SB Nation Dallas
Stay connected for news and updates Follow @sbndallas
Like us to subscribe
Top seeded Mississippi Valley State (20-12) is hoping to move to the field of 68 in the NCAA Tournament, with one game remaining against No. 2 seed Texas Southern in the 2012 SWAC Tournament Championship game.
The Devil Dogs have been shaky as of late, losing their first and only regular season SWAC game last weekend before scraping by rival Jackson State 63-60 in the opening round. Meanwhile, upstart Texas Southern (13-17) moved past Alcorn State 60-55 and will look to upset Valley, who swept TSU in the regular season in 2012.
Valley's win Saturday would cap a remarkable run, after winning only one game in non-conference play before a 17-game SWAC winning streak.
Date / Time: Saturday, March 10, 7 p.m. CT
Location: Special Events Center, Garland, Texas
Click here for the 2012 SWAC basketball Tournament bracket.
The Braves would lead by as much as six in the first half, on an Anthony Nieves three pointer, but most of Friday's semifinal was a one or two possession game for the bulk of the day.Omar Strong broke a 32-32 tie for the Tigers just over two minutes into the second half, and Texas Southern kept a small but significant leaed for the rest of the game.
The winner of Thursday night's semfinal between No. 5 seed Arkansas Pine-Bluff and No. 1 overall seed Mississippi Valley State will meet the Tigers Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.
Click here for a complete look at the 2012 SWAC Tournament bracket.
For more news and info on everything in the world of March Madness, be sure to check out SB Nation's college basketball page.
The 2012 SWAC tournament continues on Friday with a doubleheader of semifinal games at the Garland Special Events Center in Garland, Texas. Friday's games will decide which teams will play in the championship game on Saturday and get the conference's lone invitation to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
No. 2 Texas Southern takes on No. 6 Alcorn State in the first game of the day, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. TSU is coming off a 75-62 win over Alabama A&M on Wednesday. They will be hoping that Alcorn State is not carrying over any momentum from a 103-79 outburst against Prairie View A&M on Thursday.
In the second game of the semifinals, top-seeded Mississippi Valley State takes on No. 5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff. That game starts at 8:00 p.m. Mississippi Valley squeaked by eighth-seeded Jackson State, 63-60, in the opening round. Pine Bluff beat Alabama State by a score of 60-56 on Thursday.
Follow the SWAC tournament live in this StoryStream from SB Nation Dallas.
The second game in the SWAC quarterfinals needed overtime to decide the game, and it was Arkansas-Pine Bluff who was victorious as they defeated the Alabama St. Hornets 60-56. Both teams struggled on offense tonight with Alabama State shooting 30 percent from the field with Arkansas-Pine Bluff shooting a slightly better 38 percent from the field.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff did have three players to score in double digits with Mitchell Anderson scoring 16 points but it took 18 shots to get there and Daniel Broughton chipped in with 13 points. At the end of regulation it looked like Alabama State was going to win as they were up 48-41 with under five minutes left, but Arkansas-Pine Bluff went on an 8-2 run to get within one point. Arkansas-Pine Bluff was down two points with 29 seconds left, so they milked the clock and tied the game on a Savalace Townsend layup with three seconds left.
In overtime Arkansas-Pine Bluff started out by going on a 6-1 run to take a five-point lead, but Alabama State got back in the game when they scored four quick points to get within one. Mitchell Anderson then put Arkansas-Pine Bluff up three points on a dunk, and then the game was sealed when Townsend hit one of two free throws to go up four.
Arkansas-Pine Bluf now takes on top seeded Mississippi Valley State in the semifinal round.
For everything about March Madness over at SB Nation's college basketball page.
It appears as though a hot April could not lead to a Cinderalla story in the NCAA Tournament for the TCU Horned Frogs. The Frogs were riding plenty of momentum as they entered the quarterfinals of the 2012 Mountain West Conference Tournament on Thursday, but could not get past their opponents. The fifth-seeded TCU fell to the No. 4 seed Colorado St. Rams by a final score of 81-60.
The Rams took a 16-point lead into halftime and kept their distance in the second half, despite the Frogs regrouping for 34 points after the break.
TCU guard Hank Thorns led all scorers in the game with 19 points, also adding five rebounds and five assists, but couldn't lead his team to the win.
TCU is heading home now, while the Rams will advance and face the No. 1 San Diego St. Aztecs in the semifinals on Friday.
