennes (a city of 18,000 in Southern Indiana)?
"I liked it. I actually miss it a little bit. It was small. All the fans come out to the games and support us. It was a good environment to play basketball in. It's a basketball game."
Growing up playing basketball on the playground or Nerfhoop, which player did you imagine yourself being. And when you were just yourself, which team did you imagine you played for?
"I was playing for the Sixers. I liked AI (Allen Iverson) a lot. That was the player I wanted to be like.
Other than your mom or your dad, what one individual most believed in your basketball goals/dream?
"Probably one of my close friends. I call him "my brother." His name's "Rel" (Jerrell). He used to play basketball, too (in high school). He just figured out he had to do something else. He always pushed me. We'd always go to the gym together every single day and work out four times a day. He just helped me stay focused and that I can do whatever I set my mind to. He always pushed me to do better. He always liked to tell me what I need to get better on, stuff like that. I've known him about eight years."
Remember when FIU softball entered the season as Conference USA co-favorite and would host the conference tournament? Then, missed the tournament?
That was last year, Gator Rebhan's first year as head coach of what turned out to be a team in transition. This year, the conference coaches put the preseason favorite hat on Florida Atlantic while predicting FIU sixth out of 12. FIU junior infielder Stephanie Texeira was the lone Panther voted to the preseason all-conference team.
Speaking of transition, word around campus is extra construction necessary for the softball locker rooms scheduled to be habitable last summer ballooned the cost to almost $2 million. Two million dollars was the total goal of the Women's Sports Campaign anticipated (so it was stated) to fund the softball/golf locker room & lounge, among other projects. No fingers to point on this, unless you want to say the campaign's bar sat too low.
I expect to hear soon that the school's given men's soccer coach Scott Calabrese a new deal after his second FIU team won the Conference USA tournament, spent part of the season ranked and lost a tough NCAA tournament road game to Tulsa. Calabrese gets a bump in pay from his $55,000 salary.
That's $55,000 in Miami. Up in Lexington, where you could buy several nice houses and the nearby Waffle House for the cost of one Kendall 3/2 with small side yards, University of Kentucky coach Johan Cedergren makes $105,000. South Carolina's Mark Berson's making $108,060 in a cheap market. OK, that's Kentucky and South Carolina, members of the SEC plutocracy who slum it in Conference USA to play the people's game. So, let's look at Charlotte...
Men's soccer head coach Kevin Langan makes $70,840. In Charlotte.
For those who've asked, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia's contract expires Oct. 15. If he's re-upped, look for it to happen over the summer.
When writing this story on recruiting Florida vs. recruiting International, I thought the following from volleyball coach Rita Buck-Crockett deleted from my recorder. So, obviously, I didn't use it. But Buck-Crockett's built both volleyballs, sand and indoor, with a mixture of players.
""If we need an instant game changer, then you're probably going to get that quicker by recruiting an international to come in as a freshman or a junior college, experienced player," she said. "If you have a program that's built, then you can bring freshmen that you're training and get them involved."
Expect a couple of transfers to be announced from Rutgers and Tennessee soon.
Harry Minium's Virginian-Pilot story says Conference USA's television revenues take a pay cut in the next set of television deals. Look at the conference lineup and this isn't shocking. Now Conference USA finds itself negotiating a TV deal for what's, essentially, Sun Belt Premium in an era of shrinking traditional TV viewership.
Early in each CUSA media guide, you find a listing of the metropolitan areas graced by Conference USA's membership and where each ranks as a TV market. The current roster compares well enough with the TV market roster before the Realignment DJ screamed, "SWIIIIITCH!"
CUSA lost Orlando-Daytona (currently No. 18 TV market according to Nielsen), Memphis (No. 50), New Orleans (No. 51), Tulsa (No. 60) and East Carolina, a school in a puny TV market but with worshiping masses. CUSA added the Miami-Fort Lauderdale (No. 16) and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce (No. 38) markets, which often are seen as a single bloc, the No. 7 market, by sports television suits (this is why the NHL wants the Panthers skates hammered into the ground here); Charlotte (No. 22); Nashville (No. 29); San Antonio (No. 32); Norfolk (No. 42); Shreveport (No. 83); and Bowling Green, Kentucky (No. 182).
