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John Scimeca

The Tulane men’s basketball season came to a disappointing conclusion last week with a 72-64 loss to UAB in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.

The Green Wave finished last place in the C-USA with a 15-16 (3-13) record. Head coach Ed Conroy completed his second season at the helm, marking a second consecutive campaign that was undermined by several key injuries.

After jumping out to 12-2 start to the season that was eerily reminiscent of Conroy’s first season, including winning its first nine contests, the Green Wave dropped its first four C-USA games in the wake of season-ending injuries to forward Kendall Timmons, a preseason C-USA second team selection, and 7-foot center Tomas Bruha.

Several positive developments took place during the 2011-12 season, despite the struggles during conference play and the sub-.500 mark. Conroy fielded a young squad, often playing lineups later in the season with three or four freshmen on the floor at the same time.

The emergence of freshman guard Ricky Tarrant was the most significant achievement for Tulane. The 6-foot-1 Alabama native was named first team All-Conference – the first Tulane player to do so since 1997 – after averaging 18.2 points per game in C-USA play. In addition, Tarrant was named C-USA Freshman of the Year. He averaged a total of 14.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 78.4 percent from the charity stripe for a young Green Wave squad.

Tarrant’s breakout performance came at an opportune time for Tulane when he scored 24 points by connecting on 6 of 7 shots from beyond the arc in a 57-52 win against Georgia Tech in December. The diaper dandy also scored 33 points in one game on two different occasions, an 80-74 win against SMU and an 81-73 setback to UAB.

Junior point guard Jordan Callahan and sophomore forward Josh Davis were the other bulwarks for the Green Wave on both ends of the floor. Davis, who sat out last year after transferring from N.C. State, finished his first season in a Tulane uniform with averages of 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. While igniting the offense, Callahan scored 11.8 points and dished out 2.2 assists per game. During the offseason Davis should improve some back-to-the-basket moves and rely less on his athleticism, as he did at times this season. For Callahan, improved decision-making, after tallying an unimpressive 1:1 assist to turnover ratio, will be a key facet to improve.

The Wave loses only scholarship senior, Trent Rogers, following this season. Rogers averaged 3.7 points and 2.2 assists per contest after helping Callahan direct Tulane’s backcourt in his fourth season.

Outside of its power trio, Green Wave had several freshmen play significant supporting roles in 2011-12, hoping to see increased playing time next fall. Guard Jay Hook showed flashes of brilliance, while post players Tre Drye and Lotanna Nwogbo will continue to jockey with each other to provide a strong defensive and complementary role to Bruha and Davis down low. Also, sophomore forward Kevin Thomas will try to keep his name in the mix with some more consistent and aggressive play.

In all, the Tulane men’s basketball program should not look at the 2011-12 season as a regression. Instead, key injuries at the onset of C-USA play forced Conroy to throw several unproven youngsters on the court, leading to an eight-game losing streak to conclude the season. Five of Tulane’s conference losses were decided by five points or less, including two overtime defeats, so developing the mental toughness to avoid costly turnovers and to make more clutch freethrows will be key for a program seeking to escape the cellar of Conference USA.