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Sun Belt Power Rankings: Georgia State falls at Montana, but keeps top spot

Plus UT-Arlington shoots up the rankings after one week.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Cincinnati vs Georgia State Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Week one of the college basketball season has come and gone. Things went pretty much to chalk for teams in the Sun Belt, with several teams coming close but failing to finish signature wins.

But big opportunities await in the coming days for a little #FunBelt madness, and here’s how the conference lines up at present.

1. Georgia State Panthers (1-1), Previous — 1

The Panthers opened the season with two difficult games against teams who had recently been in the NCAA tournament. First up was East Tennessee State, a team which won 24 games a year ago but replaced all five starters. Georgia State led for most of the night and a late three by Pitt transfer Damon Wilson helped led the Panthers to a 74-68 victory.

The joy from a quality win was short-lived however, as the Panthers fell on the road to Montana 81-74 on Friday. Georgia State played both games without starting guard Devin Mitchell, who hit 98 three pointers a year ago and is recovering from a knee injury. Guard D’Marcus Simonds scored 21 and 30 points in the two games, respectively.

This week, Georgia State hosts Mercer in the schools’ first meeting since the 2012 CIT.

2. Georgia Southern Eagles (1-0), 2

The Eagles set a new school record for points in a game as they demolished NAIA foe Carver, 139-51. That broke the previous Division I-era record of 126, which came against Georgia State in 1974.

Georgia Southern’s competition will get much stiffer this week as the Eagles host George Mason before traveling to the Islands of Bahamas Showcase, where they will face Florida Atlantic in their first game.

3. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (1-1), 3

The Ragin’ Cajuns also padded their scoring average for the season with a 121-80 victory over University of the Virgin Islands. The Cajuns then fell on the road in Knoxville to Tennessee, 87-65.

Louisiana was led by the usual suspects as its two seniors had respective big weeks. Forward Jakeenan Gant averaged 18.5 points and five rebounds per game, while guard Marcus Stroman averaged 9.5 points, 9.5 assists and six rebounds pergame. This week Louisiana will prepare to face a juggernaut as the Cajuns will travel to Lawrence to face No. 2 Kansas.

4. UTA Mavericks (2-0), 9

So much for all the turnover slowing down the Mavericks. After losing seven of their top eight scorers from last season, UTA got the Chris Ogden era off to a good start with a 90-66 win against UT-Tyler. But then the Mavericks followed it up by knocking off Northern Iowa in Arlington, 74-65.

While this Panther team shouldn’t be confused with the NCAA tournament teams of three and four years ago, this is the nonetheless a solid win for a program many thought would be entering a massive rebuilding project. The Mavericks have two more chances for early wins this week as they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UC Davis before facing a gauntlet of a schedule later this month.

5. ULM Warhawks (2-1), 6

The Warhawks opened the season with victories at Jackson State, 75-66, and at home against Millsaps College, 94-52. They followed that up with a good showing against Texas on Monday in a 65-55 loss.

While the two wins aren’t much to write home about, hanging in there against Texas certainly is. This week, road trips to Michigan State and Tennessee Tech await the dynamic duo of Travis Munnings and Michael Ertel, who are each averaging 14.7 points through three games.

6. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (2-0), 8

The Chanitcleers kicked off the season with a 91-47 win over Ferrum College and an 85-75 road win at Campbell. With Zac Culbertson averaging a cool 21 points and seven rebounds per game, Coastal will look to keep the momentum going with a trip to Tulane before the Northern Kentucky basketball tournament this weekend.

7. Troy Trojans (1-2), 5

The Trojans weren’t far off from catapulting up this list instead of down as a pair of potential marquee victories slipped just out of grasp. Troy opened with a 95-60 win over Fort Valley State, then gave the Bilikens all they wanted in a 62-58 loss to Saint Louis on the road. The Trojans closed the opening week with a nine-point loss at Pittsburgh.

Troy returns home this week for two winnable games against Southern Miss and Central Arkansas.

8. Texas State (1-0), 10

The Bobcats kicked off the season with a 10-point victory at home against an Air Force team that hasn’t had a winning season in five years, but it’s a Division I victory, which is more than a lot of Sun Belt teams could say in week one.

This week Texas State hosts Hardin-Simmons and goes on the road to face Drake.

9. Appalachian State Mountaineers (1-1), 7

The Mountaineers were another team with a good showing in a loss as they came up eight points short against Alabama. That came after an opening night 125-62 win over Mars Hill, good for the second most points in school history.

This week the Mountaineers will head to the Charleston Classic where they will open play against Purdue.

10. South Alabama Jaguars (1-1), 4

All the preseason hype wasn’t enough for the Jaguars to come close on the road at SEC power Auburn, as they fell 101-58 in Richie Riley’s debut as the Jags’ coach. They rebounded with a 106-76 win over Huntingdon.

There are a few chances for some solid wins this week as South Alabama hosts UT-Chattanooga, Jacksonville and Southeast Missouri State.

11. Arkansas-Little Rock (1-0), 11

An overtime victory against a Division II school... yeah this ranking is about right. This week the Trojans will be fed to the Wolves (Pack), literally, as they face Nevada.

12. Arkansas State (1-1), 12

A loss to Abilene Christian opened the season, which was only slightly remedied by an 89-54 win over NAIA Missouri Baptist. A tough trip to Grand Canyon awaits this week for the Red Wolves.