Big Games in the Sun Belt on Thursday Night
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns basketball team will get to scoreboard-watch on Thursday while the rest of the league jockeys for position in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament beginning next Saturday in Hot Springs, AR.
The seeding possibilities are many, but after tomorrow, quite a few things should be decided. Here are the games scheduled and what they mean.
SOUTH ALABAMA (7-7) AT FLORIDA ATLANTIC (7-7)-- The winner of this game still has a chance at a first round bye, depending on what North Texas does in their final two games. South won the first game between the two schools. The loser can finish no better than 8-8 and will probably be playing on Saturday. It is possible these two teams and UNT could finish 8-8. In that case, the winner of this game has an inside track to the tiebreaker.
NORTH TEXAS (8-6) AT ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (11-3) --UALR won the first meeting in Denton, 69-66. They've already clinched a tie for the Western Division title and a win in either of their final two games will cinch the #2 seed in the tournament. The loss to Louisiana really hurt the Mean Green, who now find themselves in a position where they might have to win this game, or at Denver, in order to keep a first round bye. North Texas would win a tiebreaker over South Alabama, but loses the tiebreaker to Florida Atlantic. In case of a three-way tie at 8-8, well, it's complicated.
ARKANSAS STATE (6-8) AT WESTERN KENTUCKY (5-9)--A four-way tie for fifth at 8-8 is a possibility, but ASU would have to win this one and then at UALR on Saturday in order to be a part of that. That's a pretty tough road to hoe. WKU will be playing in a first round game at the tournament, regardless of what they do the rest of the way. The Hilltoppers, mathematically, could still finish as the #11 seed. But more likely, they'll be playing in the #8 vs. #9 game.
TROY (3-11) AT FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (4-10)--Troy is in the #11 position right now and a loss in this game would clinch that spot. But they can get out of the cellar with a win here. FIU won the first game between the two teams. FIU can really play spoiler on Saturday when they play host to South Alabama. Troy still has to go to FAU, so chances are 11th is where they're headed.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE (13-1) AT LOUISIANA-MONROE (1-13)--This one has nothing to do with seeding, as Middle has already clinched the top spot and ULM is ineligible for the tournament. But this game has importance for two reasons: Middle Tennessee is still in line for a possible at-large berth to the NCAA tournament if they don't win the SBC tourney. And, this is ULM's last chance to win a home game this year. Both of their wins this season have come on the road.
Denver, like the Cajuns, is sitting out Thursday. They'll clinch the #3 seed with a win over North Texas on Sunday. Denver can finish no lower than fourth.
As far as the Cajuns are concerned, they'll be the #2 seed if they win over ULM, UALR loses their last two and Denver loses to North Texas. They will be #3 with a win and a Denver loss, combined with one UALR victory. And, in all other scenarios, they'll be the #4 seed.