Home Sports Basketball Preview of the Men’s basketball Sun Belt Conference tournament in NOLA

Preview of the Men’s basketball Sun Belt Conference tournament in NOLA

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Photo by: Daryl Ontiveros | Multimedia Editor
Cameron Naylor jumps to receive a pass March 5 inside Strahan Coliseum.

With the Sun Belt conference tournament approaching quickly, the favorite to win has to be the No. 1 overall seed, Arkansas-Little Rock.

The team has dominated the conference this season, losing only three games. The Trojans finished conference play at 17-3, and 27-4 overall. Arkansas-Little Rock clinched its first-ever Sun Belt conference championship this year.

Arkansas-Little Rock finished its last three games with two wins and one loss. The loss was in the last game of the season against Appalachian State, where the Trojans had nothing to play for because they already clinched the No. 1 seed.

The Trojans’ dominance this season was not from their offense, but rather their defense. They had the No. 1 defense in the conference, as the Trojans allowed just 62.5 points per game. They were also number one in scoring margin with +9.4, three-point field goal percentage with 42 percent and three-point defense, as they held teams to just 29.8 percent from downtown.

Arkanas-Little Rock was also in the top five in field goal percentage, field goal defense, rebounding defense, free-throw percentage, rebounding margin, assists, steals, turnover margin, and three-pointers made per game.

Needless to say, Little Rock is a threat to any team it faces in this tournament.

Even though the Trojans are the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Louisiana-Monroe was not far behind at No. 2. The Warhawks finished with a second-best 15-5 in conference play and 19-12 overall.

ULM finished its last three games 3-0, as the Warhawks beat their opponents convincingly.

From the start of the season, the Warhawks were a powerhouse in the conference.

In their first game of the season, the Warhawks beat McMurry 88-43. Louisiana-Lafayette was one of four teams in the conference to beat ULM.

When looking at this Warhawks team, there are not many weaknesses.

ULM leads the league in field goal percentage, converting 46.5 percent of the team’s shots. The Warhawks are in the top five of almost every category in the Sun Belt.

One of their few weaknesses is free throw shooting, where they are converting around 69.6 percent of attempts. The Warhawks’ offensive rebounding is also in the bottom tier of the conference, as they only grab about 10.3 per game.

The Warhawks and the Trojans have a bye in the first two rounds, which means they will each play the winners of the second-round games.

Finishing out the top three in the Sun Belt, UT-Arlington ended the season by winning its last four games.

The Mavericks finished 13-7 in conference play and 22-9 overall. When mentioning UTA, people think scoring. They have the No. 1 scoring offense in the league, averaging 79.9 points per game.

They also have the best field goal percentage defense, as teams that face UTA are only converting 39.3 percent of its shots.

The Mavericks rank first in rebounding offense, assists, steals, defensive rebounds and three-pointers made per game.

This team is certainly one to be feared, as it has the potential to beat anyone in the conference. The Mavericks have beaten some big teams, such as Memphis and Ohio State earlier in the season.

While it has many strengths, UT-Arlington has a few weaknesses. The Mavericks are in the bottom half of the conference in blocks with 2.9 per game.

UT-Arlington gets a first-round bye and will play the winner of the Texas State vs. Georgia State game.

Louisiana-Lafayette ended the season losing two of its last three games. The Ragin’ Cajuns got the No. 4 seed for the tournament, with a conference record of 12-8 and 16-13 overall.

This team is the No. 2 scoring team in the conference and in the top tier of rebounding. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns had a turbulent season, as they traded wins for losses.

The Ragin’ Cajuns weren’t in full force until their nine-game winning streak in January.

UL-Lafayette is a top-five team in just about every statistical category. One of its few weaknesses is making three-pointers.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are the worst three-point shooting team in the Sun Belt, as they convert just 30.4 percent from downtown. They are also in the bottom half for turnover margin with -1.45.

Louisiana-Lafayette gets a first-round bye in the tournament and will take on the winner of Georgia Southern vs. South Alabama.

One of the teams playing in the first round is Georgia Southern. The Eagles earned the No. 5 seed after finishing 10-10 in the conference and 14-16 overall.

The Eagles finished the season losing two of the last three games.

Georgia Southern is the number one team in conference turnover margin with +3.25. The team also ranks top five in scoring offense, scoring margin, free-throw percentage, three-point defense, steals, and three-pointers made.

The Eagles’ weaknesses match their strengths, as the team ranks in the bottom half in scoring defense, field goal percentage, rebounding offense/defense and defensive rebounds.

The Eagles are last in the conference rebounding margin, blocked shots and assists.

Georgia Southern will take on South Alabama March 10 at 5 p.m.

Georgia State will be the No. 6 seed in conference tournament, as it finished 9-11 in the conference and 16-13 overall.

The Panthers finished their season winning two of their last three games.

Even though they have an above .500 record, the Panthers had some trouble in the Sun Belt this season. After four conference wins in a row, something caused the season to plummet. They went 9-10 in the last two months of the season.

The Panthers are top five in scoring defense, field goal percentage and three-point defense.

However, they are in the bottom tier of teams in scoring offense, free-throw percentage, blocked shots, assists, defensive rebounding and three-pointers made. They are last in the conference in offensive rebounding and rebounding offense.

Georgia State will take on Texas State March 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Coming in at the No. 7 seed is Texas State. The Bobcats finished their season on a high note, as they won two out of their last three games in order to achieve a tournament berth. They beat Troy and South Alabama in must-win games.

Texas State finished 8-12 in the conference and 14-15 overall.

One of the team’s strong points is its defense. The Bobcats are No. 2 in the Sun Belt scoring defense. Texas State is allowing teams to average 67.2 points per game.

Texas State ranks top five in rebounding defense, turnover margin and assist/turnover ratio.

The Bobcats are dead last in three-pointers made per game, defensive rebounds and scoring offense.

Despite all of the statistics showing how average the Bobcats are, they should not be counted out as the team looks to make a big push in the tournament.

Last but certainly not least, coming in as the No. 8 seed are the South Alabama Jaguars. The team finished the season winning one out of their last three games.

The Jaguars had already clinched a tournament berth in the first half of their final game against Texas State. Appalachian State beat Arkansas State, eliminating the Red Wolves’ hopes of making the tournament.

With the loss to Texas State, the Jaguars were tied with the Bobcats 8-12 in the conference. But because Texas State had won the season series 2-0, the Bobcats took the higher seed.

The Jaguars rank top five in three-point defense, rebounding offense, steals and offensive/defensive rebounds. It is the No. 1 team in terms of blocks, averaging 4.1 per game.

However, the Jaguars are ranked in the bottom half of teams when it comes to scoring offense and defense, free-throw percentage, field goal percentage and assists. South Alabama is the worst team when it comes to assist/turnover ratio with 0.7.

South Alabama will have a close matchup with the Eagles, as they battle it out to determine who will take on the Ragin’ Cajuns.