We turn our attention to Conference USA with a match between two of its best teams. Read more on it here.
#23/25 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (23-4; 12-1 C-USA) at East Carolina Pirates (21-5; 9-4 C-USA)
7:00 p.m. EST
Williams Arena – Greenville, NC
Online: C-USA All Access (Subscription)
Middle Tennessee has been one of the perennial powers among the mid-major conferences over the past ten years, as the Blue Raiders have made the NCAA Tournament every year since 2009, and also made four straight appearances from 2004 through 2007. This season, they won 17 straight games and were ranked as high as #21 in the AP poll on February 3. That was before a 68-56 road loss to conference foe Southern Miss on February 5 which knocked them out of the polls for a little bit, but the Blue Raiders have won every game since then.
The Blue Raiders are led by 6’1″ senior forward Ebony Rowe who is the program’s leading scorer after a 62-49 win over Old Dominion on January 25. Rowe is averaging 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, all great numbers. Given that rebounding is a skill that translates very well to the pro level, don’t be surprised to see her get drafted this April since Rowe will likely be one of the first mid-major players picked.
To top it all off, Rowe will have a fellow alum in the WNBA ranks, as Seattle Storm forward Alysha Clark also was a star for Middle Tennessee in her college days. She is also an assistant coach for them this season. Here’s a piece from the Tennessean on both Rowe and Clark and how they are working together.
For East Carolina, the Pirates have also been in contention to win the Conference this season, but they are coming off a two game losing streak, which includes a 61-60 loss to UTSA (which is currently 4-9 in C-USA play) last Thursday. They are led by sophomore Guard/Forward Jada Payne. junior Guard/Forward Abria Trice, and junior forward Shae Nelson, who all score nearly 46 points combined per game.
It should also be noted that ECU is in its last year in Conference USA, and will join the AAC next year, which is anchored by the Connecticut Huskies. With Payne, Trice, and Nelson back next year, while it’s safe to say that they probably won’t challenge for the conference championship, the Pirates still can figure to be among the better teams in the American next year as well.
That’s all I have on tonight’s Game of the Day. Which game or games do you intend on watching? Let us know in the comments below.