Still Many Scenarios for the Sun Belt – From the Bird’s Nest
We have two weeks left in the Sun Belt Conference basketball regular season.
And, while things are starting to shake out, absolutely nothing is decided.
It certainly looks like Middle Tennessee will be the #1 overall seed. And, UALR has the inside track to the West title and #2.
Some schools have three games left, some have four. Here’s a look at what’s remaining. Teams will be listed according to where they would be seeded if the season ended today.
1. MIDDLE TENNESSEE (12-1, 23-4) Three games remaining: Home: FAU. Road: at ULM, at WKU
The Blue Raiders have clinched a tie for the East title and should have no problem wrapping it up. And, after their win over UALR on Saturday, they have a de-facto three game lead there as well. One more win for the Raiders will wrap up the East…and the #1 overall seed, since MT has the tiebreaker on UALR.
2. UALR (9-3, 12-14) Four remaining: Home: FIU, UNT, ASU Road: Troy
Steve Shields’ squad got the win they needed on Thursday, beating Louisiana in overtime. Their lead is one game in the loss column over the Cajuns, two in the loss column over Denver and North Texas. And, the Trojans get three of their last four at home. The game at Troy could be scary, and neither FIU nor UNT is a sure thing. They’re in good shape, but they have a little work to do to lock down the West and get the #2 overall seed.
3. LOUISIANA (9-4, 15-12) Three remaining: Home: ULM. Road: Denver, North Texas
The Cajuns lost a golden opportunity to take over the driver’s seat in the West when they gave away their game against UALR last Thursday. Now, if they’re going to get the #3 seed, they’re going to have to win on the road. And, it’s been a long time since the Cajuns won in Denver or Denton. They’ll have to at least split the two games if they want a shot at the 3 seed. And, even that might not be good enough, unless the win is in Denver.
4. DENVER (8-5, 18-8) Three left, all at home: UL, ULM UNT
The Pioneers let one get away in Boca Raton on Thursday, but they’re still in prime position to move up to the #3 seed. It’s simple. Win at home. And, the Pioneers have done a good job of that this year as they usually do. But Louisiana and North Texas are capable of winning at Magness Arena. Still, DU will be favored in all three games and if they win them all, they’ll take the #3 seed. DU would hold the tiebreaker over just about everyone, thanks to that win over Middle Tennessee.
5. FLORIDA ATLANTIC (7-5, 11-14) Four remaining. Home: USA, Troy. Road: WKU, MT
The Owls came back from the dead twice last week and got heart-stopping wins against Denver and North Texas. As a result, they would hold tiebreakers over both of those schools for seeding purposes. They would lose a tiebreaker to Louisiana. FAU has been somewhat of a chameleon this year and it’s hard to predict how they’ll do in the last four games, although a loss in Murfreesboro is likely. They could move up a slot or down a couple of slots, depending on how they handle the last four games.
6. NORTH TEXAS (7-5, 14-11) Four left. Home: ULM, UL Road: UALR, DU
The Mean Green has the toughest remaining schedule, with three of their four games against teams with better conference records. North Texas has enough talent to win all four. They also could lose three of the four. Tony Mitchell has stepped up for the Mean Green. He’ll need to have others join him. North Texas could mathematically finish as the #3 seed. They also could drop to seventh.
7. SOUTH ALABAMA (6-7, 14-10) Three left Home: WKU, Road: FAU, FIU
The Jaguars got two wins this past week to get near .500 in league play. 9-7 is the best they can do and that realistically won’t move them up very far, if at all. Losses could drop them a seed or two. They’ll look for revenge against a WKU team that beat them in Bowling Green. Neither game in Florida will be a walk in the park.
8, 9, 10–WKU, FIU, ASU. All three are 4-8 in league play. Can’t use a tiebreaker, since Arkansas State hasn’t played either school. WKU has FAU, ASU and MT at home and they travel to USA. FIU has Troy and USA at home and travel to ASU and UALR. ASU has Troy and FIU at home. They must travel to WKU and UALR. No one can finish better than 8-8 and it’s doubtful any will actually accomplish that. We won’t be surprised to see multiple ties here at the end. WKU has three of the four at home, but none of them will be easy tasks.
11. TROY (3-9, 8-15) Four left. Home: UALR, Road: ASU, FIU, FAU
Don Maestri’s team showed again over the weekend they are a dangerous team at Sartain Hall. But the Trojans have three of their remaining games on the road and it’s going to be difficult for them to move out of the 11th position. As the only team with nine losses, Troy would need to win a game or two and have one of the teams ahead of them collapse. It could happen, but I wouldn’t bank on it.