By far, this week has been the toughest week to try and decide who should be the top team in conference. All of the top 4 have gone 1-1 against each other, winning at home and losing on the road. So, I put the decision on you all. And, while we didn't get as much feedback as I would've liked, here's what you all decided. Here are this week's Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings.
1. UCF Knights (14-4, 5-1) RPI: 55, SOS: 151, Last: (W) @ UAB, Up Next: @ Tulsa
The Knights bounced back well from their 65-64 loss at Marshall on the 14th. This past week they dropped Memphis at home (68-67), and UAB on the road (48-41). For their wins, they've taken over the top spot in conference. For now. This week the Knights will take a trip to Tulsa to take on a peaking Hurricane squad, and then turn around to play Southern Miss at home. If the Knights get out of this week unscathed, they just might be the conference's best team. If they don't, well at least they've got non-division 1 Palm Beach Atlantic coming to town next Monday.
2. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (15-3, 4-1) RPI: 16, SOS: 60, Last: (W) vs. Marshall, Up Next: @ ECU
The Golden Eagles were my pick for top team this week, but that vote got overruled. Like UCF, Southern Miss took care of business last week, dropping both UAB (59-55) and Marshall (67-63) at home. The Golden Eagles will now hit the road for matchups with ECU and UCF this week. The Pirates gave USM a game back on the 4th, losing by only two in Hattiesburg. Assuming Southern Miss can get out of Greenville alive, they'll have a contest against UCF to take that number 1 spot in conference.
3. Memphis Tigers (13-6, 4-1) RPI: 27, SOS: 10, Last: (W) vs. SMU, Up Next: vs. Rice
A couple of you all felt that the Tigers were the best team in conference this week, and while you could easily make a strong case for that argument, they check in at #3. Last week Memphis lost a tough one on the road at UCF as Keith Clanton finished up an and 1 with only seconds remaining to give the Knights a 1 point lead and the eventual win. They turned around and took out their frustrations on SMU, dropping the Mustangs 63-45. This week Memphis will take on Rice and Marshall at home. Like USM, two wins this week could give the Tigers that number 1 spot back.
4. Marshall Thundering Herd (12-6, 4-1) RPI: 50, SOS: 20, Last: (L) @ Southern Miss, Up Next: vs. UAB
Marshall is another squad that one could easily make an argument for them to be the top team in conference. But, of the four contenders, they are probably the least deserving of that title. Mostly because of their inconsistency. The Herd are 4-4 in their last 8 games. That stretch includes some good performances like a one point win against UCF, a 16 point drubbing of UTEP, and a narrow win at UAB. However, there are also plenty of low points in the stretch, including losses to Akron and Belmont, a near loss against Rice, and a blowout loss to rival West Virginia. I've been saying it for weeks now, and I'll say it again. If these guys can find consistency, they'll may very well be the best team in conference.
5. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (11-9, 4-2) RPI: 131, SOS: 123, Last: (W) @ Rice, Up Next: vs. UCF
Truth be told, the Golden Hurricane are not far the first tier of teams in Conference USA. The team that couldn't win a close game to save their lives is now putting teams away, and not letting it come down to the closing seconds. Their latest victims? The Rice Owls. Tulsa absolutely handed it to Rice on Saturday, dropping them in Houston 70-46. The win gives Tulsa 4 in a row, with their two conference losses coming versus SMU by 2, and at Houston by 1. Really, if this team had found themselves 1 week earlier, they're undefeated in conference right now. Tulsa will now play host to UCF tomorrow. If they're going to prove they're for real, tomorrow is their chance.
6. UTEP Miners (10-10, 3-3) RPI: 140, SOS: 72, Last: (L) @ Tulane, Up Next: @ Houston
Even after the loss to Tulane, the Miners move up in this week's power rankings, mostly due to the beating Tulsa served Rice on their home court. Last week UTEP took care of ECU at home, but then fell to Tulane on the road. The young Miners have still yet to find a win on the road this season. But, they'll have their chances. The Miners only have 1 game this week, and its a matchup against a Houston team they beat by 20 only 2 weeks ago in El Paso. If these guys are ready to get over that road hump, Saturday should be the day.
