Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA basketball rankings — Feb. 6

Middle Tennessee forward Karl Gamble, left, attempts a shot while being defended by Miami guard Anthony Lawrence II (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Diamond Head Classic, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

The Conference USA race (and later, postseason tournament) had been shaping up to be a bloodbath, but defending champion Middle Tennessee has started to rise above all.

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 15-8, but that includes a win over Concord. The rankings will not be shuffled until next week.

1. Middle Tennessee (17-5, 10-1)
Last week: beat ODU 66-59, Charlotte 78-73
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Rice, North Texas
Quality wins
Murray State 72-67, Vanderbilt 66-63, Ole Miss 77-58, Princeton 69-67, UAB 63-60, WKU 66-62, ODU 66-59
Good losses
Auburn 70-76, Belmont 63-69, USC 84-89, Miami 81-84
Bad losses
None

Notes: After holding ODU to 36.8 percent shooting and outrebounding the Monarchs 40-29, the Blue Raiders climb to a solid No. 1, both here and in the standings.

2. Western Kentucky (15-7, 8-2)
Last week:
beat UTEP 72-60, lost to UTSA 63-74
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. FAU, FIU
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, UTSA 63-74

Notes: Lost wire-to-wire to UTSA.

3. Old Dominion (17-5, 8-2)
Last week:
Lost to MTSU 59-66, beat UAB 65-60
Thursday/Saturday: at Southern Miss, La Tech
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: Recovered from loss to MTSU with a win over UAB featuring 16 lead changes and 14 ties. Talk about a grind of a week!

4. Marshall (14-8, 6-4)
Last week: Lost to UTSA 77-81, beat UTEP 74-65
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. FIU, FAU
Quality wins
Louisiana Tech 78-65, MTSU 73-63, UAB 76-68 (OT)
Good losses
Xavier 77-81
Bad losses
Morehead 83-86, UTSA 77-81

Notes: Needs to sweep FIU, FAU at home, period.

5. Alabama-Birmingham (13-9, 6-5)
Last week:
Beat Charlotte 76-64, lost to ODU 60-65
Thursday/Saturday: vs. North Texas, Rice
Quality wins
Memphis 71-56
Good losses
Auburn 80-85, Buffalo 91-96, MTSU 60-63, Marshall 78-86 (OT), ODU 60-65
Bad losses
Richmond 50-63, UTSA 70-82

Notes: After all these near misses, Blazers need to dispatch North Texas at home.

6. North Texas (11-10, 6-4)
Last week: beat Rice 74-70
Thursday/Saturday: at UAB, MTSU
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: Mean Green is tied with Marshall for 4th in standings, but the league record of league teams it has beaten is 21-43 vs. Marshall’s 29-36.

7. UTSA (10-11, 6-5)
Last week:
beat Marshall 81-77, WKU 74-63
Saturday: at UTEP
Quality wins
Marshall 81-77, WKU 74-63
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 still at 202 in RPI (as of Tuesday night), so I charged MU, WKU with a “bad loss.” But with Jhivvan Jackson, they’re plenty competitive. Steve Henson jockeying for coach of the year. … Jackson became the first C-USA player to be named Freshman of the Week 6 times. Others in league history are Marcus Evans (Rice), Ricky Tarrant (Tulane), Hassan Whiteside (Marshall) and Tyreke Evans (Memphis), each of whom went on to be named C-USA Freshman of the Year

8. Florida International (8-13, 5-6)
Last week:
beat Southern Miss 76-70, La Tech 71-68
Thursday/Saturday: at Marshall, WKU
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: You can’t just go into Ocean Bank Convocation Center and come out with a win … Snickering yet? Nonetheless, the Panthers have Marshall’s full attention after Brian Beard Jr. hitting two 3-pointers in the final 3 seconds vs. La Tech.

9. Louisiana Tech (12-10, 5-6)
Last week: beat FAU 67-62, lost to FIU 68-71
Thursday/Saturday: home vs. Charlotte, ODU
Quality wins
Evansville 63-61
Good losses
Alabama 74-77, Stephen F. Austin 85-83, Western Kentucky 68-69
Bad losses
FIU 68-71

Notes: Give up 3, turn ball over on inbounds pass, give up another 3. I’m giving up on you, Dawgs.

10. Southern Miss (8-12, 5-6)
Last week:
lost to FIU 70-76, beat FAU 77-66
Thursday/Saturday: home vs ODU, La Tech
Quality wins
None
Good losses
Mississippi State 64-70
Bad losses
Florida State 45-98, South Alabama 58-69, MTSU 49-69, FIU 70-76

11. Florida Atlantic (7-13, 4-7)
Last week:
lost to La Tech 62-67, Southern Miss 66-77
Thursday/Saturday: at WKU, Marshall
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, Southern Miss 66-67

12. Rice (3-18, 2-8)
Last week:
lost to North Texas 70-74
Thursday/Saturday: at MTSU, UAB
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, North Texas 70-74

13. UTEP (6-16, 2-9)
Last week:
lost to WKU 60-72, Marshall 65-74
Saturday: home vs. 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, MTSU 50-81

14. Charlotte (4-16, 1-9)
Last week:
lost to UAB 64-76, MTSU 73-78
Thursday/Saturday: at La Tech, Southern Miss
Quality wins
None
Good losses
MTSU 73-78
Bad losses
James Madison 82-87, Chattanooga 50-64, South Florida 76-78, Rice 64-73