Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

An interesting opening week of conference games led to some shake ups in the rankings, come see the movement with conference play heating up!

Tulsa, UTSA, and you can even throw Old Dominion in there won games they weren't suppose to in the opening weekend of league play.

That will add to the questions the conference has as the new look C-USA navigates through week two of play .

Some huge match ups and must wins will dot the schedule this week, with many teams still trying to find an identity and place in the new C-USA.

Here is how they stack this week, and a look ahead at second week of league play.

16. Marshall Thundering Herd (6-11, 0-2)

Up Next: vs North Texas, Thur

vs Tulsa, Sat

Last Week Ranking: # 14
RPI: 299 SOS: 211

If you lose 8 out of your last 10, and your 0-9 on the road, number 16 is where your fit this week. Marshall played hard, and very spirited in Saturday's loss at UTEP. Though the absence of Elijah Pittman is really hurting Marshall and will cost Tom Herrion his job. Kareem Canty and Ryan Taylor are solid players to build around, but its evident Marshall will be in rebuilding mode once this season is over.

15. Florida Atlantic Owls (5-11, 1-1)

This Week: vs East Carolina, Thur

vs Old Dominion

Last Week Ranking: #15
RPI: 280 SOS: 175

FAU won its first C-USA game after a fiery comeback against Rice. Pablo Bertone is quietly having a solid season for the Owls who won their first game in six tries in a game decided by 5 points or less. That win shadows a 20-point loss to LA Tech on Thursday. The Owls will now face a tough three game three home stand, which will feature a non-conference date with Harvard. Its still early, but wins against ECU and ODU up coming are important to keep them alive early.

14. Rice Owls (5-10, 0-2)

This Week: @ So. Miss, Thur

@ Tulane, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #12
RPI: 283 SOS: 199

After a decent, somewhat respectable showing in early non-conference slate, the loss at the buzzer against Houston started a six game losing streak leading to this weekends games. It appeared early on the Owls would be OK without last years do it all player Julian DeBouse. Now the Owls are searching for answers and it will not get easy tomorrow against So. Miss. Austin Ramljak has been a bright spot, but you need five to tango, games and time are running out on the 2014 Owls to turn it around.

13. UTSA Roadrunners (7-9. 2-0)

This Week: @ UAB, Thur

@ Middle Tennessee, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #16
RPI: 317 SOS: 319

Surprise, surprise the Roadrunners have arrived…. Or have they? Putting up 90 points on Marshall to open league play will turn heads, a 2-0 start in conference with a solid win against Charlotte is breaking necks. But how serious are the Runners? After losing an All-Conference caliber player in Jeromie Hill, I though the Runners would be road kill. Sorry had to do it. Keon Lewis is now stepping in, and leading a team who had already lost another top player in Larry Lewis before the season. Good start for UTSA, but will the loss of Hill sting soon, or will it at all?

12. Old Dominion Monarchs (7-9, 1-0)

This Week: @ FIU, Thur

@ FAU, Sat

Last Week: #12
RPI: 201 SOS: 158

Keenan Palmore and Aaron Bacote lead the charge as ODU opened up their C-USA era with a solid win against East Carolina. The Monarchs attacked the paint, and the rim all night, shooting 56 percent from the field, while posting up 50 points in the paint. Palmore showed he can be an elite defender in this league as he held the hot hand of Akeem Richmond to only 14 points for ECU. ODU still ranks 297th in points per game, and will head to Florida for road games against FIU and FAU, before they host So Miss on Jan 23rd. Another nice start for team searching for respect, that offense needs to keep coming, ODU has a chance to shake things up early with their ability to defend.

11. Tulane Green Wave (9-8, 1-1)

This Week: vs LA Tech, Thur

vs Rice, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #10
RPI:259 SOS: 290

After giving up nearly 100 points, and getting blown out in their conference opener against upstart Tulsa, the Wave bounced back to beat North Texas on Saturday 73-62. Tulane was able to grab some wins the in the non-conference, thought the result of the Tulsa opener is what we expected from the depleted, and rebuilding Green Wave. Louis Dabney and Jonathan Stark have been able to hold down the guard spot at a high level, along with Jay Hook, but the need for an inside presence is holding them back. Ryan Smith who has been out with injury, made a huge difference in the North Texas game, and the 6'10 freshman is a player to watch as his minutes increase.

10. Fla. International Golden Panthers (9-8, 1-1)

This Week: vs Old Dominion, Thur

vs East Carolina, Sat

This Week Ranking: #9
RPI: 221 SOS: 279

FIU closed out the non-conference slate with a murderous row of games against Louisville and Georgetown. The Golden Panthers snapped a three game skid against Rice on Thursday, then fell to LA Tech Saturday night. Rakeem Buckles and Tymell Murphy have the Golden Panthers 50th in the nation in rebounding. They have to be welcoming this three game home stand, after playing on the road since Dec 21st. All three games appear to be winnable, though as the first week showed we don't know what will happen just yet with so much parity going on right now.

9. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-9, 2-0)

This Week: @ Charlotte, Thur

@ Marshall, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #12
RPI: 117 SOS: 23

Making one of the biggest jumps this week in the rankings is the bad-witch of the North, Tulsa. Many including us off rode off Danny Manning's team after a 1-6 start, but it seems the tough early schedule has paid dues after last weekends showing. Tulsa simply outplayed Southern Miss, while knocking down huge shots, and despite a late run, Tulsa was in control most of the game. James Woodard is having an All-Conference candidate type season, shooting 40 percent from the three. If Patrick Swilling Jr. can shoot like he did against So Miss. and Oklahoma, Tulsa could be a strong threat to crack the top four. With the solid guard play, I would not count them out of the four seed race just yet, though Tulsa has a lot to prove to jump in the top six conversation first.

