Mid Major Top 10: Counting Down Conference USA's Best Players

Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Continuing the series of the best 10 players in each conference for the coming season, we turn to Conference USA. With Memphis and Houston leading the way, who has the best players taking the floor?

In continuing on with Mid-Major Madness' top 10 countdown series, it's time to take a look at the best players that Conference USA has to offer. Gone from the league's 2011-12 first team All-Conference list are Memphis' Will Barton (POY), Tulsa's Jordan Clarkson, and UAB's Cameron Moore, but there's still plenty of talent to go around.

Before we get started with the countdown, I'll add this disclaimer: This list is not completely subjective. The top five statistical categories (Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks) for what were deemed the top 20 players in the league were analyzed, and a points system was put into place to give a ranking to each of those players.

Those rankings were used to get a general idea of where each player fell statistically, and from there, the subjectivity of such a list took over. Also, in order to even out the playing field, the players' averages were modified in order to reflect a 40 minute average, instead of just using their regular per game average.

In addition to the list, we'll give a couple names for honorable mention, and a few freshman to look out for in 2012-13. Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Players in Conference USA. Enjoy.

10. Neil Watson (JR) - Southern Miss. - 16.30 PPG - 3.40 RPG - 5.83 APG

As a sophomore, Watson led his Golden Eagles in both scoring and assists on his way to garnering All Conference USA Second Team honors, as well as being named the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year, and the Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year. In 2011-12, the 5-11 guard from Kansas city had highs in points (27) against Houston, and assists (11) against Ole Miss. He also helped take his team to the NCAA tournament where they fell against No. 8-seeded Kansas State.

9. Tarik Black (JR) - Memphis - 16.72 PPG - 7.66 RPG - 0.31 APG

Black has been a force to reckoned with since he came into the league in 2010-11. Last year, he had highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds, both against UTEP, but on separate occasions. Black scored in double figures in 18 contests, all while averaging only 25.6 minutes a game. Perhaps his best stat though, is his ridiculous 68.9 percent FG percentage. If he can bring his free throw percentage (59.4%), at least into the mid to high 60's, his PPG will certainly make a jump.

8. Kendall Timmons - Tulane - 17.22 PPG - 6.58 RPG - 2.66 APG

Although Timmons only made it through about half the season before getting injured, he is undoubtedly a great talent. He, along with freshman of the year Ricky Turrant, worked well together, but it's yet to be seen exactly how things will go when both are on the court for a full season. On the season, Timmons shot better than 46 percent from the field, and better than 47 percent from 3-point land, and he scored in double figures in 12 of his 16 games.

7. Joe Jackson (JR) - Memphis - 16.36 PPG - 3.27 RPG - 5.80 APG

Without Conference USA Player of the Year Will Barton around anymore, Joe Jackson will likely be one to pick up some of the slack. Even while playing in the shadow of Barton, his numbers were already good, but now in his third year, and as the true leader for the Tigers, I'd expect his production to continue to increase. In 2011-12, Jackson scored more than 20 points on 5 occasions, and also had a career high with 10 helpers against UCF.

6. John Bohannon (JR) - UTEP - 17.36 PPG - 11.02 RPG - 2.26 APG

Bohannon now enters his third year with the Miners, and has developed a great post game over his first two. His footwork is second to none in the paint, and he's got great hands as well. As a sophomore, his points and rebound averages nearly doubled from his freshman year, and if he can continue to improve upon those numbers, he will no doubt be first team All C-USA at season's end. Last year, Bohannon had six double-doubles, and also missed out on two more by just one rebound.

5. Ricky Tarrant (SO) - Tulane - 18.01 PPG - 4.35 RPG - 3.99 APG

Tarrant exploded onto the scene in 2011-12, and although he was fairly consistent all season, his numbers saw an increase after the Green Wave lost star forward Kendall Timmons to injury. Tarrant had nine games in which he scored more than 20 points, and he notched his career high with 33 twice, against SMU and at UAB. With Timmons back in 2012-13, Tarrant's numbers will likely take a bit of a hit, but still, expect this guy to be in the conversation for first team All C-USA. Again.

