LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 17: Will Barton #5 of the Memphis Tigers shoots the ball during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on December 17, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Last week's action in Conference USA featured some big time showdowns between the top teams in conference. We saw some teams make moves in the C-USA standings, and we also saw a couple of others stay winless. Let's go ahead and see how it all affected the Rush's Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings.
1. Memphis Tigers (12-5, 3-0) RPI: 29, SOS: 15 - Last: (W) @ Houston, Up Next: @ UCF
Last week was a statement week for the Tigers. First, they knocked off Southern Miss at home, and then they went on the road and destroyed Houston 89-55. The Tigers were the best team in the conference coming into the season, and after a few weeks out of the top spot because of losses to good teams, they've finally made their way back. Memphis' 5 losses are all to teams ranked in the top 25 polls and rated better than 40th in the RPI. The Tigers now head to Orlando to take on UCF, and will then have a couple should be gimme's against SMU and Rice at home.
2. Marshall Thundering Herd (12-4, 4-0) RPI: 32, SOS: 31 - Last: (W) vs. UCF, Up Next: @ West Virginia
The Herd are now a perfect 4-0 in conference after knocking off UAB and UCF last week. One could make an argument to put Marshall no. 1 in C-USA, but the truth is they are barely scraping by in their wins. After looking great against UTEP a few games ago, the Herd have won their last 3 by a combined 5 points. That will certainly have to change...immediately. This week Marshall will hit the road to take on West Virginia and Southern Miss, and they'll have a matchup with Memphis next week. It's a tough road ahead.
3. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (14-3, 3-1) RPI: 15, SOS: 64 - Last: (W) vs. UAB, Up Next: vs. Marshall
After holding on to the top spot for weeks, the Golden Eagles finally relinquish it this week after falling to Memphis on the road 60-58 last Wednesday. USM rebounded from that, dropping UAB at home on Saturday, but they'll have to play even better than that as Marshall will come to town for a showdown this Saturday. The game against Marshall will be the Golden Eagles only game this week as they have Wednesday off. After Marshall, Southern Miss hits the road for games against ECU and UCF, and then returns home for the rematch against Memphis.
4. UCF Knights (12-4, 3-1) RPI: 64, SOS: 142 - Last: (L) @ Marshall, Up Next: vs. Memphis
The Knights fell at Marshall on Saturday by the narrowest of margins, and they now look ahead to a home matchup with the conference's top team, the Memphis Tigers. UCF has been very consistent this year, save for the one point loss to ULL, but they'll have to maintain that consistency as they get deeper into conference play. After the Wednesday night date with Memphis, the Knights hit the road to take on UAB and Tulsa, and then return home to play Southern Miss. None of those games will be easy.
5. Rice Owls (8-7, 2-1) RPI: 150, SOS: 165 - Last: (W) @ Tulane, Up Next: vs. UAB
The Owls find themselves making a great jump in the rankings this week after knocking off both SMU and Tulane on the road last week. Truth is, Rice should be a much better team than they've shown thus far, but they've just yet to find that consistency. Maybe the back to back road wins help them get to the level of play they should be at. This week the Owls have two home contests against UAB and Tulsa. Both of those teams have shown some improvement over the last weeks, but if the Owl's want to be relevant in the Conference USA chase, this is their chance to solidify their spot.
6. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-9, 2-2) RPI: 148, SOS: 122 - Last: (W) @ ECU, Up Next: vs. Tulane
The Hurricane had been on the wrong end of close games all year long, but they finally figured how to put some teams away, knocking off UTEP and ECU last week. This week they will take on Tulane at home, and Rice on the road. These are both winnable games for Tulsa, but with what they've shown before last week, these are both losable also. These games should really fill us in on whether or not the Hurricane have actually turned the corner. After Tulane and Rice, UCF, SMU, and Marshall await.
7. UTEP Miners (9-9, 2-2) RPI: 145, SOS: 74 - Last: (W) vs. SMU, Up Next: vs. ECU
The Miners very nearly dropped both of their games last week. A flat performance on the road against Tulsa allowed the Hurricane to storm away with an 11 point victory, and poor execution down the stretch at home against SMU nearly cost them the game there as well. With those two in the books, the Miners get back to .500 both on the season, and in conference, and they will look to get above .500 overall for the first time this season when they take on ECU on Wednesday. After ECU, the Miners hit the road to take on Tulane, Houston, and Rice. It's time for this team to turn the corner.
8. Tulane Green Wave (10-5, 0-3) RPI: 202, SOS: 336 - Last: (L) vs. Rice, Up Next: @ Tulsa
The Green Wave have been exposed. After starting out the season 10-2, Tulane has now lost three straight to open up conference play. Granted, two of those games were against UCF and Southern Miss, and they hung tough in both, but 0-3 is 0-3. This week the wave will take on Tulsa on the road, and then return home to take on UTEP. If they aren't careful, they could easily find themselves at 0-5 in conference, with games against Marshall and Memphis still to come.
9. SMU Mustangs (7-8, 1-2) RPI: 200, SOS: 270 - Last: (L) @ UTEP, Up Next: vs. Houston
The Mustangs suffered a heartbreaking OT loss to UTEP on Saturday, after nearly knocking down the game winner at the regulation buzzer. They also fell to Rice at home last Wednesday. SMU will now take on Houston at home this Wednesday, and will then head to take on Memphis on the road on Saturday. After losing 3 of the last 4, and with games against Memphis, UCF, Marshall, and Southern Miss still to come, the high hopes for the Ponies' season may be on life support.
10. Houston Cougars (8-8, 1-3) RPI: 222, SOS: 191 - Last: (L) vs. Memphis, Up Next: @ SMU
Two weeks ago, after winning 5 straight, things looked to be on the upswing for the Houston Cougars. Now, just two weeks into the conference season, things are starting to look a bit gloomy. The Cougars have now lost three straight, and the latest was an 89-55 home thrashing at the hands of Memphis. This week Houston will be at SMU, and will then return home to take on ECU. Both are winnable games, so we'll see if those contests will help them get the ship righted in Houston.
11. ECU Pirates (5-7, 0-3) RPI: 171, SOS: 100 - Last: (L) vs. Tulsa, Up Next: @ UTEP
I'm still not sure how the Pirates' RPI and SOS are so high. Sure, they're not great, by any means, but considering their 5-9 record versus division 1 opponents, their 4 games versus non division 1 opponents, and the fact that they've played 1 team in the top 50 RPI (Southern Miss), its pretty amazing that the numbers have remained where they have. Enough about that, ECU has now lost three straight, and has a Texas road trip this week that features UTEP and Houston. If they lose both, some seats might start getting a bit hot in Greenville.
12. UAB Blazers (5-11, 0-3) RPI: 163, SOS: 21 - Last: (L) @ Southern Miss, Up Next: @ Rice
The Blazers have been sitting at the bottom of these rankings all season, but there's no question they've improved over the last couple of weeks. While they've lost three in a row, those three have been to Memphis, Marshall, and Southern Miss, and by a total of 9 points. Now, they've got Rice, UCF, and Marshall in their next three, and while that's not much easier than the last three games, I'd expect them to pick up a win or two. Hopefully the Blazers can move out of the C-USA cellar soon, for the first time this season.
Who is the best team in Conference USA?
Memphis Tigers (30 votes)
Marshall Thundering Herd (19 votes)
49 total votes