Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA basketball rankings — Jan. 10

OK, the season is underway. Rice beat Charlotte, but the 49ers still won one. And oh, by the way, Western Kentucky is pretty good.

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 11-5, but that includes a win over Concord. The rankings will not be shuffled until next week.

(1) 2. Western Kentucky (10-5, 3-0)
Last week:
beat Marshall 112-87
Thursday/Saturday: at ODU, at Charlotte
Quality wins
Purdue 77-73 (AP No. 14!), SMU 63-61, Wright State 78-60, Louisiana Tech 69-68, Marshall 112-87
Good losses
Belmont 72-75, Wisconsin 80-81, Villanova (No. 1) 58-66, Missouri State 80-85
Bad losses
Ohio 84-89

Notes: The Hilltoppers may have the best starting five in the league and their 9th scholarship players hit the ground running the day after being declare eligible by the NCAA. Their thrashing of Marshall sent a loud statement. Another biggie Thursday in Norfolk.

2. Middle Tennessee (10-4, 3-0)
Last week: beat FIU 71-66, FAU 61-57
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss
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: I wanted to just keep the Blue Raiders at No. 1 and let the MTSU-WKU game January 20 settle things. But an overtime win over Florida International doesn’t get it.

3. UAB (9-5, 2-1)
Last week:
Beat FAU 75-44, FIU 74-64.
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech
Quality wins
Memphis 71-56
Good losses
Auburn 80-85, Buffalo 91-96, MTSU 60-63
Bad losses
Richmond 50-63

Notes: Boy, that loss to MTSU made these guys really, really angry! FAU did one thing marginally well, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds … and scored 5 points off of them.

4. Old Dominion (10-3, 1-0)
Last week:
beat Rice 82-75, North Texas 63-60
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. WKU, Marshall
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: Word about the North Texas game: Monarchs led for 39:44, though Mean Green rallied to get within one.

5. Marshall (10-5, 2-1)
Last week: lost to Western Kentucky 87-112
Thursday/Saturday: at Charlotte, at Old Dominion

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

Notes: The Thundering Herd was picked 7th in the preseason poll because nobody had an idea Ajdin Penava could turn into a star player. So for this week, at least, we see how this team does without the guy, period.

6. UTSA (6-8, 2-2)
Last week:
beat Louisiana Tech 78-76, lost to Southern Miss 83-93
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. FIU, FAU
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: Now we get into the messiness. Talk about your split weekends!

7. North Texas (7-8, 2-2)
Last week:
lost to Charlotte 68-70, Old Dominion 60-63
Saturday: at Rice
Quality wins
San Diego 86-83
Good losses
Oklahoma (AP No. 12) 72-82, UT-Arlington 60-65, Old Dominion 60-63
Bad losses
UT-Rio Grande Valley 63-75

Notes: How can I possibly keep a Mean Green team in the front half after losing to Charlotte? I don’t know.

8. Louisiana Tech (8-7, 1-3)
Last week: lost to UTSA 76-78, beat UTEP 97-88
Thursday/Saturday: at MTSU, at UAB
Quality wins
Evansville 63-61
Good losses
Alabama 74-77, Stephen F. Austin 85-83, Western Kentucky 68-69
Bad losses
None

Notes: Bulldogs not only get thrown to the bottom division, but they’re staring at a 1-5 start.

9. Southern Miss (5-8, 2-2)
Last week:
beat UTEP 85-75, UTSA 93-83
Thursday/Saturday: at UAB, at MTSU
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Mississippi State 64-70
Bad losses
Florida State 45-98, South Alabama 58-69

Notes: If the Golden Eagles want an apology for my critique of them last week, they’ve got their shot this week.

10. Florida International (4-9, 1-2)
Last week:
lost to MTSU 66-71 OT, UAB 64-75
Thursday/Saturday: at UTSA, UTEP
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Elon 87-95, MTSU 66-71 OT
Bad losses
Stetson 64-70, Hartford 72-79, James Madison 67-76

Note: Much like I demoted the Blue Raiders, I raise the Panthers. A tie after regulation must mean something.

11. UTEP (5-10, 1-3)
Last week:
lost to Southern Miss 75-85, Louisiana Tech 88-97
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. FAU, FIU
Quality wins
Washington State 76-69
Good losses
Boise State 56-58
Bad losses
New Mexico State 60-80, Appalachian State 72-76

Notes: xxxxxx.

12. Rice (2-13, 1-3)
Last week:
lost to Old Dominion 75-82, beat Charlotte 73-64
Saturday: home vs. North Texas
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Old Dominion 75-82
Bad losses
Eastern Kentucky 72-73, UT-Rio Grande Valley 67-69, Texas State 66-74, UTSA 66-79, UTEP 62-80

13. Charlotte (4-9, 1-2)
Last week:
beat North Texas 70-68, lost to Rice 64-73
Thursday/Saturday:
home vs. Marshall, WKU
Quality wins
None
Good losses
None
Bad losses
James Madison 82-87, Chattanooga 50-64, South Florida 76-78

14. Florida Atlantic (3-9, 0-3)
Last week: 
lost to UAB 44-75, MTSU 57-61
Thursday/Saturday: at UTEP, UTSA
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, UAB 44-75

Note: Fought to the end against the Blue Raiders, but that doesn’t quite cover up that mess against UAB. To the bottom ye shall go, Owls.