Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA basketball rankings — Jan. 17

News of sorts this week: Jay Bilas compiles his best 68 teams — he would just as soon see the “low major” conferences take a hike — and puts Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky *and* Old Dominion in his list. Such an analysis on Selection Sunday would mean one NCAA bid and two to the NIT, but that’s not a negative at this level. If you disagree, see how many multiple-bid leagues there will be other than the “Power 5” and the Big East. That number probably won’t reach five.

On to this week’s mess, in which I cannot decipher anything below No. 5.

Teams are not ranked by RPI or necessarily league standings. Important: Overall records are against Division I teams only. For instance, Marshall is 12-6, but that includes a win over Concord. The rankings will not be shuffled until next week.

1. Western Kentucky (12-5, 5-0)
Last week:
beat ODU 75-68, Charlotte 73-63
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. UAB, MTSU
Quality wins
Purdue 77-73 (AP No. 14!), SMU 63-61, Wright State 78-60, Louisiana Tech 69-68, Marshall 112-87, ODU 75-68
Good losses
Belmont 72-75, Wisconsin 80-81, Villanova (No. 1) 58-66, Missouri State 80-85
Bad losses
Ohio 84-89

Notes: Toppers held opponents to 39 percent and 35 percent shooting last week. Justin Johnson went 25 pts/14 rebs against ODU.

2. Middle Tennessee (12-4, 5-0)
Last week: beat Louisiana Tech 72-57, Southern Miss 69-49
Thursday/Saturday: at Marshall, WKU
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: Blue Raiders’ winning streak against conference opponents has hit 15.

3. Alabama-Birmingham (11-5, 4-1)
Last week:
Beat Southern Miss 86-75, Louisiana Tech 74-62.
Thursday/Saturday: at WKU, Marshall
Quality wins
Memphis 71-56
Good losses
Auburn 80-85, Buffalo 91-96, MTSU 60-63
Bad losses
Richmond 50-63

Notes: Zack Bryant has become another name Marshall fans should watch. He earned freshman of the week honors, in part because of a 19-point outing against Southern Miss. The Blazers have reloaded nicely.

4. Old Dominion (13-4, 4-1)
Last week:
lost to WKU 68-75, beat Marshall 82-76
Thursday/Saturday: At FIU, FAU
Quality wins
Dayton 75-67, Towson 57-54, Marshall 82-76
Good losses
VCU 75-82, William & Mary 77-79 (halfcourt shot at buzzer)
Bad losses
None

Notes: Monarchs led Marshall for 35 minutes, 22 seconds and led by as many as 23. That doesn’t mean you win by 46, especially against Marshall, but there was not “we almost lost” to that one. Still, ODU must overcome inconsistency in its Florida swing.

5. Marshall (12-5, 2-1)
Last week: Beat Charlotte 91-83, lost to Old Dominion 76-82
Quality wins
Louisiana Tech 78-65
Good losses
Xavier (AP No. 6) 77-81
Bad losses
Morehead 83-86

Notes: I won’t put the ODU game into the “good win” category because (a) MU never led, (b) ODU led by 23 and (c) MU rallied to within 2, but couldn’t get the ball back with a chance to tie or take lead. As of Wednesday afternoon, Herd was 139th in RPI and could actually rise if it got *swept* this week. That’s how it works sometimes.

6. North Texas (8-8, 3-2)
Last week:
Beat Rice 85-78
Thursday/Saturday: at La Tech, at Southern Miss
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: Somebody has to be sixth. Roosevelt Smith did what a team’s best player should do against Rice — be the player of the week. 42 points, 10 3-point goals will get the job done.

7. Florida International (5-10, 2-3)
Last week:
beat UTSA 79-76, lost to UTEP 68-72
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. ODU, Charlotte
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Elon 87-95, MTSU 66-71 OT
Bad losses
Stetson 64-70, Hartford 72-79, James Madison 67-76, UTEP 68-72

Note: Arguably, I should lift La Tech up here.

8. Louisiana Tech (8-9, 1-5)
Last week: lost to MTSU 57-72, UAB 62-74
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. North Texas, Rice
Quality wins
Evansville 63-61
Good losses
Alabama 74-77, Stephen F. Austin 85-83, Western Kentucky 68-69
Bad losses
None

Notes: The Bulldogs are in last place in the standings and didn’t give their opponents a scare last week, but I refuse to let go of them. Why? The five teams they have lost to are a combined 19-7 in conference. Look at the schedule and you’ll see a very possible 6-game winning streak. It’s time for these guys to get well.

9. Southern Miss (5-10, 2-4)
Last week:
lost to UAB 75-86, at MTSU 49-69
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Rice, North Texas
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Mississippi State 64-70
Bad losses
Florida State 45-98, South Alabama 58-69, MTSU 49-69

Notes: Being held to 49 points and losing by 20 gets you rung up for a “bad loss,” no matter the opponent.

10. UTSA (6-10, 2-4)
Last week:
lost to FIU 76-79, FAU 69-73
Saturday: home vs. UTEP
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Oklahoma (AP No. 12) 85-97, Utah Valley 80-88, Nebraska 94-104
Bad losses
Coastal Carolina 69-83, FIU 76-79

Notes: I am restrained after the Roadrunners suffer the “sweep of shame.”

11. Florida Atlantic (5-9, 2-3)
Last week:
beat UTEP 73-66, UTSA 73-69
Thursday/Saturday: Charlotte, ODU
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: Ronald Delph averaged a double-double in the Owls’ unexpected sweep, posting 12 points and 17 rebounds against UTEP.

12. UTEP (6-11, 2-4)
Last week:
lost to FAU 66-73, beat FIU 72-68
Saturday: at UTSA
Quality wins
Washington State 76-69
Good losses
Boise State 56-58
Bad losses
New Mexico State 60-80, Appalachian State 72-76, FAU 66-73

13. Rice (2-14, 1-4)
Last week:
lost to North Texas 78-85
Thursday/Saturday: at Southern Miss, at La Tech
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

14. Charlotte (4-11, 1-4)
Last week:
lost to Marshall 83-91, WKU 63-73
Thursday/Saturday: at FAU, FIU
Quality wins
None
Good losses
None
Bad losses
James Madison 82-87, Chattanooga 50-64, South Florida 76-78, Rice

Notes: It wasn’t an awful week for the 49ers, considering the competition, but somebody has to fill the void left by FAU. That loss to RPI No. 325 Rice will not be forgotten.