Things have once again been shaken up in Conference USA. Memphis knocked off UAB last Wednesday, and Southern Miss knocked off UTEP. Memphis then lost to Rice over the weekend, and UTEP took another tumble Monday morning against UCF. At this point, its not very easy to try and rank the C-USA teams, but we're going to try our best. From last to first, here are the C-USA power rankings.
12.) Tulane Green Wave (12-14, 2-11) RPI: 238
One might start to feel for this team after seeing what they've been going through over the last month and a half. This team was 12-3, and 2-0 in conference, but have been unable to pick up a win since then. Last week was no different. Tulane dropped a couple more heartbreakers at the hands of UCF, and Marshall (in ot). Their remaining schedule holds trips to Tulsa and Memphis, as well as a home game against Houston. Its not like the Green Wave hasn't been competitive. Let's see if they can pick one or two up down the stretch.
11.) Houston Cougars (12-13, 4-8) RPI: 213
The Cougars tried their best to make a run at the C-USA title this year, and they were in the race for about the first month. However, in the end it turned out to be exactly what it started out as, a rebuilding year. Last week Houston suffered its two worst losses of the conference season, at home against SMU by 14, and at UTEP by 12. They may have just run out of gas. The Cougars have Memphis, UAB, Tulane, and Rice so they will have their chance to pick up a couple more wins.
10.) Rice Owls (12-14, 4-8) RPI: 157
Assuming all the pieces stay in play, this will be a team to look out for next season. For the most part, the Owls have kept it very competitive all season, but they just aren't quite over the hump. Last week the Owls traveled to Huntington, WV and lost by 11, before returning home and knocking off then league leading Memphis by 15. This team is very capable of upsetting anyone, so lookout in the conference tourney. Rice finishes up the season with road games against SMU and Houston, and home games against ECU and Tulsa. I wouldn't be surprised to see them win out.
9.) East Carolina Pirates (13-13, 5-7) RPI: 136
The Pirates were somewhat of a sleeper team for me this season, and even though they did hang around the pack for a while there, they've fallen off in the last few weeks. The Pirates have lost 3 in a row, and 5 of 7 dating back to January 26. Things may be getting worse in Greenville, as the Pirates host UTEP tomorrow, before closing the season with road games at Rice and UAB, with a home game against Memphis in the middle of those two. These guys might not win another game.
8.) UCF Knights (17-9, 4-9) RPI: 63
There is no question that the Knights are extremely talented. There is also no question that they are extremely young. The Knights have won 3 of 4 since snapping their 8 game losing skid, including an odd Monday morning game against UTEP yesterday. Left on the schedule for UCF are home games against Southern Miss and SMU, followed by a season ending trip to play Marshall. If you play them in the tournament, you better come ready, these guys are much better than their record implies.
7.) SMU Mustangs (7-5, 16-10) RPI: 194
Two weeks ago the Mustangs had won five in a row, and were poised to make a run at the C-USA title. Since then they've lost two of three, and although they are only a game and a half out of first, they will need plenty of help from others to get back into the conversation. The Mustangs finish the season with road games at Marshall and UCF, sandwiched by home games against Rice and UTEP. They'll have to win out to have a chance, but look out for them regardless.
6.) Marshall Thundering Herd (18-9, 6-6) RPI: 59
The Thundering Herd has worked themselves back to two and a half games out of first place by winning three straight. That's more than likely not enough to really make them a serious threat, but they are definitely much better than where they stand in conference. The Herd have three of four home games to end the season. They play Tulsa and SMU, and then take their last road trip to play UTEP, before ending the season with a home game against UCF. These guys will be a tough first round matchup for whoever finished in 2nd or 3rd spot in conference. Good luck with that.
5.) Tulsa Golden Hurricane (15-11, 8-4) RPI: 88
The Golden Hurricane have put themselves in a great spot to win the Conference USA regular season title. In fact, they're in the driver seat to at least lock up the second spot. They've already knocked off UAB, Memphis, and UTEP, and still play Marshall, Tulane, Rice and Southern Miss to end the season. They have won 5 of 6, with their only loss being a 58-57 loss at UCF. They may be playing the best basketball in C-USA, and if they run the table, they may very well be the top team in Conference USA.
4.) UTEP Miners (20-7, 8-4) RPI: 63
It pains me to rank this team the 4th best in C-USA. They are much better than that. However, they haven't been showing it as of late, and even putting them ahead of Tulsa right now may be a bit generous. The Miners have now lost 2 of 3, and 3 of 6 dating back to January 29th. They still have ECU, Memphis, Marshall, and SMU left on the schedule. In a way its favorable, as the two "tougher" ones are at home, but then again nothing is easy in C-USA. The Miners still have a good shot to win the regular season title, but if they don't pull it together they could find themselves lost somewhere in the middle of the pack.
3.) Southern Miss Golden Eagles (20-6, 9-4) RPI: 42
Here's where things get real tough. Southern Miss has the best record in the league, and currently sits in first place. They've won 6 of 7, only losing a close one at Memphis. The Golden Eagles have a non division 1 game tonight, before finishing up the conference slate with UCF, UAB, and Tulsa. Look for them to win at least 3 of 4, and solidify a bye in the first round of the conference tourney. We'll see what happens from there.
2.) UAB Blazers (19-7, 9-4) RPI: 31
The Blazers have shown just how tough they are by dropping UCF, and narrowly losing at Memphis since losing their star forward Cameron Moore. They have won 4 out of 5, and are playing some great ball right now. The Blazers end the season with games against Houston, USM, and ECU. If they get Moore back anytime soon, they'll have a real chance to win out, and possibly wrap up the conference. Either way, they should be back to full strength come tourney time, and will be a force to be reckoned with.
1.) Memphis Tigers (20-7, 8-4) RPI: 36
Even after the loss to Rice, the Tigers still have to be considered the best team in C-USA. Sure they are 0-3 versus teams from C-USA west, but overshadowing that is the fact that they have swept both UAB and Southern Miss. The Tigers probably have the best shot at winning out as they play Houston, ECU, and Tulane, with the one real test at UTEP. A win against UTEP would wrap up the sweep of the three best teams in conference, and should be just what they need to retake their throne in C-USA.
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