After the long Sun Belt Weekend, the standings … remain more or less unchanged. Sure, Texas State flipped flopped with Coastal, and Louisiana exchanged places with Troy, but the Solar Power Four emerged firmly entrenched at the top of the standings, unchanged, though the Mavericks did increase its conference lead. With one week remaining before the Sun Belt Tournament, there is still plenty of opportunity for SUN BELT ENTROPY TO ENSLAVE US ALL AND RULE THE UNIVERSE.
The Mavericks are your (regular season) Sun Belt champs
Listen, y’all, UT Arlington (23-6) has punched the auto-pilot button and is currently rolling over the Sun Belt, cruising to victories over South Alabama 86-75 and Troy 82-67. The Mavericks have won seven straight, and Kevin Hervey is playing like the Sun Belt preseason POY, putting up three double-doubles in has last four games. But it isn’t just the Hervey Show in Arlington. Senior forward Jorge Bilbao is a machine, averaging 13.7 points and 6.7 boards his last four outings, and senior forward Faith Pope came out of nowhere to add 14 points against what was a boiling Troy team. Fact is, the Mavs can beat you in a variety of ways. On Monday night, UTA grabbed its first Sun Belt regular season title.
Arkansas State traded Ws and Ls with the Georgias
Georgia Southern took advantage of some chilly Arkansas State shooting on Saturday (32.8% from the floor) to earn a 72-60 win at Jonesboro, where the Red Wolves had been undefeated this season. The conference’s leading shooters, Ike Smith and Tookie Brown, poured in 21 and 17 points respectively for the Eagles, pounding out the win in a foul-plagued Saturday evening. Meanwhile, two hours south of Jonesboro, Georgia State took care of business against Little Rock 71-54 behind a dominating performance from Devin Mitchell (16 pts) and D’Marcus Simonds (10 pts).
Arkansas State rebounded on Monday night when Devin Carter (20 pts) lead five Red Wolves into double scoring digits to punch in a 78-67 win over Georgia State. A couple hours later, Little Rock did its Arkansas rival a nice favor by handing Georgia Southern a last second 56-54 loss at the Jack Stephens Center. Three-point sharp shooter Jake Allsmiller had the Trojans of Little Rock on its heels the entire game until Kemy Osse sank a tough 3-pointer with seven seconds left to give Little Rock the 2-point lead and the win.
Sun Belt Orbit, Week 8
As of this writing, the Sun Belt features two sub-100 RPI programs: UTA (35) and Arkansas State (84)
Sun Belt Standings (Feb 28)
- UT Arlington 13-3 (Clinched championship and BYE)
- Arkansas State 11-5
- Georgia State 11-6
- Georgia Southern 11-6
- Texas State 10-6
- Coastal Carolina 10-7
- Louisiana 8-8
- Troy 8-8
- South Alabama 6-10
- Little Rock 5-11
- Appalachian State 3-14
- ULM 2-14
The race to the Top Four is still plasma hot
The top four finishers enjoy a first round bye in the “all inclusive” Sun Belt Tournament. The two Georgias have one regular season game left – with each other next Saturday, March 4. That leaves the door wide open for Texas State or Coastal Carolina to slip ahead of whoever loses the game at Atlanta. Both the Bobcats and the Chanticleers end the season on the road. Texas State visits the Warhawks and the Cajuns, while Coastal Carolina has one game remaining – an in-state rivalry donnybrook with Appalachian State. Texas State enjoys the greater control of its destiny. Two wins guarantee the Bobcats, projected to finish last in the Sun Belt, the 4th bye.
Oh, and if Arkansas State should lose to South Alabama and Troy (also on the road), the Red Wolves would also be vulnerable to losing out on the Bye Parade. NOTHING IS SAFE IN THE SUN BELT!
UTA deserves more national respect, you guys
At a solid 35, the Mavericks have a greater RPI than media darlings like Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Wichita State, Houston and Michigan, yet an at-large bid has yet to be bandied by the national pundits. What gives? UTA finishes the season on the road against an okay Cajuns team (133 RPI) and a horrendous Warhawks squad (305 RPI). Still, road wins matter, and the Mavericks have a chance to boost the ol’ RPI before the Sun Belt Tournament begins.
Game To Savor: Georgia Southern @ Georgia State, Saturday, March 4, 1:15 CST on ESPN3
The winner gets a tournament bye. The loser, maybe not.