1. Georgia State Panthers (20-7, 13-1): Georgia State's dream of an undefeated Sun Belt season came to an end with a stunning loss at 9th place Troy. The Panthers bounced back, though, winning their next three games putting GSU right on the door step of clinching the regular season championship and the #1 seed at the conference tournament. The Panthers are just one win away from securing at least a share of the crown.
In their most recent win, Georgia State defeated visiting Louisiana-Lafayette at the Sports Arena on a Manny Atkins three pointer with 0.8 seconds to play. The Cajuns had won six in a row. Ryan Harrow stepped up to the challenge of facing Cajuns star Elfrid Payton. Harrow led the team in scoring with 18 points, while adding seven assists and five rebounds.
Last two weeks: L 85-81 at Troy, W 68-41 vs TX St, W 75-60 vs ULM, W 80-77 vs UL Lafayette
This week: Thu at UTA, Sat at TX St
2. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (18-10, 9-6): As mentioned above, the Cajuns most recent outing resulted in a heartbreaking loss. A crushing loss on the road to the conference's best team doesn't take away from the tear Louisiana-Lafayette has been on the last few weeks. The Cajuns had won six in a row to right the ship after losing four-of-five from mid to late January. After a string of really close victories, the Cajuns made a statement in blowing out visiting Arkansas State last week. At this moment in time, I'd give the Cajuns a minuscule advantage over ASU and WKU, even if the Cajuns currently sit a game and a half back of the all-important two seed in the standings.
Last two weeks: W 93-87 (2OT) vs UALR, W 85-67 vs ASU, W 78-63 vs Troy, L 80-77 at GSU
This week: Sun vs USA
3. Arkansas State Red Wolves (16-9, 9-5): Arkansas State has had a string of really impressive blowout wins lately. They dismantled Western Kentucky, South Alabama, and Texas-Arlington, but also suffered an 18 point road loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. As is the case with all three teams in this "contender" category, the Red Wolves just can't seem to separate themselves from the pack to claim the coveted second seed in the conference tournament.
Last two weeks: W 85-61 at USA, L 85-67 at UL Lafayette, W 83-60 vs UTA, W 73-68 vs TX St
This week: Tu vs Lyon, Sat at UALR
4. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (18-9, 10-4): Western Kentucky currently sits second in the actual standings, which is a huge spot to be in. The top two seeds receive double byes into the semifinals of the conference tournament. The Hilltoppers are every bit the contender that ULL and ASU are, but they are fourth in these rankings this week based solely on the strength (weakness?) of a recent first half. In their home loss to last place South Alabama, the Hilltoppers scored just 14 points on 4-of-28 shooting from the floor and 5-of-11 shooting from the free throw line. They rebounded nicely defeating ULM before heading out for the Texas road trip this week.
Last two weeks: W 81-76 vs Troy, L 69-62 vs USA, W 72-63 vs ULM
This week: Thu at TX St, Sat at UTA
5. Texas-Arlington Mavericks (12-14, 7-7): Texas-Arlington shows flashes of absolute brilliance, which I think gives them a puncher's chance at creating havoc at the conference tournament. They also find a way to lose close games, which I think will keep them from being a serious threat to win the whole thing. Seven times this year the Mavericks have lost by five points or fewer, or in overtime.
Last two weeks: W 85-74 at ULM, W 69-62 vs TX St, L 83-60 at ASU, W 75-71 at UALR
This week: Thu vs GSU, Sat vs WKU
6. Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (12-15, 7-8): Every team has to deal with injuries, but UALR has been severely hampered with off-and-on injuries to key contributors James White and Will Neighbour . The Trojans have now lost five consecutive games. At full strength, UALR is good enough to knock off any of the top contenders on any given night. Even at less-than-full strength, they are still a handful as their recent double overtime loss at the Cajundome proves. Unless they get healthy quick, the Trojans likely don't have enough to seriously contend.
Last two weeks: L 93-87 (2OT) at UL Lafayette, L 65-49 at ULM, L 75-71 vs UTA
This week: Thu at Troy, Sat vs ASU
Fighting For an Invite
7. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (8-14, 5-9): Louisiana-Monroe has only won once in the month of February, and that came at the hands of the reeling UALR Trojans. Despite losing five-of-six the Warhawks host Troy and South Alabama, the two teams currently on the outside looking in, this week. If they can find a way to take care of business at home, they should find themselves in the field and heading south to New Orleans.
Last two weeks: L 85-74 vs UTA, W 65-49 vs UALR, L 75-60 at GSU, L 72-63 at WKU
This week: Thu vs USA, Sat vs Troy
8. Texas State Bobcats (8-19, 4-10): Texas State has been an interesting team to watch this season. Head Coach Danny Kaspar left Stephen F. Austin, who is currently 25-2 and on a 22 game win streak, to take over the Bobcats program. While the talent appears to be lacking at times this year, the team has steadily improved as the season has progressed. Six of their 10 conference losses have been by five points or fewer. If they sneak in (and they currently have the eight seed via tiebreak advantage over Troy with another game head-to-head remaining) they will not be an easy out for anyone.
Last two weeks: L 69-62 at UTA, L 68-41 at GSU, W 67-66 (OT) vs USA, L 73-68 at ASU
This week: Thu vs WKU, Sat vs GSU
9. Troy Trojans (9-17, 4-10): Troy shocked the league by knocking off Georgia State last week, handing the Panthers their only conference loss. They did not follow up on the big win, though, getting blown out by Louisiana-Lafayette then losing at South Alabama. Three of their final four games are at home, including a season ending matchup with Texas State that may very well determine who gets the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament.
Last two weeks: L 81-76 at WKU, W 85-81 vs GSU, L 78-63 at UL Lafayette, L 86-78 at USA
This week: Thu vs UALR, Sat at ULM
10. South Alabama Jaguars (9-18, 3-11): South Alabama has been a pretty shocking last place team all year long. Recently, though, a pair of wins have the Jags dreaming of sneaking into the field in nearby New Orleans. On the same night Troy shocked Georgia State, South Alabama won just their second Sun Belt game at Western Kentucky. Another recent win over Troy has brought the Jaguars within one game of eighth place. Of their remaining four games two (at ULM and home vs Texas St) are against other contenders for the bottom couple tournament bids.
Last week: L 85-61 vs ASU, W 69-62 at WKU, L 67-66 (OT) at TX St, W 86-78 vs Troy
This week: Thu at ULM, Sun at UL Lafayette
If the Sun Belt Tournament started today…
#5 Texas-Arlington (7-7) vs #8 Texas State (4-10)
#6 Arkansas-Little Rock (7-8) vs #7 Louisiana-Monroe (5-9)
#4 Louisiana-Lafayette (9-6) vs UTA/TX St
#3 Arkansas State (9-5) vs UALR/ULM
#1 Georgia State (13-1) vs UL Lafayette/UTA/TX St
#2 Western Kentucky (10-4) vs ASU/UALR/ULM
The top eight finishers qualify for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to be held at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, LA.