Checking in on… the Sun BeltPosted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2009
Laura Hathaway of the Clarion is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.
- South Alabama (7-2)
- Troy (5-3)
- Florida Atlantic (4-3)
- Western Kentucky (4-3)
- Middle Tennessee (3-5)
- Florida International (3-8)
- Denver (6-2)
- New Orleans (5-2)
- North Texas (5-3)
- Arkansas-Little Rock (4-5)
- Arkansas State (3-4)
- Louisiana-Monroe (3-5)
- Louisiana-Lafayette (2-4)
News and Notes
Small Changes… Still no conference games have been played in the SBC but over the past two weeks there have been subtle changes in the standings. Arkansas-Little Rock jumped from last place with one win to being ranked fourth in the West division of the conference. Denver also took its place at the top of the Western division rankings as they barely scraped past South Dakota State and Cal State Northridge. Changes in the East division were also minimal with Troy keeping its spot near the top and Florida International falling further and further behind.
Team of the last couple weeks… This honor definitely goes to South Alabama, who currently has a four-game win streak and is slowly but surely extending their lead over the conference competitors. If they keep winning, the rest of the league doesn’t stand a chance of catching them. It shouldn’t be too hard for them to beat their first conference opponent UALR and then tack on two more wins against the Florida SBC teams.
Player of the last couple weeks… Denver captain Nate Rohnert was named Sun Belt Conference player of the week, an honor he earned by scoring a career-high 32 points against Wyoming. The score of the game was 80-77 meaning Rohnert scored nearly half of the Pioneer points in the game. Who knows what they would do without him? Rohnert also currently leads the Sun Belt in points per game at 19.2 and is second in assists. As the only senior on the DU team, Rohnert has learned how to take responsibility and lead. Rohnert’s hard work and dedication to the Pioneers is finally starting to pay off as they took the lead of their division and rank second overall in the SBC.
South Alabama is starting off the season on top. Since defeating seven non-conference competitors they have set themselves up for an easy transition into conference play. Their first few conference games shouldn’t be too tough but this means they will need to remain focused and not get overly confident. Two of the best conference games to watch does not come until early January when South Alabama takes on Western Kentucky and Troy.
Denver has been proving their worth these last couple weeks. Even with a younger and more inexperienced team, the Pioneers are showing they have what it takes to be a top conference competitor. DU was on a five-game win streak until losing 64-59 to Colorado State last week. Watch out for the Pioneers as they are focused on what could be the biggest season in recent history for DU men’s basketball.
New Orleans has faced some difficult opponents outside of the SBC and played fairly well, losing only to Georgia and North Carolina State. Taking on Florida Atlantic next week shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for them as long as they have yet to lose a home game this season. A game to watch will be New Orleans against Troy next Thursday.
Troy started out the season destroying their opponents but is now slowing down a bit. Their last couple games were a lot closer and as they begin to take on conference teams like New Orleans and Denver they will need to find that niche again where they were scoring 100+ each game.
North Texas is lucky to have their next four games at home as they have not been playing well on the road thus far. The Mean Green needs to defeat teams like Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International next week so they can focus on the tougher non-conference competitors and road games ahead.
Florida Atlantic had their most eventful win of the season last night, defeating Warner Southern 106-99 in triple overtime. FAU, after a week of rest, showed their ability to outlast opponents in that one. A win tomorrow against Louisiana-Lafayette, who has only won two games this season, would help them start off conference play on a good note.
Western Kentucky is No. 6 right now if you line up the records of the SBC teams, but knowing the yearly consistency of this team, moving up in the standings should not be a problem. They still have two weeks of non-conference play so they have time to crank out some more Ws. However, their record is deceiving because the teams on their schedule have been stronger competitors.
Arkansas-Little Rock starts conference play against South Alabama next Wednesday but must play better on the road. They haven’t won a road game yet this season. This factor will come into play as they travel for three of their next four games.
Arkansas State has a three-game losing streak and it doesn’t seem to be turning around anytime soon as they take on Missouri State tomorrow night.
Middle Tennessee is one of the later teams to begin conference play, going up against New Orleans on New Year’s Eve. The Blue Raiders only have three games between now and then and need to win all their games to have a winning record.
Louisiana-Monroe also has a three-game losing streak and will face their first conference foe, North Texas, on Sunday afternoon. This match-up is one of four consecutive road games for the Warhawks, who have only won one road game so far.
Florida International has eight losses so far this season but keep in mind their first game was on ESPNU against North Carolina, which is more than some of the other SBC teams can say. They also took on Bowling Green and Eastern Kentucky. FIU has played a lot more games than some of the other SBC teams and there is still plenty of time for them to turn around their season.
Louisiana-Lafayette will have to step it up if they want to beat Florida Atlantic tomorrow afternoon in their first conference game of the season. The Ragin’ Cajuns will need to play as they did in their two wins, scoring 90-plus points to get the victory.
Upcoming Games to watch
- 12/12 DENVER @ Portland- 4 p.m.
- 12/12 TROY @ Marshall 7 p.m.
- 12/14 FLORIDA ATLANTIC @ NEW ORLEANS- 8 p.m.
- 12/17 NEW ORLEANS @ TROY- 8 p.m.
- 12/19 WESTERN KENTUCKY @ Louisville- 4 p.m.