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Sun Belt Preview: An always unpredictable conference will be fun to watch once again

Five teams received first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll as Fun Belt season is near

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Louisiana vs Tennessee
Louisiana guard Themus Fulks led the Sun Belt with 6.0 assists per game last season and played a big role in the Ragin’ Cajuns going dancing,
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss won the regular season crown after being picked in last place a season ago. The Golden Eagles are the only team in the top six in the preseason poll to not receive a first-place vote. They also feature the Preseason Player of the Year in Austin Crowley.

James Madison is entering just its second season in the league and was tabbed as the favorite. South Alabama was the eight seed in the Sun Belt tournament last season and went all the way to the title game.

The conclusion: buckle up for what’s going to be a wild ride.

2023-24 Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll

  1. James Madison (7) - 176
  2. App State (2) – 159
  3. Old Dominion (1) - 154
  4. Southern Miss - 148
  5. Louisiana (2) - 136
  6. South Alabama (2) - 129
  7. Marshall - 119
  8. Troy - 91
  9. Arkansas State - 84
  10. Texas State - 72
  11. Georgia State - 69
  12. Coastal Carolina - 59
  13. Georgia Southern - 42
  14. ULM – 32

Preseason Player of the Year: Austin Crowley (Southern Miss senior guard)

The Favorite

James Madison

The Dukes enter their second season in the conference. They posted a 22-11 overall record and 12-6 mark in the SBC. The 22 wins were the most for the program since the 1981-82 season.

James Madison returns 12 upperclassmen from last years team, including leading scorer Terrence Edwards Jr. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year was named to the Preseason First Team. He notched 13.3 points per game and shot a team-best 45.8% from 3-point land.

Depth will prove key for JMU once again. It ranked second in the nation in bench points with 32.7 a game last season.

The Contenders

App State

The Mountaineers enter this year with lofty expectations as they received their highest preseason ranking since joining the Sun Belt a decade ago. They return 72% of their scoring, including their top two scorers in Donovan Gregory (12.5 ppg) and Terence Harcum (11.2 ppg).

Gregory was named to the Preseason First Team. He is the first App State player to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 150 steals in his career.

App State is coming off a 16-16 season and has posted at least a .500 record in each of Dustin Kerns’ four seasons at the helm.

Old Dominion

Jeff Jones enters year 11 with the Monarchs as they head into their second season in the conference. ODU returns six players from last year’s team that went 11-7 in the SBC and finished 19-12 overall. It marked the eighth time in Jones’ tenure that the team went at least .500.

Preseason First Team selection Chaunce Jenkins posted 13.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 2023. He notched 20 points five times last season.

Southern Miss

The Golden Eagles had an incredibly successful first campaign in the Sun Belt last season. They went 14-4 in league play and claimed the regular season championship after being picked 14th in the preseason. They were upset by South Alabama in the SBC quarterfinals and went on to represent the conference in the NIT.

Southern Miss executed the biggest single-season improvement in NCAA Division I history, according to the NCAA records. It went 25-8, an 18-win improvement from its 7-26 mark in 2022. The Golden Eagles were also a perfect 15-0 at home last season.

Austin Crowley was named the Preseason Player of the Year. He led the Golden Eagles at 16.0 points per game. The guard was also effective on the defensive end as his 63 total steals ranked third in the conference. He is one of two returning starters along with Mo Arnold (4.6 ppg).


The Ragin’ Cajuns finished one game back of Southern Miss in the regular season last season before winning all three games in the conference tourney to take home the title and head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

Themus Fulks emerged as one of top guards in the conference and was named to the Preseason First Team. He led the SBC in assists at 6.0 and is the team’s leading returning scorer at 9.2. He stepped up in the biggest moment with a career-high 23 points in the title game win over South Alabama.

The Rest

South Alabama

The Jaguars made an improbable run to the SBC title game last March as the No. 8 seed. Including their three wins at the conference tournament, they won eight of their final 10 games of the season.

South Alabama said goodbye to its top four leading scorers. Tyrell Jones (9.2 ppg) is their top returner.


The Herd embarks on its second year in the Sun Belt. It doubled its win total from the previous season and finished 24-8. Marshall finished one game back in the standings with a 13-5 mark in the conference. Dan D’Antoni’s squad finished top 10 in the nation in assists (5th – 17.5), blocks (6th – 5.2) and scoring offense (8th – 81.8). Kamdyn Curfman is the team’s leading returning scorer as he posted 11.5 points per game.


The Trojans are coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons. They tied for fifth with an 11-7 conference record. Christyon Eugene is the leading returning scorer after notching 12 points per game. He was named to the Preseason First Team.

Arkansas State

The Red Wolves finished next-to-last in the conference with a 4-14 mark last season. They have finished above .500 just once in the last six years. Bryan Hodgson returns six players as he embarks on his first season. Arkansas State brings back two of its top three scorers in Caleb Fields and Terrance Ford Jr.

Texas State

After going 6-12 in the conference during the regular season, the Bobcats made a run to the SBC semifinals before coming up short to Louisiana. They hit the transfer portal hard and brought in Coleton Benson (Army), Chris Nix (UT Martin), Christian Turner (Troy), Elijah Tate (UAB) and Joshua O’Garro (Oklahoma and San Jose State).

Georgia State

The Panthers finished last in the Sun Belt last season with a 3-15 conference record and lost their last eight contests. Dwon Odom is the top returning scorer and notched 13.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last year.

Coastal Carolina

The Chanticleers went 5-13 in the conference and 11-20 overall last season. They lost their top five scorers. The top returner is Jimmy Nichols, who posted 7.1 points per game.

Georgia Southern

The Eagles went 9-9 in the conference last year and tied for seventh. Tyren Moore is the team’s leading returning scorer as he posted 9.7 points a night.


The Warhawks finished 7-11 in the SBC in 2023. They will be led once again by Tyreke Locure, who led the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) and steals (1.8) last season. He also tallied 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.