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Herd getting short end of bench battles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- WHEN DEANDRE Kane cramped up and left the game with 13:06 left in Marshall's 71-59 loss to Memphis Saturday night, it was his first trip to the bench in 207 minutes, 54 seconds.

He had last ridden the proverbial pine in the final 1:18 of the first half against Southern Methodist, a 68-57 loss on Jan. 30. The junior from Pittsburgh played all 40 minutes in the previous four games.

It reminds me of the time that, after Kane scored 40 points in 54 minutes in the Herd's triple-overtime win over Tulsa last March, Herrion looked at him and said, "You can't bitch about minutes no more, son."

No, he can't, and neither can his fellow starters. Kane, Dennis Tinnon, Nigel Spikes, D.D. Scarver, Elijah Pittman and second big man Robert Goff combined for 174 of 200 possible minutes in the Memphis game.

That leaves 26 for the rest of the bench, which seems to get shorter by the game. DeVince Boykins gobbled up 18 of those, Tamron Manning eight and Jamir Hanner not enough to register an official minute.

Goff, as spotty as his play can be, will get his time. Spikes can't play all 40 and big men pick up fouls. That's the way it is.

But Yous Mbao? He has played 15 minutes in four C-USA games, with 11 "did not plays." JP Kambola has 11 minutes in league play, with the same number of DNPs.

Elsewhere on the roster, Hanner's time has taken a dive in the last five games, to 18 minutes total. Chris Martin has played 12 minutes over the last seven games, sitting out four completely.

Manning has gone the other direction, playing 42 minutes the last three games. He essentially comes in at point guard, giving a Kane a "rest" over at the "two." Manning showed confidence Saturday with a driving layup, but committed three turnovers.

I think Herrion is trying to give Boykins a larger role, but the redshirt freshman hasn't brought much offensively. Against Memphis, he had a rebound, missed a 3-pointer and committed an ugly turnover trying to drive on the Tigers' defense.

All told, the Herd's bench scored six points, and that's with Goff scoring four. By comparison, Memphis reserves scored 19 points, led by Ferrakohn Hall's eight.

You look at all the Memphis teams in the past eight seasons, and that's a common theme. Somebody is going to have a big game off the bench - Marshall also has been victimized by Rodney Carney, Robert Dozier, Jeremy Hunt, Doneal Mack, Shawn Taggart, Roburt Sallie, Will Coleman, Chris Crawford and Wesley Witherspoon.

On a Marshall team that has scored 42 bench points in the last six games, who would step up like that?

Kane and his fellow starters must carry the load.

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  • Conference USA's next realignment doesn't officially take shape until July 1, but the wheels are spinning in that direction.

    Commissioner Britton Banowsky paid a visit to Nashville last week to chat with officials from nearby Middle Tennessee State, one of the most enthusiastic newcomers. Several ideas were discussed, but the most encouraging was getting that city into the basketball tournament rotation.

    It seems that Nashville, 30 miles northwest of MTSU's Murfreesboro campus, is a site on par or better than Memphis, which hosted C-USA's tournament eight times in 16 seasons. This much is certain: Nashville is 200 miles closer to most Herd fans.

    The Southeastern Conference and the NCAA have made their endorsement. The upcoming SEC tournament is being played at Bridgestone Arena, as are the 2015, 2016 and 2019 versions. The NCAA is playing the Women's Final Four there in 2014.

    That leaves 2017 open, as Banowsky was quick to point out. 2018, too. If the NHL's Nashville Predators can be accommodated and MTSU is ready to serve as host school, I don't see many roadblocks.

    I am hoping the folks at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte understand they have the same opportunity, perhaps in 2016. (The ultra-popular Atlantic Coast Conference tournament is scheduled to run in Greensboro from 2013-15. You avoid that monster.)

    After this year's C-USA tourney in Tulsa, it heads back out to El Paso for 2014. It will be great to bring it East, be it Nashville, Charlotte or south Florida, etc.

    Shoot, maybe Birmingham could wake up one year and bid for the thing. Probably not, but one can dream.

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  • Getting to El Paso in '14 is half the fun, but here is the other half to consider: C-USA will have a 16-team league. There poses a format dilemma.

    Do you bring all 16 teams, men and women? Do what the Big East does, complete with the infamous "double bye" for the top four teams? Or do you just take the top 12, leaving four teams at home? Do you then make teams, fans and media gamble on non-refundable airfare?

    For the record, C-USA has never taken more than 12 teams to its tournament, even when it had 14 basketball teams from 2001-05. But consider this: Exactly five schools from the 2004-05 lineup will be in the league in 2013-14, including returning Charlotte.

    And only two athletic directors from then are still around: Judy Rose of Charlotte and Rick Dickson of Tulane (Mike Hamrick left East Carolina in 2003).

    So there isn't a clear precedent, as there isn't on several other issues. Stay tuned.

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  • And finally, a golf item.

    With the PGA Tour finishing its West Coast swing, we're still a looooooooooooong way away from the Greenbrier Classic, 41/2 months. It's too way too early to get a handle on the big names who will show up.

    Webb Simpson is a very good bet, for he is now an ambassador for the resort, and a very good choice.

    The 2012 U.S. Open winner made the Classic his final stop before wife Dowd gave birth to their second child. It's an easy drive from his Charlotte, N.C., residence and he simply loves coming here.

    Ranked fifth in the world entering the week, he had a great look at the championship until the back nine of the final day. He struggled to read the subtly changing greens, pulled his drive on No. 13 into the creek and settled for a 73 and a tie for seventh.

    Sunday at the Northern Trust Open near Los Angeles, Simpson tied for sixth, his best finish in five starts in this young season. Just warming up, right?

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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