Bowling Green being the runt kind of sums up CUSA's problem. Western Kentucky's the most successful athletic program by record in the conference since joining last year. Fans and local media spend significant time and attention on The Hill People. Few football teams enjoy the success and none play a more exciting style of football than Western. But Western's in Bowling Green, so of little help to the conference when asking for media money. It's only 60 miles from Nashville, but this isn't a Louisville-Jeffersonville "Kentuckiana" deal.
Conference USA's in or near major cities. It's just that those major cities devote minor attention to CUSA.
You think FIU's got trouble being heard over the University of Miami, Florida and Florida State, not to mention the Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins? Try being North Texas, the team in Conference USA's largest market, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the school nearest the league's Irving, Texas headquarters. The Mean Green squeaks behind TCU and SMU locally. And that's once anybody gets past the University of Texas and the Dallas Cowboys, The Galactus Twins, consuming much of that zone's time, energy and attention.
Rice is in Houston. So is the University of Houston. So is Texas. Besides, Rice's 6,500 enrollment, closer to that of Carrollton than Kansas, limits its appeal.
You know the deal with FIU and Florida Atlantic in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach County.
Middle Tennessee State's 40 minutes from Nashville. So 40 minutes from one SEC school, Vanderbilt, under the empire of an SEC sports giant, Tennessee.
Charlotte's a good bring back for basketball as the area loves the college game more than the NBA game. Also, it's a region that finds room to embrace hoopsters from many schools despite the elephantine presence of Duke and North Carolina. For football? Well...
Old Dominion brings a well-funded athletic department and solid following...in the conference's eighth or ninth, depending on how you count South Florida, largest market.
Despite the omnipresence of Texas, Texas-San Antonio has been a good addition for Conference USA. San Antonio's a fertile, nice-sized market in which a CUSA school can maintain visibility without needing football seasons such as 2014 Marshall or 2015 Western or a Sweet Sixteen NCAA men's basketball tournament run. Imagine this kind of exposure/interest for a new football coach at FIU or Middle.
Should CUSA go whole hog into exploring the digital option? Or partner with YouTube or some other streaming video outlet? It's what some professional sports leagues did when they felt they couldn't get enough love or money from cable or broadcast.
Whatever the conference does, for now, we're about to see what kind of moneymakers run each athletic department.
Men's basketball -- Thursday vs. Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m.
Men's basketball -- Saturday vs. Southern Mississippi, 7 p.m.
In Friday's three-way meet with No. 19 North Carolina State and Kansas, FIU sophomore from South Africa Kyna Pereira won the 500 freestyle in 4:56.21. Periera, the school record holder in the 1000 free, also came in second in the 1650 free in 16:52.70. She swam the opening legs of three relays in Saturday's FIU relays, one of which the Panthers won.
For this, Periera was named Conference USA Swimmer of the Week for the third time this season.
Sophomore Rebecca Quesnel's just short of getting the Diver of the Week award named for her after four wins this season and six as a freshman. She won the 1-meter and 3-meter events Friday and Saturday, scoring a career-high 330.5 Friday in the 3-meter.
Men's Basketball -- Thursday, vs. Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m.
Men's Basketball -- Saturday, vs. Southern Mississippi, 7 p.m.
Not included above: the four soccer matches at FIU Stadium involving Colombian club teams America de Cali, Deportivo Cali, Deportivo Independiente Medellin and Atletico Nacional. Wednesday, Cali and Medellin get it on at 6 with Nacional and America at 9. Saturday, Medellin and Nacional play at 4, America and Cali play at 7.
When it comes to athletic department dollars, there's an interesting contrast with South Florida's mid-majors -- Florida Atlantic gets donations and FIU strikes deals. The press conference announcing this deal is Tuesday, 4:30 p.m., at the Stadium Club.
You know that feeling Thursday when the State of Florida finally got the Florida Lottery website working again, you looked at the numbers and you had nothing? Or, maybe just a free ticket?
