Keeping Score

An early glance at USM basketball's RPI situation

A team's RPI ranking is crucial when it comes to NCAA Tournament selection, but the 2012-13 Southern Miss basketball squad stands as an example as a high ranking that wasn't good enough to make the Big Dance.

USM (6-1) was ranked No. 34 in RPI when the NCAA Tournament selections were made, but got left out of the field last year.

It's still very early in the season, but Southern Miss is in a good situation at No. 29 according to

USM hosts No. 120 Morehead State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in an important non-conference game. Morehead is a quality team with wins over Marshall and Nevada early in the season.

Georgia State, which has a pitiful RPI ranking of 331, awaits the Golden Eagles at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

What kept USM out of the postseason last year was a lack of wins over teams ranked in the top 50, going 0-5 against those opponents.

USM's best RPI win at the moment is at Depaul, which is No. 63.

One game that stands out as a big opportunity to take down a good RPI opponent is No. 20 Drexel on Jan. 3 at Reed Green Coliseum.

No. 61 Charlotte, No. 51 UTEP, No. 72 UAB and No. 32 Louisiana Tech will offer USM its best opportunities for high-RPI conference victories.

The new C-USA scheduling format affords USM the chance to play only one league team twice, Tulane, which is ranked a miserable 327th.

USM has to take advantage of its chances against top 50 opponents or it will be very hard to get an at-large NCAA bid again this season.