Conference USA has no teams in the top 25 after Memphis' loss to Murray St. over the weekend, and Conference USA also has no more undefeated teams as Tulane fell to Wofford last Tuesday. Still, C-USA has a handful of tough teams at the top, let's see how they all line up in the second round of the Rush's Conference USA Power Rankings.
1. Marshall Thundering Herd (6-2) Last Week: (L) @ #1 Syracuse, (W) vs. Iona, Up Next: vs. High Point
The Thundering Herd occupy the top spot this week by virtue of their performance at then #3 Syracuse. The Herd went blow for blow with the Orangemen before falling 62-56. They also dropped Iona 82-63 last week. I'd feel a lot more comfortable putting Marshall at no. 1 if not for their loss to Ohio. But, Ohio is 7-1 on the season with their only loss coming to #4 Louisville. So, after Memphis suffered their 3rd loss of the young season, it just made sense.
2. Memphis Tigers (5-3) Last Week: (W) @ Miami (FL), (L) vs. Murray St., Up Next: @ #4 Louisville
Ok, so the Tigers fell at home to Murray St., and while the loss drops Memphis out of the national rankings, it can't drop them very far in the power rankings. I mean come on, Murray St. is no joke. They're now 10-0. Anyway, Memphis now has 3 losses on the season, all coming to ranked teams. That's respectable, but the tough part is that the Tigers still have to face #4 Louisville, #17 Georgetown, #9 Xavier in non-conference action. Things won't be getting any easier.
3. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (7-2) Last Week: (W) @ So. Alabama, (W) vs. La Tech, Up Next: vs. Ole Miss
The Golden Eagles improved to 7-2 on the season after dropping both South Alabama and Louisiana Tech last week. They did lose a game early on at Denver, which isn't terrible, but surely isn't good, and their only other loss is to that undefeated Murray St. team in overtime. The Golden Eagles will play Ole Miss, then take a trip to take on Arizona St., before returning home to take on South Florida. They'll be tested here over the next two weeks.
4. Tulane Green Wave (11-1) Last Week: (L) @ Wofford, (W) vs. MacMurray, (W) vs. Jacksonville St., Up Next: @ #1 Syracuse
I'm still a little low on the Green Wave. If they would've beat Wofford they would certainly have been the no. 1 team in conference, but losing to them makes me question just how good they really are. Anyone remember UCF from last season? That team romped through non-conference, and even a had a couple huge wins. Things didn't exactly go as planned though during conference play. Tulane doesn't really have those signature wins, and still has to play the #1 team in the country. Let's see how they fare in that game before moving forward.
5. UCF Knights (6-2) Last Week: (W) vs. Bethune-Cookman, Up Next: vs. North Carolina A&T
Coming into the season, I really had high expectations for the Knights. Last year, sophomores Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan showed off their talents, leading UCF to a great non-conference run and a top 25 ranking. With the main pieces of the puzzle back this year, I'd expect them to at least contend for the conference title. So far, the Knights have knocked off then #4 UCONN, and only lost to then #24 FSU and Harvard. But, most recently, 53-51 over Bethune-Cookman?? I mean Stetson and Houston Baptist already took out Cookman. These guys still have a long way to go.
6. Rice Owls (6-2) Last Week: Off, Up Next: vs. Louisiana
This is truly the dropoff point in Conference USA. The top five teams are all in a very close race right now, but teams 6-12 are far behind that race. Rice didn't play last week, and should have a couple easy games this week. That being said, I'll echo what I said last week. Rice just hasn't beaten anyone, and they've lost both their games to good (not great) competition. One of those losses, to Iowa St. was by nearly 30 points. I'm not anywhere near sold that the Owls are as good as their record would imply.
7. Houston Cougars (4-4) Last Week: Last Week: (L) @ Texas St., Up Next: vs. Oklahoma
The Cougars loss to Texas St. should drop them a little in the power rankings, but considering all four of their losses have been very close games, I'll give them a little more time. Up next for UH are games against Oklahoma and UTSA. Neither school is doing great on the season, but both will provide great tests. Let's see how the Cougars fare in those two, before just completely writing them off.
8. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (4-6) Last Week: (L) vs. Wichita St., Up Next: vs. Texas-Arlington
The Golden Hurricane continue to lose games, but 1.) against good competition, and 2.) by close margins. Still, a loss is a loss, and that's exactly why Tulsa comes in at no. 8, but keep an eye on the Hurricane throughout the season, because they're definitely good enough to beat any team in conference. Up next for Tulsa is a rebound game against UTA, before taking on #24 Creighton.
9. UTEP Miners (2-4) Last Week: (L) @ Oregon, (W) vs. NMSU, Up Next: @ UNLV
One thing is for sure, this extremely young team is getting much better. It still is not justified to put them any higher than 9th, but I think that will probably change by conference time. Lone senior Gabe McCulley is back in action, and his presence has already made a HUGE impact. Two weeks ago the Miners nearly pulled the upset in Eugene, OR, and then returned home last week to drop the NMSU Aggies 73-69. This week the Miners will head to Vegas to take on an extremely tough UNLV squad in a game that will mark the beginning of a stretch that features 6 games in only 11 days. Go Miners!
10. SMU Mustangs (5-3) Last Week: Off, Up Next: vs. Jacksonville St.
The Mustangs are 5-3 on the season, but have been less than impressive throughout. They've yet to pick up a decent win, and more than that have had trouble putting "lesser" opponents away. The Mustangs have Jacksonville St. and Southeast Missouri St. in their next two. That should take them to 7-3, but its their non-conference ending stretch against Oklahoma St., La Tech, and Ole Miss that really interests me. Let's see how that goes.
11. ECU Pirates (4-4) Last Week: (L) vs. UMASS, Up Next: @ UNC-Greensboro
I've already criticized the Pirates for their extremely weak scheduling, and even with that they've started the season 4-4. They've lost three consecutive games to their toughest non-conference opponents, and now look ahead to playing schools like UNCG, Garder Webb, and NC Central. I will say that it does show something that they were competitive in their last three, but if this team is any good they shouldn't lose another non-conference game.
12. UAB Blazers (2-6) Last Week: (W) vs. Middle Tennessee, Up Next: @ VCU
The Blazers picked up a much needed win over a decent Middle Tennessee squad. It's a step in the right direction, but 6 early season losses have put this team in a really deep hole. They are certainly more talented than their 2-6 record, but we said the same thing about the football team, and that didn't turn out so good either. If UAB wants to have a successful season, they're going to have to get it going here...really quickly. Up next is road trip to take on VCU, and the Blazers still have to play #12 Florida in a couple weeks. It's gonna be tough.