By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
A late night in Tulsa is Marshall’s reward for what wasn’t supposed to be a sub-.500 season.
The Thundering Herd wound up with the No. 9 seed in the Conference USA Tournament that starts Wednesday in Tulsa, Okla. They will match up with No. 8 Tulane at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.
The season started with talk of a possible trip to the NCAA Tournament based on a talented roster and a schedule that provided opportunity for some signature wins. Instead, success never materialized.
Now, an improbable run to the tournament championship is Marshall’s only chance at playing postseason basketball for the fourth straight year.
The Herd’s attempt at that run will start in a familiar scenario. This will be the third time since 2006 that Marshall and Tulane have met in the first round in the 8-9 matchup. Tulane was eighth in ’06 and ninth in 2008, and won both times.
The teams met once in the regular season, with the Green Wave beating Marshall 91-75 Feb. 6 in New Orleans.
Marshall (13-18, 6-10) got a career-high 23 points from Elijah Pittman and double-doubles from DeAndre Kane and Dennis Tinnon — 14 points and 11 assists for Kane and 13 points and 12 rebounds for Tinnon.
The Herd closed out the regular season Saturday with an 86-79 loss at East Carolina, while Tulane (18-13, 6-10) lost a 96-94 heartbreaker to Houston.
Other first-round games Wednesday are No. 7 UAB vs. No. 10 SMU at 4:30 p.m. and No. 6 Houston vs. No. 11 Rice at 7 p.m.
The quarterfinal games are set for Thursday, including No. 1 Memphis awaiting the Marshall/Tulane winner at 7 p.m., and No. 4 ECU meeting No. 5 and tournament host Tulsa at 9:30 p.m. Both ECU and Tulsa received first-round byes because UCF, which was third in the regular season, is ineligible for the postseason.
All quarterfinal and semifinal games will air on CBS Sports Network.
The championship game will be played at 11:35 a.m. Saturday and broadcast nationally on CBS.