Monday, October 29, 2001

Firstar keeps C-USA tourney

Deal finalized; ticket details to come

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CHICAGO — It's official: The 2002 Conference USA tournament will be at Firstar Center. The contract was finally signed Friday.

        “There hasn't been any doubt really,” commissioner Mike Slive said Sunday.

        After The Nederlander Co. LLC bought the facility through a bankruptcy auction in June, it did not accept the contract with the league, which included playing host to the 2004 C-USA tournament.

        Conference USA and Nederlander officials were confident throughout the summer than a new deal would be worked out. The league's men's basketball media guide lists Firstar as the site of the tournament.

        “We've reached an agreement that we expect to hold it there in 2004, but it also allows us both to look at it to make sure it's what we want to do,” Slive said.

        Ticket-buying procedures will be announced later.

        LOOKING SHARP: UC coach Bob Huggins showed up at Conference USA Media Day on Sunday wearing a tuxedo. That raised some eyebrows.

        “I had to rent it for Friday (when UC held its first Legion of Excellence Celebrating Academic Victories, a black-tie affair),” Huggins said. “I figured I'd get my money's worth. I didn't have to turn it in until Monday.”

        WELCOME: Texas Christian University and East Carolina are the newcomers to Conference USA, and that has created a busy summer for coaches as they try to learn about a new group of opponents.

        TCU coach Billy Tubbs said he and his staff read through all the preseason media guides and watched at least four game tapes of every C-USA team they are scheduled to play this year.

        “That takes a tremendous amount of time to really study those tapes,” Tubbs said. “How much that will pay off I couldn't really tell you. Seeing on tape's one thing, but there's no substitute for seeing it live. So as prepared as we're trying to be, I can't say we're as prepared as we'd like to be or should be. This is like changing jobs almost.”

        FAVORITE: The Bearcats have at least shared every C-USA regular-season title and have always been picked in the preseason to win the league.

        Now Memphis is the preseason favorite, which has both coaches playing up the other's team.

        Huggins said someone from the Seattle SuperSonics organization called asking for his top NBA prospects in the league. He told them to save time and just get a Memphis roster. “He's got four first-round picks,” Huggins said.

        Responded Memphis coach John Calipari: “You know what, Cincinnati is THE team to beat. This is like when we were at UMass (in the Atlantic 10). Until we beat Temple, it was their league. Right now, Cincinnati beat us twice. They were mentally and physically tougher, and they beat us twice. This is their league.”


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