Skip to content

Conference Previews: The Sun Belt is Tony Mitchell’s playground

Nov 2, 2012, 1:30 PM EDT

Tony Mitchell, George Fant

Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

North Texas.

Tony Mitchell

Those are the names you really need to know in the Sun Belt this season, because North Texas has enough talent that they could push their way into the top 25 this season and are led by Mitchell, who is all-but a lock to be the league’s Player of the Year and should play his way onto all-american teams and into the lottery. It’s not all that often that a player of Mitchell’s talent ends up on a team like North Texas, but it’s also not all that often that a top 20 recruit like Mitchell isn’t able to find a way to get eligible at a school like Missouri. Mitchell was in the Class of 2010, but he didn’t start his collegiate career until last December. And in that one semester of college ball, Mitchell managed to average 14.7 points, 10.0 boards and 3.0 blocks. He could end up making those numbers look paltry this year.

The scary thing is that he’s far from all that UNT has on their roster. Chris Jones is a talented sophomore point guard who will be joined on the perimeter by Alzee Williams and Jordan Williams. Justin Patton, a transfer from Grambling, is eligible this season, and Oklahoma State transfer Roger Franklin is back for another season as well. With Denver out of the picture (they bounced, off to the new WAC), the Mean Green are a lock to win the west and the overwhelming favorite to win the Sun Belt.

But don’t expect Middle Tennessee State to roll over and play dead. Laron Dendy is gone, but the Blue Raiders return a very good perimeter attack led by Raymond Cintron, Marcos Knight and Bruce Massey. MTSU was arguably the best mid-major in the country for much of last season before back-to-back losses in the regular season finale and the first round of the conference tournament derailed their hopes of making the dance. Hunger and redemption are powerful motivators.

Looking deeper, Arkansas State returns four of the five starters from a team that was picked to win the west prior to last season, Western Kentucky is coming off of a trip to the NCAA tournament and Florida International has added Richard Pitino as their head coach. But the sleeper in the conference could end up being South Alabama, but only if they find enough perimeter threats to take the pressure off of Augustine Rubit inside.

All-Conference Team (*denotes Player of the Year)

G: Chris Jones, North Texas
G: Marcos Knight, Middle Tennessee State
G: Greg Gantt, Florida Atlantic
F: Augustine Rubit, South Alabama
F: Tony Mitchell, North Texas*

Predicted Standings

West:

1. North Texas
2. Arkansas State
3. Arkansas-Little Rock
4. Louisiana-Monroe
5. Louisiana-Lafayette

East:

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

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Mixtapes of Virginia Class of 2016 commits Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    2015 adidas Gauntlet Indianapolis

    Virginia has some talented backcourt pieces committed in the 2016 class.

  2. Bill Self impresses South Korean students with jumper (VIDEO)

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    150527_billSelf Getty Images

    Kansas head coach Bill Self had the jumper going before practice in South Korea.

  3. Cincinnati gets commitment from three-star big man in Class of 2016

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Mick Cronin AP

    Cincinnati landed a big man target right before the July live period.

  4. Texas lands commitment from in-state Class of 2016 three-star guard

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Shaka Smart landed the brother of a recent NBA draft pick.

  5. 5-foot-9 Kentucky PG Tyler Ulis, dunking in slo-mo (VIDEO)

    Jun 30, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    Tyler Ulis (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Should I mention he throws the ball off the backboard to himself?

  6. Four-star Class of 2016 point guard commits to Butler

    Jun 30, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    One of the best passers in the Class of 2016, Howard Washington, committed to Butler on Tuesday.

  7. Rick Barnes finally addresses accusations against Texas

    Jun 30, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    barnes Getty Images

    Rick Barnes spoke publicly for the first time about accusations levied against Texas.

  8. South Carolina guards working back from surgery

    Jun 30, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Sindarius Thornwell and TeMarcus Blanton both underwent surgery this offseason.

  9. USA U19 team beats Egypt, advances to knockout play undefeated

    Jun 30, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT

    USA Basketball USA Basketball

    Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum led the way for the Americans.

  10. Preview of ‘The Rush Brothers’ documentary (VIDEO)

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 10.35.47 AM

    It will be expanded into a full-length movie.

  11. Senior mixtape of 7-foot-6 UCF incoming freshman Tacko Fall (VIDEO)

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    It’s fun to watch Tacko Fall dominate high school competition.

  12. Class of 2015 four-star wing down to three schools according to report

    Jun 29, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Maverick Rowan is reportedly focused on three schools.

  13. UCF guard will transfer

    Jun 29, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 15:  Brandon Goodwin #11 of the UCF Knights drives to the net during an NCAA basketball game between the Houston Cougars and the UCF Knights at the CFE Arena on February 15, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. UCF won the game 56-54. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    UCF is losing its third-leading scorer from last season to transfer.

  14. Fred Hoiberg makes surprise appearance at Iowa State fantasy camp (VIDEO)

    Jun 29, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Former Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg returned to Hilton Coliseum to give one final pre-game speech before a fantasy camp.

  15. Re-ranking recruiting classes: Who are the 25 best players from the Class of 2004?

    Jun 29, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It should not be a surprise who the best player from this class ended up being.

  16. Bo Ryan to retire from Wisconsin after next season

    Jun 29, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Ryan has never finished below fourth in the Big Ten.