Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA basketball rankings — January 23

AP photo

So Middle Tennessee gets exposed at Marshall, regroups and beats Western Kentucky at a full house, the same Hilltoppers who splattered Marshall in Huntington. Yeah, this exercise gets more convoluted with each week.

I can confidently slot the No. 5 team. Above and below that, the confidence level shrinks.

As always, teams are not ranked by RPI or necessarily league standings. Important: Overall records are against Division I teams only. For instance, Marshall is 14-6, but that includes a win over Concord. The rankings will not be shuffled until next week.

1. Western Kentucky (13-6, 6-1)
Last week:
beat UAB 77-69, MTSU 62-66
Saturday: home vs. Marshall
Quality wins
Purdue 77-73, SMU 63-61, Wright State 78-60, Louisiana Tech 69-68, Marshall 112-87, ODU 75-68, UAB 77-69
Good losses
Belmont 72-75, Wisconsin 80-81, Villanova (No. 1) 58-66, Missouri State 80-85, MTSU 62-66
Bad losses
Ohio 84-89

Notes: Yeah, the Hilltoppers welcomed their largest crowd in 15 years (7,756) only to lose to rival MTSU. Doesn’t that mean the defending champion Blue Raiders should vault to the top? Mmmmmm … no. My observation of both teams in Huntington goes in favor of WKU. … And I haven’t forgotten the win over Purdue.

2. Middle Tennessee (13-5, 6-1)
Last week: lost at Marshall 63-73, beat WKU 66-62
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. UTSA, UTEP
Quality wins
Murray State 72-67, Vanderbilt 66-63, Ole Miss 77-58, Princeton 69-67, UAB 63-60, WKU 66-62
Good losses
Auburn 70-76, Belmont 63-69, USC 84-89, Miami 81-84
Bad losses
None

Notes: The Blue Raiders beat WKU in Diddle Arena and Nick King woke up and scored 28 points, but they got worked over a bit against Marshall. Sorry, guys, I needed to see a sweep.

3. Old Dominion (15-4, 6-1)
Last week:
Beat FIU 64-54, FAU 73-62
Saturday: at Charlotte
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 pilfered an 11-point win over FAU, racking up 17 steals. They have won 10 of the last 11.

4. Marshall (13-6, 5-2)
Last week: Beat Middle Tennessee 73-63, UAB 76-68 (OT)
Saturday: at WKU
Quality wins
Louisiana Tech 78-65, MTSU 73-63, UAB 76-68 (OT)
Good losses
Xavier 77-81
Bad losses
Morehead 83-86

Notes: Time to take the newfound confidence on the road … against an unhappy bunch of Hilltoppers.

5. Alabama-Birmingham (11-7, 4-3)
Last week:
Lost to WKU 69-77, Marshall 78-86 (OT)
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. UTEP, UTSA
Quality wins
Memphis 71-56
Good losses
Auburn 80-85, Buffalo 91-96, MTSU 60-63, Marshall 78-86 (OT)
Bad losses
Richmond 50-63

Notes: The Blazers suffered two scoring droughts of more than 3 1/2 minutes that turned a sweep into getting swept.

6. Louisiana Tech (10-9, 3-5)
Last week: beat North Texas 66-65, Rice 69-54
Saturday: home vs. Southern Miss
Quality wins
Evansville 63-61
Good losses
Alabama 74-77, Stephen F. Austin 85-83, Western Kentucky 68-69
Bad losses
None

Notes: Hey, look! My pro-Bulldog bias is back. Or anti-rest of the league, as the case may be. In the win over North Texas, freshmen of Anthony Duruji and Amorie Archibald combined for 46 points. If they’re not familiar, they shouldn’t be — the combined for two against Marshall.

7. Florida International (6-11, 3-4)
Last week:
lost to ODU 64-74, beat Charlotte 79-59
Thursday/Saturday: at Rice, North Texas
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: Eric Lockett dropped a career-high 30 on Charlotte.

8. Southern Miss (7-10, 4-4)
Last week:
beat Rice 86-75, North Texas 85-78
Saturday: at La Tech
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Mississippi State 64-70
Bad losses
Florida State 45-98, South Alabama 58-69, MTSU 49-69

Notes: Golden Eagles are 9-0 at home. What are they doing, luring opponents to an untimely pregame overeating binge at Leatha’s? (It would work on me.)

9. North Texas (8-10, 3-4)
Last week: lost to La Tech 65-66, at Southern Miss 78-85
Thursday/Saturday: home to FAU, FIU
Quality wins
San Diego 86-83
Good losses
Oklahoma 72-82, UT-Arlington 60-65, Old Dominion 60-63
Bad losses
UT-Rio Grande Valley 63-75, Charlotte 68-70

Notes: On a 1-4 skid, with the “1” coming against Rice. Ouch.

10. UTSA (7-10, 3-4)
Last week:
beat UTEP 65-61
Thursday/Saturday: at MTSU, UAB
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: Roadrunners showed something by rallying from 15 points down to upend UTEP.

11. Florida Atlantic (6-10, 3-4)
Last week:
beat Charlotte 75-64, lost to ODU 62-73
Thursday/Saturday: at North Texas, Rice
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

12. UTEP (6-12, 2-5)
Last week:
lost to UTSA 61-65
Thursday/Saturday: at MTSU, UAB
Quality wins
Washington State 76-69
Good losses
Boise State 56-58, UTSA 61-65
Bad losses
New Mexico State 60-80, Appalachian State 72-76, FAU 66-73

13. Rice (2-16, 1-6)
Last week:
lost to Southern Miss 75-86, La Tech 54-69
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. FIU, FAU
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 (4-13, 1-6)
Last week:
lost to FAU 64-75, FIU 59-79
Saturday: home vs. Old Dominion
Quality wins
None
Good losses
None
Bad losses
James Madison 82-87, Chattanooga 50-64, South Florida 76-78, Rice 64-73

Notes: Outscored 17-3 in points off turnovers in the first half against FIU.