The Mavericks didn’t ask for much. UT Arlington needed only two small concessions this weekend to gain sole control of the Sun Belt standings: 1) Two home wins, and 2) six losses from the top three teams in the conference. Request granted!
Arkansas State, Georgia State and Georgia Southern emerged winless from the Sun Belt Weekend, going a perfect 0-6 while UT Arlington secured home wins over Little Rock and the Red Wolves to emerge atop the conference. Today, an astonishing five teams are within a game and a half of the Mavericks, leaving the Sun Belt in an unstable, entropic state of madness.
The Georgias got Carolina-ed!
The Panthers and Eagles entered the Carolina road trip with well-earned confidence, with both programs sitting pretty atop the Sun Belt (with Arkansas State). Georgia State was especially hot, having won six games in a row. Win streaks mean nothing in the Carolina hills, however. The Panthers endured a bruising 77-72 loss to Appalachian State (8-16), then followed it up with a heart-stomping loss to Coastal Carolina, 65-64. Elijah Wilson and Demario Beck poured in 15 points apiece, and Beck sealed the deal with a put-back jumper with 3 seconds remaining. The Panther faithful were not amused.
Meanwhile, Georgia Southern had won two straight by rolling over the Louisianas last week. But the Carolinas were not impressed. Colton Ray-St Cyr and Jaylen Shaw dumped 16 points apiece on the Eagles to lead the Chanticleers to a 82-70 rolling. Two days later, Georgia Southern found themselves being whipped by arch nemesis Appalachian State 83-78, led by Griffin Kinney’s season high 25 points.
Arkansas State got messed up in Texas
The Red Wolves sauntered into the great State of Texas with seven straight wins and an opportunity to grab the Sun Belt lead outright. Hold it right there, partner! On Saturday afternoon, Kevin Hervey fired 19 points for the Mavericks while his deputy, Jorge Bilbao delivered 17 points on sizzling hot 7-for-8 sharp-shooting, leading UT-A to a 81-75 victory.
The Maverick’s beat the Red Wolves with offense. On Monday night, the Texas State Bobcats defeated Arkansas State with defense, holding the Red Wolves to 37% shooting and coming away with a 62-58 victory. Kavin Gilder-Tilbury’s 21 points, nine rebounds and six blocks was enough production to allow the the nation’s 12th stingiest defense (62.5 points allowed per game) to control the game. Red Wolves fans weren’t thrilled.
Entropy rules the Sun Belt and we love it
How can you not like this Sun Belt basketball race? Yes, the preseason favorite UTA Mavericks predictably took care of their business by dispatching hopeless Little Rock (71-55) and the Red Wolves. But look, man! The conference front-runners lost all six games this weekend! The freaking Bobcats have beaten UTA and Arkansas State to be one game from first place! You think Coastal Carolina is melting away? Think again! The nation’s 7th program for gobbling up rebounds (40.2 per game) isn’t leaving the stage. There are six teams legitimately in this race, y’all, and none are defending Sun Belt champion Little Rock. Embrace the entropy! Court the Chaos Jackals and surrender order to the gods of bedlam!
Sun Belt Orbit, Week 6
As of this writing, the Sun Belt features two sub-100 RPI programs: UTA (41) and Arkansas State (78)
Sun Belt Standings (Feb 7)
- UT Arlington 9-3
- Arkansas State 9-4
- Georgia State 9-4
- Georgia Southern 9-4
- Texas State 8-4
- Coastal Carolina 8-5
- Troy 6-6
- South Alabama 5-7
- Louisiana 5-8
- Little Rock 4-9
- Appalachian State 3-10
- ULM 1-12
Method to the madness
Don’t look now, but UT-Arlington’s RPI (41) and Kenpom score (69, hee hee) is trending dangerously close to at-large territory. The Mavericks’ surge to the top might be a bummer for the majority of Sun Belt fans, but it could become fantastic for the conference itself.
Game to Savor: UT Arlington at Georgia State, Saturday at 1:15 CST on ESPN3
The Sun Belt’s preseason POY, Kevin Hervey, takes on the conference’s likely rookie of the year, D’Marcus Simond, in a game that will either keep the Panthers in the race or cement the Mavericks on top.