Checking in on… the Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2009


Laura Hathaway of the Clarion is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.

Current Standings

East Division

  1. South Alabama (7-2)
  2. Troy (5-3)
  3. Florida Atlantic (4-3)
  4. Western Kentucky (4-3)
  5. Middle Tennessee (3-5)
  6. Florida International (3-8)

West Division

  1. Denver (6-2)
  2. New Orleans (5-2)
  3. North Texas (5-3)
  4. Arkansas-Little Rock (4-5)
  5. Arkansas State (3-4)
  6. Louisiana-Monroe (3-5)
  7. 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.

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Checking In On… the Sun Belt

Posted by jstevrtc on November 28th, 2009


Laura Hathaway of the Clarion is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.

Current Standings:

East Division

  1. South Alabama (5-2)
  2. Troy (3-2)
  3. Middle Tennessee (3-3)
  4. Western Kentucky (2-2)
  5. Florida Atlantic (2-3)
  6. Florida International (2-5)

West Division

  1. North Texas (3-1)
  2. Denver (3-1)
  3. Arkansas State (3-1)
  4. New Orleans (3-1)
  5. University of Louisiana-Monroe (3-3)
  6. Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2)
  7. University of Arkansas-Little Rock (1-4)

Conference play has not started in the Sun Belt and most teams have played around five games.  Heading into the second full weekend of match-ups, no teams in the conference are undefeated.  Nine of the 13 teams in the conference, however, have a winning percentage of .500 or better.

Western Kentucky lost by one point (63-64) on Tuesday night to Indiana State in a close game.  South Alabama is off to a great start in their season with the best record (5-2) among the Sun Belt’s members.  Their two loses come from Tulsa and Rice University.  Both Denver and North Texas had decisive wins earlier this week against Wyoming and Jackson State, respectively, advancing their win percentages to .750.

It is too soon to tell what teams will lead the conference since four western division teams are tied with 3-1 records. Things will obviously become clearer once conference play begins in the next two weeks.

This week’s conference player of the week is University of New Orleans senior guard Billy Humphrey.  Humphrey averaged 24.5 points and shot 94% from the free throw line to help the Privateers pick up wins against Southern-New Orleans and Texas State last week.

Team Summaries:

Arkansas State.  Arkansas State has started off well this season, winning both their exhibition games and the first three match-ups of the season.  They defeated MacMurray College, Southeast Missouri State, and Texas-El Paso.  None of the games had close scores as Arkansas scored at least 20 points more than each opponent.  The early season is shaping up to be a good one for the Red Wolves.  Last season, the team appeared to be on its way to the best season in three years but things fell apart midway through the season.  They started off at 5-4 in the conference and 13-7 overall but then lost nine consecutive conference games and 10 overall.  They finished the year second to last in the SBC. They will have some tough games ahead, but anything will be an improvement from how they wrapped up last season.

Arkansas-Little Rock.  The Trojans currently have the worst record in the SBC, and have lost to Ole Miss, Tulsa, Creighton, and Louisiana Tech.  Their only win this season comes from a game against St. Gregory’s where they outscored them 100-56.  Their other losses have not been close; they have a losing margin of around 20 points. Despite the slow start to the season, last year UALR was the powerhouse of the SBC’s West Division.  They had the best regular season record for two consecutive years, but have yet to win a conference title.

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Morning Five: 11.13.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2009