For updates and perspective on the TCU Horned Frogs, please visit Frogs O' War, for all things Mountain west Conference, check out Mountain West Connection and find everything about March Madness over at SB Nation's college basketball page.
It appears as though the TCU Horned Frogs are on the verge of having their season finally come to an end. The 2012 Mountain West Tournament kicked off on Thursday and TCU is in danger of heading home after just the first round. Heading into halftime in Las Vegas, the Frogs are trailing badly against the Colorado St. Rams, 42-26.
The Horned Frogs (17-13, 7-7 MWC) entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed, mostly due to an extremely hot February. The Rams (19-10, 8-6 MWC) are the No. 4 seed and both teams are fighting to remain on the bubble for the 2012 NCAA Tournament. A loss today would wipe out those hopes for TCU altogether.
Hank Thorns and Kyan Anderson have seven points each for the Horned Frogs through the first half.
Should the Frogs be able to come back and pull off the win, they would face the No. 1 San Diego St. Aztecs in the semifinals on Friday.
The Alcorn State Braves blew out the Prairie View Panthers in their Thursday afternoon SWAC tournament game by a score of 103-79 in Garland, Texas. By winning, Alcorn State moves on to the next round where they'll face the Texas Southern Tigers in the semifinals.
The Braves were led by a 26-point performance by Kendrick McDonald and Kedorian Sullivan and Anthony Nieves each chipped in 16. Martrevious Sanders also came off the bench to add 12. For the Panthers, only one player reached double digits in scoring, Louis Munks, who scored 13, and the team's 38.9 percent shooting percentage wasn't close to Alcorn State's 63 percent.
The No. 4 seeded Alabama State plays No. 5 seeded Arkansas-Pine Bluff tonight at 9 p.m. (ET) and the winner of that game goes on to face Mississippi Valley State in the semifinals.
In the month of February, there hasn't been a hotter team in the country than TCU.
After getting off to a slow 12-8 start in head coach Jim Christian's fourth year in Fort Worth, they've beaten ranked UNLV and New Mexico squads and lost in OT to a ranked San Diego State team in the last few weeks.
But at 17-13, they'll probably need to advance at least to the Mountain West Tournament Finals to ensure an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Their first round opponent, Colorado State, is another team on the the bubble. The Rams split the season series with the Horned Frogs, with both teams holding serve on their home courts with narrow wins.
TCU is a deep team with six players averaging at least 8 points a game, but their unquestioned leader is 5'9 senior Hank Thorns, a fearless shooter and excellent play-maker who averages 13.4 points, 4.6 assists and 2.5 rebounds a game.
Like the Horned Frogs, Colorado State gets most of their scoring from the perimeter, with the duo of 6'2 junior guard Dorian Green and 6'3 junior guard Wes Eikmeier averaging nearly 30 points a game while bombing away from long-distance.
The team who finds their shooting touch quicker in Las Vegas should have the edge while the winner will likely face No. 1 seed San Diego State on Friday.
The 4:30 PM game will be broadcast nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
The 2012 SWAC Tournament will resume on Thursday with the final two quarterfinal matchups, live from the Garland Special Events Center in Garland, Texas. On Wednesday, Mississippi Valley State and Texas Southern advanced to the semifinals. On Thursday, two more teams will join them.
The day's first matchup pits Prairie View A&M against Alcorn State at 1:30 p.m. EST. Prairie View is the No. 3 seed, while Alcorn State is the No. 6 seed. Prairie View won both regular-season games, topping Alcorn State by eight points on January 5 and three points on March 3.
The second matchup will be No. 4 seeded Alabama State against No. 5 seeded Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The two teams split during the regular season, with Alabama State winning by six on January 9 and Arkansas-Pine Bluff winning by one on Feburary 6. All games will be broadcasted on SWAC TV.
For more news and score updates on Championship Week head on over to SB Nation's College Basketball page.
The No. 1 seed Miss Valley St Delta Devils snuck past the No. 8 seed Jackson St. Tigers 63-60 to reach the semifinals of the SWAC tournament. Jackson State was able to stay with Mississippi Valley with the three-point shot where they made 7-of-15 and shot 52 percent overall.
Jackson State had three players in double figures with Kelsey Howard leading their scoring punch with 16 points while making 7-of-13, but it was not enough to get them past Mississippi Valley. Mississippi Valley had 15 points from Paul Crosy and 12 points and five steals from Cor-J Cox.
