*Updated Feb. 18 to better reflect current Sun Belt Conference standings
The Texas State Men’s Basketball team is seeing the most successful regular season since the university joined the Sunbelt Conference before the 2013-14 season.
With a regular season record of 21-5, the Bobcats posses the best overall record in the SBC with just seven games left in the regular season. The men’s basketball team has never claimed the Sunbelt’s top spot until now. Trailing Texas State in second place is the Georgia State University Panthers with a 9-4 conference record.
Since Texas State’s inaugural season in the conference, the various teams that have finished first have averaged a hair above 26 season wins and accumulated a winning percentage of .770. Currently, Texas State has 19 season wins with seven games left to play and a winning percentage of .792.
With only seven games left in the season, the odds of winning out and reaching 26 wins might seem slim. Maintaining a greater than .770 win average, however, is much more conceivable.
After Texas State’s win over Appalachian State, junior guard Nijal Pearson said the competitiveness of conference play is what players come to expect down the final stretch of the regular season.
“This is what you expect,” Pearson said. ‘This is what we live for. High-level basketball is fun.”
Regardless of how these last seven games shake out, the men’s basketball team will almost certainly be major contenders in the 2019 Sunbelt Conference Men’s Basketball Championship held March 12-17 in New Orleans, Lousiana. In this tournament, the top two ranked teams receive automatic byes to the semi-final round.
Meaning, if Texas State enters the tournament ranked exactly where it is right now, the team would be only two victories away from its first-ever Sunbelt conference championship.
A championship would earn Texas State an automatic invitation to the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament for only the third time in school history and the first time since 1997 when it was eliminated in the first round against No.1 ranked Minnesota.
If Texas State was to receive an invitation to 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, it would likely enter as one of the lowest ranked teams in the nation. This would make a matchup against a No.1 ranked team, like Duke. very possible. Rendering the Texas State student’s season-long pleas, for Duke’s opposition, a not so preposterous request.
Should Texas State fail to win the Sunbelt championship and misses an invitation to the big dance, the season is not all lost.
With a strong season backing Texas State’s resume, they could still receive an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament held in New York, New York. Texas State has never participated in the NIT, and it would provide an excellent opportunity for the university to showcase its athletics on a national stage.
Following the Bobcats win against Coastal Carolina, head coach Danny Kaspar said the team is trying to prove itself to the university and the national basketball scene.
“We’re on a mission trying to bring something special to this university in a major sport,” Kaspar said. “I don’t think something like this has happened in football or basketball for quite a while.”