8. North Texas Mean Green (9-7, 0-2)

This Week: @ Marshall, Thur

@ Charlotte, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #8
RPI: 167 SOS: 123

One of the hottest teams coming into league play, was slowed down by C-USA vets So Miss, and Tulane to open birth in the C-USA. They ran into the Golden Eagles tough defense, only shooting 36 percent from field, they also were 12 out of 22 from the free-throw line, and lost by 10. I've said before that North Texas will be tough to beat for anyone, two road tests loom this week, and an 0-4 start is hard to dig out of with UAB and MTU visiting next week. Controversy maybe brewing for the Mean Green, as the C-USA is questioning their schedule, citing it maybe classified as an illegal schedule.

7. UTEP Miners (11-6, 1-1)

This Week: @ Middle Tennesse, Thur

@ UAB, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #6
RPI: 156 SOS: 137

Tim Floyd said it best walking out of the presser after beating Marshall Saturday, "what a week". After the program was the talk of national news media in the negative way, the Miners responded with some heart filled efforts this week. Still, the lack of guards is a broken thumb on Tim Floyd's hand of cards. The Miners can rebound and defend with anyone in the conference, but the need for a 3-point dagger dropper seriously hurt the Miners against Charlotte. John Bohannon has taken over as the leader, and go-to-guy, though someone needs to help him and Julian Washburn on the offensive end. Vince Hunter has struggled with avoiding the whistle thus far, he grew against Marshall as dropped 20 points, while not fouling out for just the 9th time season. UTEP is still tough to beat, keeping key guys out of foul trouble will be tough with the Miners playing 4 guys 30-minutes plus over the past two games. Tough road swing to Middle, and UAB will test the hard fighting Miners depth, another team to not count out just yet.

6. East Carolina (11-5, 0-1)

This Week: @ FAU, Thur

@ FIU, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #5
RPI: 203 SOS: 291

One of the top scoring and shooting teams in the league met a good defensive team in Old Dominion and came out on the wrong end in their opener. I have not bought into the Pirates just yet due to a weak schedule. Akeem Richmond is an elite scorer, and can knock down they trey with the best of them. The Pirates should sweep their Florida road trip, which would set up a test stretch of five game against contenders. Hard to count out a team with four players averaging double figures, but are the Pirates really a top-5 team?

5. Charlotte 49ers (10-5, 1-1)

This Week: vs Tulsa, Thur

vs. North Texas, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #4
RPI: 121 SOS: 209

The Niners drop despite an impressive road win against UTEP, but you just can't lose to a bottom feeder if your in the top-4. I refused to buy into the notion of Charlotte being inconsistent, it is very true. This team is hard to gauge this week especially with theway UTSA handled them soundly on Saturday. The Niners have been solid at home this year, a sweep this week is needed to keep up with the top dogs.

4. UAB Blazers (11-4, 0-1)

This Week: vs UTSA, Thur

vs UTEP, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #2
RPI: 110 SOS: 203

Tough to drop UAB two spots down, but I base majority of my rankings on head-to-head match ups. UAB leads the nation in rebounding coming into Tuesday nights action, and is still a top tier team. To me the Blazers are loaded with the emergence of Chad Frazier, and C.J. Washington, adding the proven veterans Jordan Swing, and Rod Rucker. Clutch performance by Frazier to give UAB a small edge in overtime, plus he dropped a cool 28 points as well, but it just wasn't enough. Like all the top teams who fell to the 0-1 or 1-1 hole, a sweep is a must to keep up top.

3 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (11-5, 1-0)

This Week: vs UTEP, Thur

vs UTSA, Sat

Last Week Ranking: #6
RPI: 106 SOS: 136

There is no doubt Middle Tennessee is ready for conference play. They have played five teams this year who danced with them in the NCAA Tournament in 2013, and it sure showed with their overtime win against UAB. The bad news is they play UAB again later this year, but the Blue Raiders are a clear contender. Middle is probably the best rebounding team in the conference. The Senior laden Raiders are 40-3 at home the past two seasons and including this one, making it tough, and more than a difficult challenge for anyone.

2. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (14-3, 1-1)

This Week: vs Rice, Thur

vs LA Tech, Sun

Last Week Ranking: #1
RPI: 41 SOS: 145

The road loss to Tulsa drops the top-notch Golden Eagles back a spot. A huge chance to grab that number one spot looms Saturday with LA Tech coming into town. Of course, you cannot overlook Rice on Thursday, but this game against LA Tech has a huge saying as far as the top spot goes. Southern Miss could be the only team to slow down the high octane Bulldogs with their tough defense. This game has huge conference regular season title implications Saturday, which could decide somethings early and going forward.

1. LA Tech Bulldogs (14-3, 2-0)

This Week: @ Tulane, Thur

@ So. Miss, Sun

Last Week Ranking: #2
RPI: 89 SOS: 270

The Bulldogs are the hottest team in the C-USA right now. They have won six straight games, while scoring 80 or more points in five of those wins. LA Tech even picked up some votes in the AP Top-25, but the loss of Raheem Appleby puts a sweep this weekend in question, as it appears he will be out for awhile. They still have very solid guards, though the loss Appleby will probably show in the C-USA game of the year so far in Hattiesburg on Saturday afternoon.

Conference RPI: 15

Conference SOS: 18

*RPI and SOS before Tuesday's games.

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