Feb 22, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers guard Joe Jackson (1) dribble the ball up the court during the second half against the East Carolina Pirates at the FedEx Forum. Memphis Tigers defeat the East Carolina Pirates 70-47. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
It was a fun season in Conference USA, plenty of good games, even more upsets, and it looks like we'll have at least two teams dancing this year. Now, with championship week in full swing, its time to take at a look at the final power rankings of the season. Here they are.
1. Memphis Tigers (23-8, 13-3) RPI: 18, SOS: 18, Last: (W) @ Tulsa, Up Next: C-USA Quarters
The Memphis Tigers had a great regular season, finishing 13-3 in conference, and taking the outright C-USA crown. While they never quite lived up to the preseason top 10 ranking, they do seem to be peaking here down the stretch, and with Will Barton playing his best ball yet, they seem ready for an NCAA tournament run. The Tigers are now considered a lock for the NCAA tournament, and will likely receive a 7-10 seed, depending on the outcome of the C-USA tourney.
2. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (22-7, 11-5) RPI: 17, SOS: 60, Last: (L) @ Marshall, Up Next: C-USA Quarters
Unlike the Memphis Tigers, the Golden Eagles seem to be reeling down the stretch, losing 3 of their last 5 games dating back to February 18th. Still though, stellar computer numbers, and 9 top 100 wins is more than anyone on the bubble has to offer. Thus, Southern Miss will almost certainly be dancing, and will likely land somewhere in the 8-12 seed range, again depending on the outcome of the C-USA tourney.
3. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (17-13, 10-6) RPI: 113, SOS: 99, Last: (L) vs. Memphis, Up Next: C-USA Quarters
The Golden Hurricane surprised a ton of people this year, especially after the slow start they had this season. Only a week ago, the Hurricane still had a chance to at least grab a share of the C-USA crown, but back to back losses put those ideas out of reach. Tulsa has no at large chances for the NCAA tourney, but the NIT is still a possibility. It will however, depend on how they far this week in Memphis. A win or two should definitely put them in, while an early exit may relegate them to a lower postseason tournament.
4. UCF Knights (19-9, 10-6) RPI: 62, SOS: 105, Last: (W) vs. UAB, Up Next: C-USA Quarters
The Knights started out the season much the way they way they did last year, racing out to a 13-3 start on 11'-12' campaign, including a win over then #4 UCONN. Unfortunately for them, the second half of the season didn't go much smoother than the second half of last year did, as they finished 8-6 down the stretch. Barring a first game loss in the C-USA tourney, the Knights should make the NIT. Then again, crazier things have happened.
5. Marshall Thundering Herd (17-12, 9-7) RPI: 64, SOS: 13, Last: (W) vs. Southern Miss, Up Next: SMU*
Not to be disrespectful to the Herd fans who frequent this site (namely GoHerd), but Marshall has to be the biggest disappointment in Conference USA this season. Expectations couldn't have been higher after a 9-2 start, and a near upset of then #3 Syracuse, but, the fall couldn't have been harder as the Herd finished 17-12, and 9-7 in C-USA. Based on computer numbers alone, this is an NIT team, but most probably think they at least need another win or two. Get to the C-USA semi's, and you should have no trouble. Lose early on though, and you know all to well what kind of invitation to expect.
6. UAB Blazers (14-15, 9-7) RPI: 107, SOS: 36, Last: @ (L) @ UCF, Up Next: Tulane*
While the Blazers did well to get back near .500 after their 2-7 start, there will likely be no postseason play in the cards for them. They'll open up the C-USA tourney against Tulane, and will then have to face UCF if they get by the Wave. Once the season ends, they will say goodbye to three players, including star F Cameron Moore who is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds. It will be extremely interesting to see what happens to this team heading into next year without their best player.
7. Rice Owls (14-14, 8-8) RPI: 162, SOS: 153, Last: (L) vs. Houston, Up Next: East Carolina*
If you count the Owls three non-division 1 wins, they actually finished up at 17-14, but let's be honest, beating a division 2 school literally says nothing at all. So, while going .500 on the year isn't terrible, its much worse than most Owl fans had hoped for in Arsalan Kazemi's junior year. More than that, managing only 1 top 100 win in 9 tries, is likely not where you'd expect your program to be. Assuming Kazemi returns, the Owls should be expected to at least be a top 4 team in conference next year. Anything much worse than that, and I'd be asking some serious questions.
8. UTEP Miners (14-16, 7-9) RPI: 155, SOS: 68, Last: (L) @ SMU, Up Next: Houston*
I really considered putting UTEP ahead of Rice here. I honestly do think the Miners are the better team, but seeing the faceplant at the end of the season, and after being swept by the Owls, putting UTEP 7th would make me a complete homer. Anyway, the Miners showed some bright spots this season, and they could've easily found themselves in much better shape at this point if they hadn't forgotten how to play basketball for games at a time. The good news, the Miners will return everyone except for Gabriel McCulley next year, and we've got some solid recruits coming in. I'd expect the Miners to be right near the top of the league again come this time next season.
9. Houston Cougars (14-14, 7-9) RPI: 198, SOS: 184, Last: (W) @ Rice, Up Next: UTEP*
The Cougars were getting steamrolled through much of the conference season, but by winning their last 3 they actually gained a little momentum heading into this week's conference tourney. I wouldn't expect them to make much noise in Memphis, but they've certainly got a better chance than they did a few weeks ago. And hey, they weren't in a much different spot 2 years ago when they found a way to beat UTEP in the C-USA final and steal the conference's auto-bid.
10. East Carolina Pirates (10-15, 5-11) RPI: 167, SOS: 74, Last: (W) @ Tulane, Up Next: Rice*
I know I've said it a hundred times this season, but I have to say it again. I still don't understand how scheduling 4 non-d1 opponents, and only having 4 games vs. the top 50 garners a top 75 SOS. Makes no sense. Anyway, the Pirates picked up wins in their last two over both Marshall and Tulane, so they should have a little confidence heading into Wednesday's matchup with Rice.
11. SMU Mustangs (11-18, 4-12) RPI: 209, SOS: 143, Last: (W) vs. UTEP, Up Next: Marshall*
The Mustangs have struggled all year long, and quite frankly were pretty luck that the UTEP basketball team never made it Moody Coliseum on Saturday. I'm still not sure who those stand-ins were. In any case, SMU has only won 2 of their last 7, and they could only manage 67 points combined in games against Rice and UAB less than a month ago. In six years at the helm in Dallas, the Mustangs have never finished better than7th in conference, and they've finished worse than 10th 4 times. Someone should be asking some questions.
12. Tulane Green Wave (13-15, 3-13) RPI: 229, SOS: 253, Last: (L) vs. ECU, Up Next: UAB*
I kind of feel for the Wave fans out there. They started the season 9-0, then lost star F Kendall Timmons, and just couldn't find their way after that. While freshman G Ricky Tarrant was sensational, here are the facts about the team. They have 0 top 50 wins, 0 top 100 wins, 0 top 150 wins, they've lost their last 7 games, they lost 7 games to sub 150 rpi teams, and they only managed three wins in conference. That there has to be the worst team in C-USA. Don't forget that name Tarrant though, he'll be a star as long as he's around.