Well, Christmas has come and gone, but the college basketball season is just getting good. There was a ton of action from around Conference USA, including some good matchups against ranked opponents. Let's take a look at how it all affected this week's Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings.
1. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (10-2) Last: (W) USF, Up Next: vs. Belhaven
The Golden Eagles only played one game last week, knocking off the Big East's South Florida 53-51 at home. Southern Miss improved to 10-2 on the season with the win, and they are the only C-USA team that is receiving votes in the latest top 25 polls. They will now get ready to take on Belhaven, Alcorn St., and McNese St over the next week, before opening up conference play against ECU on January 4th.
2. Marshall Thundering Herd (9-2) Last: (W) vs. West Virginia Tech, Up Next: @ Belmont
Last week, the Thundering Herd took care of West Virginia Tech, and snuck by Belmont. They will now get ready to take on Belmont in a rematch at the Bruins' place. The Herd already own a couple of wins over Cincinnati and Belmont on the young season, but a second win over Belmont might be the best one of all. Marshall will also take on Akron before their first conference matchup against UTEP.
3. Memphis Tigers (6-5) Last: (L) @ #12 Georgetown, Up Next: vs. Robert Morris
The Memphis Tigers have now lost 5 of their first 11 games. As disappointing as that is, they still don't have a single bad loss. In fact, every team Memphis has fallen to is currently ranked in the top 25. Its a little tough to justify putting the Tigers 3rd, but considering their losses, and the recent losses by Tulane and UCF, it only makes sense. They will now take on Robert Morris, Charlotte, and Tennessee at home before starting conference play on the road at UAB.
4. UCF Knights (8-3) Last: (L) @ Louisiana Lafayette, Up Next: vs. Stetson
The Knights took to the road last week, and fell 61-60 to a 6-8 ULL squad out of the Sun Belt. Its losses like that one that keeps Conference USA from gaining respect on the national level, and more than that its losses like that which keep a 5 loss Memphis team ranked ahead of them in the power rankings. The Knights will now look to rebound at home against Stetson, and will then open up conference action against Tulane.
5. Tulane Green Wave (11-2) Last (L) @ #1 Syracuse, Up Next: vs. UT Pan American
Last week we said that the Syracuse game would offer a ton of insight into how good this Tulane squad actually was. For about 5 minutes, it seemed like Tulane might have been better than I was giving them credit for. But, then reality set in, Syracuse closed out the half on a 26-5 run, and the Wave were run out of the building. Tulane will now take on UTPA before opening conference play at UCF. It may be a little premature to discount the Wave, but a tough opening stretch of conference play will surely shed a little light on the situation.
6. UTEP Miners (6-6) Last: (W) vs. Auburn*, Up Next: vs. Colorado St.
The Miners are truly becoming a force to be reckoned with in C-USA. After a 1-4 start, they are 5-2 in their last 7, including wins over Clemson and Auburn. The two losses came against nationally ranked opponents in UNLV and Kansas St., and the Miners were in both of those contests down to the wire. Their depth may come into question later on in the season, but at this point there is no questioning the quality of basketball that they are playing. Anyone in conference think they're a joke?...Just wait till you face off against them. The Miners will now take on Colorado St., and another opponent not yet determined this week in the Sun Bowl invitational, and will then open up conference action at Marshall.
7. Rice Owls (8-4) Last: (W) @ Texas A&M, Up Next: vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
If not for the Miners' performance in the Diamond Head Classic, the Owls may well have been the surprise of the week, knocking off a decent Texas A&M team in college station. So far, this team has been fairly inconsistent, but the win over A&M brings a little hope for the season. Up next is a machup with A&M-Corpus, and then they'll take on the UT Longhorns and TCU on the road before opening conference play. They may have a chance to win all three of those games, and if they do, they're a team to look out for in C-USA.
8. ECU Pirates (7-4) Last: (W) vs. Gardner Webb, Up Next: vs. North Carolina Central
The Pirates drop two spots in this week's rankings after winning their only contest last week by 14 points. Here's the thing, the Pirates have a good win over Coastal Carolina by 25, but your performance in non-conference cannot hinge on one good game. And frankly, the sub par scheduling just doesn't give them an opportunity to make up ground. ECU will take on NC Central and Virginia-Wise before opening up conference at C-USA's #1 team, Southern Miss.
9. SMU Mustangs (7-4) Last: (W) vs. Dallas Christian, Up Next: vs. Oklahoma St.*
The Mustangs took care of Dallas Christian and Southeast Missouri St. last week, but will now head into the meat of their non-conference schedule. They will take on Oklahoma St., Louisiana Tech, and Ole Miss in their next three. That should give us a pretty good idea of how where these guys really stand, because beating up on Dallas Christian and McMurray really doesn't say much.
10. Houston Cougars (6-5) Last: (W) vs. Rogers St., Up Next: vs. North Carolina A&T
After starting the season out 3-0, including a win over Arkansas, the Cougars have dropped 5 of 8, and now find themselves at 6-5. Last week, the Cougars beat UTSA 67-65, and Rogers St. 90-80. Those wins certainly start them in the right direction, but beating a non d-1 opponent on your home court by 10 eleven games into the season is a bit of a concern for me. The Cougars still have games against North Carolina A&T and Texas St. before opening conference play against Tulsa.
11. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-7) Last: (L) vs. #19 Creighton, Up Next: vs. Mercer
The Golden Hurricane didn't play a game since the last power rankings were released, but wins by SMU and Houston caused them to drop 2 spots. The Hurricane still have contests against Mercer and TCU before taking on Houston in the conference opener.
12. UAB Blazers (3-7) Last: (W) vs. Jacksonville, Up Next: @ George Washington
Although expectations for the Blazers were much higher than what we've seen thus far, it's pretty obvious where the talent level of the team is. The Blazers are now 3-7 on the season, and still have non-conference games at George Washington, vs Alabama A&M, and at #12 Florida. Most recently, UAB knocked off 2-9 Jacksonville at home 70-65. If things don't get corrected quickly, its gonna be real long season.