College basketball is off to a wild start, and Conference USA is no exception. A league that most thought would be very weak is looking pretty strong in the early going.
Using a number of different factors, we tried to rank the C-USA teams as best we could. Throughout the season, numbers like RPI and SOS will play an important roll, but at this point they don't mean a ton. Still though, we've included them to see how teams progress in those areas throughout the year.
Have a look at this week's Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings:
|16.||UTSA Roadrunners||(1-6)||Last: (L) @ Texas Tech 94-64||Up Next: vs. Huston-Tillotson|
|RPI: 349||SOS: 335|
The Roadrunners are clearly struggling here in the early going. They've fallen to 1-6 on the young season, and even have a loss at the hands of Division III McMurry University. Most recently they fell to a mediocre Texas Tech team by 30, and they've still got a trip to Arkansas on the non-conference slate. The good news is they've got two more non-DI schools in the next five games. Maybe a couple wins will help give them a spark.
|15.||Florida Atlantic Owls||(1-6)||Last: (L) vs. Toledo* 94-74||Up Next: vs. UCF|
|RPI: 289||SOS: 100|
The truth is the Owls aren't too far ahead of the Roadrunners in these rankings. Perhaps the only thing keeping them ahead is the fact that they haven't lost to a non-Division I opponent. However, they've hardly been competitive, and their non-conference schedule isn't getting any easier. If they don't find a way to pick up a win or two soon, they may find themselves passed up by UTSA.
|14.||Tulane Green Wave||(4-4)||Last: (L) vs. Southeast Missouri St.* 102-72||Up Next: @ Wake Forest|
|RPI: 327||SOS: 333|
Perhaps this is a little low to put a team that is 4-4 on the season. However, after winning their first four games, the Green Wave have now lost their last four, and really weren't competitive in them. The first loss, against Northern Kentucky, was in overtime but the three after that were by an average of 21 points a game. Until they show a little more life, they'll find themselves near the bottom of this list.
|13.||Rice Owls||(3-4)||Last: (W) vs. Santa Clara*||Up Next: @ Houston Baptist|
|RPI: 280||SOS: 301|
The Owls were off to poor 2-4 start, with narrow wins over St. Thomas and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but they've been competitive in their last few and picked up a win against Santa Clara that most probably thought they'd drop. Its nothing to write home about, but if they can pick up a few more wins here in the coming weeks they could find themselves climbing in these rankings.
|12.||Tulsa Golden Hurricane||(1-6)||Last: (L) vs. Green Bay* 67-59||Up Next: vs. Texas Southern|
|RPI: 190||SOS: 35|
Perhaps we're still giving Tulsa just a bit more credit than they deserve. At 1-6, they're tied for the worst record in the league through seven games. However, they've been competitive in games against some pretty good competition including Missouri St., Creighton, and Green Bay. But, being competitive will only get them so far. They've got to start to picking up some wins, or they'll certainly start to slide.
|11.||North Texas Mean Green||(5-3)||Last: (W) vs. SE Louisiana||Up Next: @ BYU|
|RPI: 185||SOS: 238|
After a 2-3 start that included a narrow win over non-Division I Northwood, the Mean Green have reeled off three straight wins to get back above .500 at 5-3. Two of those wins came against fairly weak opponents, but the win at Portland is an impressive one. This still isn't a top tier team in Conference USA, but they aren't one to be taken lightly. Their stock is rising.
|10.||Fla. International Golden Panthers||(7-3)||Last: (W) vs. Georgia State 61-60||Up Next: vs. Nova SE|
|RPI: 292||SOS: 349|
The Golden Panthers have quickly made their way to seven wins on the season, but have done so by beating up on subpar opponents. In fact, the five Division I opponents they have beaten have a combined record of 10-33, and none of them have a record better than 3-5. Considering that, they barely crack the top 10.
|9.||Old Dominion Monarchs||(4-3)||Last: (L) vs. St. Louis* 62-52||Up Next: vs. North Carolina Central|
|RPI: 288||SOS: 320|
The Monarchs may come in at number 9, but this is a team that could be a dark horse contender come conference time. So far, they've held form, losing to who they "should lose to" and beating who they "should beat". They've still got a couple more tough games in the non-conference, but that could really prep them for a strong conference run. For now we'll keep them here, but look out.
