Skip to content

Sun Belt Conference Tournament Preview

Mar 7, 2013, 2:00 PM EST

Vanderbilt v Middle Tennessee Getty Images

Middle Tennessee State is far and away the best team in the Sun Belt Conference.

Let’s start with the obvious: they went 19-1 in league play. Their only loss came to Arkansas State on the road in overtime. Arkansas State won the Sun Belt’s Western Division with a 12-8 record. South Alabama, who finished second to MTSU in the Eastern Division, had a 14-6 record.

The Blue Raiders, in other words, won their league — which was a true, double round-robin, meaning they played every team in the league at home and on the road — by a full five games. That’s incredible. But there are two problems here:

A) It may not be enough to get the Blue Raiders an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, as their impressive RPI is overshadowed by the fact that their only top 100 win came against Ole miss.

B) They now have to extend that dominance for three more games in order to earn the automatic bid for the conference.

As much as we all love upsets and excitement during Championship Week, you really should be rooting for the Blue Raiders to get that automatic bid. They are good enough to make a run in the Big Dance.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Bracket

Where: Hot Springs, Arkansas

When: March 8-11

Final: March 11th, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Favorite: Middle Tennessee State

To expand on what we wrote above, the Blue Raiders are a deep, balanced and veteran group that has experienced both regular season dominance and postseason disappointment. After running through the Sun Belt last season, they dropped a couple games down the stretch and lost in the conference tournament, winding up in the NIT. To get an idea of what this team is all about, think about this stat: MTSU dominated the league as thoroughly as a league can be dominated, yet they had just one player — Marcos Knight — get named to one of the two all-conference teams. Knight averaged 12.6 points and 5.4 boards. Six other players in the ten man rotation average between 6.3 points and 8.6 points.

And if they lose?: South Alabama has the Sun Belt’s Player of the Year on their roster and nearly took MTSU out at home back in January. But the Jaguars also lost by 35 to the Blue Raiders on the road. Arkansas State is the one team that has beaten the Blue Raiders this year, and Kenpom has then as the second-most likely team to win the tournament.

Sleepers: North Texas has been beat-up all season and as disappointing as any team in the country, but they may actually be the most talented team in the Sun Belt. Florida Atlantic lost eight out of ten at one point this season, but they have a dynamic back court that can put up points in a hurry when they get hot.

Studs: 

- Tony Mitchell, North Texas: He’s a lottery pick, even if he hasn’t played like one since last March.

- Augustine Rubit, South Alabama: Rubit averaged 18.9 points and 10.0 boards this season and notched 16 double-doubles.

- TJ Price, Western Kentucky: Price is a big-time scorer that dealt with some injuries during the season but seemed to hit his stride down the stretch.

CBT Prediction: Middle Tennessee State will roll. They’re not going to want a repeat of last year’s disappointment.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Late Night Snacks: Nova holds off Michigan, Maryland upsets Iowa State, Arkansas gets big road win

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:10 AM EST

    Progressive Legends Classic Getty Images

    Another busy night of college hoops as the Maui semifinals wrap up and Arkansas gets a statement road win.

  2. Maryland upsets No. 13 Iowa State as fearless freshmen mix with gritty veterans for balanced effort

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:50 PM EST

    maryland AP

    Maryland pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the young season as they outplayed No. 13 Iowa State for much of the game in front of a pro-Cyclone crowd in Kansas City.

  3. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s selflessness during the Maui Invitational will help No. 3 Arizona in the long run

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:18 PM EST

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson AP

    As Arizona has struggled to find consistent offense early in the 2014-15 season, the consistency and selfless nature of sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has allowed Sean Miller to experiment with what works early.

  4. Kansas head coach Bill Self shuffling starting lineups to send message to players

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:45 PM EST

    Bill Self

    Kansas head coach Bill Self is trying to get through to his players by changing starting lineups.

  5. Barclays Center Classic will air on NBC Sports Network on Friday night

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:55 PM EST

    NBCSN

    The Barclays Center Classic doubleheader will air on Friday night on NBC Sports Network.

  6. Providence could be without two key players for multiple games

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:20 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Friars could be depleted on the perimeter against two tough opponents.

  7. Minnesota suspends sophomore guard after arrest for domestic violence

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:24 PM EST

    Richard Pitino AP

    Minnesota will take a hit to its back court with this suspension.

  8. Rick Pitino on blow out win: ‘We played four white guys and an Egyptian’

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:58 PM EST

    AP AP

    I hope his joke doesn’t make people ignore the fact the he really felt bad about this.

  9. Player of the Year Power Rankings: A familiar face on top, but a few surprises behind him

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:18 PM EST

    Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo) Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

    Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor are near the top, but the rest of the top five may surprise you.

  10. Report: Oregon’s Dwayne Benjamin out tonight against VCU

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:27 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Benjamin hurt his ankle against Michigan.

  11. #POSTERIZED: Jason McManamen unloads on FAMU defender (VIDEO)

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    GoWyo.com GoWyo.com

    Jason McManamen is trying to prove Billy Hoyle and Sidney Dean wrong.

  12. Ricky Doyle secures 70-63 win for No. 19 Michigan over Oregon in Legends Classic

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    AP AP

    Michigan was dominated on the glass, but the freshman forward stepped up to ice the victory.

  13. Villanova’s win is evidence of why VCU may have peaked as a basketball program

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Can a team that runs a pressing system truly be one of the nations elite?

  14. Late Night Snacks: San Diego State and BYU engage in double OT thriller; Nova, Zona earn big wins; Indiana upset at home

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:00 AM EST

    Aqeel Quinn AP

    A busy night of tournament and non-conference action in college hoops made for some big wins for Villanova and Arizona and a home loss for Indiana.

  15. No. 13 Iowa State holds off Alabama as bench additions give them even more weapons

    Nov 24, 2014, 11:51 PM EST

    Dustin Hogue AP

    We knew Iowa State had a lot of offensive weapons, but with the return of some key rotation players the Cyclones look really tough.

  16. Tennessee assistant coach resigns amid NCAA probe

    Nov 24, 2014, 8:30 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte3owi1njbhnjg0mtc2yjbkzdgzmdzhnzm2mtbjytc1 AP

    Tennessee is losing an assistant coach as a NCAA investigation into head coach Donnie Tyndall’s time at Southern Mississippi continues.