  1. As of late Thursday night, we were expecting to have heard the results from Northwestern star Kevin Coble’s visit to a foot specialist that afternoon, but news was not forthcoming.  Instead, the school said that there would be an update on Friday morning, but NU officials are expecting that Coble will be out at least a month and possibly more with his injury.  Terrible news for a team in a loaded conference that will absolutely need every single nonconference win to have a shot at the Big Dance this year.  Assuming Coble is out until late December or early January, do you consider a redshirt to make the run next year?
  2. This Mouphtaou Yarou thing at Villanova is just getting weirder.  It all sounds very suspicious, but Villanova is claiming that they have his birth certificate which clearly shows Yarou as born in 1990, not 1985 as was alleged on the FIBA website.  If VU has any reservation whatsoever, they’d hold him out of tonight’s game against Fairleigh Dickinson – guess we’ll find out what they really think soon enough.
  3. The University of New Orleans may be moving to Division III after all, as the school continues to struggle in a post-Katrina Bourbon City.  A major drop in enrollment and state budget slashes have put the athletic department in an untenable position with respect to funding its sports programs, and this time around even Hornets owner George Shinn probably won’t be able to save them.
  4. Jeff Goodman says UNC isn’t a top five team, and hopefully he will note that RTC’s editing team voted the Heels #7 in our preseason poll, but he’s right.  We’re less concerned with the inexperience (because Roy always figures that out by the end of the season) than the personnel, and the fact of the matter is that Larry Drew II isn’t an elite point guard and the rest of the backcourt is average at best.
  5. Finally, Mike DeCourcy gives us ten things to watch for in a weekend full of games, but very few good ones.  Remember, RTC Live will be going strong all weekend long, with Wake Forest vs. Oral Roberts on Friday night, Creighton vs. Dayton AND Butler vs. Davidson on Saturday, and FIU vs. Tulsa on Sunday.  Join us!
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #20 – Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2009


Matt Poindexter is a regular RTC contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish:


  1. Western Kentucky (17-1)
  2. Troy (14-4)
  3. Middle Tennessee (11-7)
  4. Florida Atlantic (6-12)
  5. South Alabama (5-13)
  6. Florida International (2-16)


  1. North Texas (15-3)
  2. Denver (12-6)
  3. Arkansas-Little Rock (11-7)
  4. Louisiana-Lafayette (9-9)
  5. Louisiana-Monroe (8-10)
  6. Arkansas State (5-13)
  7. New Orleans (2-16)

All-Conference Team:

  • A.J. Slaughter (G) – Western Kentucky
  • Nate Rohnert (G) – Denver
  • Desmond Yates (F) – Middle Tennessee
  • Rudy Turner (F) – Louisiana-Monroe
  • Jeremy Evans (C) – Western Kentucky

6th Man: Brandon Hazzard (G) – Troy

Impact Newcomer: Isiah Thomas. Usually, this is where we pick out the best incoming freshman or transfer in the conference. But for the first time in a very long time, people are paying attention to a Sun Belt team in a month that is not March. One can’t be sure if Isiah’s hiring at FIU will be a huge boon for the conference in terms of exposure, or if his actions will make him a white elephant, but his impact will be unparalleled either way. As far as on the court, New Orleans guard Billy Humphrey, a transfer who averaged 12.2 PPG for Georgia before being dismissed from the team following a DUI, is the most proven and highest rated player to make a Sun Belt debut in 2009-10.

sun belt logo

What You Need to Know:

  • If you’re going to pick out guy to win Player of the Year, it has to be WKU’s A.J. Slaughter. He probably would have won the honors in 08-09, but his teammate Orlando Mendez-Valdez overshadowed him. Now that Mendez-Valdez has graduated, expect Slaughter to outshine everyone else in the Sun Belt.
  • For the past two years, Western Kentucky has been the team to beat in the Sun Belt. In 2008 and 2009, they won the conference tournament and went on to NCAA tournament upsets, beating a #5 seed each year in Drake and Illinois. If not for poor free throw shooting, the Hilltoppers very well could have claimed a victory over Gonzaga in last year’s tournament to go to the Sweet 16.
  • Isiah Thomas isn’t the only one who has moved out of a powerful program and into a Sun Belt coaching position.  John Brady, coach at LSU during their 2006 Final Four run, is now at Arkansas State and Mike Jarvis helmed the St. John’s program prior to his current job at Florida Atlantic. North Texas’ Johnny Jones was the last coach (for one season) at Memphis before some guy named Calipari took over.