That's how the FIU basketballers of each gender left Western Kentucky feeling Thursday.
Up in Bowling Green (the one in Kentucky), the Panthers came from 10 down in the second half to win 75-72. The women hung tough for the full 40 against the best team in Conference USA, one with a 17-2 conference record over the last two seasons and 10-2 overall this season. In the end, some panicky possessions and key rebounds got away from the Panthers, as did a chance for the biggest upset in college women's basketball this season. Still, the 71-69 loss that left FIU 2-11 and 0-2 in conference play didn't leave Chinn upset.
"Our ladies really executed the game plan for us tonight. I couldn't be more proud of their effort to come up against the conference champs," he said. "They've got a really nice club. (Western coach) Michelle (Clark-Heard) does an awesome job with her team. For them to come out and give their best effort was really exciting to see. We had told them prior to the game, we just want to measure up. We want to see what the best team in the conference has and see where we stand. Give our best effort and see what happens."
What happened: FIU, down 33-23 and on the verge of being blown out with 5:37 left in the first half, stormed back behind defense and 5-9 junior Tianah Alvarado. Alvarado scored the next 14 FIU points. That got the game tied 37-37 at halftime because FIU stopped letting Western run layup drills after Chinn called a timeout at the aforementioned 33-23 and 5:37 left. After what looked like a strong excoriation, FIU, which had allowed Western to shoot 60 percent before the timeout, held the Hilltoppers to two of eight from the field the rest of the half.
The second half saw the teams trade baskets evenly, until a few ragged FIU possessions and a few too many offensive rebounds by Western did in FIU. Say this for the Panthers -- despite their record over the last two seasons, they never look intimidated. They've got the confidence actor William Talman injected into Hamilton Burger, the prosecutor who used to get undone by Perry Mason. One person on the show loved Talman's performance because you believed Burger deeply believed he'd win that week.
"We're right there, we're missing one little thing," FIU senior forward Janka Hegedus said after a game-high 22 points on 11 of 14 shooting.
"They're so hungry to get a win," Chinn said. "And they want it really bad. We've just come up short. We've got to learn how to win. Obviously, wins have been few and far between these last couple of seasons. But they seem really motivated to do something about their season, so I'm proud of that."
And, as he said, the losses weren't by last year's embarrassing margins. Western blasted FIU by 39 there and 41 here a year ago.
"I think everybody puts in effort and hard work. Everybody wants to be here," Hegedus said, explaining the difference from last year. "It's like our job. Everybody takes it seriously."
In the previous post, I laid out and ranked the records/accomplishments of Conference USA's schools since FIU entered in 2013 in football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and a wild card sport which has to be a sport in which FIU also fields a team.
It's an imperfect system, not as good as other imperfect systems (democracy, the jury system) and better than others (South Florida mass transit, Disney XD programming). Stronger athletic programs don't get complete credit for their depth while schools with teams failing to make conference tournaments don't get penalized enough.
But, this system provides a serviceable frame of reference. Much like those who use analytics in scouting, I provided a points system for totaling up the results in the previous post. I went simple, NASCAR-style -- 14 points for first, 13 for second and so on. To put greater emphasis on conference play, how you fare against your equals on roughly the same schedule, I gave 1.5 points per position instead of 1.0 -- 21 points for first, 19.5 for second, 18 for third, etc. Past general columns of mine criticized NASCAR's points system for not making wins worth more in relation to second. Here, as explained in the previous post, conference champions shoot to the top of the list, so that's where you get extra points for winning big.
Western Kentucky -- 119 points. In Western's one and a half seasons since following the Great Sun Belt Migration of 2013 a year later, the Hilltoppers overwhelmed their new conference mates for titles in football, women's basketball and volleyball.
Middle Tennessee State -- 113. In baseball and football, Middle's conference success exceeded its non-conference record (indicating its non-conference cupcake diet is light).
Old Dominion -- 102. Nobody spends more money in Conference USA. It shows in the facilities. And, apparently, the results.
