John E. Hoover: Strong finish to season would boost TU and Danny Manning
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 7:01 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog.Original Print Headline: Strong finish would boost Manning, TU
TULSA HAS REACHED a point in its basketball season where success should be expected.
Coach Danny Manning certainly believes that.
The Golden Hurricane goes into Saturday's game against Tulane - 3 p.m. at the Reynolds Center - with a strong opportunity to secure what by all accounts would be a magnificent first season under Manning.
TU is 14-13 overall and 6-7 in Conference USA. Beat the Green Wave (18-10, 6-7), then close out the regular season next week with wins over next-to-last-place SMU and last-place Rice and Tulsa enters the C-USA Tournament with 17 wins.
TU likely won't get one of the first-round byes, but a victory or two at the BOK Center, maybe even three, wouldn't be out of the question.
From there, it's on to the NIT.
March Madness, indeed.
Four months ago, not many outside 11th and Harvard thought that was possible.
Alas, the cart has gotten ahead of the horse - or, the columnist has gotten ahead of the team.
But that's OK. Manning has been so unexpectedly successful this season because he seems to have mastered the undervalued art of getting his team to put its focus on the here and now, not on the NIT or the C-USA Tournament or even on SMU or Rice.
Who has done a better coaching job in C-USA this year than Manning and his staff?
Tulsa was a consensus pick to finish ninth in the league standings - the Golden Hurricane may well end up there - but currently sits tied for sixth with an outside chance at fourth and a reasonable shot at a tie for fifth.
East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo makes a good case for C-USA coach of the year. The Pirates were picked 10th in the preseason and currently sit fifth. If not Lebo, Memphis' Josh Pastner obviously gets major consideration. Even though the Tigers were unanimous picks to win C-USA, Pastner's club is unbeaten in league play going into its last three games.
But Manning may have outperformed them both.
Lebo has two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore in his starting five, all with abundant Division I experience. Pastner, as usual at Memphis, has elite talent on the floor and on the bench.
Manning has had no such luxuries. He has two freshmen in his starting five, three more coming off the bench, and has achieved modest success with but one player taller than 6-foot-8.
Manning has just 11 scholarship players, but hasn't had all 11 available for a game yet this season. Seven players have missed a total of 56 games, and five contributors have missed significant stretches of the schedule.
Bottom line, Saturday is a big game for Manning and for Tulsa.
Tulane won the previous meeting 75-72 in New Orleans back on Jan. 19. TU has lost two in a row, but can get things right again with a victory on Saturday.
A lively crowd should help. It's "Legends Day," and past Golden Hurricane players like Willie Biles, Eric Coley and Tony Heard will be courtside.
Such names stir a familiar sentiment about TU basketball: success is more than possible, it's expected.
Tulsa head coach Danny Manning and the Golden Hurricane could get to the NIT with a few more wins. ERIK CAMPOS/For the Tulsa World