Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA basketball rankings — Jan. 30

Western Kentucky forward Dwight Coleby (22) celebrates after a dunk during an NCAA college basketball game against Marshall, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP photo)

We have three teams breaking away from the peloton, and perhaps the regular-season winner can merit an NCAA at-large berth if needed. As you see, I’m still bullish on Western Kentucky as the Hilltoppers and Marshall make the long trek to the far side of Texas.

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 14-7, but that includes a win over Concord. The rankings will not be shuffled until next week.

1. Western Kentucky (14-6, 7-1)
Last week:
beat Marshall 75-64
Thursday/Saturday: at UTEP, UTSA
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, Marshall 75-64
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: The most impressive aspect of the Hilltoppers’ 15-0 run was definitely the “0.” They held Marshall scoreless in its final 10 possessions.

2. Middle Tennessee (15-5, 8-1)
Last week: beat UTSA 75-51, UTEP 81-50
Thursday/Saturday: at ODU, Charlotte
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: In steamrolling through UTSA and UTEP, the defense allowed just 38 field goals in 112 attempts, 33.9 percent.

3. Old Dominion (16-4, 7-1)
Last week:
Beat Charlotte 88-66
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. MTSU, UAB
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: So how will Monarchs handle MTSU after a 12-day layoff? Oops, sorry Charlotte.

4. Marshall (13-7, 5-3)
Last week: Lost to WKU 64-75
Thursday/Saturday: At UTEP, UTSA
Quality wins
Louisiana Tech 78-65, MTSU 73-63, UAB 76-68 (OT)
Good losses
Xavier 77-81
Bad losses
Morehead 83-86

Notes: It’s great when the Herd plays 4 West Virginian guards, but not as good when they have to play 33 minutes against WKU. Penava should not have gotten in foul trouble.

5. Louisiana Tech (11-9, 4-5)
Last week: beat Southern Miss 89-66
Thursday/Saturday: at FAU, FIU
Quality wins
Evansville 63-61
Good losses
Alabama 74-77, Stephen F. Austin 85-83, Western Kentucky 68-69
Bad losses
None

Notes: 11 first-half 3s, 57-27 lead at halftime … cue the “Jaws” theme, ’cause the Bulldogs are coming!

6. Alabama-Birmingham (12-8, 5-4)
Last week:
Beat UTEP 85-78, lost to UTSA 70-82
Thursday/Saturday: at Charlotte, ODU
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, UTSA 70-82

Notes: This team shouldn’t fall behind by 16 at the half to anybody on this blog entry. If it weren’t for UTEP, the Blazers would be vying for Disappointment of the Year.

7. North Texas (10-10, 5-4)
Last week: beat FAU 59-53, FIU 69-67
Saturday: home vs. Rice
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: If nothing else, NT can play overtime, as it is 3 for 3. DJ Draper’s 3-ball with 3 seconds left sank the Panthers.

8. UTSA (8-11, 4-5)
Last week:
lost to MTSU 51-75, beat UAB 82-70
Thursday/Saturday: Home vs. Marshall, WKU
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: Herd fans need to beware of Jhivvan Jackson, who won his *5th* freshman of the week award. He has produced three 30-point, 10 20-point and 19 double-digit scoring efforts through 22 career games.

9. Florida International (6-13, 3-6)
Last week:
lost to Rice 64-73, North Texas 67-69
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Southern Miss, La Tech
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, Rice 64-73

Note: I guess the Panthers were psyched out by the 1,485 on hand at Rice.

10. Southern Miss (7-11, 4-5)
Last week:
lost to La Tech 66-89
Thursday/Saturday: at FIU, FAU
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Mississippi State 64-70
Bad losses
Florida State 45-98, South Alabama 58-69, MTSU 49-69

Notes: None, for lack of interest.

11. Florida Atlantic (7-11, 4-5)
Last week:
lost to North Texas 53-59, beat Rice 63-62
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. La Tech, Southern Miss
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

Notes: Owls may have had the worst performance for having a player of the week. 7-footer Roland Delph scored 41 points with 15 rebounds in the shaky split, including a 1-point loss to the other dismal Owls, Rice.

12. Rice (3-17, 2-7)
Last week:
beat FIU 73-64, lost to FAU 62-63
Saturday: home at 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

Notes: I’ll throw a name out — sophomore Connor Cashaw, a 6-5 sophomore who had 12 points and 14 boards against FIU.

13. UTEP (6-14, 2-7)
Last week:
lost to UAB 78-85, MTSU 50-81
Thursday/Saturday: Home vs. WKU, Marshall
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, MTSU 50-81

Notes: Sports info folks are tasked with creating a positive spin after games, win or lose, but UTEP’s site could only muster a “Miners Can’t Find Offense in 81-50 Loss at Middle Tennessee.” Yep, there’s a “BOLO” for what’s left of the Miners’ attack.

14. Charlotte (4-14, 1-7)
Last week:
lost to Old Dominion 66-88
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. UAB, MTSU
Quality wins
None
Good losses
None
Bad losses
James Madison 82-87, Chattanooga 50-64, South Florida 76-78, Rice 64-73

Notes: The 49ers selected a search consultant for the athletic director’s vacancy, so there’s that. Turnkey Search, featuring ex-Boston College AD Gene Filippo, if you need it.