Top potential Giant Killers in C-USA

Donnie Tyndall's Southern Miss team is 23-5 and vying for a spot in the NCAA tournament. AP Photo/Danny Johnston

When the 2014 NCAA tournament arrives, what are the odds we will see plenty of upsets? More than nearly anyone realizes, the answer to that question will be determined over the next couple of weeks by a handful of games in places such as Hattiesburg, Miss., Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Ruston, La. We're talking Conference USA basketball -- action that won't show up even on ESPN3 but will sow your brackets with landmines or dust them with chalk.

No fewer than five teams are crowded atop C-USA, and four will pair off in key contests Thursday night, when Middle Tennessee (with a conference record of 11-2) plays at Louisiana Tech (10-3), and Tulsa (10-3) visits UTEP (10-3). Each, along with Southern Mississippi (10-3), has three regular-season games left to secure a favorable seed in its conference tournament -- and to impress the NCAA selection committee. They've awarded an average of exactly 0.5 at-large bids per year to C-USA programs since Louisville and Cincinnati left the conference in 2006.

And here's the thing: These five teams vary hugely in their Giant-Killing talents.

Most dangerous with a slingshot: