This week has been tough for the game. Kobe Bryant — a legend of the game — died in a helicopter crash Sunday and sports is still mourning the loss. He was a problematic guy, but his impact is undeniable. And after all, who among us is not a little problematic? It is human, I say, to be a little awful.
Looking at the power rankings this week is a task cast in a different light this week with the Kobe death hanging over us. We saw some good basketball this week, and we will try to rank everyone with some commentary.
1. North Texas: 8-1
The Mean Green went 3-0 this week. Beating Rice, UTSA< and UTEP handily. It was three home games, but NT was not challenged much at all. They lead the league in efficiency and are third defensively. UTSA made it a five point game late but that was as close as they got.
2. WKU 7-1
The Tops went 2-0 this week against Marshall in a home-and-home series. It was a rivalry game and a challenge. They squeezed by in the first game away but scored well in the second one and dominated throughout. The offense is the second-best in the league according to kenpom.com, and Taveion Hollingsworth is stepping up and showing out.
3. Louisiana Tech 6-2
The league’s best defense handled both Middle and UAB – -two bottom dwellers — in nice fashion. It was welcome respite after a tough loss — on a controversial buzzer beater vs NT — and allowed everyone to feel good again. The thing is, that this team has played USM twice already and lost at UTSA. How good is Tech? We will find out when they host Charlotte, ODU, and travel to Western in early Feb.
4. Charlotte 6-2
The 49ers defend really well, and while that was to be expected in the Ron Sanchez regime, it is notable that it is in year two that they are 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency. They handled FIU and FAU at home — edging out FAU in a close one and blowing out FIU –but they did ope the week with a loss to ODU. Before that they dropped a bad one to Western. We like them because you cannot go wrong with a great defense.
Here Be Weird Teams
5. FIU 5-3
FIU is a strange team that plays fast and has a solid offense but is terrible on defense. The press is supposed to discombobulate the opposition but it often seems to allow them to get wide open shots more often than not. ODU had only five games above 70-points before scoring 80 against FIU. The Panthers then followed that win by getting absolutely thrashed by Charlotte.
6 – 8 UTSA, ODU, FAU 4-4
UTSA can score and run with anyone, but cannot play anything approaching defense. They have the 3rd best offense and the 3rd worst defense. That is why they are 4-4.
ODU is predictably solid defensively but challenged on the offensive end. It is a rebuild year and they have played a tough schedule. Things ease up briefly ahead however.
FAU is the definition of lukewarm. They have a middle pack offense and defense. They started 3-0 and have now lost three straight to UAB, Charlotte and ODU.
Struggles and Rebuilds
9. Marshall 3-5
Talented but limited. Losing twice to WKU was tough but we did not really expect much different.
10. UTEP 3-5
They dropped tough games to some good competition, but losing to UTSA and having to comeback against the same before that was very awful. There is time to figure out their squad against Middle and UAB. Tough end of scheduled season, however.
11 – 14 UAB 3-5, USM 2-6, MTSU 1-7, Rice 1-8
This grab bag of teams are all struggling and trying to either rebuild or stabilize themselves. Well, UAB is trying to figure out what is happening while the rest are in the middle of rebuilds. They all look like the same kind of team in practice: bad offense, bad defense. Well, Rice has an up-tempo squad but does not trust it. Case it point: they slowed the game vs UTSA and it ultimately hurt them as they turned the ball over and gave up the game-losing layup to UTSA.