The race to finish first just became a lot more heated over the weekend as then conference leader, Southern Miss, dropped two on the road at UAB and Middle Tennessee. As a result, there’s a three-way tie for first place between Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, and UTEP.
Hence, Louisiana Tech replaces Southern Mississippi atop our Conference USA power rankings. The Bulldogs showed their dominance on Saturday soundly defeating Rice, 85-46. Tech is now tied with Southern Miss for the best overall record at 21-5.
2. Southern Miss (21-5, 8-3) – It was just bad timing for the Golden Eagles to have road games at two of the strongest and most talented conference foes in UAB and Middle Tennessee. The Golden Eagles fell to the Blazers, 84-60 on Thursday and lost 81-64 to Middle Tennessee on Saturday. However, it’s because of that strength of schedule that USM only drops one position within the conference.
3. UTEP (19-7, 9-2) - The Miners missed an opportunity to climb in the rankings after splitting home games against FIU and FAU. Florida Atlantic defeated UTEP 71-69 on Thursday. However, UTEP bounced back on Saturday with an 84-71 win over Florida International.
4. Middle Tennessee (19-7, 9-2) - The Blue Raiders are coming. Peaking at the right time is the key to winning a conference championship and going deep into the tournament. More impressive, Middle Tennessee defended home court by defeating Tulane 71-44 on Thursday and roughing up Southern Miss on Saturday, 81-64.
5. Tulsa (13-12, 8-3) – Also making a move at the right time is the Golden Hurricane. They took care of business at the Reynolds Center defeating East Carolina 76-58 on Thursday. They backed that up with a 76-37 scoring display against Old Dominion on Saturday. Tulsa is now in a second place tie with Southern Miss.
6. UAB (15-10, 4-7) – The Blazers also moved up in the rankings with a solid win over Southern Miss on Thursday. However, they took a step back on Saturday after an 86-80 home loss to Tulane.
7. Charlotte (14-10, 5-6) - The 49ers had to endure a 59-56 home loss to Marshall on Saturday.
8. Old Dominion (12-14, 6-5) – The Monarchs were impressive in their 72-62 road win at North Texas. But, they lacked luster at Tulsa as they were beaten by 39 points.
9.Tulane (14-12, 6-5) – Must give Tulane credit as the Green Wave are better than .500 overall and in conference. Their bounce back effort at Bartow Arena on Saturday against UAB is also commendable after losing by 27 to Middle Tennessee on Thursday.
10. North Texas (12-13, 3-8) – The Super Pit in Denton was the scene of a 10-point loss to Old Dominion on Thursday. However, the Mean Green gave the home crowd something to cheer about after a dramatic 53-51 win over East Carolina on Saturday.
11. FAU (10-16, 5-6) – The win over UTEP last Thursday was huge for head coach Mike Jarvis and his Owls. However, they fell to another Texas team, UTSA, by 10 on Saturday.
12. FIU (13-13, 5-6) – The Panthers earned a split on the road winning at UTSA but falling 84-71 at UTEP on Saturday.
13. East Carolina (13-13, 2-9) – The Pirates dropped road games at Tulsa and in Denton on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
14. Marshall (9-17, 3-8) – Marshall was off Thursday, but impressive in their 59-56 win at Charlotte on Saturday.
15. UTSA (8-16, 4-7) – The Road Runners refused to get swept at home as they suffered an 80-72 loss to Florida International on Thursday. However, they beat Florida Atlantic by 10 Saturday.
16. Rice (7-17, 2-9) – The Owls were hoping to make a statement toward the end of the season, but fell short at Louisiana Tech. They will look to get some traction this weekend with road visits to Old Dominion and East Carolina.