The Southern Miss basketball team is off to an 18-3 start overall and a 5-1 start in conference play. Senior Neil Watson is leading the charge for the Golden Eagles hoops team, as he is averaging 12.7 points per game and shooting 44% from behind the three-point line. Watson has also made 31 consecutive free throws. Not too far behind Watson is senior Michael Craig, who has appeared on ESPN’s Sportscenter twice for two huge dunks. He’s averaging 11.7 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game.
The Golden Eagles knocked off #25 ranked Louisiana Tech last week, 80-71. On that night, senior Daveon Broadingham almost had a career night as he fell two points shy of tying his career high in points with 20. Craig brought his A-game for arguably the best team in the conference. Craig poured in 17 points and snagged 12 grown man rebounds versus Tech’s long, athletic post players.
In the past two games versus Old Dominion and East Carolina, the Golden Eagles have only allowed an average of 53 points. Old Dominion scored 60 points while ECU only scored 46 points. Against Old Dominion, Watson scored 28 points, went ten for ten from the charity stripe and six of seven from beyond the arch. Versus ECU, everyone did their part four starters scored double figures, Craig grabbed 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double since arriving to Southern Miss and his fifth this season.
Southern Miss will be spending their next three games at home. The next three home games will be against teams in the bottom half of Conference USA standings. Tulane, Marshall and Charlotte are all struggling to find their way towards the middle of the pack. The final two games of the home stand will be televised and found the CBS Sports family of networks.
Head coach Donnie Tyndall has his team playing the best defense in the conference as they are only allowing 62 points per game, good for 32nd in the nation. Defensively they take the ball away from you, ranking 11th in total steals, making them the most scrappy team in the conference.
Southern Miss’ rebound margin through 21 games is 7.6 which is 16th in the nation. It also does not hurt to be coaching arguably one of the best free throw shooting players in the nation in Watson, as he is ranked 2nd in the nation in free throw percentage. Only seven teams get to the foul line as often as the Golden Eagles. Tyndall also has his team receiving votes in the Coaches’ Top 25 poll.
If Southern Miss can win the next three games and get some help from other teams, they could make an appearance in the Top 25 before the conference tournaments start. The Golden Eagles RPI is currently 40th in the nation, due to their lack of top tier teams in their non-conference schedule and their 1-1 record versus top 25 teams. Their RPI has suffered quite a bit even though they are 18-3 so far this season.