Laura Hathaway of the Clarion is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.
East Division (conf/overall/streak)
- Troy (12-5/17-11/W4)
- Middle Tennessee (12-5/18-12/W2)
- Western Kentucky (11-6/18-12/W5)
- Florida Atlantic (10-7/14-14/L2)
- South Alabama (8-10/16-14/W1)
- Florida International (4-13/7-23/L7)
West Division (conf/overall/streak)
- North Texas (12-5/20-8/W7)
- Arkansas State (11-6/16-12/W1)
- Louisiana-Lafayette (10-7/13-15/L1)
- Denver (9-8/16-12/L1)
- Louisiana-Monroe (6-11/11-17/L3)
- New Orleans (3-14/8-20/L2)
- Arkansas-Little Rock (3-14/7-21/L6)
News and notes
Western Kentucky’s A.J. Slaughter was named conference player of the week. He has now received this honor three times this season and also was picked as the preseason player of the year. In his senior year, Slaughter has shown why he was picked as such,as he had four straight 20-plus point performances in the last few weeks. Western Kentucky will be a force in the conference tournament as always. Despite their third-place conference record in the SBC East, their overall record is the second best in the SBC and they play much harder teams during non-conference play.
The Sun Belt Conference tournament is fast approaching at with one more night of conference play and several games that shouldn’t make too much of a difference. The standings probably won’t change at all either except for Troy and Middle Tennessee. If Middle Tennessee beats Florida Atlantic and Troy loses to Arkansas State, then the seed positions for the conference tournament might change a bit. The Troy versus Arkansas State game will be a good matchup and an important final regular season game.
Some easy wins will be for Western Kentucky against Florida International and Denver, on their home court, versus Louisiana-Lafayette. Denver has struggled on the road this season, losing nearly every game away from home so it will be a positive note for them to end regular season play at home with a win. Unfortunately, the Pioneers will have to take the road again for the conference tournament in Arkansas. This will be a huge factor in their performance. It is a shame for senior and star Nate Rohnert that the team plays so poorly on the road, because in reality they are better than many of the SBC teams. It’s a mystery as to why they can’t perform on the road. One that will have to be answered next season perhaps.
You can pretty much forget about New Orleans, Arkansas-Little Rock, Florida International and Louisiana-Monroe now. If any of these teams survive the first round of the conference tournament, I would be surprised. A good matchup though for a season closer will be the New Orleans versus UALR game, since the teams have almost exact records.
For the conference championship I’d like to see a match-up between West Division leader North Texas and East Division Western Kentucky. These two teams have the best overall records and a game against each other would be fun to see in the tournament. The Mean Green did it. They pulled off leading the West Division again. Early in the season, they had the lead, lost it and now have it back. Something changed in the last half of the season and North Texas pulled it together and took the top spot just in time. For awhile, I wasn’t sure if Denver or Arkansas State who would clinch that spot instead.
It will be interesting to see which team (if any) can beat Western Kentucky and prevent them from going to the NCAA Tournament again as the SBC representative.
All games are on Saturday, Feb. 27
- North Texas v. Louisiana-Monroe 1 p.m.
- Middle Tennessee v. Florida Atlantic 6 p.m.
- Louisiana Lafayette v. Denver 6 p.m.
- New Orleans v. Arkansas-Little Rock 7 p.m.
- Western Kentucky v. FIU 7 p.m.
- Troy v. Arkansas State 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday, March 6 through Friday, March 9
- Sun Belt Conference Championships in Hot Springs, Ark.