A day late, but just on time. Monday was a huge day in Conference USA as 8 teams were in action, including Tulsa taking on #21 Creighton, Southern Miss at Arizona State, ECU against Coastal Carolina, Marshall against Belmont, Temple against Rice, Memphis against Lipscomb, SMU at SE Missouri St., and UTEP against McNese St. Conference USA went 6-2 in those games, and the winners greatly improved their positions in the conference power rankings. That said, here are this week's Conference USA Power Rankings.
1. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (9-2) Last: (W) @ Arizona St., Up Next: vs. South Florida
The Golden Eagles proved their worth over the last week, knocking off Ole Miss at home, and Arizona St. on the road. They will have a fairly tough matchup with USF at home on Thursday, and will then finish up non-conference action with 3 more very winnable games. Southern Miss, barring any unforeseen setbacks, should be sitting at 13-2 by the time conference play arrives.2. Marshall Thundering Herd (8-2) Last: (W) vs. Belmont, Up Next: vs. West Virginia Tech
The Herd was last week's no. 1 team in conference, and deservedly so after a solid outing at #1 Syracuse. But, the 1 point home win against Belmont concerns me a bit. Yes, Belmont is a very good team, and has hung with just about everyone they've played, but Memphis beat that team by 16 at home. So what's gonna happen when Marshall has to go the Bruin's place next week? The Herd will now take on West Virginia...Tech, before that rematch with Belmont next week.
3. Memphis Tigers (6-4) Last: (W) vs. Lipscomb, Up Next: @ #16 Georgetown
After 4 losses, the Memphis Tigers still find themselves in the top three in conference, and perhaps deserve to be even a little higher. There is no other school in C-USA that schedules as tough as Memphis does, and even if they did, they'd probably match the Tigers 6-4 record at best. Regardless, scheduling tough means nothing if you can't pick up the wins, and things are not getting any easier for the Tigers. Last week they lost to #4 Louisville in a game they were in until the end, and they will now take on #16 Georgetown, Charlotte, and Tennessee in three of the next four. Not to mention they will still play #15 Xavier later in the season. Bottom line, we know the Tigers are talented, but they need to pick up some wins here to prove that they are good.
4. UCF Knights (8-2) Last: (W) vs. Old Dominion, Up Next: @ Louisiana Lafayette
The Knights are quietly putting together a solid non-conference run. They've easily got the best win in conference, over then #4 Connecticut, they just beat ODU, and both their losses are against good teams. UCF will take on Louisiana Lafayette and Stetson over the next two weeks, and then they'll begin conference play. This is certainly a team with high expectations, and it's starting to seem like they will absolutely live up to them.
5. Tulane Green Wave (11-1) Last: (W) vs. Jacksonville St. , Up Next: @ #1 Syracuse
Is it bad that I have trouble putting Tulane this high in the rankings? I realize that they are 11-1, but think about this. Outside of Georgia Tech, no team that they have beat has a .500 record or better. Most recently, the Green Wave knocked off Jacksonville St (4-8) at home 59-51. Up next, they'll take on the #1 Syracuse Orangemen. We already saw Marshall hang tough against them, let's see what the Wave can do. If they play tough, they just might be as good as their record indicates. If they get run out of the building, this whole 11-1 thing may be just be a great illusion.
6. ECU Pirates (6-4) Last: (W) vs. Coastal Carolina, Up Next: vs. Gardner Webb
The Pirates came up with a big win on Monday, knocking off Coastal Carolina by 25. I'll be honest. I am in no way sold on ECU, but the win, coupled with the fact that no one else really deserves to be here, allows the Pirates to make their way into the top half of the league. ECU will now play Gardner Webb, North Carolina Central, and Virginia-Wise to close out the non-conference slate. That should put them at 9-4, but they'll open up conference against Southern Miss, UCF, Tulsa, and UTEP. It's very possible they lose all four of those. All in all, the jury is still out.
7. Rice Owls (7-4) Last: (L) vs. Temple, Up Next: @ Texas A&M
Ok, the Owls have been a bit of a disappointment thus far on the season. Sure they're 7-4, but this was supposed to be the year for them, and it's just not looking like that thus far. The Owls have 4 division 1 wins, and the best one of those is probably against Great West powerhouse Houston Baptist (4-7). There is just no meat on the bone here. But, considering they played tough against Temple, I'm not quite ready to write them off. Rice will take on Texas A&M, and Texas in two of their next three. I'd like to see what they do in those two, before jumping to any conclusions.
8. UTEP Miners (4-5) Last: (W) vs. McNese St., Up Next: vs. Clemson*
The Miners may be 4-5, but they have been a much better team since senior Gabe McCulley has returned to the lineup. In those 5 games, the Miners are 3-2, including wins over NMSU, Southern, and McNese St. They also put up great showings in losses at Oregon and UNLV. Up next, they'll head to Hawaii for the Diamondhead Classic. They open up the tournament against Clemson, and will then face the winner/loser of the Kansas St. vs. Southern Illinois game. The Miners will play three games in Hawaii, then return home for the Don Haskins Invitational where they'll open up against Colorado St. If this team has made the strides that we believe they have, it'll show over the next 10 days.
9. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-7) Last: (L) vs. #21 Creighton, Up Next: vs. Mercer
The Golden Hurricane had been taking good competition down to the wire this season, but that ended as the #21 Creighton Bluejays dropped them by 19 Monday night. Tulsa has played tough against Northwestern, St. Joes, Missouri St., Oklahoma St., Arizona St., and Wichita St., but they lost every one of those games. Over the last week they needed OT to take out UT-Arlington, and then they got blown out by Creighton. We know that Tulsa is capable of scaring some people, but at 2-7 in your last nine, you're not doing much more than scaring.
10. SMU Mustangs (6-4) Last: (W) @ SE Missouri St., Up Next: vs. Dallas Christian
The Mustangs are coming off an 84-65 victory over SE Missouri St. on Monday, but they have done little this season to show that are a quality basketball team. They've lost to Colorado St., Fresno St., Oral Roberts, and Jackson St., and they don't really have a single good win. They'll take on Dallas Christian next, which might be a high school, and then they'll take on Oklahoma St., La Tech, and Ole Miss leading into conference action. That run there will tell us everything we need to know about the Mustangs.
11. Houston Cougars (4-5) Last: (L) vs. Oklahoma*, Up Next: vs. UTSA
The Cougars have lost a lot of close games, but at some point the "close" part stops mattering. In their next four games, they'll take on UTSA, Rogers St., North Carolina A&T, and Texas St. Anything short of three wins in those four should be considered a disappointment.
12. UAB Blazers (2-6) Last: (W) vs. MTSU, Up Next: @ VCU
The Blazers are off to a very disappointing start, but their last game (13 days ago) against Middle Tennessee was certainly a step in the right direction. The Blazers will take on VCU tonight on the road, before returning home to take on Jacksonville on Thursday. They also have road games against George Washington and #12 Florida so things might get a little ugly.