LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Led by the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year selection Francisco Garcia Louisville is the men's basketball coaches' preseason favorite for the second straight year to win the 2004-05 C-USA regular-season crown.
Garcia, a 2003-04 C-USA All-Conference First Team selection and the 2002-03 C-USA Freshman of the Year, is Louisville's top returning scorer (16.4 ppg) and assist man (4.68 apg). Garcia became only the 15th player in the Cardinals' storied history to score at least 800 points in their first two years.
Garcia makes his second consecutive appearance on the preseason squad, along with senior guard Travis Diener of Marquette. Diener was a First Team All-Conference pick last season after averaging a Conference-best 18.8 points and 6.03 assists per game, while shooting 88 percent from the charity stripe and 45 percent from three-point range.
Two other 2003-04 All-Conference First Team selections, Memphis sophomore Sean Banks and Charlotte junior Curtis Withers, also received a nod on the preseason team. Banks was the 2003-04 C-USA Freshman of the Year, ranking second in the league with 17.4 points per game and first in Conference games with a 20.3 ppg average. Withers is the Conference's top returning rebounder, averaging 9.5 per game, and posted 16 double-doubles (the NCAA's fourth-best total).
Rounding out the 2004-05 Conference USA Preseason All-Conference Team is Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell, who led the Bearcats in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (6.9) last season, while shooting 50 percent from the field. This is the 6-7 forward's third consecutive selection to the preseason all-conference team. All five members of the C-USA Preseason All-Conference team are also on the preseason watch list for the 2005 John R. Wooden Award.
Memphis and Cincinnati ranked second and third, respectively, in the coaches poll. Charlotte came in fourth, followed by UAB and DePaul. Marquette and Saint Louis, who both earned postseason bids to the NIT, rated seventh and eighth. TCU is hoping to get over the .500 mark and was selected ninth by the coaches. Southern Miss was picked 10th, followed by East Carolina, Tulane, Houston and USF.
Last season, Conference USA produced a league-record six NCAA Tournament teams, with UAB advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Additionally, two teams participated in the National Invitation Tournament.
Memphis will serve as host city for the 2005 Conference USA Tournament, March 9-12 at the new state-of-the-art FedEx Forum. The first round and quarterfinal games will be carried on ESPN2 and ESPN Plus, while the semifinals will be carried on ESPN. The championship game is slated for Saturday, March 12 at 11:45 a.m. EST on CBS.
2004-05 CONFERENCE USA COACHES PRESEASON POLL
1.Louisville (11) 192
2. Memphis (2) 172
3. Cincinnati (1) 171
4. Charlotte 148
5. UAB 136
6. DePaul 122
7. Marquette 120
8. Saint Louis 93
9. TCU 88
10. Southern Miss 65
11. East Carolina 55
12. Tulane 41
13. Houston 29
14. USF 25
(#) designates first place votes
PRESEASON ALL-LEAGUE TEAM*
Francisco Garcia, Louisville, F, 6-7, Jr., Bronx, N.Y.
Sean Banks, Memphis, F, 6-8, So., Oradell, N.J.
Travis Diener, Marquette, G, 6-1, Sr., Fond du Lac, Wis.
Jason Maxiell, Cincinnati, F, 6-7, Sr., Carrollton, Texas
Curtis Withers, Charlotte, F, 6-8, Jr., Charlotte, N.C.
* - Preseason Player of the Year