It’s that time of the year again for men’s college hoops fanatics. The calendar rolls over from January to February, and with that roll over comes the heart of the conference schedules. The top teams aim to touch up their résumés, while bubble teams look for a key victory to put them over the top. Let’s take a look at how the season has unfolded thus far and what is next for some of the teams that are dear to the hearts of Houston residents…
Record as of 1/29: 4-15, 0-5 in Conference Play (Last in C-USA)
Key Wins: Any win is a key win for a team that only has 4 of them
Bad Losses: Too many to list
Season To Date: For head coach Ben Braun and the Rice Owls, this has been a season to forget. The departure of their best player, Arselan Kazemi, to Oregon was a sign of things to come for this year’s campaign. Kazemi was a double-double machine for Rice and has picked up right where he left off with his new team, as the Ducks are into the top 10 rankings nationally. Rice is just too undermanned to contend with the cream of the crop in Conference USA. They rank near the bottom of the NCAA in almost every offensive category, managing only 59 points per game. Tamir Jackson has been a bright spot for a struggling team. His 16 points and 6 rebounds a game are tops for both categories for the Owls. Another reason for hope in the future has been the play from freshman guard, Max Guercy. Guercy has earned top freshman honors in C-USA on more than one occasion.
Looking ahead: Jan. 30th VS Houston; Feb. 9th VS. SMU; Feb 16th AT UAB
Analysis: Getting a win against the in-city rival, at home, would go a long way to burdening the blow of this rough season for Owl faithful. The SMU and UAB games are a great opportunity for Rice to climb out of the C-USA cellar. Without those wins, it could be a tough uphill climb.
*UPDATE*: Rice pulled off the upset special last night and got their first conference win of the season, knocking off cross-town rival Houston 79-69. Max Guercy was excellent for the Owls. He put in 21 points on 7-9 from the field. It took some time to get the first W in C-USA play, but what better way to get it than to knock off a rival. Tamir Jackson chipped in 18 points and 6 rebounds in the victory.
Team MVP so far: Tamir Jackson…Without Jackson it may not be much of a stretch to say Rice could be winless. He has two double-doubles in two wins, and a pair of 20-point outings in the other two wins. He has been the one consistent option for Ben Braun and company in a year filled with inconsistency.
Player to watch: Max Guercy….Guercy is not exactly someone who is going to strike in fear in opponents by his physical stature. He stands 5 foot 9 inches and earned every inch of that height listing. The freshman plays much larger than his tiny frame though. He has reached double-figure scoring in 8 games this year, including each of the last 4. All roads to Rice’s growth as a program continuing lead through Guercy.