Before the hoops season started, the Sun Belt Preseason Coaches Poll predicted an 11th place finish for the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Fair enough, considering A-State was breaking in an overhauled roster and a new head coach in Grant McCasland. While expectations were tempered, the fan base was eager to see how the team would respond to McCasland’s infectious energy.
After a tough road loss to North Dakota State, the Red Wolves went on an OOC tear, collecting wins against Army, Georgetown, Chattanooga and Lehigh. After stumbling on the road to Minnesota and Alabama, A-State rebounded with in-conference home wins against Louisiana and ULM. Life was great.
Fortunes plummeted when the Red Wolves took the chilly 800 mile trip to Conway, South Carolina to face 200+ RPI Coastal Carolina. Red Wolves shooting proved just as cold as the weather when the Red Wolves converted an icy 38% from the floor and leading shooter Devin Carter went a frigid 1-4 for 3 points. The Chants, behind 14 three-pointers, throttled the Red Wolves early and never let go, winning easily 80-65 (more on Coastal Carolina in The Orbit!).
You know what, though? You can’t win every game. Especially 800 miles from home. Just shake it off and refocus! The Red Wolves chugged another 280 miles to Boone to face the bottom of the Sun Belt standings, the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Time for a bounce back, y’all!
Except there was no bounce in this back. Somehow, the once potent Red Wolves offense got even worse, shooting a miserable 35% from the floor and a grisly 56% from the stripe. Once again, A-State’s primary scoring weapon, Carter, was held in check at 3-5 for 9 points. The Mountaineers buried 8 three pointers to gain its first conference win of the season 70-57. Yuck.
What do we make of this disastrous road trip?
When the Red Wolves finally return to Jonesboro, they will have traveled 1,700 miles. If that sounds like an excuse, you’re right! It really is. But that’s a brutal stretch that surely sapped the Red Wolves’ energy and speed.
Yet we can’t ignore that the Red Wolves are an alarming 0-4 on their last four road games. We can’t shrug off a pair of double-digit losses to to the bottom half of the Sun Belt. Most of all, we need to remember that the Red Wolves are a young team guided by a first year head coach. The out of conference wins were exciting. The future looks terrific. Now we get to see how the Red Wolves respond to adversity.
And maybe we need to readjust expectations.
Sun Belt Orbit Week 2
Sun Belt Standings
- Georgia Southern (3-0)
- Coastal Carolina (3-1)
- UT-Arlington (2-1)
- Louisiana (2-1)
- Texas State (2-1)
- Arkansas State (2-2)
- Little Rock (2-2)
- Georgia State (1-2)
- Troy (1-2)
- South Alabama (1-2)
- Appalachian State (1-3)
- ULM (0-3)
Conference Recap, January 7-9
The 8-9 Chanticleers are sitting pretty at second in the conference, and they are determined to punish the Arkansas teams. After swiping the volleyball title from Arkansas State, the newest kid in the Sun Belt swept the week with wins over defending conference champion Little Rock (66-63) and the Red Wolves. Junior guard Jaylen Shaw led the scoring in both games for the Double C Chants, recording 24 and 16 points.
After two weeks of conference play, it’s the Georgia Southern Eagles who find themselves atop the standings. The Eagles tiptoed past Troy 86-82 and then executed a comeback win over South Alabama 84-79. The 10-6 Eagles are now 3-0 in the Sun Belt averaging nearly 80 points per game behind the hot hands of guard Ike Smith and sophomore guard Tookie Brown.
Sure, the Eagles are hot, but Louisiana may be the sneaky power in the Sun Belt. The Cajuns crisply dispatched in-state rival ULM 69-60 on Saturday and improved their record to 12-4, tied for best in conference with UT-Arlington.
Speaking of the Mavericks, the Sun Belt favorite took a shot to the gnads with a 81-73 loss to in-state foe Texas State in San Marcus. The Bobcats senior forward Kavin Gildar-Tilbury hammered home 21 points, neutralizing the 25 points from the Maverick’s Kevin Hervey.
What’s wrong with Georgia State? The Panthers (picked to finish 3rd in the SBC) fell to 1-2 after losing to Troy behind a 16-point, one-block performance from junior forward Juan Davis Jr. Georgia State delivered the conference’s highest rated OOC win over Middle Tennessee earlier this season, but has yet to establish dominance in the Sun Belt.