Mississippi Valley looked like they had this game wrapped up as they were leading 55-47 with 6:50 left, but Jackson State came back to get within one point when Kelsey Howard made a layup with 34 seconds. Brent Arrington sealed the win for Mississippi Valley by making a pair of free throws to go up three. Jackson State had a pair of chances to tie, but both three-point shots fell short.
For more news and score updates on Championship Week head on over to SB Nation's College Basketball page.
Mississippi Valley State took advantage of 12 first half turnovers by Jackson State to grab a 34-29 halftime lead in the 2012 SWAC Tournament.
Jackson State actually shot 50 percent from the field going 11-22 but had 11 fewer attempts thanks to those 12 turnovers. Kelsey Howard leads the way for the Tigers with eight points while Jonathan Lewis finished with six. Travis Ballard and Ramond Gregory finished with three points each.
Paul Crosby also has eight points at the half to lead Mississippi Valley State. Brent Arrington added six points and five steals while Terrence Joyner finished with five. The Delta Devils hit 39 percent of its shots but recorded eight steals, came up with four offensive rebounds and only turned the ball over four times to build a slight lead at the break.
Texas Arlington jumped out to an early lead and cruised home to a 96-48 win over Nicholls State. The Mavericks jumped out to a 42-19 lead at the half and poured it on in the Colonels in the second half.
Bo Ingram scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Ingram hit 5-10 shots from beyond-the-arc. LaMarcus Reed added 17 points while Bradley Gay added 15 points off the bench. Cameron Catlett added 12 points and a game-high five steals. The Mavericks hit 52 percent of their shots from the field, 47 percent from beyond-the-arc and an impressive 29-39 free throw attempts in the game.
Jeremy Smith led the Colonels with 17 points and Dantrell Thomas added 15. Texas Arlington held Nicholls State to just 23 percent shooting in the game and were out rebounded by a 46-30 count.
For all your March Madness news and scores, go check out SB Nation's college basketball page.
The 2012 Southland Tournament is underway in Katy, TX. The third game of Wednesday's quarterfinals pits the No. 1 seed Texas-Arlington Mavericks against the No. 8 seed Nicholls St. Colonels. So far, the game pretty closely resembles a tournament matchup between a No. 1 seed and a No. 8 seed. At halftime, Arlington leads by a score of
The Mavericks jumped out to a big lead and did a good job at keeping the distance. They held a 24 point lead with over four minutes left to go in the first half.
Bo Ingram, a forward on the Mavericks, is handily leading all scorers in the game. At halftime, he has 18 points and three rebounds.
If the Mavericks prevail, which they likely will, they will advance to the semifinals. Their opponents on Thursday will be the winner of Wednesday's quarterfinal nightcap pitting No. 5 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners vs. No. 4 McNeese St. Cowboys.
The opening round of the 2012 Conference USA Tournament has already seen two Texas teams fall short and get eliminated. The No. 7 Rice Owls fell to the No. 10 seed East Carolina Pirates in the opening game and just a couple of hours later, the 11th-seeded SMU Mustangs were being ushered out of town with a 74-56 loss to the No. 6 seed Marshall Thundering Herd.
SMU fell behind 33-26 entering halftime and in the second half Marshall only extended their lead. Ultimately, the final score was no real surprise in a game pitting a 13-19 team against a 19-12 team.
Rodney Clinkscales ended up with a solid game for the Mustangs in the losing effort. The guard put up 17 points, also adding three rebounds and two steals. Jalen Jones added 11 points and five rebounds for SMU.
The Thundering Herd will now advance to Thursday's quarterfinals to play against the No. 3 seed Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
Texas Southern broke up a tight game in the first half and pulled away from Alabama A&M in the second 30 minutes for a 75-62 victory on Wednesday in the opening round of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.
TSU will play the winner of the first-round game Thursday between No. 3 Prairie View A&M and No. 6 Alcorn State. That will be in the quarterfinals on Friday. Fred Sturdivant led Texas Southern with 14 points off the bench to lead the Tigers. Starters D'Angeleo Scott, Omar Strong and Aaron Clayburn added 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively for the No. 2-seeded Tigers.
The game was tied at 25-25 late in the opening half, but Texas Southern jumped on the Bulldogs right out ot the gate after halftime to salt away the victory.
The 2012 Conference USA tournament is underway in Memphis. The opening round began on Wednesday and already one game is in the books, with the No. 7-seeded Rice Owls falling just short of advancing following a loss to No. 10 East Carolina Pirates.
