Favorite(s)- Middle Tennessee State 27-4 19-1
The Blue Raiders have dominated the Sun Belt basically from start to finish. They finished 19-1 in conference and 27-4 overall in a decent position for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should a repeat of last year’s Sun Belt Tournament occur and they fail to reach the finals and walk away with the title. The veteran squad (12 juniors and seniors) undoubtedly learned from the experience last March and are looking to finish the job and leave nothing to chance.
Contender(s)-South Alabama 17-11 14-6, Arkansas State 18-11 12-8
The South Alabama Jaguars began the season by beating Florida State in Tallahassee and have used their depth (9 players getting over 16 minutes) to try and wear down teams all season and also boast one of the biggest double-double threats in the country in senior center Augustine Rubit.
The Red Wolves are the only team to blemish the record of MTSU in the Sun Belt, garnering a 66-60 OT win in January. The trio of Brandon Peterson, Ed Townsel and Trey Finn are the motor that makes Arkansas State run. The threesome combines for 33.9 points and 17.4 rebounds a game. In the win over the Blue Raiders they combined for 29 points and 20 rebounds.
Team Likely to pull an upset- Western Kentucky 16-15 10-10
If you’re looking for an upset why not go with the defending champions. The Hilltoppers had a crazy year last year, they won a game on a final possession with 6 players on the floor, had a coach fired not soon after and entered the Sun Belt tourney at just 11-18 and won the thing. Western Kentucky knows better than most that anything can happen in March and are out to prove last year was no fluke.
3 Key Players- Augustine Rubit-South Alabama, Tymell Murphy-Florida International, Brandon Peterson-Arkansas State
The Jaguars’ junior center is a beast on the boards averaging nearly 11 a contest on top of the 19 points he nets. Rubit is capable of controlling a game both on the boards and on the scoreboard with 17 double-doubles this season.
FIU’s Tymell Murphy and his 15.1 points and 6.9 rebounds are capable of going off on anyone and carrying the Panthers. Ask Florida A&M who saw him go for 24 and 20 and I’m pretty sure Louisiana-Lafayette hopes to never see him again after he took them for 44 points and 32 rebounds in a season sweep.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves have their own senior forward to lead them, Brandon Peterson. The 6-8 Peterson averages nearly as many rebounds, 9.4 as points 10.2 and he put up 15 and 9 in a win over Middle Tennessee State, the only league loss for the Blue Raiders.
2013 SUN BELT TOURNAMENT
March 8-11 Hot Springs, AR
#8 Louisiana Lafayette vs. #9 North Texas
#7 Florida Atlantic vs. #10 Troy
#6 Western Kentucky vs. #11 Louisiana Monroe
#1 Middle Tennessee State vs. #8/9
#4 Florida International vs. #5 Arkansas Little Rock
#2 Arkansas State vs. #7/10
#3 South Alabama vs. #6/11