7. Rice Owls (8-9, 2-3) RPI: 195, SOS: 190, Last: (L) vs. Tulsa, Up Next: @ Memphis
Two weeks ago, the Owls took a huge step forward. Last week, they took two bigger steps back, falling to UAB (61-60) and Tulsa (70-46) on their home court. And If their looking for relief, it won't come right away. Tomorrow they'll take on Memphis in the FedEx Forum, and then they'll head back to Houston to take on a Tulane team that they narrowly defeated (50-49) only 10 days ago. The Owls are a talented team, they just can't find any consistency. But, a favorable stretch after that Memphis game may just be what they need to get back on track.
8. Tulane Green Wave (11-6, 1-4) RPI: 180, SOS: 318, Last: (W) vs. UTEP, Up Next: vs. SMU
The Green Wave finally found their first conference win on Saturday, knocking off UTEP 66-58. It's a start, but it certainly doesn't mean the Wave are back on the right track. In fact, with star Kendall Timmons out potentially for the rest of the season, they'll have even more of a challenge to get back to where they want to be. Still a win is a win, and more than that they've been competitive with just about everyone they've played. I'd expect that to continue, but I wouldn't start expecting to win a ton of games. However, this week could be the exception. Games against SMU and Rice will give them a chance to gain some confidence before heading to Marshall on February 1st.
9. SMU Mustangs (8-9, 2-3) RPI: 170, SOS: 213, Last: (L) @ Memphis, Up Next: @ Tulane
The Mustangs have now alternated wins and losses against division 1 opponents for the past 11 games. They've had some close ones, but they just haven't figured out how to put it all together. Last week the Mustangs beat Houston and lost to Memphis. This week they'll take on Tulane in New Orleans and then return home to take on Tulsa. A couple losses this week could turn this season into a complete disappointment, but a couple of wins could get them sparked for a late run.
10. UAB Blazers (6-12, 1-4) RPI: 147, SOS: 19, Last: (L) vs. UCF, Up Next: @ Marshall
Ok, so the Blazers probably don't deserve to be ranked higher than 11th, but they came up with a win so I'll give them a week out of the cellar. Really though, the Blazers are far from the worst team in conference. Record wise, they may be, but they've played everyone in conference, including each of the top 4 teams, very tough. This team is no cakewalk for anyone in conference, and considering they get the top 4 twice this year, they may be playing spoiler in another month or so. This week the Blazers travel Hungtington, WV to take on Marshall, and then return home to take on ECU. 1-1 sounds about right, but don't put it past them to win both.
11. Houston Cougars (9-9, 2-4) RPI: 227, SOS: 197, Last: (W) vs. ECU, Up Next: vs. UTEP
The Cougars seemed like they had pulled it together late in the non-conference run. Unfortunately, they're now 2-4 in conference, and their losses have come by an average of more than 20 points. They did beat Tulsa, before the Hurricane began their turnaround, and now they've beat ECU. It's shows they're not the worst in the league, but they're not far from it. Up next is a rematch with UTEP, who already blew the Cougars out by 20 in El Paso two weeks ago. That will be UH's only game this week as they will take Wednesday off.
12. ECU Pirates (5-9, 0-5) RPI: 187, SOS: 89, Last: (L) @ Houston, Up Next: vs. Southern Miss
Ok, I'm just gonna ramble here. First, ECU has played four non-division1 schools. Second, they've played only 3 teams ranked in the top 100 RPI. Third, they've only played four others that are ranked in the top 150 RPI. How do they have the 89th toughest schedule in the nation??? Anyway, things aren't looking very promising for the folks in Greenville, and imo for coach Lebo either. An 0-5 start in conference, and of the 11 games left you've got Memphis twice, Marshall twice, and Southern Miss and UCF once each. I'd be surprised to see this team win more than 3 games in conference. Last week I made the comment that two losses on their Texas road trip may heat up Lebo's seat a little. Some posters on an ECU thread disagreed with me. That's fine with me, but my question is...When does that seat start to heat up??