After a moderately successful road trip that saw Tulane 13-5 (4-2), lose a heartbreaker to Central Florida 9-8 (2-4) in triple overtime and close out a tough win over struggling Houston 7-10 (0-6), the Green Wave will head home with a chance to firmly establish themselves as contenders in the American Athletic Conference race. Their critical three-game homestand will consist of games against the other three teams currently in the top four of the AAC standings.
Tulane has begun to turn the corner in year five of Ed Conroy’s program, as they continue to discredit the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll, which picked the Wave to finish dead last. Last season’s workhorses, Jay Hook, Louis Dabney, and Jonathan Stark, despite some bumps in the road, have continued to carry the load. The impact that freshman newcomers Dylan Osetkowski and Keith Pinckney, and returner Kajon Mack, who missed all of last season due to injury, have made, however is undeniable. They’re still young (only Hook and Tre Drye are seniors), are still learning how to win, and might not be ready to secure a NCAA Tournament or NIT birth, but this season has been a pleasant surprise for Green Wave fans, who can look forward to continued improvement in 2015-2016.
In the more immediate future, however, Tulane begins their homestand against Larry Brown and SMU 14-4 (5-1) this Wednesday (1/21, 8:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network) at Devlin Fieldhouse. The Mustangs currently lead the conference in shooting percentage (49%), but will be without their third leading scorer, sophomore guard Keith Frazier, who was ruled academically ineligible late last week and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Frazier had played the second most minutes of any Mustang this season.
Tulane will then take on Memphis, 11-6 (4-2), this Saturday (1/24, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU) in the Smoothie King Center. Tulane made waves felt throughout the conference a few weeks ago by beating that same Memphis in the FedEx Forum, their first win against the program in any venue since February 9, 2000, snapping a 22-game losing streak against the Tigers. Memphis heads into this week riding a three-game win streak, having won all three games against conference opponents, by a combined margin of 51 points. In the teams’ last meeting, the Tigers made just 3 of 14 three-point attempts, 13 of 22 free throws, and turned the ball over 16 times. Forcing those turnovers may again be the key to victory for the Wave, and actually might not be as difficult as it sounds, since Memphis averages 15.3 per game (317th fewest in the nation out of 345 qualifiers).
Next Tuesday, Tulane returns to campus and hosts fellow AAC newcomer Tulsa 12-5 (5-0), who is currently alone atop the conference standings (1/27, 6:00 p.m., Devlin Fieldhouse, ESPNews). The Golden Hurricane’s run has been impressive thus far, knocking off the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies, and going into Philadelphia and beating Temple. Despite winning Conference USA last season, thereby making the NCAA Tournament, and starting off conference play with a 5-0 record this year, Tulsa is still searching for respect, as they’re unranked (and not even receiving votes) in both the AP and Coaches Poll. Before losing head coach Danny Manning to Wake Forest, Tulsa swept Tulane last season, winning 97-71 and 70-49. This meeting, however, figures to be different.
SMU 74 – Tulane 65
Memphis 68 – Tulane 60
Tulane 61 – Tulsa 58