The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns sit alone in first place in the Sun Belt Conference after their big win over defending regular season champion Georgia State Thursday night at the CAJUNDOME.  Now, after having a weekend off, comes the most grueling stretch of the season.

Nine days.  Five games.

By the time Jan 24th rolls around, the Cajuns will be nearly halfway through their twenty game Sun Belt Conference schedule.  And, by then, there will be a chance we can make a judgment or two.

But in the meantime, here’s a capsule of what the Cajuns will be facing in the next five games.

THURSDAY 1/15—AT GEORGIA SOUTHERN (10-3, 3-1, 6-0 at home)—Jelani Hewitt was a first team preseason all-conference selection and he’s playing like one for the Eagles.  Hewitt is second in the league in scoring (20-2), is fifth in assists (3.8) and leads the league in free throw percentage (84-93, 90.3%), steals (2.8) and three pointers per game (3.2).  Trent Wiedeman (13.6, ) leads the team in rebounds (6.8) and the newly eligible Eric Ferguson averages near double digits as well.  Georgia Southern leads the Sun Belt in scoring margin (+13.2), free throw percentage (.729), rebound margin (8.3) and three pointers per game (7.5).  The Eagles have won six out of their last seven.

SATURDAY-1/17--SOUTH ALABAMA  (4-11, 2-3, 1-7 road)---This starts a three game home stand for the Cajuns, their longest of the conference season.  Be there during the women’s game for the banner unveiling honoring the late Kim Perrot.  Matthew Graves continues to try and rebuild the USA program his way and they’ve struggled in his second season.  The Jags are at or near the bottom of the league in scoring defense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, field goal defense and turnover margin.  Ken Williams can score with anyone in the league and he’s just a sophomore.  Donte Ferguson averages in double digits and he’s a solid rebounder (7.4).  Not a ton of depth on this team.  They shoot the three pointer a lot (more than 20 per game).  On nights they’re falling they can hang with anyone in the league.  South Alabama will be at Texas State before coming to Lafayette.

MONDAY 1/19—UL MONROE (9-6, 3-1, 2-4 Road)—Free from the APR nightmare he inherited, Keith Richard is ready to do what he does best…coach winning basketball.  Richard has gone the junior college route to improve his team and this might be the most athletic bunch in the entire league.  They're getting it done with defense, as the Warhawks lead the Sun Belt in field goal defense (.378), three point defense (.276) and blocked shots.  They also are second in the league in assist/turnover ratio.  Tyler Ongwae is a matchup problem for everyone in the league.  Marvin Williams gives them some beef inside,   Point guard Nick Coppola takes care of the basketball and Majok Deng is second in the league in blocked shots.  With back to back wins on the Texas swing this past week, ULM has shown they can be a contender.  The Warhawks have Troy and UALR, both at home, before coming to town.

THURSDAY 1/22---ARKANSAS STATE  (6-8, 1-4, 4-4 Road)---The Red Wolves are staggering badly.  Arkansas State has lost four straight with the last two by double digits.  That includes an embarrassing loss at UTA where John Brady’s crew trailed by as many as 30 and scored only 50 points.  Anthony Livingston and Cameron Golden lead them in scoring (15.3).  They have three players among the league leaders in minutes played.   Arkansas State’s numbers don’t look that bad.  They sit in the middle of the pack statistically in most categories.  In league play, however, they’ve been outrebounded badly and haven’t shot it very well.  There are a lot of rumblings in Jonesboro and there are some who believe this might be Brady’s final chance to get his first win in the CAJUNDOME.  Arkansas State will play a home game against Georgia State before heading to Lafayette.

SATURDAY 1/24—at GEORGIA STATE (10-6, 3-2, 6-1 Home)—Playing without Ryan Harrow Saturday (toe injury), Georgia State had its hands full with Troy.  But it looks like R. J. Hunter is breaking out of his shooting slump and that isn’t good news for the rest of the league.  In the second meeting in sixteen days, the Panthers are going to have to find a way to matchup with a UL inside game that took them to school in the first meeting.  The Cajuns, meanwhile, will have to try and slow down one of the two mega scorers.  If they combine for 52 at home like they did in the ‘Dome, the Cajuns won’t win the game.  Georgia State will have some extra prep time.  They have a bye that week and will not have played since Monday.