1. Southern Miss (11-4, 0-0; RPI: 75): Southern Miss currently has the best RPI in Conference USA with key wins over Western Kentucky, which is ranked just inside the top 100 of RPIs, and against 146th ranked UC Irvine at a neutral site. Southern Miss opened the season with four straight wins before losing three on the road to New Mexico State, Arizona and Louisiana Tech. Southern Miss opens C-USA play Jan. 9 against Rice on the road. The Golden Eagles are 49th in the country with a .464 field goal percentage.
Key Wins: Western Kentucky and UC Irvine
Key Losses: New Mexico State
Leading Scorer: Sr. F Dwayne Davis averaging 12.9 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Sr. F Jonathan Mills averaging 6.8 RPG
2. UTEP (6-6, 0-0; RPI: 103): The Miners have the sixth toughest out of conference schedule in the country and that has not been kind to them so far with losses to Arizona, Oklahoma, UNLV and Colorado State. UTEP is 6-6 on the season going into C-USA play, with their opener against Tulane looming. UTEP has played their tough schedule well for the most part, which should help them in C-USA play. All of their tough games are over so the Miners have a shot to be a dark horse with their experience against tougher opponents.
Key Wins: Nebraska and Oregon
Key Losses: Clemson and Vanderbilt
Leading Scorer: Soph. G-F Julian Washburn averaging 13.7 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Jr. C John Bohannon averaging 6.4 RPG
3. Memphis (10-3, 0-0; RPI: 110): The Tigers are the best team in C-USA and Josh Pastner has kept Memphis relevant post-John Calipari. Pastner's team has lost just three games this season but to very formidable opponents in Minnesota, Louisville and VCU, all with RPIs below 40. The Tigers have yet to win a NCAA tournament game under Pastner so the Tigers must advance in March to ease some fears about going into the Big East. The Tigers are even better than the Golden Eagles at field goal percentage, shooting .472 percent, but even more impressive is that they are averaging 15.8 assists per game.
Key Wins: Tennessee, Northern Iowa and Oral Roberts
Key Losses: VCU, Louisville and Minnesota
Leading Scorer: Jr. G Joe Jackson averaging 13.2 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Sr. G-F D.J. Stephens averaging 6.1 RPG
4. Tulane (12-3, 0-0; RPI: 127): Tulane won only three C-USA games last season but return their top freshman performer Ricky Tarrant, who averaged 14.9 PPG last year. Ed Conroy has two seniors in Kendall Timmons and Jordan Callahan, who averaged double digit scoring in 2012. Tulane played Nebraska and Georgia Tech on the road but lost both, splitting two of their four games against top 100 RPI ranked teams. Tulane's schedule ranks 330th in the country.
Key Wins: Wofford and Alabama
Key Losses: Nebraska and Georgia Tech
Leading Scorer: Jr. F Josh Davis averaging 18.4 PPG.
Leading Rebounder: Davis averaging 10.1 RPG
5. UAB (8-6, 0-0; RPI: 129): UAB will struggle to get much going this season with new coach Jerod Haase from North Carolina after finishing in the top three of the league four of the five previous seasons under coach Mike Davis, who was surprisingly fired. UAB will wait until the Big East teams have departed to be relevant again in C-USA, but Haase hopes to get the team on track with his winning attitude. Jordan Swing is back for Haase and he will help.
Key Wins: Northeastern and Praire View A&M
Key Losses: Creighton, North Carolina and Middle Tennessee
Leading Scorer: Jr. F Jordan Swing averaging 14.9 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Jr. F Rod Rucker averaging 7.4 RPG
6. UCF (9-4, 0-0; RPI: 144): UCF has had a very average start to their 2012-13 campaign except for key wins over Belmont and USF. UCF opens C-USA play against UAB at home after finishing up non-conference play against FAMU. UCF has won every game it has supposed to without any losses to teams ranked over 67 in RPI. UCF will not be able to play in the C-USA tournament or NCAA tournament, which puts a damper on their season.
