Category Archives: Sun Belt Conference

MTSU women’s coach: ‘I’d like to see three Sun Belt teams in NCAA tourney’

Just a couple more quick things to pass along before we close the book on the 2010 women’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Middle Tennessee women’s coach Rick Insell had some interesting things to say about the state of the Sun Belt after his Lady Raiders beat Arkansas-Little Rock for the conference title Tuesday.

Insell said that both MTSU and UALR belonged in the NCAA Tournament, but he also said that it’s important for other programs in the Sun Belt to not think that two teams is the limit.

“We just need to get the rest of the league doing that,” Insell said. “That’s going to get our RPI up. Instead of being somewhere around 13 or 14, we can move that up to about seven or eight. That’s going to help the league, and that’s going to help us get more than two teams into the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m a little selfish – I’d like to see us get three teams in.”

But Insell didn’t put all of the blame on Sun Belt teams. He also said that teams in the conference struggle to find big-time opponents who are willing to play them.

“They won’t allow us to go into the NCAA Tournament, but (nobody) will play us, and I’m talking about Little Rock, Western, Middle Tennessee, and you can come right on down the line,” Insell said. “We’re not an easy out for anybody, and most of those teams in those power conferences – what they’re trying to do is, they’re trying to line some wins up before they get in conference.

“Really and truly, we’ve got to come up with some type of solution where we can get a fair shake, and when I’m saying a fair shake, I’m talking about the Sun Belt Conference. We’ve got great coaches, we’ve got great teams, great players, and we can’t raise that RPI if we can’t get some of these teams from around the country to start playing us.”

According to RealTimeRPI.com, the Sun Belt currently ranks 16th in women’s conference RPI.

-Zach Greenwell

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Early Morning Outlook: Lady Tops move on; one team pulls big upset

Sunday’s action in the women’s Sun Belt Conference tournament saw things shake out mostly like they were expected to – with one big surprise. A quick recap of the quarterfinals:

The Lady Toppers (21-9) now meet No. 2 Middle Tennessee at 2:30 p.m. Monday. The Lady Raiders (23-5) cruised past 10th-seeded North Texas on Sunday, 106-66.

Western lost both of its games against MTSU in the regular season, falling by an average of 19.5 points. But senior forward Arnika Brown said during the Lady Toppers’ postgame news conference that the team just wants to let its effort speak for itself.

“As far as getting back, we’re pretty much going to let the playing kind of take over, and we’re just going to get out there and play our hearts out … and take it one possession at a time,” Brown said. “That’s about all we can do.

“We’re not going to sit here and speak on it, but we’re just going to get out there and play like we know how.”

MTSU Head Coach Rick Insell said that he was much more concerned about momentum than resting his players and that the Lady Raiders are in good enough shape to play 30-plus minutes each game.

So even though MTSU and Western have history, Insell said the Lady Toppers are simply a road block now.

“Western’s just another team that’s in our way,” he said. “We know where we’re headed – they are our rival school, but it’ll be a great game. They’ve got a great team, lot of good players, very well coached. We’ll just go out and play the game. I think they’ll lose a little sleep on us also tonight.”

  • Top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock didn’t have much trouble Sunday in a 73-60 win over No. 8 Arkansas State. The Trojans will meet No. 12 New Orleans at 12:15 p.m. Monday.
  • Yep. Once again, you read that right. New Orleans continues to be the Cinderella of the women’s bracket, upsetting fourth-seeded Denver 55-48.

This will be the first semifinal appearance for the Lady Privateers since 1998. The program hadn’t won two games in the same postseason since 1988.

“Yesterday, I opened this conversation with ‘Wow,’ and I think it’s probably the same thing tonight,” UNO Head Coach Amy Champion said in her postgame news conference. “This team amazes me day in and day out. This team is real, they’ve been real all year … and this is no surprise to me.”

Herald Sports Editor Jonathan Lintner will once again have full coverage of the Lady Toppers’ game Monday, and he will also be on the scene for the men’s semifinal matchup with top-seeded Troy at 6 p.m.

Be sure to visit wkuherald.com for game recaps as well as www.twitter.com/chheraldsports for live updates from both games. You can also find the latest Western news on the Herald Sports Facebook page.

-Zach Greenwell

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Early Morning Outlook: Surprises aplenty in women’s Sun Belt bracket

The first round of the women’s Sun Belt Conference tournament didn’t finish without a couple of twists Saturday. A few notes from the first day of action in Hot Springs:

  • First things first, No. 3 Western will indeed meet No. 6 South Alabama in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Jaguars (15-15, 9-9 SBC) held on to beat No. 11-seeded Louisiana Lafayette 82-76 in their first-round game.

