Thursday night in the Sun Belt
A look at Thursday night’s schedule in the Sun Belt Conference
DENVER (13-14, 9-5) AT LOUISIANA (12-14, 9-5)
The Pioneers blew a chance to stay in sole possession of the West lead when they squandered a 14-point lead and fell to South Alabama at home on Sunday. Now the Pioneers, not known for being road warriors, hit the road for their last two regular season games. They’ll start in Lafayette against the league’s hottest team. Louisiana has won nine straight, eight in SBC play. To win, the Cajuns will have to be wary of Denver’s intricate Princeton offense. The Cajuns have guarded the perimeter well during the recent streak and will have to do so again. Denver controls its own destiny for the #1 seed in the West Division. The Pioneers will have to fight off freshman J. J. Thomas, who will be a tough matchup, as well as what promises to be a huge crowd at the Cajundome. Cajuns can clinch a first round bye in the SBC tournament by winning their final two games.
TROY (8-18, 6-8) AT FLORIDA ATLANTIC (19-9, 11-3)
FAU is coming off an overtime win in Miami against their arch-rival Florida International. Troy dropped a contest at home to Arkansas State. FAU has already clinched the #1 seed in the East. A win gives them the overall regular season title and a guaranteed berth in the postseason. Troy is one game ahead of South Alabama in fourth place in the East. They sit one game behind Western Kentucky for third. This is the final home game for FAU, who travels to South Alabama to close the regular season. One thing to watch will be FAU’s motion offense against the Trojans 2-3 zone.
UALR (15-13, 7-6) AT SOUTH ALABAMA (11-14, 5-9)
While everyone is talking about the three way tie in the West, UALR sits just 1 1/2 games out of first place entering the game against the Jaguars. UALR has a tough road though, starting Thursday night. South is coming off a big win at Denver, the only SBC team to beat the Pioneers on their home court. USA is one game behind Troy for fourth place in the East, and one game ahead of FIU. UALR must still travel to Arkansas State before playing a postponed game at home vs. North Texas next Tuesday. UALR features the best perimeter shooting team in the league. USA’s Augustine Rubit will be a very tough matchup inside for the Trojans.
NORTH TEXAS (17-9, 6-7) AT ARKANSAS STATE (15-14, 9-5)
ASU controls it’s future as far as the top seed in the West is concerned, and it’s advantage Red Wolves down the stretch. Coach John Brady’s team hasn’t lost at the Convocation Center this year and is home for its final two regular season games. They’ll face the league’s biggest enigma in North Texas. Picked to finish first in the league this year, the Mean Green has lost five of its last six, including an embarassing loss at home to Louisiana-Monroe Saturday night. The Mean Green are talented enough to win in Jonesboro, but this is a team playing with no confidence. ASU wins the #1 seed by winning on Thursday and again versus UALR on Saturday.
Middle Tennessee and ULM are idle in the league until Saturday.