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This Week in Sun Belt Basketball

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There was a shakeup in the standings this past week as Louisiana won twice to move from fifth place to third, while the top two teams in the league, Georgia State and WKU, both lost.

Every game becomes crucial now, as teams vie for the top two positions, which earn a double bye in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in New Orleans next month.  There’s also a race for fourth place, which earns one night off.  And, of course, with only eight teams qualifying for the tournament, the bottom part of the standings is still very important.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up this week.

UALR (12-14, 7-7)–This week:  Hosts UT Arlington Saturday

Currently in a tie for fifth place with UT Arlington, UALR has just one game this week.  And, guess who it’s against?  Yep…UT Arlington comes to Little Rock looking to split the series after suffering a heartbreaking 72-70 loss to the Trojans back in January.  Big game for both teams, but especially for UTA, as a loss would put them 0-2 in head to head games if a tiebreaker comes into play for seeding.  The injury-riddled Trojans defense will be tested by the shooting abilities of the Mavericks.  After this week, UALR will have two of their last three at home, traveling to Troy and facing Arkansas State and ULM at the Jack Stephens Center.

ARKANSAS STATE (14-9, 7-5)-This week:  Hosts UT Arlington Thursday, hosts Texas State Saturday.

The Red Wolves were spanked in Lafayette Saturday night, but now return to the Convocation Center for five of their last six conference games.  ASU is in fourth place, but even with Louisiana in the loss column.  A-State won both games against these opponents earlier this year, winning by double digits in Arlington before taking a five point win in San Marcos.  After this week, the Red Wolves have one road game against arch-rival UALR, and will look for payback against Georgia State, ULM and Louisiana at home.  Arkansas State lost to all three earlier in the season.

GEORGIA STATE (18-7, 11-1)- This week:  Hosts UL Monroe Thursday; hosts Louisiana on Saturday.

After suffering their first conference loss of the season at Troy last Saturday, the Panthers returned home and got back on the winning track against Texas State Monday night in the makeup of a postponed game.  Now the Panthers put their ten game winning streak on the line with games against the Louisiana schools, who GSU defeated in close games earlier.  Georgia State has won ten straight at home.  After this week, Georgia State has three of four on the road, playing at the Texas schools and Arkansas State before closing at home with WKU.

LOUISIANA (17-9, 8-5)- This week:  Hosts Troy Thursday, travels to Georgia State Saturday.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have gotten it done lately, winning five straight to move into third place in the Sun Belt.  They finish their three game homestand Thursday night against Troy before heading on the road for three of their last four, beginning at Georgia State this Saturday in a Sun Belt Network game.  The Cajuns need to finish their home schedule strong, as their final three road games will all be against the league leaders.  After this week the Cajuns host South Alabama, but then travel to WKU and Arkansas State.

UL MONROE (8-12, 5-7)- This week: at Georgia State Thursday, at WKU Saturday

The Warhawks currently sit as the #7 seed for the upcoming conference tournament with a one game lead over Troy, but it’s a tough road trip this week for Keith Richard’s squad.  ULM’s chances would increase significantly, even with just a split.  After this week, UL Monroe hosts South Alabama and Troy before closing at Arkansas State and UALR.  Realistically, the goal of ULM was to make it to New Orleans.  They still have a good shot, but have to take care of those two home games.

SOUTH ALABAMA (8-17, 2-12)- This week:  Thursday at Texas State, hosts Troy on Saturday

The Jags need to get on a roll if they’re going to have a shot at playing in the league tournament.  But, coming off their first road win of the year against WKU, South has a little confidence as they head to San Marcos to take on Texas State for the first time this year.  The Jags need both of these games this week, but that still may not be enough.  South Alabama travels to the Louisiana schools next week before closing at home against the Texas schools.

UT ARLINGTON (11-13, 6-6)- This week:  at Arkansas State Thursday, at UALR Saturday

RIght now, the Mavericks look like they’ll be in New Orleans, but with six games left, they could either play their way into a bye, play their way out of the tournament or do something in between.  That trip to Jonesboro won’t be easy and then the Mavs take on the team they’re tied for fifth with in UALR.  Not an easy road coming up as UTA has to entertain Georgia State and WKU next week before traveling to the state of Alabama.

TEXAS STATE (7-18, 3-9)  This week:  Hosts South Alabama Thursday; at Arkansas State Saturday.

Danny Kaspar’s Bobcats have little room for error.  Currently sitting one game behind Troy for the eighth and final spot, Texas State has to win the games they realistically have a chance to win.  That starts Thursday night against South Alabama, a team the ‘Cats haven’t played this year.  After what could be a tough trip to Jonesboro, Texas State comes home to host the league’s top two teams next week before closing in the state of Alabama.  3-3 may be good enough to get to New Orleans, but a fourth win really would help.

TROY (9-15, 4-8)-This week:  Thursday at Louisiana;  Saturday at South Alabama

After stunning the league leaders last Saturday at Trojan Arena, Troy will be a confident bunch heading to Lafayette.  The Trojans are certainly capable of going to the Cajundome and coming back with a win, provided they have a really good shooting night.  That game Saturday against South Alabama could really loom large, especially if the Trojans don’t win on Thursday.  After this week, the Trojans play three of their last four at home, beginning with UALR.  A trip to Monroe preceeds home games against the Texas schools.  Troy has a one game lead in the race for the final seed.  But they’re also just one game out of seventh.  They control their own destiny, playing the two schools (ULM and Texas State) that are closest to them.

WKU (17-9, 9-4)-This week:  Hosts ULM Saturday

The Hilltoppers suffered a head-scratching loss at home to South Alabama last Saturday and their lead over Louisiana for the double bye is just one game.  The Hilltoppers host a UL Monroe team they handled pretty well on the road.  After that, three of the last four are on the road for the Hilltoppers.  They’ll travel to the state of Texas next week before hosting Louisiana in a must-win game.  They close at Georgia State.

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