Sun Belt doesn’t look like two-bid league

After a successful non-conference run for Western Kentucky, with wins over Louisville, Southern Illinois and Georgia, things have considerably slowed down. As we get through the second weekend of Sun Belt conference play, it doesn’t look like the Sun Belt will be sending two teams back to the NCAA Tournament, after sending South Alabama as an at-large bid and Western as an automatic bid a year ago.

Let’s take a look at the current RPI rankings for some of the better teams of the Sun Belt (via kenpom.com):

91. Middle Tennessee State (11-5, 5-0)

111. Western Kentucky (10-6, 4-1)

143. South Alabama (10-6, 3-2)

210. Arkansas-Little Rock (11-5, 4-1)

A year ago, Western didn’t have a win over a top-5o RPI team and was ranked about 35th going into the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Most people you talked to said that the Toppers were going to have to win the Sun Belt Tournament to make it to the NCAA.

Also contributing to the odds that the Sun Belt will be a one-bid leauge is the fact that the teams really don’t have any more opportunities for “quality wins” over top-50 and even top-100-caliber teams.

KenPom.com has some very interesting statistics, projecting the rest of the season for teams. In Western’s case, the site predicts the team loses two more games the rest of the season (at MTSU and at Arkansas State). The site projects a 70-68 win over MTSU on Thursday night.

It predicts Western will win 11 more games this season, giving head coach Ken McDonald the first 20-win season of his career.

While the Sun Belt is somewhat weak this season, with just six teams with winning records right now, three of those teams look to be favorites for the NCAA Tournament (South Al., MTSU and WKU). It could be a very interesting week in Hot Springs in March. Here’s another interesting fact for you while Hot Springs is on your mind: an East Division team will have to play a first-round home game before heading to Hot Springs. The way the seeding works is that the division winners get byes in the first round.

As far as my early projections for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament:

WKU should either be the 1-seed or the 3-seed, but as we know, this is one strange team when it comes to consistency.

WKU may be better off being the 3-seed. It would mean they would most likely draw the West Division winner (most likely UALR). If they were the 1-seed, WKU would play South Alabama in the semi-finals and probably MTSU in the finals.

Each Sun Belt regular season game is going to be critical for the sake of seeding.

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2 Comments

Filed under Banter, Men's Basketball, Sun Belt Conference

2 responses to “Sun Belt doesn’t look like two-bid league

  1. Another thing about the Sun Belt, many of the SBC’s most talented players have been out with injury, especially FIU. Look for them to make a run. They have been decimated and are getting 4 starters back by the end of the year, I think.

    An article was written about this in Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal today:

    http://blueraiders.dnj.com/article/20090112/BLUERAIDERS02/901120321

  2. Sun Belt probably won’t be a two bid conference; it’s going to be one of the three teams you mentioned earlier; the only way for an at-large team to sneak in is a one or two loss conference schedule at absolute most. They’d need a record that couldn’t be ignored, regardless of out-of-conference wins. My gut says Western is going to be the automatic (and only) bid this year, but I can’t stop thinking Middle Tennessee State has a great shot this year. Their mens team needs to catch up to the ladies.

    We’re actually looking for Sun Belt/WKU bloggers at http://www.collegefanz.com, the largest college sports site on the net. Our free and easy-t0-use blogs offer the same audience and platform to all programs, big and small. I think your blog would gain a good following there; some of our more popular blogs are on smaller conferences and programs (actually one of our most popular blogs deals only with Temple basketball).

    Take a look around and let me know what you think at mgleeson@collegefanz.com. We’d love a WKU representative to spread awareness about what’s going on there. Hope to hear from you soon!

    Mike

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