The Tulane women have a tough road ahead of them with every team in Conference USA. Below are short summaries of each C-USA squad in the order in which they ranked in the conference preseason poll, beginning with No. 2 UTEP. Tulane was the preseason favorite:
The 12-1 Miners have been getting some national respect, garnering votes in both the AP and USA Today polls. They’re paced by junior forward Kayla Thornton, who is scoring at a 14.4 points per game clip and was named C-USA Player of the Week for Dec. 17.
The Blazers enter conference play at 9-4, including a deflating loss to Chattanooga in their most-recent contest. But junior forward Karisma Chapman has been outstanding for the Blazers, averaging 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
The Owls have proved comfortable at home, going 7-1 in Tudor Fieldhouse. But it’s been a different story when they hit the road, where they are just 1-4. So far, Rice has been strong on the boards but has developed turnover trouble.
After a sluggish 3-5 start, the Tigers have reeled off six straight victories, including wins over Seton Hall and Missouri. Memphis has been guided by red-hot forward Nicole Dickson, who has earned C-USA Player of the Week accolades twice in a row.
The Hurricane has struggled so far this season, entering C-USA play at 5-8. But Tulsa does have senior guard Taleya Mayberry, who paces the squad with 19.6 points and 4.0 assists a contest.
7. Southern Miss
The 8-5 Golden Eagles don’t face Tulane until March 3, but Southern Miss should be ready behind the backcourt duo of junior Jamierra Faulkner and senior Tanecka Carey, who each are averaging 17.2 points a game.
When the 9-4 Mustangs open conference play Thursday night against Tulane, they’ll be sporting a high-powered offense that’s averaging nearly 70 points a game and a plus-6.2 turnover margin.
9. CENTRAL FLORIDA
Although the Knights kick off C-USA play at 6-8 in nonconference contests, they’re still riding a three-game win streak thanks largely to the efforts of freshman Briahanna Jackson, who is average 15.3 points and 5.4 boards per contest.
There’s no easy way to say it: The Cougars had a miserable 2011-12 campaign, going 2-14 in conference and 3-26 overall. But things could be looking up for them; Houston already has doubled its win total from last year, and senior guard Porsche Landry leads the Cougars with nearly 17 points a game.
11. East Carolina
The Pirates compiled a 10-3 nonconference mark, but they’ve done it largely against fluff opponents. They’re shooting could be a weakness; while ECU has scored more than 67 points a game, it’s done so with a shooting percentage below .400, including .268 beyond the arc.
The Thundering Herd bring up the rear in the C-USA preseason poll and stand at 6-7 overall heading into conference contests. Scoring has been a problem for Marshall, which is averaging just 56.8 points a game, with sophomore guard Shay Weaver pacing the squad with 10.0 ppg.