Finally, a little separation in the Conference USA title chase. One game that is. UAB currently holds sole possession of first place at 10-4, followed by UTEP, Memphis, Southern Miss, and Tulsa all at 9-5. There's only one week left in the regular season so each game is of extreme importance. There is no room for error at this point. We'll see where this week takes us, but for now here are this week's Conference USA Power Rankings.
12.) Tulane Green Wave (12-15, 2-12) RPI: 244
The Green Wave have just been unable to get themselves out from the bottom of the conference. They've been competitive all season, but have been unable to find a win in 12 straight attempts. Last week saw the Green Wave drop a tough one in overtime against Marshall, and a close one at Tulsa as well. The Wave finish up the season with a home game against Houston, and a road game against Memphis. Maybe they can pull one out before its all said and done.
11.) Houston Cougars (12-15, 4-10) RPI: 219
At one point this season the Cougars were caught in all the chaos at the top of the league, but the young team has since lost 9 of 10. Last week the Cougars dropped games at Memphis, 69-58, and at UAB, 68-55. Up this week is a road trip to Tulane, then a season ending home game against Rice. These guys definitely have a chance to end the season on a high note.
10.) Rice Owls (12-16, 4-10) RPI: 186
The Owls, behind star F Arsalan Kazemi, were competitive all season long. Out of their 16 losses, 12 were decided by less than 10 points. Last week they dropped a tough one in overtime at SMU, and also a three point heart breaker at home against ECU. They'll finish up the season with a home game against Tulsa, and then a road to trip to Houston. Look out for this team in the C-USA tourney, they'll be looking to play the role of spoiler.
9.) East Carolina (15-13, 7-7) RPI: 118
East Carolina is another team that lost a handful of close games throughout the season, and with a little better luck may have been in the thick of things for the title. Last week, the Pirates were on the right side of the worst officiating I have ever seen in college basketball in a win against UTEP, and then dropped Rice on the road by 3. They will play Memphis at home, and UAB on the road to end the season. They've definitely got a chance to ruin someone's title hopes this week.
8.) Southern Methodist (17-11, 8-6) RPI: 196
The Mustangs are still only two games back of first place, but have probably missed their chance of winning the Conference USA title. They've dropped three of five, including a tough two point loss at Marshall on Saturday, to fall back into a tie for 6th. They'll finish off the season with a trip to a Orlando to take on a resurgent UCF squad, before returning home to finish up the season against UTEP. They may have the toughest closing test of all C-USA teams.
7.) UCF Knights (18-9, 5-9) RPI: 54
I would like to put the Knights higher up on this list as they have been playing solid basketball as of late, but they are still 5-9 in conference, and all the way back in 9th place in the standings. Last week the Knights became the only team in C-USA to knock off UTEP in El Paso, and also dropped Southern Miss on a buzzer beater in Orlando. They'll end the season with a home match against SMU, before taking on Marshall in in Huntington. A 7-9 finish in conference would be quite the accomplishment considering they started 1-8.
6.) Tulsa Golden Hurricane (16-12, 9-5) RPI: 91
I don't think anyone expected to see Tulsa right in the title chase with only a week to go in the regular season, but here they are. The Hurricane got walloped at Marshall on Wednesday, before taking care of business against Tulane on Saturday. They'll take on Rice in Houston, before ending the season against fellow title contender Southern Miss at home on Saturday. Two wins might be enough to get them at least a share of the C-USA crown.
5.) Marshall Thundering Herd (20-9, 8-6) RPI: 52
The Thundering Herd have won five straight to take them all the way to two games out of first place. With only a week left to play, that's probably a little too much to overcome, but if not for the nap they took to start conference play they'd be another one right in the mix. They are at UTEP on Wednesday, and then at home against UCF on Saturday. At best, these guys are playing for a first round bye in the conference tourney.
4.) Southern Miss Golden Eagles (21-7, 9-5) RPI: 39
The Golden Eagles have been a bit inconsistent this year, but either way find themselves only a game out of first with two to go in conference play. Last week they beat Loyola, LA at home, and lost to UCF on a last second shot in Orlando. The division II game (Loyola) not only means nothing to the NCAA selection committee, but winning by only 11 on your home floor may actually work against you. They'll take on UAB in the game of the week this week, and then finish up on the road at Tulsa. They could win them both, they could lose them both.
3.) Memphis Tigers (21-8, 9-5) RPI: 34
These guys have been completely impossible to predict. At times they don't even show up to play, and at others they look like the best team in conference by far. Last week the Tigers got by Houston at home, before getting absolutely demolished in El Paso by UTEP. All the credit to the Miners for playing complete shut down defense, and a great all around game, but one also has to realize that Memphis was not on top of their game. Not showing up to play is something they can ill afford to do this late in the season. They'll finish up with a road game at ECU, and a home game against struggling Tulane.
2.) UTEP Miners (21-8, 9-5) RPI: 72
Ok, maybe after losing three of five the Miners don't necessarily belong in second place. Even though I could, I won't make excuses for the losses, but I will say that Saturday's win showed just how good this team can be. Something tells me they've broken out of their slump. Last week the Miners lost to UCF at home on Monday, were on the wrong end of the worst officiated game ever on Wednesday, and completely mauled Memphis at home on Saturday. They'll finish up with Marshall at home, then SMU on the road. Their still very much alive for the title, but more than anything are playing for a first round bye in the conference tourney.
1.) UAB Blazers (20-7, 10-4) RPI: 31
Despite losing star F Cameron Moore to a broken hand a few weeks ago, the Blazers continue to roll and find themselves all alone in first place with only a week to go. They are 9-3 in the their last 12 games, and the losses came to Memphis (twice), and USM by a total of 12 points. Last week they dropped UCF and Houston, and will finish up at USM, and against ECU this week. They're in the driver's seat. Win both, and they've got the C-USA title outright. Lose one, and there is going to be a lot of sharing going on.
PLAY THE MARCH TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AND YOU COULD WIN A TRIP FOR TWO TO LAS VEGAS! LOOK FOR THE CODE INSIDE SPECIALLY-MARKED PACKAGES 12-PACKS OF BUD LIGHT ENTER CODE AT FACEBOOOK.COM/BUDLIGHT ----- No Purchase Necessary. Open to U.S. residents (except CA & TX) 21+. For a chance to win a Grand or First Prize, Game Period 1 begins 3PM CST on 2/14 & ends 3PM CDT on 3/18. For a chance to win a First Prize only, Game Period 2 begins 3:00:01PM CDT on 3/18 & ends 3PM CDT on 4/30. To participate, obtain a Code from inside specially-marked packages of Bud Light beer or to request a Code without purchase, visit budlight.com/freecode during a Game Period. Limit one (1) free Code request/day/person or email address. To play, text HOOPS to BEERS (23377) & follow prompts or visit budlight.com/freecode & follow instructions. See Official Rules inside package or at budlight.com/freecode for complete details. Void in CA, TX & where prohibited. Enjoy Responsibly – ©2011 Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Bud Light® Beer, St. Louis, MO