The non-conference season is quickly coming to an end, and we're starting to find out exactly where teams stand in Conference USA. Considering that, let's take a look at where they land this week.
12. Rice Owls: (3-7) Last: (W) vs. Chicago State, Up Next: vs. TCU
The Owls were able to pick up their third win of the season a couple of days ago, knocking off Chicago State in overtime. However, the toughest stretch of their non-conference schedule has arrived, as they'll now have TCU at home, and then hit the road to take on Texas and Harvard. This team is definitely improving, but is still deserving of this spot in these rankings. If they can pick up a win or two in this next stretch, they'll likely take themselves out of it.
11. UAB Blazers (6-6) Last: (W) vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Up Next: vs. Northeastern
The Blazers are playing extremely inconsistent basketball thus far, and have yet to pick up any kind of signature win. Last night they were in a fairly tight game against a 1-7 Monroe team, before opening it up a bit in the second half. UAB is a team that can put up points in a hurry, but that's just not getting them enough wins. They'll finish out their non-conference schedule with games against Northeastern, Georgia Southern, and Dayton. They need to pick up at least a couple of those to gain some momentum heading into conference play.
10. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-5) Last: (L) @ #17 Creighton, Up Next: @ Oral Roberts
Its tough to judge the Golden Hurricane. They came out and won four of their first five games, but have lost four of six since then. Granted, that stretch included games against Wichita State and Creighton, but there were also contests against the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Arkansas-Little Rock. Both of those teams are playing some good basketball right now, but a better than average Conference USA team should be able to come with wins in those games. Tulsa still has a couple tough ones ahead of them as they're at Oral Roberts and Florida State next.
9. Marshall Thundering Herd (7-5) Last: (W) vs. Savannah State, Up Next: @ Kentucky
The Herd are a talented team, but have been playing well below their talent level. Add to that the fact that they have lost star guard DeAndre Kane for an undetermined amount of time, and they just aren't what many expected them to be. They were able to get by Savannah State, but will have some serious trouble against Kentucky next. As long as Kane is out, expect to find this team floating somewhere around this spot in the league.
8. SMU Mustangs (8-3) Last: (L) @ Utah, Up Next: @ Wagner
The Mustangs have experienced the biggest fall in these rankings after dropping back to back contests against Rhode Island and Utah. The loss at Utah isn't terrible, but losing to a 2-7 Rhode Island team by 22 is. They've got a couple chances to get things back on track against Wagner and Furman, before closing their non-conference slate against a tough Wyoming squad. I expect this team to cause some fits come conference time, but they're starting to struggle a bit right now.
7. UTEP Miners (4-5) Last: (W) vs. Oregon, Up Next: vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
The Miners seem to finally have things headed in the right direction, correcting many of their early season woes by winning three of their last four. The lone loss came against nationally ranked UNLV by 2, and their more recent win came over Pac-12 power Oregon in triple overtime. The Miners now have a couple of games in the Sun Bowl Invitational and will then close out the non-conference slate at Colorado State. The Miners are getting to full strength at the right time, and will definitely be one to look out for in Conference USA.
6. Central Florida Knights (7-3) Last: (W) vs. Stetson, Up Next: vs. Howard
The Knights have won three of their last four, but the one loss came at home against Miami by 22. While their record looks great, outside of the season opener against South Florida they just don't have any quality wins. The three losses have come against very good teams, but they've also come by an average of 16 points. Up next they've got a game against Howard, and will then have a rematch with South Florida. We'll see how they fare in that one.
5. Tulane Green Wave (9-3) Last: (W) vs. Pepperdine, Up Next: vs. Hofstra
The Green Wave have now won six of seven, but their most recent win against Pepperdine is the best one they've picked up all season. Tarrant and Timmons will make this team one of the better ones in the league, but how far they can take them is still yet to be seen. Up next they get Hofsta, and then they'll have a tough one at Alabama. If they can pick up those two, they might move up a bit on this list.
4. East Carolina Pirates (7-2) Last: (W) vs. Gardner-Webb, Up Next: @ UMASS
I was reluctant to put the Pirates even this high in the rankings, considering three of their wins have come against non-division 1 opponents. But after being down nearly 20 against North Carolina they fought back to nearly pull off the upset. That has to count for something. Up next, they'll be at Massachusetts, and a win there would go a long way in solidifying the Pirates as one of the better teams in this conference. We'll see how it goes.
3. Houston Cougars (8-2) Last: (W) Louisiana-Lafayette, Up Next: vs. Chicago State
The Cougars are a young and talented team that are quickly gaining confidence by racking up wins. They last beat Louisiana-Lafayette by 20, and will next take on Chicago State. The problem here is the lack of competition in the non-conference may not have well prepared them for conference play. While they did play middle of the road power conference teams like Texas A&M and TCU, the rest of their schedule is filled with the likes of Prairie View, Grambling, and UT Pan American. We'll see if that pays off.
2. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (8-3) Last: (W) vs. Georgia State, Up Next: vs. Wichita State
The Golden Eagles have picked up two wins since their three game skid, including games against Grambling and Georgia State. If they can get things going, they've got the talent and experience to make a run in Conference USA. Next up, they've got Wichita State. That'll be the true test for this team heading into conference action. We'll see if they can come up with a win.
1. Memphis Tigers (7-3) Last: (W) vs. Lipscomb, Up Next: vs. Oral Roberts
The Tigers continue to hold on to the top spot in Conference USA, simply because there is no one else that deserves it. They had an opportunity to solidify themselves as the top team after having #6 Louisville down by as many as 20 in their game last week. But, they let them back in the game, and wound up losing, allowing others in conference to continue to gain ground on them. Up next, they Tigers have Oral Roberts, and will still play Tennessee in the non-conference. Lose either of those, and this team likely won't be number 1 heading into C-USA play.