UAB -- 91.5. This list looks very different with a 2015 UAB football season.
Rice -- 88. That conference title football season and baseball's annual excellence lifted an athletic program that otherwise looks like that of an expensive private school with overcrowded high school's enrollment.
Lousiana Tech -- 84.5. All the athletes in that state, all the resources devoted to sports and only football and men's basketball roll strongly. If you get only two sports going, those are the two, but this surprised me...
UTEP -- 84. The sports in which the school made national history -- men's basketball and track/cross country -- propelled it here even without one standard engine (baseball).
Southern Mississippi -- 81. Would've been third with 98.5 points without being put at the bottom of men's basketball for two years of self-imposed postseason bans for significant NCAA violations. Low APR, which dinged FIU, is one thing. This isn't even doing work for student-athletes, something some Power Five schools deploy armies of "academic tutors" to do. This was doing work for recruits.
UTSA -- 80. Without non-conference baseball and men's track, the Roadrunners wouldn't be going "beep beep" but "beeeep...beeeep...beeep" like a Wide Load backing up in the standings.
Marshall -- 75. You thought they'd be higher, right? They can get football players to come to Huntington, especially from areas that make Huntington seem like Hawaii. Can't seem to pull that with anybody else, however.
FIU -- 65. Football and women's basketball buried FIU. The baseball program's 2015 conference tournament championship spared World's Ahead's athletic department from a butt view of everybody except North Texas -- which doesn't have baseball, thus got no points in either baseball category.
Charlotte -- 59.5. Futbol succeeded, football doomed in the 49ers return to Conference USA.
Florida Atlantic -- 58.5. Like its South Florida counterpart, FAU's baseball couldn't undo the damage done by talented messes that are the football and men's basketball programs.
North Texas -- 45. Other that one bowl season and a women's soccer conference title, this is The Denton Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (unless it's to hit their own feet).
Curious about how FIU ranks among its Conference USA peers since moving from the Sun Belt Fun Belt in 2013, a curiosity prodded by several people inside and outside the athletic department asking the same thing, I did a little record hunting.
Now, obviously, the best answer to the above would be found by compiling the records of each CUSA school in each sport that FIU plays, weighting for things like missed conference tournaments, NCAA runs, conference tournament runs, individual brilliance (such as FIU's Meghan MacLaren tearing up the 2015 conference golf tournament). But all that would take up way too large a portion of whatever time I have left on this plane of existence. So, here's what I did:
I ranked the schools on overall and conference records since 2013 in football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and then a wild card sport -- each school's best sport in which FIU also participates.
You play to win championships, so when ranking in conference play, the title winners eat first. When I assign point values later to determine an overall ranking, conference play will get greater weight. You get more credit for beating your peers than you do gorging on lesser punks.
I see the obvious flaws. With a relatively small sample size, one great or abysmal season can swing the results too hard in one direction. That's even more the case with schools that entered CUSA after the Great Sun Belt Migration of 2013 brought FIU, FAU, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State to the league. But, outside of Intelligent Benevolent Dictatorship, no perfect systems exist.
Here's the rankings for each sport:
1. Marshall – 33-8, three bowl wins
2. Western Kentucky – 20-7, two bowl wins.
3. Rice – 23-16, two bowl appearances, one win.
4. Louisiana Tech – 22-17, two bowl wins.
5. Middle Tennessee State -- 21-17, two bowl appearances.
6. Old Dominion – 11-13
7. North Texas -- 14-23, won one bowl game.
8. UTEP – 14-23, one bowl appearance
9. UTSA – 14-22 (ranked behind UTEP and North Texas despite a smidge better record because UTEP’s extra loss came in a bowl game and North Texas’ extra game was a bowl win).
10. Southern Mississippi – 13-25, one bowl appearance
11. FAU – 12-24
12. UAB – 8-16 (loses tiebreaker with FAU on, you know, the program being dead, then revived to two-season coma).
13. FIU – 10-26
14. Charlotte – 2-10
1. Marshall -- 20-4, one conference title
2. Western Kentucky -- 12-4, one conference title.
3. Rice – 15-9, one conference title.
4. Middle Tennessee State – 17-7
5. Louisiana Tech -- 16-8
6. UTSA – 12-12
7. Old Dominion – 7-9
8. Southern Mississippi – 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over UTEP, North Texas and FAU based on a Conference USA West Division title.)
