Laura Hathaway of the Clarion is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.
East Division (conf/overall/streak):
- Middle Tennessee (8-3/13-10/W5)
- Florida Atlantic (8-3/12-10/W5)
- Troy (7-4/12-10/W2)
- Western Kentucky (5-5/12-10/W1)
- South Alabama (4-7/12-11/L4)
- Florida International (4-7/7-17/L1)
West Division (conf/overall/streak):
- Arkansas State (8-2/13-8/W2)
- Louisiana-Lafayette (6-4/9-12/W1)
- North Texas (6-5/13-8/L1)
- Denver (6-5/13-9/L2)
- Louisiana-Monroe (4-8/9-13/L2)
- Arkansas-Little Rock (2-8/6-15/W1)
- New Orleans (2-9/7-15/L4)
East Division update:
- Middle Tennessee, along with Florida Atlantic, has been hot in the last two weeks. Each team has a five-game winning streak. This conference is officially unpredictable; or, at least the East division is unpredictable. Two weeks ago, Middle Tennessee was the fifth-ranked team in the division and now the Blue Raiders are flying high topping the entire Sun Belt. However, the overall standings for the East Division are still relatively tight, with the exception of Florida International and South Alabama who are several games behind.
- The most consistent team seems to be Troy. The Trojans started out conference play on top but have settled into the middle for the rest of the season. However, don’t count them out yet. They have the capability to be a tough opponent in the conference tourney, with players like Brandon Hazzard leading the way. Hazzard has been scoring an average of nearly 17 points per game. The Trojans are only one game back from the conference lead.
- A team you can probably count out though is Florida International and at the rate South Alabama is going right now, they’re probably in that category too. The Jaguars have lost seven of their last eight games. Another team that has lost a lot of games recently is Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are not topping anyone right now, losing five of their last six although WKU’s most recent loss came in overtime against North Texas and by only one point. Don’t doubt this team yet though, as the most recognizable team in the SBC because of their previous performances in the conference tourney.
- With only three weeks left of regular season play, every team needs to step it up on the road to finish strong. This is going to be most challenging for Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky as they have four and five road games each.
West Division update:
- The biggest news here is that Denver has slipped in the rankings during their recent road trips. They haven’t won an away game since November against South Dakota State. In fact, over the last couple of seasons the Pioneers had a 40+ game road losing streak. It looks like this season won’t be much different, as DU is 1-8 on the road this season. One reason why they might be losing on the road is because they have to travel so far from Denver. The Pioneers should probably play in a conference that has more teams on the west side of the country.
- Arkansas State remains the team to beat in the West Division. A challenge for the Red Wolves though will be two games against Western Kentucky before the season ends. They have yet to play the Hilltoppers, unlike Denver and North Texas who have each beaten WKU.
- Even though Louisiana-Lafayette is ranked second in the West, they still have a losing overall record and can falter at anytime. Before the last two weeks, the Ragin’ Cajuns had a 5-10 record. It seems like their current wins can be attributed to playing worse teams, with the exception of Denver who just can’t win away from home. The teams they have played recently are ULM, UALR and UNO.
- There is still nothing new to say about the bottom three teams in the West division. Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas-Little Rock and New Orleans are three of the five teams in the conference with a losing record. The best these teams can hope for are a couple more wins and maybe an upset or two down the stretch.
- Sat, Feb. 6 North Texas v. Florida International 1 p.m.
- Sat, Feb. 6 Middle Tennessee v. South Alabama 1 p.m.
- Sat, Feb. 6 Florida Atlantic v. Denver 5 p.m.
- Sat, Feb. 6 Troy v. Western Kentucky 7 p.m.
- Thurs, Feb. 11 Arkansas State v. Western Kentucky 7 p.m.
- Thurs, Feb. 11 Denver v. Middle Tennessee 7 p.m.
- Thurs, Feb. 11 Florida International v. South Alabama 7:05 p.m.