Western Kentucky looks to be the class of Conference USA, but it isn’t going to be a walk in the park for the Hilltoppers, with several teams who can challenge for the conference title.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers are the logical choice to finish at the top, as they return a lot of talent and bring in some key tranfers, including Camron Justice, who averaged 18.6 points per game with IUPUI. The defense isn’t bad, but not as good as the team’s offense.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs have had a couple of disappointing seasons, but have plenty of backcourt talent to make a push for the top of the standings.
UTSA: The Roadrunners return a pair of 20-point scorers, something not many teams can say, but they need to turn it up a notch on the defensive side of the floor.
UAB: The Blazers have some key players coming back, but need to the offense to catch-up to the defense to make a push for the top of the standings.
UTEP: The Miners are one of the top two defensive teams in the conference, but they need the offense to do its job. A number of transfers can help in that department.
Old Dominion: The Monarchs are much like the Miners, as they’re strong defensively, but nothing to get excited about on offense.
Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders look to be pretty much a middle-of-the-pack team that could challenge for a minor tournament berth.
North Texas: North Texas is another team who is better defending than scoring, although several transfers can help out the returning players.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls fall into a familiar pattern, with yet another team who can defend better than score. A healthy Jailyn Ingram would help out the offense quite a bit, as he played just eight games and averaged 18.9 points per game.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd look to be in for another rebuilding season, as they’re not great on either end of the floor and lost some talent.
Rice: The Owls made some positive strides last season and the pieces are in place for Scott Pera’s bunch to do so again, but the defense needs to tighten up.
Florida International: FIU’s uptempo style saw the team win 20 games for the first time in 20 years, but they did lose Brian Beard. The team is bringing in quite a few junior college players to try and help out.
Southern Miss: Jay Ladner is the new coach for the Golden Eagles, but he doesn’t have a whole lot to work with here.
Charlotte: The 49ers are pretty poor offensively, while the defense is middle-of-the-pack. Charlotte seems more poised to battle Southern Miss for the basement than they do to battle for the top half of the conference.
Conference USA Opening Power Ratings
|Western Kentucky Hilltoppers||81|
|Louisiana Tech Bulldogs||78|
|Old Dominion Monarchs||75|
|Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders||74|
|North Texas Mean Green||74|
|Marshall Thundering Herd||72|
|Southern Miss Golden Eagles||70|