9. UTEP 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over North Texas and FAU on combined head-to-head record)
10. North Texas -- 9-15 (head-to-head tiebreaker over FAU)
11. FAU -- 9-15
12. UAB – 5-11
13. FIU – 7-17
14. Charlotte – 0-8
MEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL
1. Louisiana Tech – 68-19
2. UTEP – 55-27
3. Old Dominion – 53-32
4. Middle Tennessee State -- 51-31
5. UAB – 49-32
6. Western Kentucky -- 28-18
7. FIU – 38-40
8. North Texas 36-42
9. Charlotte – 17-28
10. Marshall – 27-52
11. UTSA – 25-50
12. Rice – 24-53
13. FAU – 21-53
14. Southern Mississippi – 41-36 (placed down here for two years of self-imposed postseason bans after fundamental NCAA violations, such as completing homework assignments for recruits).
MEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE
1. UAB -- 20-15, one Conference USA title
2. Louisiana Tech – 31-6
3. UTEP -- 27-9
4. Western Kentucky -- 12-7
5. Old Dominion – 23-12
6. Middle Tennessee State – 22-13
7. FIU – 16-19
8. North Texas -- 17-21
9. Charlotte – 7-12
10. UTSA -- 13-23
11. Marshall – 12-23
12. Rice – 10-26
13. FAU – 7-27
14. Southern Mississippi -- 17-18 (See above)
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL
1. Western Kentucky – 40-7
2. Middle Tennessee State – 60-20
3. Southern Mississippi – 60-22
4. UTEP – 52-25
5. UAB – 41-33
6. Old Dominion – 44-37
7. FAU -- 38-34
8. Marshall – 38-37
9. Charlotte – 22-22
10. UTSA – 34-40
11. Louisiana Tech – 33-42
12. Rice – 24-49
13. North Texas -- 23-48
14. FIU -- 20-54
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE
1. Western Kentucky – 17-2, one conference title
2. Middle Tennessee State 30-5, one conference title
3. Southern Mississippi -- 27-8
4. Old Dominion -- 21-14
5. UTEP – 21-15
6. Charlotte – 10-9
7. UAB – 18-17
8. Louisiana Tech – 15-20
9. UTSA -- 15-21
10. FAU -- 14-21
11. Marshall -- 11-24
12. Rice – 11-25
13. North Texas -- 11-25
14. FIU – 6-29
1. Rice – 79-42, one NCAA at-large bid
2. Southern Mississippi – 71-43-1
3. FAU – 70-44, one NCAA at-large bid
4. UAB – 68-46
5. UTSA – 68-51
6. FIU – 66-51
7. Old Dominion – 63-54
8. Middle Tennessee State – 63-54
9. Western Kentucky – 24-28
10. Louisiana Tech – 40-62
11. Marshall – 40-63
12. Charlotte – 38-60-1
North Texas & UTEP – No team
1. Rice -- 45-15, one conference title
2. FIU – 29-31, one conference title
3. Southern Mississippi – 38-21
4. Middle Tennesse State – 37-24
5. UAB -- 35-25
6. FAU -- 33-26
7. UTSA -- 33-28
8. Old Dominion – 30-30
9. Marshall -- 22-37
10. Charlotte -- 21-38
11. Western Kentucky – 10-19
12. Louisiana Tech – 13-46
North Texas & UTEP – No team
WILD CARD SPORT
1. Western Kentucky – Volleyball. 62-10, 30-2 in conference, two conference tournament titles.
Despite finishing second in the FIU Sprint Invite to Purdue (we'll pause so you can wash your mouth out after saying that word...all fresh now? Good.), FIU took both Conference USA's Swimmer of the Week and Diver of the Week awards.