|8.||Marshall Thundering Herd||(4-3)||Last: (L) @ East Tennessee St. 88-78||Up Next: @ Vanderbilt|
|RPI: 242||SOS: 243|
The offseason losses for the Herd have proven costly in the early going, as they're off to a 4-3 start with a couple of questionable losses. Now two of those losses did come in overtime, but one was at home to Stephen F. Austin. That simply can't happen. They now enter a tough three game stretch with games at Vanderbilt and Penn State, and then back home against West Virginia. If they don't start playing better it could be rough for Herd fans the rest of this non-conference slate.
|7.||East Carolina Pirates||(7-2)||Last: (W) vs. Fayetteville St.||Up Next: vs. Mount Olive|
|RPI: 199||SOS: 316|
The Pirates are off to a 7-2 start, but have yet to pick up any signature wins. They were extremely competitive at Cameron Indoor, but then again so was Vermont so its not clear how much that really means. Three of their seven wins have come against non-Division I opponents, and they've still got one more of those games to go. A game at N.C. State is their only real test left in the non-conference so chances are we won't know too much more about this team before conference play starts.
|6.||Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders||(6-2)||Last: (L) vs. Belmont 70-58||Up Next: vs. Fisk|
|RPI: 88||SOS: 249|
The Blue Raiders have started this season similar to last year, but whether or not they can come anywhere near matching those 28 wins is still yet to be seen. They do have a couple respectable wins, but have lost to both Florida and Belmont. Picking up one of those would have gone a long way. They've still got a couple more opportunities to pick up a big win in the non-conference, so we'll know a little more about them in the next few weeks.
|5.||UTEP Miners||(4-4)||Last: (L) vs. #6 Kansas* 67-63||Up Next: vs. Sacramento St.|
|RPI: 52||SOS: 5|
The Miners are off to a fairly inconsistent start. They did beat Colorado St. and Tennessee soundly, but got swept by a New Mexico State team that lost in Fort Collins last week. The showing against Kansas says a lot about the team, but unfortunately so does the game against Iowa. This team is certainly one of the better ones in Conference USA, but they'll have to find more consistency throughout if they are going to make a run at the conference title. They've passed the meat of their non-conference slate, and will now have a few more prep games before heading into conference play.
|4.||Louisiana Tech Bulldogs||(6-1)||Last: (W) @ Jackson St. 72-61||Up Next: vs. Louisiana Lafayette|
|RPI: 32||SOS: 108|
The Bulldogs are off to an impressive 6-1 start, including a good win over a tough St. Bonaventure team in the championship game of the Gulf Coast Showcase. Their only loss came in the season opener at St. Mary's, and they've still got an opportunity to add another quality win to their resume as they've still got games against Oklahoma and #9 Oklahoma St. coming up. The start for this team is no surprise, but their stock is quickly rising at the top of a league that is loaded with good teams.
|3.||Southern Miss. Golden Eagles||(6-1)||Last: (L) @ #7 Louisville||Up Next: vs. Morehead State|
|RPI: 30||SOS: 98|
Really no surprise here. The Golden Eagles entered the year as one of the favorites to win Conference USA, and they're right where they should be after seven games, only losing to #7 Louisville. However, the showing against the Cards was a bit poor, as USM managed just 13 points in the first half, and only 38 for the game. We'll chalk it up to a bad night, but frankly you'd expect to see more out of a team that is widely considered the best in the league.
|2.||UAB Blazers||(6-2)||Last: (W) vs. #25 North Carolina 63-59||Up Next: @ Northeastern|
|RPI: 73||SOS: 74|
The Blazers have quickly become one of the top teams in the league, especially after their upset of then #16 North Carolina late last week. They also had then #19 New Mexico against the ropes, twice, before falling in double overtime, and they've got a good win over Nebraska. However, they did get blown out by a Temple team that lost to Kent St. and Towson, and the Tarheels have really had their struggles early on as well. There's no doubt the Blazers will be one of the better teams in this league, but whether or not they are a true contender is still yet to be seen.
|1.||Charlotte 49ers||(6-1)||Last: (W) vs. UNC-Asheville 77-56||Up Next: vs. Davidson|
|RPI: 62||SOS: 203|
The 49ers are perhaps the biggest surprise in the league early on. Most expected them to finish near the middle of the pack, and while they still may, they're off to a 6-1 start and own wins over Kansas State and then #14 Michigan both on a neutral floor. Their only loss came by a single point at College of Charleston in a game where they led by 14 with 6:00 to play, and were up by 6 with :20 left. Somehow they let it slip through their hands, but if they wrap that one up this team is likely already in the top 25. They continue their tough non-conference schedule with upcoming games against Davidson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech.
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