Southern Mississippi continues to lead the biggest conference in college basketball which has been nothing short of outstanding. Considering the schedule and influx of new teams, the Golden Eagles are dominating at home and on the road which places them at the top of this week’s power rankings.
1) Southern Mississippi (18-3, 5-1) – The Golden Eagles defeated the East Carolina Pirates 60-46 in Greenville, N.C. last Saturday giving them their seventh road win on the season and third in C-USA.
2) Louisiana Tech (17-4, 5-1) – The Bulldogs fell victim to the Golden Eagles at Reed Green Coliseum for their lone loss in conference. However, Michael White and his squad increased its win total by two with wins over Charlotte and Marshall last Thursday and Saturday.
3) UTEP (14-6, 4-1) - The Miners have all of a sudden awakened and now find themselves the third best team in the conference. The Miners protected home court on Saturday with an 81-62 win over UTSA.
4) Old Dominion (10-10, 4-1) – The League of 16 should keep a close eye on the institution of rich basketball tradition. The Monarchs added a ‘W’ to the win column last weekend after a 70-64 victory over Tulane. First-year head coach Jeff Jones and crew are now the fourth best team in C-USA.
5) Tulsa (9-11, 4-2) – Tulsa head coach Danny Manning has his guys believing. While they lost 70-63 to UAB on Saturday, they have wins over Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss in case there’s a question about their ranking.
6) Middle Tennessee (13-7, 3-2) - The Blue Raiders and Kermit Davis Jr. continue to scratch and claw their way. Saturday’s win in Denton was their first road win in conference.
7) FIU (11-9, 3-2) - Speaking of scratching and clawing, first year Florida International lead maestro, Anthony Evans, and his Panthers are 3-2 in their last five. In-state rival, FAU, fell victim to the Panthers last weekend.
8) Charlotte (12-7, 3-3) - The 49ers lost to Rice on Saturday but made it a game near the end. Alan Major also has a group of very talented players. But, keep your eye on Shawn Lester who has the ability to score from anywhere on the court.
9) Tulane (11-10, 3-3) - Ed Conroy and his squad suffered a 70-64 loss to newcomer Old Dominion last weekend. The Green Wave will roll into Hattiesburg on Saturday looking for their fourth conference win of the season. Freshman guard Jonathan Stark now has 18 double-figure scoring games on the stat sheet after 21 points against ODU.
10) UAB (13-6, 2-3) - Jerod Hasse’s group has a better overall record than the three teams above. But, conference records count here. One little factoid we should mention is the Blazers have played three of their first five conference games on the road. But, to be considered a conference contender, winning on the road is a must. The Blazers will have the opportunity to get it going the other way as four of the next six will be at Bartow Arena in Birmingham.
11) FAU (7-13, 2-3) – FAU head coach Mike Jarvis and son are looking for the right combinations to get their Owls flying in the right direction. They fell to FIU over the weekend. However, with dates at Charlotte and at Marshall, Jarvis and his squad have a chance to improve to better than .500.
12) UTSA (6-12, 2-3) – This is clearly an example of understanding what pays the bills. UTSA head coach Brooks Thompson and his team need a couple of wins to get on the right side of average—that’s all. However, they’ve got two tough opponents coming into San Antonio in Rice on Thursday and Louisiana Tech on Saturday. It’s up to the Road Runners to protect the Convocation Center home court and get in the hunt.
13) North Texas (11-9, 2-4) – The 70-63 loss to Middle Tennessee is not exactly the outcome head coach Tony Bedford imagined, especially with the next three on the road against mentally tough Tulsa, a hungry Rice team, and Louisiana Tech, the second best team in C-USA. However, in a sixteen-team league, the schedule is unforgiving and one every team must face.
14) Marshall (7-14, 1-5) – Marshall earned its first conference win of the season last Thursday at Rice. However, on Saturday, Tom Herrion’s Thundering Herd turned the ball over 22 times which didn’t help their cause in a 98-77 loss to Louisiana Tech on Karl Malone Court. Remember him? Marshall has Thursday and Saturday home games against FIU and FAU respectively.
15) Rice (6-13, 1-5) – “Once we get that confidence of getting stops, I think the rhythm of the game will come better. It’s so much easier to play the game when you get stops.” These statements were made by head coach Ben Braun after the home loss to Marshall on Thursday. There was a different result Saturday night at Tudor Fieldhouse as the Owls forced 22 turnovers in their 71-69 defeat of Charlotte, their first conference victory. If Braun’s group continues to play with the same intensity, some surprises could be in store. The next two are on the road at UTSA and UTEP.
16) East Carolina (11-9, 0-5) – It’s rare for a team with an overall winning record to be winless in conference play. What’s more challenging for head coach Jeff Lebo and the Pirates is that the next two are at Middle Tennessee and UAB. Regardless, ECU has 11 opportunities to make a run.