Because you are a loyal and regular reader of Forgotten 5, I don’t really need to remind you that the Texas State Bobcats were picked to finish dead last by Sun Belt hoops coaches to start the 2016-17 season. In that same poll, the Trojans (of Troy) were predicted to finish 9th, while UTA, Little Rock, Georgia Southern and Georgia State were expected to rule with a plasma fist.
Fast forward to March, where magic replaces physics and reason for the entire month. Troy and the Bobcats are 20+ game winners, and one of them is dancing at the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament. Entropy rules the Sun Belt.
How the Bobcats got here
Texas State finished the season 18-12, and earned a 1st round SBC tournament BYE thanks to a tie-breaking win over Arkansas State earlier in the season. Led by Sun Belt First Team forward Kavin Gilder-Tilbury and freshman guard Nijal Pearson, the Bobcats continued to defy rationality by first dusting off ULM 63-51 in the quarterfinals and then outright destroying preseason favorite UTA 83-62 in the semifinals.
The Bobcats were especially impressive in their mastery over the Mavericks, shooting 53.1% from the floor, nailing eight 3-pointers, and holding Sun Belt Player of the Year Kevin Hervey to 10 points. Bobcat senior guard Bobby Conley poured in 16 points and was a blistering 4 of 5 from behind the three point line, sapping the Maverick’s will to win. Now the Bobcats are poised to make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994.
How the Trojans (of Troy) got here
Troy finished the season 18-14 with season-closing wins over Arkansas State and Little Rock for good momentum heading into the SBC tournament. Troy’s route to the finals was a game longer than the Bobcats, coming in a 6 seed with an opening round game with Appalachian State.
With junior guard Wesley Person nailing shots from the outside, and Sun Belt First Team forward Jordon Varnado cleaning up on the inside, the Trojans (of Troy) have been unstoppable, leveling the Mountaineers 84-64 before thundering Georgia Southern 90-70. The #sick duo of Person & Varnado continued to dominate on Saturday, when the two combined for 31 points to upset Georgia State 74-63.
Who wins this Sunday, 1:00 PM CST on ESPN2?
The conference favorites are nowhere to be found at the Sun Belt Finals, but we will see two of the Sun Belt’s best forwards in Kevin Hervey and Kavin Gilder-Tilbury. But Troy may have the advantage with the hottest shooter in the tournament, Wesley Person, who has already poured in a tourney high 71 points. If the Trojans can figure out the Bobcat’s super-tough man-to-man defense, Troy will be dancing for the first time since 2003.
Meanwhile, where does this leave UT Arlington?
This was supposed to be the Mavericks’ year, who entered the season favorites to win it all and succeeded in winning the regular season championship. UTA has a quality win over St. Mary’s and an RPI of 45, which won’t impress the NCAA selection committee. However, the Mavericks have an excellent shot at representing the Sun Belt in the NIT, and that’s cool, right?