The scheduled regular season is nearly done and we are getting closer to Bonus Play. The teams we thought would be good have been, for the most part, with a few exceptions and one or two surprises.
- ODU 10-3
- UTSA 9-3
- NT 8-4
- WKU 8-4
- USM 7-5
- UAB 6-6
- Marshall 6-6
- LT 5-7
- FIU 5-7
- FAU 5-7
- Rice 5-7
- MTSU 5-7
- UTEP 3-9
- Charlotte 3-10
The top pod is shaping up to be a good one no matter if UAB or Marshall sneak back in or not.
I have it from a reliable source that the schedule will be something along these lines:
1 – Home v 2nd/3rd Away v 4th/5th
2 – Home v 3/4 Away v 1/5
3 – Home v 4/5 Away v 1/2
4 – Home v 1/5 Away v 2/3
5 – Home v 1/2 Away v 3/4
It follows that the 6-10 pod will be something similar with the final pod giving Charlotte the worst schedule.
If the standings hold as they are now — not likely, given this league — the tentative Bonus Play schedule for the top pod is as follows:
- ODU vs UTSA, NT
@ WKU, @ USM
- UTSA vs NT, WKU
@ ODU, @ USM
- NT vs WKU, USM
@ ODU, @ UTSA
- WKU vs ODU, USM
@ UTSA, @ NT
- USM vs ODU, UTSA
@ NT, @ WKU
There is plenty of opportunity for change this week. Marshall and UAB have a big game this Thursday and that will determine which of the two can jump up into the top five. Southern Miss plays host to UTSA and then Western Kentucky, in a little preview of some top-five matchups. USM is the only current top-five member to not have played only three of four fellow 5ers.
Let’s quickly walk through the league:
ODU 10-3, 20-6
The Monarchs have not played as well as we thought they would have entering conference play, when they looked like the far-and-away best team. The schedule has been filled with close-calls but the squad has pulled out some tough wins. They lost to UTSA in a heartbreaking come-from-ahead loss, and needed an escape over UTEP and LA Tech, but wins are wins.
The biggest weakness is teams getting hot from deep. The Monarchs are vulnerable to a team running up and down and especially if Stith/Caver are having trouble. This is a tough squad, however.
Vs Top 5: L to UTSA, W vs NT, USM, WKU
UTSA 9-3, 15-10
As Jhivvan Jackson has returned to full-health and then full-rhythm, the time as the number-one option has helped Keaton Wallace embrace his role as part of a dynamic duo. Jackson/Wallace have destroyed teams recently and lit up everyone they’ve faced in the last month.
The biggest weakness is that they have a dynamic duo that need to do all the scoring. This nice run could very well be a bump in shooting that is unsustainable during Bonus play and the conference tournament. It also could simply be the new normal.
vs Top 5: L to WKU (OT), W vs NT, ODU
North Texas 8-4, 20-5
NT is a little banged up — Jordan Duffy is injured and Jahmiah Simmons went down vs WKU — and is struggling to hit the long ball consistently. This is the biggest difference between the team that was undefeated for a while and the one that is fighting for wins in conference play.
The biggest weakness is the shooting — it is inconsistent and when those shots are not falling it is difficult to overcome the size disadvantage against the ODU/WKU combination.
Vs Top 5: L vs WKU, ODU, UTSA, W vs USM
WKU 8-4, 10-5
Western is the most talented team in the league and so all their losses have been frustrating head-scratchers. FIU, Marshall, ODU all beat the Toppers in one-possession games. UTSA and Rice both took them to OT and NT nearly overcame a 15-point half-time deficit.
The good news is that Charles Bassey is a man among boys, and there is talent galore across the roster. The bad news is that has not brought forth consistency.
Biggest weakness: The frustrating tendency to play to their competition.
Vs Top 5: L vs ODU, W vs UTSA, NT, USM
USM 7-5, 15-9
The Golden Eagles have enough talent to beat anyone and yet enough inconsistent play to get beat by anyone also. They gave ODU a game in Hampton Roads and all but beat UNT in Denton. They did drop a game at Rice handily, and struggled with Louisiana Tech the other night.
Biggest weakness is that the defense is pretty weak — eight in the conference in defensive efficiency according to kenpom — and that is by far the lowest among the elite.
Vs Top 5: L vs NT, ODU, WKU
UAB 6-6, 14-11
Four losses in a row — twice to MTSU! — after beating UTTSA, UNT, Rice in a texas sweep. ODU handled UAB easily and Charlotte pulled out a rare win. Blazers need to beat Marshall and WKU to have a shot at the top-five.
Vs 2nd Tier: L vs Tech, W vs FAU, Rice
Marshall 6-6, 13-12
The reigning tournament champs are struggling. The defense was poor and has been abysmal in league play. The offense has been struggling when they struggled to score and cannot defend? Well, that is how you lose by 50 to USM.
There is a chance of making the top-five pod and that is by winning out, and hoping USM/UNT drops two.
Vs 2nd Tier: L vs Tech, Rice, W vs FAU
LT 5-7, 15-10
Tech has been disappointing and exciting. That is probably the best way to be, if you are going to be the former.
This team cannot win on the road but fortunately has two home games before pod play begins.
Vs 2nd Tier: L vs Rice, FAU, W vs UAB, Marshall
FAU 5-7, 14-11
The Owls have been right about average this season. They have a dangerous scorer in Anthony Adger but not a super-efficient offense or defense.
Vs 2nd Tier: L vs UAB, Marshall,
Rice 5-7, 10-15
These Owls have turned around an awful defense to be just a poor one recently. They play a face pace and have lost big to teams that do that better. They have snuck up on a couple of good teams, however.
Vs 2nd Tier: L vs UAB, W vs LT, Marshall
FIU 5-7, 14-11
The Panthers are right there and can enter the 2nd tier with a good week. They upset WKu, and beat FAU and Tech. They need to score more efficiently. This up-tempo thing is getting them blown out.
Middle 5-7, 8-17
Middle has made a nice little run recently, as a back-to-back week vs UAB saw two wins, followed by a win vs Charlotte. Middle is also one of the few to beat UTSA. They challenged ODU at home until falling late. If any team can jump up and beat WKU and Marshall to close it all, it could be this one.
The fact that they are not getting hammered every week is an accomplishment in itself.
UTEP 3-9, 8-15
This team cannot score efficiently enough to compete with everyone else.
Charlotte 3-10, 6-18
I joked that every 49er box score can be summarized as “Jon Davis scores a bunch, Charlotte loses by a couple of possessions”
This has been the case all season.