It's early on in the process, and still tough to get a true grasp on where teams actually stand, but that won't stop us from putting together a power rankings. That said, here's where the teams fall in this first edition of the Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings.
12. Rice Owls (0-1) Last: (L) vs. St. Thomas, Up Next: St. Edwards
The Owls were decimated in the offseason by the departures of six players, including star forward Arsalan Kazemi, and it showed in their season opening loss to the St. Thomas Celts of the NAIA ranks. Ben Braun has got a tough task ahead of him, and it continues with Division 2 St. Thomas coming to town next. After that, the Owls will hit the road to take on Temple, and will then take on Georgia Tech in the DirecTv Classic. Hopefully they can get things figured out quickly, or it could be a real rough season for Rice fans.
11. SMU Mustangs (1-0) Last: (W) vs. Loyola Marymount, Up Next: @ TCU
The Larry Brown era kicked off with a 15 point home win over Loyola Marymount on Sunday, but the score is a little deceiving. The Lions were actually down by 7 with four minutes to play, before the Mustangs finally ran away with it. Brown has made some mass substitutions with the SMU program, so they'll need some time to adapt, but just the fact that he's at the helm will keep them in a ton of games. How many they actually win is still yet to be seen. Up next the Mustangs will head across town to take on a TCU team that's looked pretty good in the early going. We'll have a better gauge on SMU after that one.
10. East Carolina Pirates (2-0) Last: (W) vs. Methodist, Up Next: UNC Greensboro
The Pirates seem poised to improve on last year's 15-16 mark, especially with star guard Miguel Paul leading the way. However, Paul is suspended for a couple of games , so its still yet to be seen exactly where this team is at. Saturday they beat the Washington and Lee Generals by 22 on their home floor, and they followed that up by rolling over Methodist. They'll finally play a division 1 opponent next, and we'll actually get a chance to see this team has got. Frankly, I expect the Pirates to be ranked much higher on this list in the near future, but until they beat someone better than Washington and Lee, they probably won't improve much.
9. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-0) Last: (W) vs. LSU Shreveport, Up Next: vs. Northern Kentucky
The Golden Hurricane look to replace a ton of production from last year's squad, and they'll try to do it with new coach Danny Manning. They opened up the season with a 110-54 win over LSU Shreveport, but that may as well just be considered an exhibition. Next up they'll take on Northern Kentucky, before finally getting their, albeit small, first test against San Diego. Tulsa will actually play a fairly tough non-conference schedule, but they'll still have a few more tune ups before that begins.
8. Tulane Green Wave (1-1) Last: (W) vs. Bethune-Cookman, Up Next: Nebraska-Omaha
The Green Wave return Conference USA Freshman of the Year Ricky Turrant, as well as forward Kendall Timmons as the core of a team that should be ready for a breakout year in conference. However, they opened up with a subpar performance at Georgia Tech, and then needed a late push to get past Bethune-Cookman. As the season progresses, they'll definitely improve, but right now they're just middle of the pack.
7. Houston Cougars (2-0) Last: (W) @ San Jose State, Up Next: vs. Grambling
Many expect the Cougars to be one of the better teams in Conference USA, especially because of the recruiting they've done over the last two years. But, they're still young and have a long way to go. They narrowly beat Florida A&M in the opener, and then handled lowly San Jose State on the road. Up next, they'll return home to face Grambling. Houston is talented enough to win plenty of games, but its going to take some time for them to overcome their youth.
6. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (1-0) Last: (W) vs. Western Kentucky, Up Next: @ Georgia
Gone from Hattiesburg are Larry Eustachy and four of the top five scorers from a year ago. But, returning are guys like guard Neil Watson, and a handful of other talented players as well. In their opener, Southern Miss needed overtime to get by Western Kentucky, a team that many predict to finish near the top of the Sun Belt, and they did it without Watson. Considering that, they may be more talented than some expect. We'll find out a little more this week as they hit the road to face Georgia, perhaps still minus Watson.
5. UAB Blazers (1-0) Last: (W) vs. Young Harris College, Up Next: @ #15 Creighton
The Blazers lose Conference USA first teamer Cameron Moore and Ovie Soko from a year ago, but return 5 of their top 7 players, and enter a new era as Roy Williams disciple Jerod Haase takes over the program. They roughed up Young Harris College 105-59 in their opener, and now look forward to an extremely tough matchup at nationally ranked Creighton. The Blue Jays boast national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott, so this will be a stiff challenge. But regardless of the outcome, expect the Blazers to be in the top half of the league this year.
4. UTEP Miners (1-0) Last: (W) vs. Oral Roberts, Up Next: @ #12 Arizona
The Miners look to improve on last year's 15 win campaign, with a young team as talented as any in the league. They opened up the season with a 20 point win over an Oral Roberts team coming off a 27 win season, and who is expected to win the Southland Conference. The Miners will have plenty of tests along their journey though, and the next will come this week at #12 Arizona. I won't give any predictions as to the outcome of that game, but you can count on the Miners being a tough out no matter who they're playing this season. For now we'll keep them at 4, but don't be surprised to see them move up this list as the season progresses.
3. Marshall Thundering Herd (1-1) Last: (L) @ Villanova, Up Next: @ District of Columbia
The Herd come into the season with high expectations, and do so behind a slew of talented players, including junior guard DeAndre Kane. Marshall opened up the season with a win over Longwood, but then fell by a dozen at Villanova. The game was a lot closer than the final score predicted, so we'll give them a pass, but it should be noted that the Wildcats are picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big East. Up next the Herd hit the road for the 2K Sports Classic where they'll face the District of Columbia and South Dakota State. They've got a tough non-conference run ahead of them, so we'll keep an eye on them moving forward.
2. Central Florida Knights (2-0) Last: (W) vs. Alabama State, Up Next: vs. Savannah State
The Knights entered the 2012-13 season with question marks surrounding the program. Offseason issues that included NCAA infractions left the team wondering who would even return for the upcoming year. While guard Marcus Jordan decided to leave the team, others like forwards Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes stuck around to see things through. So far they're off to a 2-0 start, downing South Florida on the road, and Alabama State at home. With Sykes playing like a beast, and Clanton as good as any in the league, the Knights will likely be a force in the league. However, those NCAA infractions will keep them from any postseason play as they've been handed a one year ban.
1. #16/17 Memphis Tigers (1-0) Last: (W) vs. North Florida, Up Next: vs. Samford
The Tigers open up these rankings in their familiar no. 1 spot, more than anything due to their national ranking. Now, that's not to say they aren't good. They return most of their top players from a year ago including guys like Adonis Thomas, Joe Jackson, and Tarik Black, and also bring in some top recruits like Shaq Goodwin and Damien Wilson. However, this league will be no walk in the park for the Tigers, as there will plenty of formidable opponents. For now though, they are no. 1. They opened the season with a fairly easy win over North Florida, and now look ahead to playing Samford. As always, the Tigers will play one of the toughest out of conference schedules of all C-USA teams, so right now they're just getting tuned up.