Thursday, March 6, 2008

Conference Tournament Predictions: Sun Belt*

Much like the Patriot League, I missed the first round of the Sun Belt tournament last night, so we're starting late there too. This is a little more forgivable since the Sun Belt has 13 teams and thus the top 3 teams have yet to play due to byes, and there are 3 rounds to forecast. Still, I need to get these out before the actual tournament begins.

While the Sun Belt is known to PSU fans as the home of Florida International and the whipping boy of Division 1-A football, it is actually a decent basketball teams, having not one but two teams that could argue for an at large berth into the tournament, the Jaguars of South Alabama and the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. Both have only 2 losses in conference and impressive non conference resumes. South Bama beat Mississippi State and played close against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss; and Western Kentucky beat Michigan and Nebraska (ok, who hasn't) but has played close games against former #1 Tennessee and Gonzaga. South Bama has the top seed due to sweeping the season series from WKU, and Arkansas Little Rock actually has the 2 seed due to winning the "West" division of the Sun Belt. Whatever.

FIRST ROUND (already completed):
8 New Orleans 65
9 Denver 60

5 Louisiana Lafayette 60
12 Troy 70

4 Middle Tennessee 74
13 Louisiana Monroe 69

6 North Texas 85
11 Arkansas State 63

7 Florida Atlantic 91
10 Florida International 64

QUARTERFINALS (at Mobile, AL, with rest of tournament):
1 South Alabama
8 New Orleans

4 Middle Tennessee
12 Troy

3 Western Kentucky
6 North Texas

2 Arkansas Little Rock
7 Florida International

1 South Alabama
4 Middle Tennessee

2 Arkansas Little Rock
3 Western Kentucky

CHAMPIONSHIP (can be seen Tuesday 3/11 on ESPN2):
1 South Alabama
3 Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky's at large status is a lot shakier than South Alabama's, so they'll be the more desperate team in the championship game. Plus, since both regular season contests were close contests (65-61 and 69-64), one would figure that the third would go the way of the Hilltoppers. The Sun Belt should end up getting both teams into the Dance if this happens.

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