Each time we get a clash between one of the top-five-ish teams we get a good game. This week it was Tech and NT in Denton giving us two, hard-fought matchups on Stadium. Elsewhere we were disappointed by Charlotte, impressed by the fight in the Herd basketball squad, and raised an eyebrow at Middle Tennessee.
The league is barreling toward the end of the season in which we will (likely) have a conference tournament. The games are important mostly for seeding right now, and while the cancellations are piling up, the important division-maker games will be the ones targeted for making-up. In particular is UAB vs North Texas looming. Depending on what happens with North Texas’ schedule (USM, WKU, Marshall) they could be within a game or two of the division lead. If the difference is a first-round bye, then yes, it is a big prize. If it is simply about who has the number ‘1’ by their name come tournament time, it matters less.
POW: Keaton Wallace, UTSA, 49 points in two games vs FIU.
1. UAB 16-2, 9-1
The Blazers looked good against UTEP in two games, handily beating the opposition twice but 12+ points in both. Their defense is good again, and they are getting balanced contributions. Trey Jamison looked good in the first game. Quan Jackson put up 18 points as well. UAB looks like the team to beat right now, but they’ve also had the easiest schedule. This upcoming weekend vs Tech will tell us a lot. Tech is good.
Last week: 1st
2. La Tech 15-6, 8-4
The Bulldogs went to Denton and got a split. Kenneth Lofton, Jr was impressive, combining with Isaiah Crawford to get clutch buckets late in the first game to seal it late. The defense was super impressive against NT’s then-leading top efficient offense to hold the Mean Green to 63, and 55 respectively. The offense could not get the big buckets in game two, however, and NT figured out a better way to defend Lofton (coming late to help, instead of early) and that messed things up just enough. Still, NT only managed a two-point win and this was an impressive weekend in Denton.
Last week: 2nd
3. NT 10-6, 6-2
We are high on North Texas because they have talent inside and out, and also a really tough, energetic defense. This was going to be their toughest league test to date and they got punched in the mouth by the Lofton/Crawford duo (see above) but managed to shake that off in the next one. Javion Hamlet was quiet in the second game, even fouling out, but that NT was able to manufacture a victory without their best wing player contributing is a good thing. North Texas adjusted (a good thing) and they got buckets when they needed them. James Reese was impressive. NT has a tough upcoming schedule after this weekend.
4. WKU 13-4, 6-2
Western was off because of COVID protocols.
5. Marshall 10-5, 4-4 / ODU 9-5, 5-3
So these two played and split. We really rank Marshall higher for having created two big leads in two games, but also we have to credit ODU for erasing that and getting a win. Marshall has dropped off a ton on the defensive end and that is concerning. ODU does not do anything in particular really well, but they do occasionally execute and play good defense.
LW: Marshall 5th, ODU 6th
7. Rice 12-8, 6-6
Rice is top-four on offense and 13th defensively. They beat up on USM after a tough, tough schedule (ODU, UAB, UNT) and unfortunately it does not get any easier (WKU, Marshall, Tech). Rice has a nice squad and a good team but they just are not ready just yet.
Last week: 7th.
8. UTSA 10-9, 6-6
If Rice is the plucky, fun team that UTSA used to be, UTSA is the original without the shine of new. They dominated an awful FIU squad this week and put up a great game two — 90-47 win. They got over .500 overall and reached .500 in league play. FAU can score with UTSA, and Charlotte is bad-to-mediocre right now. After that UAB should bring the Runners back to earth.
9-14. FAU, CLT, UTEP, USM, Middle, FIU
FAU: Almost forgot you over there.
CLT: What the hell?
UTEP: I do not blame you for not watching.
USM: When I said they were not good enough to really challenge this is what I meant. I told you so
Middle: Hey now! That was unexpected fun.