Predicted Champion. Western Kentucky (NCAA Seed:  #11). Since North Texas made a run and won the conference tournament in 2007, it has been WKU all the way in the Sun Belt. Even though conference Player of the Year Mendez-Valdez is no longer with the Hilltoppers, the return of guard A.J. Slaughter should mean that the conference championship trophy stays in Bowling Green for another year. Couple that with the increased inside presence of WKU center Jeremy Evans and the fact that they return 4 starters from last year, and there’s no reason to bet against the Hilltoppers.

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Who Says the South Only Cares About Football?

Posted by rtmsf on September 21st, 2009

The NCAA is starting to scare us a little bit with the news today that the Final Four will be held in warm-weather venues from 2011-13.  Surely they don’t expect us to stay in our rooms during the interminable wait from F4 Saturday night to Monday night’s championship.  Don’t they know that basketball is a cold-weather sport?  That you should see your breath as you huddle outside the arena waiting to get inside, where the scents of metallic air ducts mix with wet clothing and hot dogs in an olfactory orgy of late winter sensations?    Where’s my Minneapolis, my Detroit, my St. Louis?  No, now we’ll actually be forced to enjoy some early April outdoor air in three fun cities where 70s and 80s (before the oppresssive summer humidity hits) are common that time of year.  This means that you, the readers of this site, will pay for our folly.  We’re not happy with you, NCAA. 

The 2010 Final Four is in Indianapolis, IN.  Here’s the list for the next four years…  make your travel plans now.

Which Venue Will You Attend?  (photo credit:
Which Venue Will You Attend? (photo credit:

2010 NCAA Tournament

  • F4 – Indianapolis, IN
  • Regionals – Syracuse, NY (East); Houston, TX (South); St. Louis, MO (Midwest); Salt Lake City, UT (West).
  • Sub-Regionals – Providence, RI; Buffalo, NY; Jacksonville, FL; New Orleans, LA; Oklahoma City, OK; Milwaukee, WI; San Jose, CA; Spokane, WA.

2011 NCAA Tournament

  • F4 – Houston, TX
  • Regionals – Newark, NJ (East); New Orleans, LA (South); San Antonio, TX (Southwest); Anaheim, CA (West).
  • Sub-Regionals – Tulsa, OK; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Tampa, FL; Tucson, AZ; Washington, DC.

2012 NCAA Tournament

  • F4 – New Orleans, LA
  • Regionals – Boston, MA (East); Atlanta, GA (South); St. Louis, MO (Midwest); Phoenix, AZ (West).
  • Sub-Regionals – Albuquerque, NM; Columbus, OH; Greensboro, NC; Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN; Omaha, NE; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR.

2013 NCAA Tournament

  • F4 – Atlanta, GA
  • Regionals – TBD (East); Arlington, TX (South); Indianapolis, IN (Midwest); Los Angeles, CA (West).
  • Sub-Regionals – Dayton, OH; Auburn Hills, MI; Lexington, KY; Salt Lake City, UT; San Jose, CA; Austin, TX; Kansas City, MO; Philadelphia, PA.

A few quick reflections on the next four years of March Madness venues:

  • ACC fans who bellow from the mountaintops that Duke and UNC always “get to play at home” in the first two rounds (we’re also guilty of this) and/or the regionals won’t have much to complain about the next four Tourneys.  There are two subregional sites (Charlotte in 2011; Greensboro in 2012) within the friendly confines of North Carolina, but a grand total of zero regionals and certainly not a F4. 
  • On the flip side, the West Regional looks EXTREMELY friendly to a certain blue/gold team from SoCal, with locations in Anaheim in 2011 (34 miles), Phoenix in 2012 (368 miles) and downtown LA in 2013 (11 miles).  Egads. 
  • We can’t recall the last time an NCAA Tournament game was in Louisville, and we always wondered why Freedom Hall stopped doing it.  Good to see the River City back on the list with its planned new 22k-seat arena. 
  • What’s with the NCAA renaming a region the “Southwest” Regional for one year only (San Antonio: 2011)?  Regardless of that, you can’t tell us that Rick Barnes hasn’t already circled the Tulsa/San Antonio/Houston pathway in his Iphone calendar as something to shoot for. 
  • Newark (2011 East Regional), really?  Looks like Cory Booker’s doing better than we thought there. 
  • Other than that, mostly the usual suspects.  We all know that it doesn’t really matter where the games are played – they’ll be exciting regardless.
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Sun Belt Conference Tourney Wrapup

Posted by nvr1983 on March 13th, 2009

Toppers Return to The Dance
As we predicted last time around, Western Kentucky will represent the Sun Belt Conference in the Big dance this year. This was no surprise to avid Belt followers. However, what was a surprise was the opponent they faced in the finals – South Alabama.

