Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA basketball rankings – Jan. 2

After the first week, there isn’t much change, as the top 6 won all their games against the bottom 8.

I  use RPIs as a starting point in listing “quality wins,” “good losses” and “bad losses.” I will begin with wins over top-150 teams and close losses to top-125 teams and go from there, adding and deleting as it makes sense. Losses to over-200 teams are listed, perhaps with mitigating comments, and routs to anybody can be listed.

Teams are not ranked by RPI. Important: Overall records are against Division I teams only. For instance, Marshall is 11-4, but that includes a win over Concord. The rankings will not be shuffled until next week.

1. Middle Tennessee (8-4, 1-0)
Last week: beat UAB 63-60
Thursday, Saturday: at FIU, FAU
Quality wins
Murray State 72-67, Vanderbilt 66-63, Ole Miss 77-58, Princeton 69-67, UAB 63-60
Good losses
Auburn 70-76, Belmont 63-69, USC 84-89, Miami 81-84
Bad losses
None

Notes: Unless I can’t count, Nick King scored 21 of his team’s final 23 points to fend off the Blazers. He has taken over the league’s scoring lead, 23.8-23.5 over Marshall’s Jon Elmore.

2. Western Kentucky (9-5, 2-0)
Last week:
beat Louisiana Tech 69-68, beat Southern Miss 82-66
Saturday:
at Marshall
Quality wins
Purdue 77-73 (AP No. 14!), SMU 63-61, Wright State 78-60, Louisiana Tech 69-68
Good losses
Belmont 72-75, Wisconsin 80-81, Villanova (No. 1) 58-66, Missouri State 80-85
Bad losses
Ohio 84-89

Notes: Hilltoppers recorded assists on their first 12 baskets and hit 12 of 24 from 3-point range against Southern Miss. But more impressive was leading Louisiana Tech for 39 minutes, though WKU lost the lead and needed two free throws and Dwight Coleby’s block to seize the game.

3. Marshall (10-4, 2-0)
Last week: beat Southern Miss 85-66, beat Louisiana Tech 78-65
Saturday: home vs. Western Kentucky

Quality wins
Louisiana Tech 78-65
Good losses
Xavier (AP No. 6) 77-81
Bad losses
Morehead 83-86

Notes: What was impressive about beating a still-athletic Lousiana Tech team was that (a) the Herd played with an illness-hampered Ajdin Penava and (b) never allowed the Bulldogs a chance in the second half. Herd takes Bulldogs’ spot.

4. UAB (7-5, 0-1)
Last week:
lost to Middle Tennessee 60-63
Thursday/Saturday: At FAU, FIU.
Quality wins
Memphis 71-56
Good losses
Auburn 80-85, Buffalo (RPI 33! WHAT?) 91-96, MTSU 60-63
Bad losses
Richmond 50-63

Notes: Remember, Blazers were picked second in the preseason poll, and their 3-point home loss to the Blue Raiders didn’t offer a rebuttal. There were 15 lead changes, 12 ties and no leader bigger than 5 points.

5. Old Dominion (10-3, 1-0)
Last week:
beat Charlotte 89-58
Thursday/Saturday: at Rice, North Texas
Quality wins
Dayton 75-67, Towson 57-54
Good losses
VCU 75-82, William & Mary 77-79 (halfcourt shot at buzzer)
Bad losses
None

Notes: Looks as if everybody’s going to beat Charlotte, but the good teams will make the 49ers look awful. Monarchs are a good team.

6. Louisiana Tech (7-6, 0-2)
Last week: lost to WKU 68-69, at Marshall 65-78
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. UTSA, UTEP
Quality wins
Evansville 63-61
Good losses
Alabama 74-77, Stephen F. Austin 85-83, Western Kentucky 68-69
Bad losses
None

Notes: I’m not giving up on Bulldogs, who faced a tough opening weekend, but 0-2 had to push them down the pecking order.

7. North Texas (7-6, 2-0)
Last week:
beat UTEP 63-62, beat UTSA 72-71
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Charlotte, Old Dominion
Quality wins
San Diego 86-83
Good losses
Oklahoma (AP No. 12) 72-82, UT-Arlington (RPI 82) 60-65
Bad losses
UT-Rio Grande Valley 63-75

Notes: After two one-point wins, do have a team of destiny? I’m not sold, but sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart might be the real deal, scoring 51 points in the two games. He is up to 4th in scoring (18.7) behind King, Elmore and MU’s C.J. Burks (20.1).

8. UTSA (5-7, 1-1)
Last week:
beat Rice 79-66, lost to North Texas 71-72
Thursday/Saturday: At Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Oklahoma (AP No. 12) 85-97, Utah Valley 80-88, Nebraska 94-104
Bad losses
Coastal Carolina 69-83

Notes: Jhivvan Jackson won his third freshman of the week award for scoring 59 points and shooting 46.2 percent from 3-point range, but the Roadrunners missed a layup and a tip-in at the buzzer against North Texas.

9. UTEP (5-8, 1-1)
Last week:
lost to North Texas 63-62, beat Rice 80-62
Thursday/Saturday: at Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech
Quality wins
Washington State 76-69
Good losses
Boise State 56-58
Bad losses
New Mexico State 60-80, Appalachian State 72-76

Notes: As if the Miners didn’t have enough problems, leading scorer Keith Frazier has taken a personal leave of absence.

10. Southern Miss (3-8, 0-1)
Last week:
lost at Marshall 85-66, lost at WKU 66-82
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. UTEP, UTSA
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Mississippi State 64-70
Bad losses
Florida State 45-98, South Alabama 58-69

Notes: The Golden Eagles may have had a tough trip to Huntington, but I saw only 2 players who could contend for playing time in Dan D’Antoni’s rotation.

11. Florida International (4-7, 1-0)
Last week:
beat FAU 58-57
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. MTSU, UAB
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Elon 87-95
Bad losses
Stetson 64-70, Hartford 72-79, James Madison 67-76

Note: Brian Beard Jr. hit 2 free throws in the final minute and Trejon Jacob ended the game with a steal. Panthers will need all their lack-of-atmosphere advantage they can muster this week.

12. Florida Atlantic (3-7, 0-1)
Last week: 
lost to FIU 57-58
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. UAB, MTSU
Quality wins
None
Good losses
None
Bad losses
Arkansas State 63-64, South Florida 59-60, Texas Tech 54-90, Towson 52-76, Minnesota 60-95

Note: How often are you going to lose to FIU and gain a spot in any ranking? The reason is one spot below …

13. Charlotte (3-8, 0-1)
Last week:
lost to Old Dominion 58-89
Thursday/Saturday:
at North Texas, Rice
Quality wins
None
Good losses
None
Bad losses
James Madison 82-87, Chattanooga 50-64, South Florida 76-78

Notes: You have to be banished to the bottom after trailing 42-16 at halftime and giving up 89 to ODU. This sets up Saturday’s pillow fight with Rice.

14. Rice (1-12, 0-2)
Last week:
lost to UTSA 66-79, lost to UTEP 62-80
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Old Dominion, Charlotte
Quality wins
None
Good losses
None
Bad losses
Eastern Kentucky 72-73, UT-Rio Grande Valley 67-69, Texas State 66-74, UTSA 66-79, UTEP 62-80

Note: Charlotte/Rice winner might finish 1-17 in league play.