HATTIESBURG -- Southern Miss sports a 21-5 overall record and is 8-3 in Conference USA men's basketball.
The Golden Eagles are a contender for the NCAA Tournament and their next three games are at home, including today's 7 p.m. contest against the University of Texas-San Antonio.
But, and it's a big but, Coach Donnie Tyndall's squad lost two straight games last week and is in fifth place in Conference USA. And USM's second-leading scorer and top rebounder, Michael Craig, suffered a "mild high ankle sprain" Saturday and may not play this week.
So, the NCAA Tournament is the big prize, but not all is golden at this point.
Not a problem, Tyndall said Wednesday.
"Our goal is to win the regular-season title and our goal is to win the conference tournament title," he said. "So if we do that, we don't need to worry about the rest of those things."
Here's what's coming up: Southern Miss hosts UTSA at 7 tonight, hosts UTEP at 5 p.m. Saturday and hosts FIU at 6 p.m. Feb. 27. Then it plays at Florida Atlantic (March 2) and at Tulane (March 6).
The Conference USA Tournament is March 11-15 in El Paso, Texas. The top four teams in the C-USA standings receive two byes in the tournament. The No. 5-8 teams receive one bye in the tournament.
Currently, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State and UTEP are tied
for first place in the C-USA standings, each with a 9-2 record.
Tulsa and Southern Miss are next at 8-3, but Tulsa defeated the Eagles earlier this season, so it would have the double bye if the season ended today.
The team that wins the C-USA Tournament receives an invitation to the Big Dance. Sixty-eight teams are invited and much is based on teams' Rating Percentage Index, but not all of the 68 top RPI teams get into the NCAA Tournament because of some automatic bids.
Southern Miss is No. 40 in ESPN's RPI rankings.
"I think our league deserves two bids, but I thought that last year and it didn't happen," Tyndall said.
Tonight's game is important so as not to drop in the RPI. UTSA is 8-16 overall and 4-7 in Conference USA.
"They started good in conference play and if you look at their scores they've been up and down," Tyndall said. "They just beat Florida Atlantic, who beat UTEP. They're a team that tries to keep you out of rhythm offensively. They change their defenses a lot, mix their defenses up.
"They have a point guard (Keon Lewis, 13.4 ppg) that can really make plays late in the shot clock so that's always dangerous. And they have good size. They have a big kid inside (6-7, 225 Edrico McGregor, 7.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg), an older kid who's a fifth-year senior. He give them physicality around the goal.
"It will be another dangerous team and we'll have to play well to win."
While USM may not have Craig available tonight, they do have eight others who have seen a lot of playing time, including senior guard Neil Watson (11.8 ppg), senior forward Daveon Boardingham (10.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), senior guard Jerrold Brooks (9.6 ppg) and junior forward Aaron Brown (8.8 ppg).
Southern Miss has not lost at home this season, so Tyndall said he is hoping for more good crowds.
"I want to sell these three games out and I will be disappointed if there's an empty seat in the building this week," he said.