Skip to content

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

Oct 20, 2013, 10:40 AM EST

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. Former Oregon signee JaQuan Lyle verbally commits to Ohio State

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:19 AM EST

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    With Shannon Scott being a senior and D’Angelo Russell considered to be a possible lottery pick if he goes pro, JaQuan Lyle’s commitment is a nice insurance policy moving forward.

  2. POSTERIZED: Ike Nwamu’s emphatic dunk was originally called a charge (VIDEO)

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:57 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwvjyjbiodlizwnmy2q0oge3yzm2zwrmyjq1zti2ndiw AP

    Ike Nwamu scored 20 points in the Bears’ 75-72 overtime win over Chattanooga, but should he have two (or three) more points to his credit?

  3. Thursday’s Snacks: Ohio State rolls past No. 16 Maryland

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:38 PM EST

    D'Angelo Russell, Dez Wells AP

    Providence’s Kris Dunn posted the program’s first triple-double since 2006, and UMass held off Dayton in Amherst.

  4. Big 12/SEC Challenge to be a one-day affair next season

    Jan 29, 2015, 8:44 PM EST

    Champions Classic: Kansas v. Kentucky Getty Images

    The third year of the event means an improved schedule, with all ten games being played on one day.

  5. Bradley’s leading scorer one of three players facing disciplinary action following incident Thursday morning

    Jan 29, 2015, 6:57 PM EST

    Bradley v Memphis Bradley v Memphis

    Warren Jones is averaging a team-best 13.8 points per game for Bradley, which has lost six of its last seven games.

  6. Brown’s leading scorer and rebounder decides to leave program

    Jan 29, 2015, 5:46 PM EST

    Brown v American Brown v American

    Leland King led Brown in scoring and was also tied for the team lead in rebounds per game.

  7. Duke dismisses reserve shooting guard from program

    Jan 29, 2015, 4:42 PM EST

    Duke v Louisville Getty Images

    Rasheed Sulaimon played 12 minutes in the Blue Devils’ loss at No. 8 Notre Dame Wednesday night.

  8. Chase for 180: Already a good shooter, Tyler Harvey’s been even better in 2014-15

    Jan 29, 2015, 4:15 PM EST

    Troy Williams, Tyler Harvey AP

    The Eastern Washington guard has received more attention nationally in recent weeks, and it’s well-deserved.

  9. Film Session: The case for Jerian Grant as National Player of the Year

    Jan 29, 2015, 3:28 PM EST

    Jerian Grant (AP Photo) AP

    At the very least, he’s the most valuable player in the country.

  10. Reports: Two Southern Miss players ruled ineligible by NCAA

    Jan 29, 2015, 2:30 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Donnie Tyndall’s trail of destruction in Hattiesburg continues to grow.

  11. Pregame Shootaround: A terrific matchup of talented, freshmen point guards

    Jan 29, 2015, 1:09 PM EST

    Melo Trimble Melo Trimble

    Melo Trimble vs. D’Angelo Russell will be worth the two hours.

  12. Assigned Reading: Former top 100 recruit Noah Cottrill kicked addiction, thriving in NAIA

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:04 AM EST

    spts_12_17_09-e1340037417375

    Cottrill was once ranked above Shabazz Napier and Aaron Craft, among many others.

  13. St. John’s guard strains patella in loss at Creighton

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:08 AM EST

    AP AP

    Rysheed Jordan averages 13.4 points.

  14. Gilvydas Biruta’s putback as time expires saves Rhode Island (VIDEO)

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:24 PM EST

    Gilvydas Biruta, Matt Hubbard Gilvydas Biruta, Matt Hubbard

    Rhode Island moved to 14-5 overall and 6-2 in Atlantic 10 play with the win over Fordham.

  15. UConn loses reserve guard to stress fracture in right tibia

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:52 PM EST

    Sam Cassell Jr., Darrell Davis Sam Cassell Jr., Darrell Davis

    The Huskies will be short one perimeter option when they take on Cincinnati Thursday night.

  16. Jerian Grant, No. 8 Notre Dame erase another double-digit deficit as they beat No. 4 Duke

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:56 PM EST

    Jerian Grant (AP Photo) AP

    Jerian Grant was the headliner for the Fighting Irish, but he had plenty of help as they erased a ten-point second half deficit.