In a season sure to be defined by newcomers, Tulane is enjoying an early run of success thanks to a pair of fresh faces complementing junior swingman Kendall Timmons. North Carolina State transfer Josh Davis and freshman guard Ricky Tarrant have provided the support the versatile Timmons needed, giving the unbeaten Green Wave four double-digit scorers along with junior guard Jordan Callahan. Concerns over Timmons shouldering a disproportionate load were unwarranted.
Let's get to the rankings.
1. Memphis (record: 4-2 overall, 2-0 last week; previous ranking: 1). The Tigers' obliteration of substandard opponents Jackson State and Austin Peay by a combined 56 points wasn't noteworthy, but their 15 3-pointers in the latter shellacking might prove foreboding. Memphis won't shoot that exceptionally from behind the arc against quality teams, but the fact that potential exists could strike fear for teams lacking sufficient perimeter quickness.
2. Marshall (record: 5-1 overall, 0-1 last week; previous ranking: 2). The Thundering Herd fumbled a golden opportunity to enter its high-profile showdown at third-ranked Syracuse unbeaten by allowing Ohio (kenpom.com rating: 91) to walk out of the Cam Henderson Center with a 70-68 win. Marshall trailed by double digits and needed a late rally to make things interesting down the stretch. Perhaps the Herd was looking ahead to facing the Orange.
3. UCF (record: 5-2 overall, 1-0 last week; previous ranking: 3). Perhaps the most positive development from the Knights' 67-48 win over Hartford was the career-high 22 points turned in by sophomore Isaiah Sykes. If UCF can find consistent scoring beyond Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton, it will be formidable. Sophomore Tristan Spurlock chipped in a double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds); Jordan added 13 points and four assists.
4. Southern Miss (record: 5-2 overall, 1-0 last week; previous ranking: 5). The Golden Eagles managed a second eight-point win over New Mexico State, following their 80-72 decision at the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 25 with a 74-66 home win on Saturday. Southern Miss' backcourt continues to produce, with guards Angelo Johnson (17 points, four assists), LaShay Page (16 points) and Neil Watson (a season-high 15 points) carrying the load.
5. Tulane (record: 9-0 overall, 2-0 last week; previous ranking: 6). Freshman guard Ricky Tarrant earned C-USA Player and Freshman of the Week honors after averaging 17 points and six rebounds in victories over Southern and Georgia Tech. He is the first player in C-USA history to claim both honors simultaneously. Tulane is off to its best start since a 13-0 opening to the 1991-92 season. That date at No. 3 Syracuse on Dec. 22 is looming large.
6. Tulsa (record: 4-5 overall, 0-2 last week; previous ranking: 4). At some point the Golden Hurricane needs to win a game against quality competition. It's admirable playing the likes of Oklahoma State and Arizona State, but those three-point losses won't help the rsum come March. Tulsa's five losses have been by a combined total of 19 points, with the five-point loss at Missouri State coming in overtime. Wichita State comes calling Wednesday.
7. Rice (record: 6-2 overall, 2-0 last week; previous ranking: 8). The Owls showed some spunk by winning at Houston Baptist without their best player, junior forward Arsalan Kazemi (back). When Kazemi returned three days later, he messed around and nearly recorded a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in a win over St. Thomas. Freshmen Dylan Ennis and Ahmad Ibrahim appear to be emerging from the pack of rookies.
8. Houston (record: 4-3 overall, 1-1 last week; previous ranking: 7). The Cougars' rotten luck continued with a one-point home loss to LSU, their third consecutive defeat in the waning seconds. Their balanced attack returned in force against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, with unheralded juniors Johnathon Simmons (22 points) and Leon Gibson (16 points off the bench) helping touted freshmen Joseph Young and TaShawn Thomas pace the victory.
9. SMU (record: 5-3 overall, 1-0 last week; previous ranking: 11). While the kenpom.com ranking (league-low 211) suggests otherwise, the Mustangs are rising ever so slightly. Their overtime win at Arkansas-Little Rock shouldn't be discounted, particularly given the Mustangs' penchant for erasing double-digit deficits. This time the margin was 14 points, negated by the sharpshooting of junior guard London Giles, who tallied a career-high 19 points.
10. East Carolina (record: 4-3 overall, 0-2 last week; previous ranking: 9). Lacking non-Division I opponents to kick around, the Pirates lost in their first trip outside of North Carolina (at Old Dominion) and took it on the chin against Charlotte 76-64. Charlotte transfer Shamarr Bowden had 13 points off the bench, but East Carolina couldn't overcome senior forward Darrius Morrow being held scoreless for the first time in his career.
11. UAB (record: 1-6 overall, 0-2 last week; previous ranking: 10). How low will the Blazers go? Following loses at South Alabama and at Kent State, UAB is averaging a paltry 54.4 points per game and shooting a woeful 38 percent from the floor. The Blazers are averaging only 9.4 assists, reflecting a lack of ball movement and court spacing. It's no wonder forward Cameron Moore is the lone double-digit scorer at 14.9 points per game.
12. UTEP (record: 1-4 overall, 0-1 last week; previous ranking: 12). It was mildly surprising, but the Miners pushed Oregon into the final minute before falling 64-59. Michael Perez paced UTEP with 18 points while John Bohannon added 13 points and nine boards as the Miners shot 50 percent from the floor. Of course they missed 10 of 16 free throws in what ultimately turned into a five-point loss. Critical teaching points for a youthful roster.
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