What do you know? Another crazy week in Conference USA sent the power rankings into a shift as both the top teams lost. Others like ECU and SMU continue to improve, and bolted up the conference standings, while Southern Miss, who had been struggling, finds themselves a mere half game back of first place. UCF, on the other hand, continues to struggle, and now finds themselves at 1-6 in conference and all alone in last place. There is still about half the conference slate left in the season, so these power rankings are sure to change time and time again, but here are this week's Conference USA Power Rankings.
1. UAB Blazers (15-5, 5-2) RPI: 35
The Blazers find themselves in the top spot by default this week. They are undoubtedly one of the top and most talented teams in the league, but they are here only because of the losses by Memphis and UTEP on Saturday. The Blazers won against Marshall, and at UCF last week, and now finds themselves in a three way tie for first with Memphis and UTEP.
2. UTEP Miners (17-5, 5-2) RPI: 64
The Miners have been knocked from their perch atop Conference USA after their 69-68 loss at Tulsa. They come in second this week as both of the Miners losses have been by last second shots on the road. A couple balls bounce their way, and they could easily be 7-0.
3. Memphis Tigers (16-5, 5-2) RPI: 36
The Tigers seemed to be back on the right track after winning four straight conference contests. Then came the trip to Huntington, WV. The Tigers were completely dominated from start to finish, and ended up getting dropped by 15. They have a couple of tough games this week, and will need to win them to stay around the top of the power rankings.
4. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (16-5, 5-3) RPI: 67
The Golden Eagles found a little life last week winning both its contests, after they had dropped their previous two. It wasn't exactly the stiffest of competition, but they did win at ECU, and took care of business at home against Tulane. The Golden Eagles find themselves only a half game out of first place, but its time to really find out what their made of as the next four contests bring road games against UAB and Memphis, and home against against Marshall and UTEP.
5. East Carolina Pirates (12-9, 4-3) RPI: 108
The Pirates have been my sleeper team for a couple of weeks now, and they find themselves creeping up on that top 100 RPI. They are only a game out of first place and go to SMU this week, before returning home to face UCF. If they take care of business they might find themselves moving a little further up this list.
6. SMU Mustangs (13-8, 4-3) RPI: 213
I'm still not completely sold on the Mustangs, and for me their RPI says it all. However, they have won three in a row, and deserve to at least be here in sixth. They have ECU and Tulane this week so they can surely stake their claim as a possible contender if they win both of those contests.
7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (11-10, 4-3) RPI: 119
Some might make the claim that the Golden Hurricane deserve to be higher on this list, but the fact is that they are just to inconsistent. The home loss to SMU, and win over UTEP last week shows exactly that. Still the Golden Hurricane are only a game out of first place, and can contend if they can get things together.
8. Marshall Thundering Herd (14-7, 2-4) RPI: 63
Although hopes weren't too high in Huntington prior to the season, the Thundering Herd has to be the biggest disappointment in Conference USA. Ok I take that back. UCF is. Regardless, these guys blow out Southern Miss by 30, lose to Memphis by 16, take out WVU on a neutral court, lose to ECU at home, and then beat Memphis at home by 15. They are the epitome of inconsistent. They should be higher up this list, but you still have to win games.
9. Houston Cougars (11-9, 3-4) RPI: 196
Two week ago the Cougars seemed like they may make a run at the C-USA title. However, after three straight losses that is very unlikely. The Cougars lost at Rice in overtime, and at ECU by four. They've been in some close games, but unfortunately that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
10. Rice Owls (10-11, 2-5) RPI: 182
Some may think that Rice deserves to be ahead of Houston, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Owls did pick up a win against the Cougars, but they are still under .500 and 2-5 in conference. This is an extremely dangerous team though, and will have its opportunities to move itself up this list.
11. Tulane Green Wave (12-8, 2-5) RPI: 202
At this point, the Green Wave seem more like a ripple as their slide continues. They have lost 5 straight and host Rice and UAB this week. If they don't pick up one of these two wins, they might find themselves back in last place in the power rankings, and this time they will surely deserve it.
12. Central Florida Knights (14-6, 1-6) RPI: 74
The Knights season has gone from great, to good, to bad, really bad, to sad in a matter of three weeks. From 14-0 to 14-6. I don't think anyone really knows just what the heck is going on in Orlando. Up next are a couple of road games at UTEP who will be looking to get back on track after their loss, and at ECU who seems to be finding some kind of groove. This could get even uglier, but amazingly this team is still no. 74 in the RPI! Truth is, if they could get things turned around, they could still make the NCAA tournament. Not likely though.
What a year for Conference USA. Already about half way through, and 7 teams are still within a game of first place. Six teams are currently inside the RPI top 75, two more may soon crack the top 100, and the bottom two teams are working their way into the top 200 RPI. Simply put, this is the most well rounded this conference has been since the 2005 expansion. Its a shame that it doesn't get more notoriety on the national level. I guess there's still time for that. Just have to keep playing basketball, and win as many games as you can.