The Lady Toppers (20-9, 14-4 SBC) split two games with South Alabama in the regular season. They lost 88-78 on Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala., but pulled out a 67-61 win on Feb. 17 in Bowling Green.

South Alabama Head Coach Rick Pietri said in his postgame news conference Saturday that beating Western is a tall order, but the Jaguars aren’t going to shy away from the opportunity.

“Those guys are really good, exceptionally talented,” Pietri said. “Their starting five is as talented as anybody’s in the league. Two All-Conference players, two players who have been All-Conference before that aren’t now, and they get to relax and watch us play.

“Clearly the odds are stacked against us, but we’re going to be here. We’re going to show up, and we’re going to play the game, and we’re going to see what happens.”

  • In other first-round news, No. 8 Arkansas State downed No. 9 Troy, despite trailing by nine with 11 minutes left. The Red Wolves will meet top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock at noon Sunday.
  • No. 4-seeded Denver also eliminated No. 13 Louisiana-Monroe with a 69-57 win. The Pioneers will meet the No. 12 seed, New Orleans, at 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
  • Yeah, you read that right. No. 12 New Orleans pulled a huge upset over No. 5 Florida Atlantic, 51-50.

UNO’s Nicole Holmes hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to send the Privateers, who won just four conference games in the regular season, to the quarterfinals.

“This was quite a win for us,” UNO Head Coach Amy Champion said in her postgame news conference. “When we arrived here, I don’t think anyone thought we could do it. Based on a number of circumstances that’s surrounded our program the last six or seven months, everything’s been such a doubt. Today we took another step forward in proving to people in this country that we are a competitive basketball team.”

  • UNO’s dramatic win wasn’t the only surprise of the night, as No. 10 seed North Texas upset No. 7 –seeded Florida International, 61-51. The Mean Green will next take on No. 2 Middle Tennessee at 2:15 p.m. Sunday.

Herald Sports Editor Jonathan Lintner will have full coverage of the Lady Toppers’ game against South Alabama, as well as the men’s quarterfinals matchup with Arkansas State at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

For more on the Lady Toppers’ preparation for the tournament, read the preview in Friday’s Herald.

-Zach Greenwell

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LIVE: Western vs. New Orleans

Click here for the Herald’s blog of Western vs. New Orleans

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Slaughter named Sun Belt player of the week

Senior guard A.J. Slaughter received his second Sun Belt Conference player of the week honor of the season on Tuesday.

Slaughter averaged 16.0 points per game this week as the Toppers beat Evansville and then-No. 24 Vanderbilt.

Slaughter was also the Sun Belt’s player of the week during the week of Nov. 17.

The Toppers return to the court against Louisville in Freedom Hall at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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Close win may benefit Tops more this season

After watching the Toppers’ 63-57 victory over Evansville, I came to the conclusion that the Western everyone knew last season is long gone. That being said, Ken McDonald should be happy with these close home wins (and the loss to Indiana State).

This team is not going to blow many teams out this season. It’s too young and too inexperienced, especially on the bench. Last season’s bench may have been short on talent, but it certainly wasn’t on experience. They were able to come in and provide minutes when they would hold onto the ball.

This team will have to make due with the great amount of young talent and potential it has, and the only way for young talent to grow is to be tested. For a team that essentially cruised at home last season, a loss or consistent close games at home is one of the best ways. It allows them to be in their comfort zone while being tested. It could turn out to be just exactly what makes this team tick into March.

Making players like freshmen Caden Dickerson and Jameson Tipping play minutes in the beginning and then letting them sit and watch how a team with a top-heavy roster wins games helps them learn, and on-the-go learning is how young players improve.

So any seed of doubt that Western can’t compete in an already-depeleted Sun Belt Conference because they play almost every game close is ill-advised. Playing in a one-bid conference where winning the conference regular season and tournament games are key, a few bumps in the non-conference schedule will set this team up for success when the game is tight late in February and March.

-David Harten

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Rogers named SBC defensive player of the week

 

Freshman libero Sarah Rogers has been named the the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week for her effort in last week’s matches.  
The Lady Toppers (19-7, 8-3 SBC) won all three of their matchups last weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, New Orleans, and Louisiana-Lafeyette and Rogers led the way with 45 digs in the three matches. She also recorded four service aces.
Rogers is averaging 3.83 digs per set and leads Western with 375 digs this year. She needs 103 more to crack the top ten in WKU history in only her first year.

Freshman libero Sarah Rogers has been named the the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week award for her effort in last week’s matches.  The Lady Toppers (19-7, 8-3 SBC) won all three of their matchups last weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, New Orleans, and Louisiana-Lafeyette and Rogers led the way with 45 digs in the three matches. She also recorded four service aces.Rogers is averaging 3.83 digs per set and leads Western with 375 digs this year. She needs 103 more to crack the top ten in WKU history in only her first year.

 

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