Skip to content

2013-2014 Sun Belt Preview: Star-studded league should provide plenty of drama

Oct 20, 2013, 10:40 AM EDT

source:

Elfrid Payton (AP photo)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

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

The Sun Belt was one of the conferences that had the most reshuffling during conference realignment, as four schools are headed out of the league while three new programs — Georgia State, Texas State and Texas-Arlington — come aboard.

Ironically enough, while the league loses powerhouse Middle Tennessee State, North Texas forward Tony Mitchell and Florida International head coach Rick Pitino, the Sun Belt will likely end up having more star power on their rosters than any mid-major league in the country.

It starts with one of the new additions, as Ron Hunter’s Georgia State squad seems primed for a huge year. Hunter’s back court will be loaded, as his son R.J., a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, returns after averaging more than 17 points as a freshman. He’s got a chance to be an NBA Draft pick down the road. He’s joined by Devonta White and Manny Atkins, who both averaged about 15 points, but the most notable name will be Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow. If Harrow lives up to his potential and Hunter can find some production on the interior, the Panthers have the chance to be really, really good.

(MORE: Ron Hunter channels his inner ‘Coach Dad’)

As talented as Hunter and Harrow are, however, neither will enter the season as the Sun Belt’s Preseason Player of the Year. That title falls to Augustine Rubit, a 6-foot-7 forward that averaged 19.4 points and 10.2 boards as a junior. In layman’s terms, he’s a beast, but if the Jaguars are going to improve on their 14-6 record in Matthew Graves’ first season as head coach, Rubit will need a supporting cast that loses two starters to step up.

No mid-major player had a bigger summer than Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton. The 6-foot-3, do-it-all guard — he averaged 15.6 points, 5.9 boards, 5.6 assists and 2.4 steals — not only managed to make the U19 national team, but he started for them over more highly-regarded players. Throw in the return of Shawn Long, and Bob Marlin’s club will also contend for the league title.

Then there’s Western Kentucky. They return four starters from a team that finished just 10-10 in league play, but they are also coming off of their second straight run to the NCAA tournament. T.J. Price is the Hilltopper to make note of.

And finally, Arkansas State. The Red Wolves lose three of their top five scorers from last season, but leading scorer Ed Townsel is back, as is sophomore Cameron Golden. The key will be transfers. Brandon Reed averaged 15.1 points as a freshman back in 2009-2010 before transferring to Georgia Tech while Melvin Johnson III averaged 13.0 points as a junior at UT-San Antonio in 2011-2012.

Arkansas-Little Rock and UT-Arlington both have enough talent to make a push as well.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Georgia State, Texas State, Texas-Arlington,
Out: Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Florida International, Florida Atlantic

source:

AP photo

PRESEASON SUN BELT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Augustine Rubit, South Alabama

Rubit came within 18 points of averaging 20 and 10 a season ago, and he’s returning to school to play for a team with a real shot of winning the league title. I know how much talent there is in this conference; this decision was still pretty easy.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: Hunter averaged 17.5 points as a freshman and will be playing this season with Ryan Harrow.
  • Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette: If he can refine his jump shot, Payton has a shot to follow the footsteps of Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
  • Brandon Reed, Arkansas State: Reed averaged 15.1 points as a freshman with the Red Wolves, but tried transferring to Georgia Tech. That resulted in two uneventful season, so Reed came back under the graduate transfer rule.
  • Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette: The best big man in the league not named Augustine Rubit.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Georgia State
2. Louisiana-Lafayette
3. South Alabama
4. Western Kentucky
5. Arkansas State
6. Arkansas-Little Rock
7. UT-Arlington
8. Troy
9. Texas State
10. Louisiana-Monroe

Latest Posts
  1. Four-star Class of 2016 point guard decommits from Oklahoma

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    payton-pritchard-2412-xl-e1405347706789

    Four-star point guard Payton Pritchard is going to explore his options heading into the July live evaluation period.

  2. Northwestern adds four-star Class of 2016 center to recruiting class

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    barret benson

    Northwestern continues to get good local pick-ups in the 2016 class.

  3. La Salle guard will transfer and become immediately eligible

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Khalid Lewis #23 of the La Salle Explorers looks on against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the Second Round of the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. La Salle Explorers defeated the Massachusetts Minutemen 76-69  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) Getty Images

    La Salle is losing an experienced guard to transfer.

  4. Report: Tennessee incoming freshman point guard still not enrolled

    Jul 6, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    lamonte turner

    One of Tennessee’s only options at point guard is enrolling closer to the school year.

  5. Four-star Class of 2016 shooting guard favors 10 schools

    Jul 6, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    One of the better shooting guards in the country is focused on 10 schools.

  6. Michigan basketball will change to Jordan Brand from adidas as school announces new Nike deal

    Jul 6, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Michigan is going with the Jumpman under its new apparel agreement.

  7. Syracuse, not Kentucky, leads the nation in average attendance

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:48 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Kentucky had led the nation in average attendance for eight straight years.

  8. Florida State lands commitment from five-star 2016 prospect

    Jul 6, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 12.52.11 PM

    Jonathan Isaac is loaded with potential.

  9. Air Force loses freshman forward Garrett Thibodeaux to UTSA

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    Dave Pilipovich Dave Pilipovich

    Thibodeaux’s decision came eight days after he began basic training.

  10. Alabama self-reported 13 minor violations last academic year, including one for men’s basketball

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    University of Alabama University of Alabama

    All of the violations were deemed to be Level III or Level IV violations, which isn’t a big deal at all.

  11. How the non-US college players fared in the FIBA U19 World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp Getty Images

    Plenty of college basketball players were in the FIBA U19 World Championships besides the Americans.

  12. USA U19 team wins in overtime of gold-medal game over Croatia at FIBA World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    The USA U19 team captured back-to-back FIBA World Championships for the first time since 1983.

  13. Mississippi State lands transfer wing

    Jul 5, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Mississippi State landed a commitment on Sunday from a transfer.

  14. Kansas/USA defeats Brazil at World University Games

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kansas (USA) is 2-0 so far at the World University Games.

  15. Mixtape of Class of 2016 five-star guard Markelle Fultz (VIDEO)

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz is one the best guard prospects in the country.

  16. Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang posts double-double in World University Games opener

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Mangok Mathiang Mangok Mathiang

    Mathiang’s playing on an Australian team that includes the likes of Peter Hooley and Hugh Greenwood.

  17. Former South Carolina power forward Demetrius Henry transferring to La Salle

    Jul 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    The 6-foot-9 Henry averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season.