Here we are in the third week of February, and finally the conference standings are starting to clear up a bit. UTEP (7-2) sits percentage points ahead of UAB (8-3), and Memphis (7-3) is the only other team with only three losses. Southern Miss (7-4), SMU (6-4), and Tulsa (6-4) are certainly still in the running, but all need very strong finishes, along with help from others, in order to be any serious threat of taking the conference crown. Here are this week's Conference USA Power Rankings.
12.) Tulane Green Wave (12-12, 2-9) RPI: 225
The Green Wave check in again in last place in conference after another winless week. Tulane dropped contests at SMU, and at Houston, and now have the worst conference mark at 2-9. The Wave have also extended their losing streak to nine games now. This week brings home games against UCF, and Marshall which could be a good thing or a bad thing. Both of those teams have had their fair share of inconsistency, so we could see Tulane pick up a couple wins, or we could see their losing streak grow to 11.
11.) Rice Owls (11-13, 3-7) RPI: 166
The Owls have been competitive all season long, but have just not been able to gain any real momentum. The Owls only played one game last week, a 64-58 loss at UAB. Even though they have the head to head win over UCF, the Owls drop into 11th position after a couple weeks in 10th. This week the Owls travel to Marshall, then come home to face Memphis. Could be a real tough week in Houston.
10.) UCF Knights (15-8, 2-8) RPI: 81
The Knights had been trying to break out of their slump for weeks now, losing close ones against Memphis, ECU, and UAB in their last three. They finally got that win knocking off Tulsa at home on Saturday 58-57. They are better than their record and power ranking suggest, but their youth caused them a lot trouble for about month there. Next up are road games at Tulane, and UAB so we'll find out if their win was a fluke, or if they are really ready to get back on the winning track.
9.) Houston Cougars (12-11, 4-6) RPI: 206
The Cougars finally broke their five game skid with a win over Tulane last week. They may be 4-6 in conference, but 5 of those losses have either come by 5 points or less, or in OT. They will continue to compete, and will definitely give teams problems. This week Houston is at home against SMU, then on the road at UTEP. If they're not careful, they could easily drop both of these games.
8.) East Carolina Pirates (13-11, 5-5) RPI: 131
The Pirates dropped their only contest last week, a 78-65 decision against Marshall. The score doesn't seem that bad, but in all reality the Pirates got handled on their home court. They are another team that had dropped a lot of close decisions, and will definitely continue to pose problems for opposing teams, but they could be in the middle of a losing streak here. This week they go to Tulsa, and to Southern Miss. I'd look for the Pirates to check in at 5-7 after these games.
7.) Marshall Thundering Herd (16-9, 4-6) RPI: 67
Another week of inconsistent play from the Thundering Herd. You just never know which team is coming out of the locker room. Last week they lost by 16 at home to UAB, then went on the road, and were up more than 20 on ECU before winning by 13. This week brings a home game against Rice on Wednesday, before a road trip to New Orleans to take on the Green Wave on Saturday. Maybe, just maybe the Herd can find a way to string a couple of wins together.
6.) Tulsa Golden Hurricane (13-11, 6-4) RPI: 94
Tulsa only played a single game last week, but that just happened to be the one that let UCF off its 8 game losing skid. The Golden Hurricane lost 58-57 in Orlando on Saturday. They had won three in a row prior to that, including over Memphis and UTEP. They'll need to find a way to back on track this week, and with a home game against ECU, and a road game against SMU, they may just be able to do that.
5.) SMU Mustangs (15-9, 6-4) RPI: 196
The Mustangs' RPI does them absolutely no justice at all. They had won five in a row before losing by ten at UTEP on Saturday, a game in which they led for about 25-30 minutes. The Mustangs are playing some good basketball, and Papa Dia is a solid force on the inside. This week brings a road game at Houston, and a home game against Tulsa. The Mustangs could very well be 8-4 in conference heading into next week.
4.) Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (18-6, 7-4) RPI: 44
This is where things get a little tough. All four teams from here on out are completely interchangeable when ranking. The Golden Eagles only played one game last week, a 67-61 loss at Memphis. That was a real good game, until Gary Flowers fouled out on a questionable call. This week brings two home games, a huge matchup with UTEP on Wednesday, before a date with ECU on Saturday. We'll know a lot more about the conference race after that Wednesday game.
3.) UAB Blazers (18-6, 8-3) RPI: 32
The Blazers took care of business last week, taking care of Marshall on the road, and Rice at home. They have now won three in a row, and are right in the thick of things in the Conference USA race. This week the Blazers get a rematch with Memphis in the FedEx forum, before returning home to take on a possibly resurgent UCF squad. The Blazers currently have the best numbers, and possibly even resume of any team in C-USA, but they'll need to pick up a couple of wins to keep it that way.
2.) Memphis Tigers (19-6, 7-3) RPI: 35
The Tigers are an extremely talented team, and in some people's eyes are probably the best team in C-USA. They are just young, and are still trying to find their groove. The Tigers won a couple of close games last week, at UCF, and at home against Southern Miss. This week they will take on UAB at home, before taking a trip to take on a dangerous Rice team. If they are the best team, we'll know after the next two weeks.
1.) UTEP Miners (19-5, 7-2) RPI: 53
The Miners check in, once again, as the best team in Conference USA. Last week, the Miners had their first break on the national scene picking up a few votes in each of the major polls. This week, the coaches felt the same, rewarding the Miners with 8 votes (good enough for 30th place), while the AP apparently saw something different as the Miners received no votes in that poll. The Miners only had one game last week, winning a 67-57 decision at home against SMU. This week they will travel to Hattiesburg for one of the biggest games of the season, before coming home to take on a Houston team that always brings their best against us. The scary thing is, the Miners aren't even playing their best ball. If they can get there, look out.
There are some real big games in conference this week as UTEP travels to Southern Miss, and UAB takes on Memphis in the forum. Things may get cleared up a little more, or they may just get more jumbled. We'll have to wait and see.