Turning it on Down the Stretch – From the Bird’s Nest
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns open a two game home stand Saturday night and are hoping to get a turn around as league play enters the final month.
Louisiana (14-10, 4-7 Sun Belt) has played the most difficult part of its conference schedule. Of the Cajuns' seven league losses, six are to the three teams tied for first place in the league. And, four of the six losses have been by six points or fewer. The seventh loss was to UTA, the pre-season conference favorite. The Mavericks sit one game out of first entering play this weekend.
The Cajuns have been, in part, the victims of the scheduling gods. Louisiana plays the Arkansas, Georgia and Texas schools twice each this season. No one else among the leaders has to do that. But, as the tired cliche goes, it is what it is.
The top four teams in the league get a first round bye for the league tournament. The Cajuns, picked seventh in the league before the season started, are a long shot now to get one of those spots.
But now the schedule softens a bit and the next six games give the Cajuns a chance to make up some ground, improve their overall record and get as good a seed as possible (and some needed confidence) prior to the postseason tournament in New Orleans.
The Cajuns play host to Troy (12-12, 4-6) Saturday night before facing South Alabama (11-12, 4-6) on Monday. Next week comes a trip to Monroe to face ULM (7-17, 1-10) before a road trip to the Carolinas to face Coastal Carolina (11-13, 6-5) and Appalachian State (6-16, 1-10). Those are the only meetings with those schools this season. The regular season ends at home with Texas State (13-9. 6-4), a team the Cajuns have already beaten and UTA (17-6, 7-3).
All of those games are winnable. None of them will be easy.
Troy certainly won't be a cakewalk. Don't let the Trojans' record fool you. Their six losses have been by a combined 22 points. They have wins over both Georgia schools and UTA.
The Trojans can really score the basketball. The Trojans are second in the league in scoring, free throw percentage, three point percentage and three point baskets per game. Jordan Varnado is second in the league in field goal percentage and sharpshooter Wesley Person shoots .407 beyond the arc and is second in triples per game. This is a very dangerous basketball team, but it's a team that hasn't always been able to find a way to win.
The Cajuns' defense, which was much better in the second half against Georgia State and in the Monday game with Georgia Southern, will have to play well again. And, just as importantly, Louisiana is going to have to make shots. Because Troy will.
Each night is a battle for this young Cajuns' team. But if they're going to finish higher in the standings than the coaches predicted, they have to start winning some of those games.
And that starts tomorrow night.