Since the Sun Belt Conference began playing a postseason tournament in 1977 a three peat has only occurred twice; the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers from 1982-84 and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers from 2001-2003. The Hilltoppers who have the most titles with nine have a chance to repeat the feat this year after back-to-back titles in 2012-13.
They are 8-2 in the Sun Belt two games behind conference –leading Georgia State, but with nine games and a season-ending rematch with Georgia State a top seed is not out of the question. For Bob McKillops’s bunch it doesn’t seem to matter where they finish as long as they qualify for tournament. In 2012 they were seeded 7th and defeated the #2, #3 and #5 on the way to the title and the following year as a 6 seed they again beat the #3, #2 and #4 seeds to claim their second title in a row.
Leading the way for this year’s edition of the Hilltoppers is a pair of juniors who happen to have won the last two Sun Belt Tournament MVP awards. Forward George Fant who averaged nearly 15 points and four rebounds as a freshman to lead WKU to four wins in four days for the 2012 title leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per contest and is second in scoring at 13.7 points. Guard T.J. Price averaged 18 points in the 2013 tournament and now leads the team in scoring this season with 16.8, he is also second behind Fant in rebounding with 4.6 per contest.
When the Sun Belt season switches to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the tournament don’t bother looking at the standings just find where Western Kentucky is in the bracket and know that they are king of the mountain until someone knocks them off. This year though they may actually get an extra day of rest before defending their title.