4. Keith Clanton (SR) - UCF - 17.63 PPG - 9.85 RPG - 2.20 APG

Clanton was recently rumored to be considering a transfer after UCF lost its privileges of postseason play due recruiting infractions. But, he silenced those rumors as he committed to see his senior year through with the Knights. Still though, the Knights have now lost three players from last year's squad, and will need to find a way to make up for those losses in hurry. Most of that will likely fall on Clanton. Last year he scored in double figures in all but six contests, including eight games with more than 20 points, and a high of 28 coming against College of Charleston. Clanton also posted eight double-doubles on the year.

3. Miguel Paul (SR) - ECU - 19.30 PPG - 2.54 RPG - 7.50 APG

Paul might have been the most under appreciated player in the league last year. His Pirates finished near the bottom of the league, and thus he wasn't exactly hyped. But, the Missouri transfer's numbers were near the top of the league in multiple categories. He finished fifth in scoring, first in assists, and third in assist-to-turnover ratio. Now, after the graduation of Darrius Morrow, Paul will need to find a way to become even more productive than last year if his team is going to have a successful season. Expect Paul to be a C-USA first teamer.

2. Arsalan Kazemi (SR) - Rice - 16.46 PPG - 14.01 RPG - 2.86 APG

Considering he's not the most dynamic player in the leauge, some people might consider this to be too high of a ranking for him. But, being dynamic doesn't always mean you're the best player. Kazemi gets the job done not only in points, rebounds, and assists, but he also averages 1.36 blocks and 2.86 steals per 40 minutes of playing time. In 2011-12, Kazemi put up 18 double-doubles. Make no mistake, he is the best power forward in Conference USA.

1. DeAndre Kane (JR) - Marshall - 19.41 PPG - 6.35 RPG - 4.12 APG

Last year Kane was a second team All C-USA selection, but he also happens to be the leading scorer of all returning players in the league. Add to that, his balance of rebounding and assists, and you've got yourself the all around player. The one knock on Kane is his ability to shoot the ball. While his shooting percentage is OK at a tad over 41 percent, his FT% (59.9%) and 3-point percentage numbers (25%) just aren't on par for a guard. Still, he finds ways to get it done, and he gets it done in more ways than one. If he can manage to bring up those FT and 3-point averages, Kane just might be the C-USA Player of the Year.

HONORABLE MENTION

HM - TaShawn Thomas (SO) - Houston - 15.12 PPG - 11.63 RPG - 1.56 APG

Thomas was an athletic freshman last year on a squad that featured three highly touted youngsters. And, while he wasn't the most talked about of the group, his numbers show just how much of an asset he was. Houston brings in another solid recruiting class this year, and that could affect Thomas' numbers, but considering the Cougars lost guys like Jonthan Simmons (NBA) and Alandise Harris (Transfer - Arkansas), I'd expect his numbers to increase. Also of note: Thomas averaged nearly 3 blocks and more than 1 steal per 40 minutes of action.

HM - Adonis Thomas (SO) - Memphis - 14.73 PPG - 5.36 RPG - 1.34 APG

Many people are probably wondering where Adonis Thomas was on the top 10 list. And to be honest, he just doesn't belong there. Yes, Thomas was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, and is a very talented player, but your game on the court has to be what proves yourself when talking about a list like this. When it came down to it, Thomas was last in scoring among the 13 "finalists" for this list, and he was 8th in rebounding, and 12th in assists. Will Thomas be a top 10 player at the end of this season? Very possibly, but right now, its not justified.

FRESHMEN TO WATCH OUT FOR

Shaq Goodwin - Power Forward - Memphis

Damien Wilson - Small Forward - Memphis

Danuel House - Small Forward - Houston

Danrad Knowles - Power Forward - Houston

Twymond Howard - Guard/Forward - UTEP

Blaise Mbargorba - Center - SMU

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