Jan 3, 2014; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; Southern Miss Golden Eagles head coach Donnie Tyndall urges on his players during the second half of their game against the Drexel Dragons at Reed Green Coliseum. Southern Miss won, 66-49. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss tops our first C-USA men's basketball power rankings

With conference play fast-approaching, it’s time to rank each team based on their out of conference performances.  The rankings have changed slightly since our pre-season rankings from before the season:

1.) Southern Miss (13-2)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: none, really
Overview: Save a 69-38 drubbing at Louisville back in November, the Golden Eagles have been solid in out-of-conference play behind their league-leading scoring defense that allows only 62 points per game.  Southern Miss is looking to take advantage of the first year the conference is without powerhouse Memphis who departed for the newly-formed AAC this offseason.

2.) Louisiana Tech (12-3)
Key wins: @ Oklahoma
Bad losses: vs. ULL
Overview: Michael White’s squad has put up impressive numbers thus far, possessing the 10th highest scoring offense in the country and winning by an average margin of just under 19 points per game.  Louisiana Tech may have inflated numbers from a few beatdowns on lesser competition, but they were able to hang 102 points in an overtime win at Oklahoma so their offense is no fluke.

3.) Charlotte (9-4)
Key wins: vs. Kansas State (neutral court), vs. Michigan (neutral court)
Bad losses: vs. Davidson
Overview: It’s possible the College of Charleston and Davidson losses don’t look as bad at the end of the year, although Georgia Tech may look like a worse loss after conference play is over. The Niners are one of the few C-USA teams with more than one impressive win thanks to winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at the beginning of the season. Shawn Lester has been everything Charlotte fans could have wanted, leading his team in scoring in his first year in a Niner uniform.

4.) UAB (11-3)
Key wins: vs. UNC
Bad losses: none, really
Overview: UAB has been the biggest surprise of C-USA this year.  They currently lead the nation in rebounding with 48.5 rebounds per game.  They’ve played a tough schedule compared to most of their conference-mates, but the Blazers have only played 2 true road games, going 1-1 in those contests (including a 23-point loss at LSU).

5.) Middle Tennessee (10-5)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: vs. Maine (OT)
Overview: As expected, Middle Tennessee has played with a very deep bench this year- nine players average double-digit minutes. The Blue Raiders are one of only six teams in Conference USA that have a positive turnover margin.

6.) East Carolina (11-4)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: vs. UNC Wilmington
Overview: Don’t let the gaudy record fool you: four of East Carolina’s eleven wins game against Division II or Division III competition. They did play Duke very close at Cameron Indoor, but they are still a team who only have two wins against Division I teams with winning records (Norfolk State and VMI). Senior guard Akeem Richmond might be their most impressive player; he averages 12 threes a game for Jeff Lebo’s Pirates while still shooting just under 40% from long-range.

7.) UTEP (10-5)
Key wins: vs. Tennessee (neutral court)
Bad losses: vs. New Orleans
Overview: UTEP was a popular pick to win the conference six months ago, but after losing player after player (McDonald’s All-American Isaac Hamilton announced he would decommit this summer and now the team is dealing with multiple, controversial suspensions) and inconsistent play, the team has a lot of improving to do before it’s looked at as a C-USA title contender.

8.) North Texas (9-5)
Key wins: @ Texas A&M
Bad losses: vs. Idaho (neutral court)
Overview: The Mean Green are the definition of mediocre so far this season, falling in the middle of the pack in almost every statistical category against other C-USA teams.  Not to mention they have scored the same exact amount of points as their opponents, 1026-1026, so far this season.  With that said, Tony Benford has done a relatively good job with his team so far this year without now-NBA D-Leaguer Tony Mitchell.

9.) Tulane (8-7)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: vs. Northern Kentucky, vs. Colgate, vs. Texas State (neutral court)
Overview: Tulane has an unimpressive record against very weak SOS heading into conference play.  Ed Conroy has a young team that may need to look at spreading out their scoring a little more if they want to be successful this season.  Three players average over 15 points per game for the Green Wave, while no other player averages over 6 ppg.

10.) Florida International (8-7)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: vs. Nova SE (Division II), @Florida A&M
Overview: FIU’s best win so far came against last year’s Cinderella team, Florida Gulf Coast.  Tymell Murphy is a dangerous player for the Golden Panthers, though.  He’s the type of player that could get hot and help his team win a game against any C-USA squad this year.

11.) Tulsa (5-9)
Key wins: vs. Indiana State (neutral court)
Bad losses: none, really
Overview: The Golden Hurricanes have had a disappointing start to the season so far.  They’re dead-last in the conference in rebounding margin, getting outrebounded by opponents 3.4 rebounds per game.

12.) Marshall (6-9)
Key wins: vs. Western Kentucky
Bad losses: @ East Tennessee State
Overview: The Thundering Herd dropped games against a lot of mediocre teams, but most wouldn’t be looked at as “bad losses” compared to its conference mates in the bottom half of these rankings.  Marshall’s most talented player, Elijah Pittman, was one of the best scorers in the conference before he got suspended indefinitely back at the beginning of January.  After starting the season 4-5, Marshall has gone 2-4 since Pittman’s suspension.

13.) Old Dominion (6-9)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: none, really
Overview: Jeff Jones’s squad already has more wins this season compared to last season’s embarrassing 5-25 record.  He still has a ways to go to rebuild a once-respectable program, although there is nowhere to go but up compared to last season’s catastrophe.

14.) Florida Atlantic (4-10)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: @ Stetson
Overview: The first Conference USA team to double-digit losses this year, Florida Atlantic still isn’t the worst team in the conference.  Argentinian guard, Pablo Bertone, is the league’s second-leading scorer behind ECU’s Akeem Richmond.

15.) Rice (5-8)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: vs. SE Louisiana, @ Houston Baptist
Overview: Two of Rice’s five wins came against non-Division I competition, and the only win against a Division I team with a winning record was against a Steve Nash-less Santa Clara (9-8) team.  Similar to ODU, Rice has nowhere to go but up compared to last season–the Owls have already matched last season’s win total.

16.) UTSA (4-9)
Key wins: none, really
Bad losses: too many to count
Overview: The only Division I opponents UTSA has wins against own a combined record of 9-22. UTSA is just plain bad.

Tags: Charlotte 49ers Conference USA

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