Sophomore Skye Carey won the 50 backstroke in 26.93 and was third by a blink in the 100 back behind winner, teammate and fellow sophomore Naomi Ruele (58.15) with a 58.21. Carey also came in fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:53.10).
The diver is, of course, sophomore Rebecca Quensel, who won the 1-meter (283.90) and the 3-meter (290.15) events.
It's the start of a new calendar and FIU's best program is back on the blocks.
Rarely do you see a player take over a game the way 6-11 senior center Adrian Diaz did Sunday against FAU. Diaz scored 20 of FIU's first 22 second half points and assisted on the other hoop. Defensively, he altered shots and blocked one drive by FAU's Adonis Filer so ferociously, Filer went to the floor and resembled Michael Spinks after he got Mike Tyson'ed. Diaz also later had what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra calls "a hockey assist" (the pass that led to the pass that led to the bucket -- they give two assists in hockey).
Anyway, mainly for that effort, Diaz was named Conference USA's Co-Player of the Week with Louisiana Tech's Alex Hamilton. It's Diaz's third player of the week award this season.
Yeah, it's a headline straight out of 1956. Basketball players used to be called that because netting or fencing surrounded early basketball courts and the name stuck until the late 1970s.
Anyway, the FIU women lost 87-82 to Florida Atlantic up in Boca despite guard Taylor Shade's 26 points, five rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers. Tianah Alvarado tossed in 22 points with seven rebounds before fouling out. The men showed FAU that size matters and smacked the Owls in the face with Adrian Diaz, whom FIU insists on calling "The Hialeah Hammer" (sounds like a by-the-book cop who works Okeechobee Road). Diaz went six of eight from the field, 11 of 17 from the line for 23 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, blocked three shots and got two steals.
So, the men sit at 7-7, 1-0 in Conference USA play going to Western Kentucky and Marshall this week while the women are 3-9, 0-1 hosting those two schools at Camp Mitch.
FAU's men came into Sunday with wins only over Lesser Miami (of Ohio) and a song (Ave Maria). The Owls' leading scorer, sophomore forward C.J. Turman, is transferring and they didn't have injured backup guard Marquan Botley, a junior guard second in assists and steals who plays 20.5 minutes per game. FIU should spank the Owls they way they did. Diaz should Godzilla the Boca Boys the way he did. Then again, mediocre mid-major teams don't always do what they should so that FIU did is to its credit.
“The whole season is about progress and growth," FIU coach Anthony Evans said. "I think the team has more confidence in each other. Now, on the floor, if somebody gets beat, Adrian’s going to be there. The guards are making a conscious effort to keep people in front of them, so they don’t get easy shots, layups. They’re maturing, getting better."
Winning the Conference USA title earned FIU some personal All-Region wall decorations for three players this week, just as it earned men's soccer coach Scott Calabrese the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Southeast Region Coach of the Year last week.
(And it should earn him a new contract. Got to check on that...)
Anyway, junior defender Marvin Hezel made First Team All-Region. Senior midfielder Danny Gonzalez got on the Second Team. Sophomore forward Luis Betancur made the Third Team.
The 13 Conference USA coaches select the All-Conference USA teams. Address all complaints to them.
FIU put two, seniors defensive end Michael Wakefield and cornerback Richard Leonard, on the All-CUSA First Team. I was surprised senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon only received Honorable Mention all-conference after leading FIU in interceptions, passes broken up and being fourth in tackles. Leonard also made it as punt returner after his 10.7 yards per return led the league. Wakefield's .33 fumbles forced per game were third in the conference. His .62 sacks per game placed him fourth, the same place his 1.21 tackles for loss per game did in that category.
Second Team members from Camp Mitch were redshirt junior center Michael Montero and sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint. If you go back to FIU coach Ron Turner's year-end Q&A, you'll see he thought Montero graded out well almost every game. Wint led FIU in tackles (Leonard was second) and led defensive players in fumble recoveries with two.
Now, let's mention the Honorably Mentioned: McKinnon, junior tight end Jonnu Smith, senior defensive end Denzell Perine, Leonard (as kick returner), long snapper Sam Medlock.