February is nearly here, and like we should've expected, there's not much clarity in the Conference USA race. Southern Miss and Memphis have been constants on top of the power rankings, and for them this week is no different. However, things went a little different for the next three in line. Marshall and UCF took a couple of steps back, and after reeling off 6 straight wins, Tulsa has emerged as a possible contender. Here's what this week's Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings look like.
1. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (17-3, 6-1) RPI: 11, SOS: 61, Last: (W) @ UCF, Up Next: vs. Memphis
It's been a tight race as of late between Memphis and Southern Miss, but this week the Golden Eagles get the nod. Southern Miss has won 4 straight since losing by 2 at Memphis, and more than that, they've won 14 of their last 15 contests against division 1 competition. Their last lost, other than Memphis? November 27th in double OT against #9 Murray St., the only undefeated team in the land. The Golden Eagles won two road games last week, both by double digits. First, they dropped ECU 72-60, and then they moved on to beat UCF, C-USA's #1 team last week, 78-65. USM is the real deal, and they'll get the chance to prove it tomorrow when the Memphis Tigers come to town. That will be the Golden Eagles only game this week, but they'll also take on UAB, UCF, and Tulsa over the next 15 days.2. Memphis Tigers (15-6, 6-1) RPI: 28, SOS: 14, Last: (W) vs. Marshall 83-76, Up Next: @ Southern Miss
The Tigers are many peoples' top team in conference, and rightfully so. They're 15-6, but they don't have a single bad loss, and they've played by far the toughest schedule in C-USA. Also, they own a win over Southern Miss, this week's top team. However, looking at the body of work as a whole, Southern Miss has got em this week, by a hair. Memphis took on Rice and Marshall last week, with both games taking place at home. The Tigers took care of the Owls fairly easily, but they were outplayed for 30 minutes against the Thundering Herd. They've done that a few times this year, fall behind early and come back strong late. They can't make that a habit, especially this week. Wednesday Memphis heads to Hattiesburg for a matchup with Southern Miss, and Saturday they'll take on Xavier at home. Both could be great wins for the Tigers' postseason resume.
3. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (13-9, 6-2) RPI: 106, SOS: 113, Last: @ SMU, Up Next: vs. Marshall
The Golden Hurricane are truly the surprise of the conference thus far. People in Tulsa may have known what their team could do, but this here is a shock considering they were sitting at 5-7 about a month ago. After starting 0-2 in conference, the Hurricane have won six in a row, and are only a half game back of first place, midway through the conference season. While most of their streak is made up of wins over teams in the bottom half of the conference, they did knock off UCF, and just completely thrashed Rice in Houston. Bottom line, this team is finding itself at just the right time. Tulsa will have the night off on Wednesday, and then will take on Marshall on Saturday.
4. UCF Knights (14-6, 5-3) RPI: 70, SOS: 114, Last: (W) vs. Palm Beach Atlantic, Up Next: @ SMU
The Knights hit a rough patch as of late, dropping 3 of their last 5 versus division 1 opponents. UCF went into last week's contests as the number 1 team in conference, but failed to top either Tulsa on the road, or Southern Miss at home. Last night they got a good practice session in against non-division 1 Palm Beach Atlantic, and now it's time to get back to business. The Knights are also off tomorrow, but will take on SMU in Dallas on Saturday. After that they'll get Marshall and Southern Miss in consecutive games.
5. Marshall Thundering Herd (12-8, 4-3) RPI: 74, SOS: 29, Last: (L) @ Memphis, Up Next: vs. Tulane
Its hard to get a true gauge on the Thundering Herd. Two weeks ago they were 4-0 in conference, and seemed like a true contender heading into an ooc in state rivalry game with West Virginia. Things didn't go so well there, and now after 4 straight losses they find themselves at 12-8 overall, and 4-3 in conference. Last week the Herd fell at home against UAB, and on the road Memphis. This week they'll take on Tulane at home, and Tulsa on the road. Both of those teams are on the rise, and certainly capable of pulling off an "upset". This could be judgement week for Marshall. If the losing streak continues, any hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament or maybe even the NIT could be shot.
