The third week of CUSA back-to-back plays has shown us a little different of a pattern than the first two. Instead of good games followed by shaky shooting, we had blowouts followed by some revenge and some bounce-back. Tech showed they can be taken seriously, WKU separated themselves, and North Texas impressed everyone — or UTEP disappointed everyone. As always, your perspective on either your favorite or hated rival will influence your view. We here at CR try to remain balanced in our evaluation and based it on our proprietary formula called “power”, a secret concoction as old as the sport itself.
Before we rank the teams, let us note some superlatives:
Players of the Week, According to CR
- Charles Bassey, WKU: 45 points, 28 rebounds, 7 blocks in two wins over Marshall
- Amorie Archibald, LA Tech: 41 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals in two wins over UTSA
- Malik Curry, ODU: 35 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 9 steals in split vs Rice
Players That Caught My Eye
- Zach Simmons, North Texas — He is a good passing big man, and can score with either hand with his back to the basket. He was superb in the Saturday game vs UTEP.
- Isaiah Crawford, La Tech — He is big and a little raw, but in one sequence vs UTSA he showed some range (a deep three) and then got into the lane for a bucket. His twitter handle evokes Kawhi Leonard and I see the vision.
1. La Tech 11-4, 4-2
The Bulldogs won two at home vs a UTSA that can shoot their way into games. The first game saw them blow an early lead and have to grind their way out. Big man Andrew Gordon was clutch late, as he took full advantage of his size to sprint out for some Anthony Davis-like early buckets in transition. Amorie Archibald drove scoring over two games. The Dunkin’ Dawgs have shown they can get wins vs tough Marshall, WKU and beat up flawed teams. They still need a little better execution, but you have to like their defense, which after six games is now third in the league in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ratings at 94.7 (just .6 behind league-leading NT).
Last week: 1st
2. WKU 11-4, 4-2
Charles Bassey is a dominant force, but once again, WKU nearly gave a game away. We saw that every weekend. There is a lot of talent here, and obviously they will be a tough matchup in the conference tournament but you cannot like that they put themselves in positions where one shot can win or lose it. That is leaving things up to the basketball gods and that is not a recipe for championships.
Last week: 2nd
3. North Texas 7-5, 3-1
After just two conference games NT was near the bottom of the defensive efficiency ratings and after just one game of this weekend’s back-to-back, NT rocketed to second. They held UTEP to just 33 points in the first game, and a normal-is 65 in the second. Last week the defense was not bad, but UTSA was hitting some tough shots. As we have more data, the analytics matches the eye-test, which is that NT puts in the effort and attention to play good defense. Javion Hamlet came up big late vs UTEP in the second game, but has yet to show the complete game appearances like he did last year.
Last week: 5th
4. UAB 10-2, 3-1
The Blazers blew out the Charlotte 49ers in game one, then lost by 15 in game two. It was shocking and it is something that happens to teams that win big. This is why coaches often do not like winning by 20 or more. It is the first blemish on the team, but we should also credit Charlotte.
Last week: 3rd
5. Marshall 7-4, 1-3
The Herd played two good games, but came up short in both. The second game had Marshal with a couple of opportunities to hit game-tying or game-winning shots and they literally came up short. This is a good squad, and one that was ranked highly in KenPom and Haslemetrics, but WKU controlled both games fairly easily. They have played the best teams in this league this far, but also were supposed to be one of the better squads. A split would have been understandable but a sweep is not good.
Last week: 4th
6. Rice 10-4, 4-2
The Owls impressed this weekend. The offense was crisp in both games at times, and they jumped out to a lead they proceed in game one, but had to make a comeback in the second. Travis Evee missed two free throws in the final second that could have put the Owls in the lead late and he was frustrated by that, staying to shoot after the game. Rice has shown they can score against tough defenses (ODU) and poor ones (UTSA). Look out for Scott Pera’s team.
Last week: 7th
7. ODU 8-4, 4-2
Yes, they split against Rice and should get full credit. The thing is that their performance over two games in Houston was not good. Rice erased the ODU lead fairly easily, and there was an ill-advised attempt at a steal that put Evee at the line on the final possession. Simply put, the Monarchs are not playing very great basketball right now even though the results have put them at 4-2. They take on a good NT squad next week.
Last week: 6th
8. Charlotte 6-6, 2-2
Charlotte showed good resolve by coming back to get a big win over UAB after an embarrassing outing. Brice Williams came off the bench to put up 22 for the 49ers including three-of-three from deep.
Last week: 9th
9-14: USM, UTSA, UTEP, FAU, FIU, MTSU
As usual, these teams are really flawed and should be looked askance.
USM: Again, this team has talent and can beat up on teams without that talent and effort. They struggle against more organized teams and will for a bit. Jaron Pierre had a hit-and-miss two games.
UTSA: A bounce here or there and the Runners maybe have an upset in their pocket. The problem is that the last couple of weeks they do the same thing: one good game, one awful game. That inconsistency is because the defense is bad, and the offense is all about Jhivvan Jackson or Keaton Wallace getting a great game individually.
UTEP: Lot of talent but that was not on display in the awful 33-point game on Friday. They started well on Saturday but finished shooting under 40%. Head coach Rodney Terry is getting heat from the fans.
FAU: When you score 107 and blow out a team by more than 30, you get a little love. They did it without Jailyn Ingram doing a bulk of scoring! Two wins for FAU vs FIU.
FIU: Every week we see this team play one decent game, and one bad one. This time the decent game was not enough to win, and the second was a no-show.
MTSU: There were some nice moments from Middle, but USM was too much in game one, and just better for too long in the second.