Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings

USA TODAY Sports

Here are the Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings for the final week of 2012.

Christmas has passed and the New Year is nearly here. It's already been an exciting month and a half of college basketball, and it will only get better as conference play approaches. Let's take a look at where teams stand in C-USA during that last week of 2012.

12. Rice Owls (3-8) Last: (L) vs. TCU, Up Next: vs. Texas

There's no question that the Owls are improving. They took TCU down to the wire their last time out, battling back from being down by as many as 18 early in the 2nd half. The truth is this team will continue to improve throughout the season, but to expect anything more than mere improvement after the losses they suffered is probably not realistic. They'll give teams fits in conference play, but not much more than that. Up next they'll take on Texas.

11. UAB Blazers (6-6) Last: (W) vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Up Next: vs. Northeastern

The Blazers are better than this ranking gives them credit for, but they'll have to prove it with a bit of consistency before they begin to move up. Since starting the season 3-1, they have now lost five of eight, and haven't won consecutive games during that stretch. Granted, they've played a fairly tough schedule in the early going, but they've also fallen to middle of the road competition. They should be in the middle of the pack of C-USA once conference play gets goin, but for now they remain here. They've got Northeastern next.

10. Marshall Thundering Herd (7-6) Last: (L) vs. Kentucky, Up Next: vs. Delaware State

The Herd continue their descent in these rankings, as they've alternated wins and losses over the last six. They also fell at Kentucky by 28 their last time out. In that game they managed only 54 points, and they haven't broken 60 in each of their last three losses. The Herd will continue to struggle without DeAndre Kane in the lineup, but if and when he returns, they'll be a dangerous team in Conference USA. Up next, they'll have Delaware State.

9. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-5) Last: (W) @ Oral Roberts, Up Next: vs. Florida State*

The Hurricane snapped a two game losing streak last Saturday when they dropped Oral Roberts 72-68, and they came back from being down by as many as 17 to do so. They are another team that has played a fairly tough schedule early on, but their inconsistent play has been what has hurt them. They've still got another tough game against Florida State before wrapping up their non-conference slate against Buffalo. If they do better than a split, they could be one to keep an eye on in C-USA.

8. SMU Mustangs (9-4) Last: (W) vs. Alcorn State, Up Next: vs. Furman

The Mustangs maintain their no. 8 ranking here on this list, even though they picked up a win over Alcorn State, snapping a three game skid. We gave the Mustangs the benefit of the doubt early on, but after that losing streak that included one to Wagner, we'll have to see more from this team before they move up any. They'll wrap up their non-conference slate with games against Furman and then unbeaten Wyoming.

7. Central Floria Knights (7-3) Last: (W) vs. Stetson, Up Next: vs. Howard

The Knights take a step back this week, even though they were off since the last time these rankings were released. They've still got games against Howard, South Florida, and Florida A&M to end the non-conference schedule. A 3-0 run through that stretch would certainly give them a boost here on this list.

6. East Carolina Pirates (7-3) Last: (L) @ UMASS, Up Next: vs. Norfolk State

The Pirates also take a step back this week after bolting up the ranks for their performance at North Carolina. They last traveled to UMASS, and took the Minutemen down to the wire, but were unable to come up with the win. Still though, the Pirates are better than most give them credit for and should be a team that finish in the top half of this league. They'll now face Norfolk State, Campbell, and UNC Wesleyan to wrap up their non-conference schedule.

5. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (8-4) Last: (L) Wichita State, Up Next: @ Morehead State

The Golden Eagles missed out on a prime opportunity to pick up a signature win, falling to Wichita State in a close one last Saturday. Southern Miss actually led for the majority of the game, but went cold late and fell 58-51. This is still one of the better teams in Conference USA, but they're also a team that is still searching for that quality win. Next, they've got Morehead State and non D-1 William Carey.

4. Tulane Green Wave (10-3) Last: (W) vs. Hofstra, Up Next: @ Alabama

The Green Wave picked up their 10th win of the season Saturday, dropping Hofstra in impressive fashion 83-62. They've got a couple of star players in Ricky Tarrant and Josh Davis that will only get better as the season progresses, and the team should continue to improve with them. They've now got a tough road game at Alabama that would solidify them as one of the best in C-USA should they pick up the win. Either way, the Wave will be in the mix as the season unfolds.

3. UTEP Miners (6-5) Last: (W) vs. Nebraska, Up Next: @ Colorado State

This spot may or may not be deserved by the Miners, and that is surely up for debate, but here's a little of why they are ranked this high on this list. The Miners have won 5 of 6, including wins over Oregon and Nebraska, with their lone loss coming against #17 UNLV by 2. And, the Miners had a shot for the win in that one. Also, although we are just making our way into January, they currently have the second highest RPI in the conference, and have an SOS of 16. That has to count for something. Up next, the Miners have an exhibition against Cameron, and will then have a big test in a road game at Colorado State. That game will tell us all we need to know.

2. Houston Cougars (9-2) Last: vs. Chicago State, Up Next: vs. Prairie View

The Cougars continue to pile up wins over subpar opponents, and find themselves at 9-2 on the young season. There's no questioning the talent on the team, but it is yet to be seen whether or not this type of schedule will pay off for such a young team. The Cougars best win thus far has been at TCU, and they will not face another opponent even as good as the Horned Frogs the rest of the way in non-conference. The Cougars finish out that slate with Prairie View and UT Pan American. I guess we'll just have to wait for conference play to see if they are actually the real deal.

1. Memphis Tigers (7-3) Last: (W) vs. Lipscomb, Up Next: vs. Oral Roberts

The Tigers continue to hold on to the top spot in C-USA as other teams still haven't shown that they are more deserving of the label. However, they aren't doing themselves any favors by beating teams like Lipscomb by 6, and not pulling out any signature wins. Truth is the gap between the top 5 teams in this league isn't very big, and its pretty cloudy as to who belongs where. But, until anyone shows that they are clearly deserving of the top spot, the Tigers will get the benefit of the doubt. Up next, they have Oral Roberts, and still have some tough out of conference road matchups with Tennessee and Xavier.

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