By Jeff Goodman
HUNTINGTON, West Va. - This Marshall team could be dangerous in the NCAA tournament -- if the Thundering Herd manage to get there.
Coach Tom Herrion has a strong and fearless wing who can score the ball in DeAndre Kane, one of the nation's top rebounders in Dennis Tinnon, an experienced point guard in Damier Pitts, seemingly endless length and size up front and no shortage of role guys.
These guys can give Memphis a run for the league title.
In fact, these guys may just be the favorites in C-USA with Josh Pastner's Tigers struggling as much as they did in the non-conference slate.
"We've been waiting for four years," Pitts said after Marshall pulled out a 65-64 win over Central Florida on Saturday night. "We've gotten a lot of hype, but people are still talking about Memphis. We feel like we're the ones with the upper hand."
"I think we can play against a lot of teams in the country," added Thundering Herd coach Tom Herrion. "Obviously, Memphis is really talented and were picked to win the league. But I think we match-up relatively well with them."
Marshall improved to 4-0 in the league with the win over Central Florida and former Thundering Herd coach Donnie Jones. Next up for Tom Herrion's team is a neutral-site matchup Wednesday in Charleston against West Virginia. The first showdown with Memphis comes on Jan. 28.
This is a Thundering Herd team that knocked off Cincinnati on the road back in November, pummeled Iona - and played Syracuse tough in the Carrier Dome. It's also a team that has lost to Ohio and Akron -- and split with Belmont. That means Marshall probably needs to either win the C-USA tournament or finish in the top two in the regular-season -- and lost in the league tournament title game.
"Our margin for error is so thin," Herrion said after the win. "You've got to protect your home court."
That's exactly what happened on Saturday in front of 8,379 fans that made the Cam Henderson Center one of the better environments I've been to in the last few years.
"Crazy," was how Kane described the home crowd. "Bananas."
He's right and Kane may have been too amped up as he struggled early. However, he made up for it down the stretch, culminating with a pair of free throws with 14.5 seconds left that proved to be the game-winner.
"No pressure," a confident, almost cocky Kane said after the victory. "It was good all along."