6. Houston Cougars (10-9, 3-4) RPI: 212, SOS: 201, Last: (W) vs. UTEP, Up Next: @ UAB
The Cougars make the biggest jump this week up 5 spots from 11th last week. It seems like a bit much, but considering the other teams below them, its probably just about right. In fact, looking at the C-USA standings, 6th is exactly where they sit. Last week the Cougars knocked off ECU and UTEP at home. They kept ECU at bay for most of the game, but they actually trailed by double digits against UTEP for probably 25 minutes of regulation time. Either way, the wins were much needed in Houston as they had lost the previous four by an average of 20 points. Up next, the Cougars head to Birmingham to take on UAB, and then move on to New Orleans to take on Tulane. This week should tell us if they really are as good as their rank, or if they're merely filling the spot for the week.
7. UTEP Miners (10-11, 3-4) RPI: 149, SOS: 81, Last: (L) @ Houston, Up Next: @ Rice
Seventh may or may not be a fair spot for the Miners, but you all voted and that's all that matters. They're definitely "good" enough to be ranked this high, but unfortunately for all invested in UTEP, they just haven't been "good" enough while playing on the road. In fact, the Miners are still searching for that first road win. Saturday seemed like the night as they had the Houston Cougars down most of the game, by as many as 15. But, crucial mistakes and poor execution down the stretch allowed for the game to be sent to overtime, and eventually lost in that overtime period. The Miners will need to regroup and get ready to take on Rice, as their back in H-Town to give this road thing another shot. After that they'll return home to take on UAB. I don't think any Miner fans expects an NCAA or NIT tourney invite this year, but things have got to get going for this season to be considered a true success.
8. Rice Owls (9-10, 3-4) RPI: 175, SOS: 152, Last: (W) vs. Tulane, Up Next: vs. UTEP
The Owls finally got back on track Saturday, knocking off Tulane 88-74 to end a 3 game skid. The Owls just haven't found any consistency all season, and their record is the perfect example of that. Over the 10 games prior to Saturday's win Rice had won 2, lost 3, won 2, and lost 3. So, if History is any indicator...well, I'm a UTEP fan so I won't say it. This week the Owls will take on UTEP at home, and ECU on the road. If they're going to find that consistency, it's gotta start now. And with Memphis and Marshall already in the rearview mirror, now may just be the right time.
9. Tulane Green Wave (12-7, 2-5) RPI: 176, 304, Last: (L) @ Rice, Up Next: @ Marshall
The Green Wave seemed to be heading in the right direction after losing star Kendall Timmons. They put together back to back wins over UTEP and SMU with freshman Ricky Tarrant averaging 27.5 points a game. But, that quickly came to an end as a struggling Rice bunch handed the Wave an 88-74 loss, holding Tarrant to 18 points. Up next for Tulane is a road game at Marshall, and then a home game against Houston. The season is still far from over for the Wave, but at 2-5 in conference, and with a desperate Marshall team up next, and a confident Houston team after that, they'll likely have 6 if not 7 conference losses when this week is done.
10. SMU Mustangs (8-11, 2-5) RPI: 179, SOS: 159, Last: (L) vs. Tulsa, Up Next: @ East Carolina
The Mustangs have now lost 6 of 8 games, and still have a tough road ahead of them that features UCF, TCU, Marshall, and Southern Miss. Luckily for them, only the USM contest will be on the road. Last week the Mustangs dropped road games at Tulane by 6, and at Tulsa also by 6. This week the Mustangs will take on ECU in Greenville, and then return home to take on UCF. If the Mustangs can't get by ECU tomorrow night, things might really start to get ugly in Dallas.
11. ECU Pirates (6-10, 1-6) RPI: 166, SOS: 76, Last: (W) @ UAB, Up Next: vs. SMU
The Pirates finally picked up a win in conference on Saturday, dropping UAB on the road 73-66. The win ended a 6 game losing streak that spanned the entire month of January. This week the Pirates will take on SMU and Rice at home, and while both are capable of winning in Greenville, ECU is just as capable of sending both home with a loss. The Pirates really need to take advantage of the light load this week.
12. UAB Blazers (7-13, 2-5) RPI: 153, SOS: 31, Last: (L) vs. ECU, Up Next: vs. Houston
The Blazers had just made their way out of the C-USA basement before their loss to ECU, and now they've made their way back. They're definitely playing better than they were a couple of weeks ago, but still 7-13, is 7-13. This week the Blazers will have a home game against Houston and a road game against UTEP, and next week they'll take on both Memphis and Southern Miss on the road.