Key Wins: Belmont and South Florida
Key Losses: Middle Tennessee, Florida and Miami (FL)
Leading Scorer: Sr. F Keith Clanton averaging 17.1 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Clanton averaging 9.9 RPG.
7. Tulsa (8-6, 0-0; RPI: 150): Tulsa's coach Danny Manning is the former MVP of the 1988 Final Four when he and SMU head coach Larry Brown won the national championship. Manning comes from Bill Self's staff at Kansas and brings his winning pedigree to the Golden Hurricane team. This will be a growing pains year for Tulsa with only four scholarship upperclassmen after some talent transferred following the coaching change. Manning is well-respected, but it will take time with a roster this young.
Key Wins: Oral Roberts, San Diego and TCU
Key Losses: Wichita State, SFA and Creighton
Leading Scorer: Soph. F Rashad Smith averaging 14.5 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Fr. G James Woodard averaging 6.1 RPG while also averaging 14.2 PPG
8. SMU (10-5, 0-0; RPI: 181): Dallas is buzzing after the arrival of Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who has added energy to a stagnant program and hope the Mustangs will compete immediately for a C-USA championship in their final season before heading to the Big East. Brown is dealing with a roster that has three ineligible transfers on it so depth has been an issue for the Mustangs this season especially down in the post. If anyone can develop the team that he has in place though it is Brown, which is why the Mustangs cannot be ignored in C-USA.
Key Wins: Utah and TCU
Key Losses: Wyoming, Utah and Wagner
Leading Scorer: Soph. G-F Jalen Jones averaging 14.5 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Jones averaging 8.3 RPG
9. East Carolina (8-4, 0-0; RPI: 202): Six of the seven top scorers return for the Pirates this season and all averaged over 19 minutes per game last season, which gives ECU some experience this season in possibly making a C-USA championship run. The Pirates are averaging 78.3 PPG and are eighth in the NCAA in assists, averaging 17.7 per game. The Pirates open C-USA play against Memphis on the road in a tough task for the Pirates.
Key Wins: Norfolk State and Gardner-Webb
Key Losses: North Carolina, Massachusetts and Charlotte
Leading Scorer: Sr. F Maurice Kemp averaging 18 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Jr. F Robert Sampson averaging 10.2 RPG
10. Houston (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 217): Houston has started off their season well with four wins before losing two in a row to Texas A&M and Prairie View A&M, but those are the only two losses for Houston on the year. Houston is averaging 79.8 PPG, good for 21st in the country, but also grabs their fair share of boards with 41.5 RPG. Houston has had an impressive run of non-conference games as they head into C-USA play with their opener against SMU on Jan. 9.
Key Wins: San Jose State and TCU
Key Losses: Texas A&M and Prairie View A&M
Leading Scorer: Soph. F TaShawn Thomas averaging 17.4 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Thomas averaging 9.9 RPG
11. Marshall (7-7, 0-0; RPI: 270): Marshall doesn't have much going for them except their ability to grab rebounds, averaging 41.2 RPG. With a veteran roster, Marshall could very well get to the NCAA tournament with an impressive conference record, but it will depend on highly touted freshman Kareen Canty, who runs the point for Marshall. If Canty can facilitate Kane and Spikes scoring, Marshall will get some teams' attention this year.
Key Wins: Savannah State, Morehead State and Nevada
Key Losses: Cincinnati and Kentucky
Leading Scorer: Jr. G DeAndre Kane averaging 15 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Sr. C Nigel Spikes averaging 6.8 RPG
12. Rice (3-9, 0-0; RPI: 321): With senior Tamir Jackson returning to the team, he has provided Rice with a consistent scorer and playmaker for Rice, but the Owls will be destined to be a C-USA bottom feeder this season. Rice has struggled this season against almost everyone, even going 1-1 this season against non-D-1 competition.
Key Wins: Houston Baptist and Chicago State
Key Losses: Temple and Georgia Tech
Leading Scorer: Sr. G Tamir Jackson averaging 17.5 PPG
Leading Rebounder: Jackson averaging 6.7 RPG
Rankings based on current RPI ratings on ESPN
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