Teams Of The Week
Middle Tennessee (9-1)
Big win at home over Vanderbilt to cement their spot at the top of Conference USA.
The planets have aligned in Murfreesboro. I had my doubts leading into the season that the Blue Raiders would be this good this quickly after Buford, Harris, and Raymond all graduated. Those doubts are gone and MTSU is a week away from being ranked in the AP top 25 if they can win on the road at Belmont and VCU.
Among many things, what makes the Blue Raider offense so dangerous is their ability to run it through many different players. Coach Davis has been starting freshman Tyrik Dixon at the point, but he’s asked to do very little in terms of facilitating and delegating. Reggie Upshaw leads the team with 41 assists and just 14 turnovers and can play the point-forward position as well as any player in college basketball. Giddy Potts and Ed Simpson have seen considerable minutes at the point as well.
Florida Atlantic (3-5)
HUGE overtime upset over 33rd ranked (KenPom) Ohio State in Columbus.
The Owls haven’t won double-digit games since 2014, and that will most assuredly change this season. Coach Curry has put together a balanced roster that features a legit center in Ronald Delph, a blossoming sophomore point guard in Nick Rutherford, potential Conference USA freshman of the year Jailyn Ingram, and a savvy upperclassman leader in Adonis Filer.
The Owls finish out their non-conference with a non-Division 1 team and games at Miami and Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU is a top 100 team these days and a win over Miami would be even bigger than the Ohio State upset. Mark it down, FAU is going to win another big game this month.
Players Of The Week
Giddy Potts ¦ MTSU, 27 points 9 rebounds
Adonis Filer ¦ FAU, 23 points 5-of-9 from three
Rice: As the non-conference play draws closer to an end, I’m starting to really believe the Owls are a top 5 Conference USA team and possibly a top three. An upset win at Pitt this weekend would be huge for their program and the conference’s perception. Even if they don’t win, they’ll likely finish 9-3, which is fantastic considering they started 5-8 last season.
Charlotte: The 49ers are fools gold. A couple decent wins at home don’t outweigh their blow out losses at Wake and Davidson. Oregon State looks like they may be the worst power school team in the country, which cheapens that win from last week.
Marshall: The Herd has the toughest December of any Conference USA team with road games at Akron, Cincinnati, and Pitt. Jon Elmore is in my opinion the leading candidate currently for Conference USA player of the year. He’s going to need to be big for them these next few weeks.
La Tech: I’m going to give the Bulldogs a pass for their loss at Louisiana-Lafeyette over the weekend. Qiydar Davis was announced to be out for the year before the game, and losing a upperclassmen like that can run the train off the rails for a night. Their two freshman DeQuan Bracey (averaging more than 5 assists) and Jalen Harris are legit.
North Texas: The Mean Green has two manageable games to close out December, but will likely take a loss on the road at Sam Houston St. this week. They’ll be 7-5 with no quality wins going into conference play. As I’ve said before, with Keith Frazier becoming eligible this month there is no telling what this team will look like a month from now.
ODU: The Monarchs really struggled offensively in losses at Rhode Island and at home to VCU this past week. Those were two very good defense teams though, and Zoran Talley has yet to return from his suspension.
UAB: Like ODU, the Blazers are struggling on the offensive end. UAB’s defense played well enough to beat Memphis, but two 3-pointers on the road against a rival isn’t going to cut it.
WKU: The Tops needed their big win at Indiana State in a bad way. At 4-5 WKU is better than their record and should continue to improve now that former Vol Jabari McGhee is eligible.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles’ likely only Division 1 win in non-conference play will be Alabama A&M who is the 351st ranked team in the country. Say a prayer for them.
FIU: The Panthers are just a bad team. They have two quality players in Kessens and McGill, but the combination of lack of depth and poor coaching is going to keep them from winning more than 10 games this season.
UTSA: Each week the Roadrunners have gotten better despite what the scoreboard may show. They’ll travel to top 200 Texas A&M CC and host a very good Utah Valley team this week. I expect them to split those games and continue to move forward.
UTEP: The Miners have three home games in a row coming up and one is against rival New Mexico St. After their very competitive showing in a one point loss at New Mexico last week, I think they’ll win two of the next three and gain back some support they’ve lost of late.
Week 5 Games
Prairie View A&M at La Tech
New Mexico State at UTEP
MTSU at Belmont
WKU at #12 Saint Mary’s
St. Edward’s at Rice
Georgia Southern at FIU
FAU at Miami
WKU at Detroit Mercy
Charlotte at #21 Florida (Neutral)
Rice at Pittsburgh
Northern Illinois at FIU
MTSU at VCU
Marshall at Akron
North Texas at Sam Houston St.
Grambling St. at La Tech
Northern Arizona at UTEP
Georgia State at ODU
UTSA at Texas A&M-CC
Southern at UAB