South Alabama came into the tournament as the sixth seed, and slid into the finals after winning their first two games by a combined total of five points. One of their opponents was Troy, who’s magical run came to a close by just three points. Not that they didn’t have their fair share of chances to get the win themselves. Trojan guard Michael Vogler missed the front end of a one-and-one and then two 3-point tries in the final 17 seconds as Troy tried to tie the game.
Ironically, South Alabama’s last leg into the final game came with little difficulty when they knocked off  Arkansas Little-Rock, a team that also struggled to find its range, by ten points. The Trojans had no answer for the loss of Moore, their top scorer, and it showed, as they went 16-61 from the floor on the night. However, South Alabama would not be so fortunate against WKU in the finals.

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Sun Belt Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2009

Rick Henderson of The Owl’s Nest is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.


Final Results Are In

A couple things were expected.  And a lot was not.  WKU sitting out the first round is no shocker.  UALR atop the West was expected as well.  But MTSU was expected to do a lot better.  Additionally,  who would have “thunk” that head coaches Mike Jarvis and John Brady would finish at the bottom of their respective divisions and as 12th and 13th seeds?  Wow.  Lastly, how does Troy, a team that actually was picked to finish in the basement, obtain a first round bye and sit all alone in second in the East?  Weird wild stuff!  And, of course, why we all love the sport of basketball.  Anything can happen on any given night.  And especially over the course of a season.  Troy has a decent shot at making it to the finals given they can get past UALR.  But WKU will prove a tall order.  The Trojans lost both regular season games to the Toppers.

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Checking in on the… Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on February 26th, 2009



It’s Down to the Wire

Inching closer to Tournament Time!  All but two teams have just two games remaining on their SBC schedule which will conclude tonight and this weekend.  Thankfully, the West has experienced some much needed separation except for the bottom of the pack who will be in a dog fight to avoid a first round road game.  In the East, the Toppers, having won against Troy in last weeks game of the week, are now seriously poised to nab the number one overall seed and possibly the whole enchilada given the next story.  Which is…

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Checking in on the… Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2009

Rick Henderson of The Owl’s Nest is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.


Rohnert Seals Two Quality Wins  for the Pioneers

Denver’s recent streak of bad luck in close games came to an end last weekend against East with a 78-74 win at home over Western Kentucky.  The Hilltoppers pulled within two points in the final minute last Saturday, but Denver’s Brian Stafford connected on a bounce pass to cutting teammate Nate Rohnert for a backdoor layup. This put the Pioneers up by four points with 13 seconds left to finish off the Toppers.  WKU saw its four game winning streak come to an end.    On their next outing, Rohnert struck again, scored 12 points, and made the game-winning basket with five seconds left to lead the Pioneers to a 56-54 victory over South Alabama at Magness Arena.  “We’ve been playing well every game for the past three weeks, but tonight at those critical moments we made the shots and didn’t turn the ball over…I thought our big turning point could be a win on the road, but why can’t it be beating the class of our conference at home?”, said Denver Coach Joe Scott.

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Checking in on the… Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2009

Rick Henderson of The Owl’s Nest is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.


Toppers Move into Two-way Tie for First

We pegged University of Arkansas-Little Rock and Middle Tennessee as the teams to beat this season, and thus far, that is the case.  However, Middle Tennessee was defeated last night by the Hilltoppers in a nail biter 61-63.  Steffphon Pettigrew’s offensive rebound and subsequent put back with four seconds remaining sealed it for WKU.  Unbelievably, the Blue Raiders have not won at Diddle Arena since 1977.

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