The winner of this game will advance to Thursday's quarterfinals and will play against the No. 3 seed Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
Rodney Clinkscales of the Mustangs is having a solid game so far, with 11 points, two rebounds and a steal. London Giles has put up eight points for SMU. On the Marshall side, guard DeAndre Kane has put up 11 points, also picking up three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The Mustangs are shooting just 39.1 percent from the floor, including a 25 percent rate on three-point attempts.
A dominating 23-7 regular season and a 15-1 conference record will be all for nothing for UT-Arlington if they can't win the Southland Conference Tournament in Houston this week, as the Southland is clearly a one-bid conference.
The Mavericks, the No. 1 seed, begin first round play against No. 8 Nicholls State on Wednesday.
The Colonels, who finished the year with a 10-19 overall record, lost the first meeting between the two schools this year 85-55.
UT-Arlington is led by 6'5 senior G LaMarcus Reed III, who is averaging 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 46.4% shooting this year.
They weren't able to pull out a signature non-conference win, but they were competitive in losses to Texas, Baylor and Tulsa earlier in the season.
The 6:00 PM game will not be televised but the Southland Conference will update a live stream of the game on their website. If the Mavericks can make it to the conference championship game, it will be nationally televised on ESPN2 at 2:00 PM on Saturday.
While the Mean Green came up short Tuesday, Tony Mitchell displayed a tantalizing skill-set in their 74-70 loss. If he stays in school, he could develop into a lottery pick while North Texas could have a chance at making a run in the NCAA Tournament.
The top two seeds in the SWAC will begin tournament play in Garland, Texas on Wednesday when near-perfect Mississippi Valley State (17-1 in conference play) tips off against in-state rival Jackson State (7-23, 5-13), while No. 2 seed Texas Southern (13-17, 12-16) takes on Alabama A&M (7-20, 5-13).
The Delta Devils came a game short of recording the first perfect regular season of SWAC play since 1979 when they lost the season finale to Arkansas-Pine Bluff 78-67. Valley's 17 game winning streak came after they started the regular season 1-11 in non-conference play. Meanwhile. TSU enters tournament play coming off of a 54-51 win over Alcorn State.
Texas Southern vs. Alabama A&M, 12:30 p.m. CT
Mississippi Valley State vs. Jackson State, 8 p.m. CT
For more March Madness coverage, be sure to visit SB Nation's college basketball news page.
A whole host of would-be Cinderella squads will tip off at the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday in the C-USA Tournament. All eight teams playing in the first round have NCAA Tournament hopes rest that solely in winning the conference tournament itself. The consensus among bracketology experts is that the C-USA will send only two teams as potential at-large bids - Memphis and Southern Miss, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded schools in the tournament.
SMU (13-18) would advance to play No. 3 seed Tulsa if they can beat Marshall, who is floating on the bubble as a "first four out" team by many bracketologists.
All four games are airing on CSS, and can be viewed online here with a subscription account to CBS.
Game 1: Rice (7) vs. East Carolina (10), Noon CT
Game 2: Marshall (6) vs. SMU (11), 2:30 p.m. CT
Game 3: UTEP (8) vs. Houston (9), 6:30 p.m. CT
Game 4: UAB (5) vs. Tulane (12), 9 p.m. CT
After a 20-win season and a post-season berth in 2011 that had many thinking Matt Doherty might have turned a corner, the Mustangs' spectacular plunge down the C-USA standings has the embattled coach on very, very thin ice.
North Texas led by as many as 13 points in the second half before a big comeback by Western Kentucky delivered the Hilltoppers the Sun Belt Tournament championship and an automatic birth into the NCAA Tournament.
Tyler Hall's jumper gave the Mean Green a 55-42 lead with 12:51 remaining before the comeback began. It took Western Kentucky about six minutes to erase that lead when they tied the game 59-59 on a Teeng Akol jump shot with just under six minutes to go in the game. George Fant put the Hilltoppers up 67-66 with 2:52 to go and North Texas would never lead again.
Teeng Akol led the Hilltoppers with 25 points and six boards. George Fant added 17 points and seven rebounds while Kahlil McDonald added 14 points off the bench.
For more coverage of March Madness, be sure to check out SB Nation's college basketball page.
North Texas leads Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Championship Game 32-30 after one half of play. After an extremely tight back and forth game in the early goings, UNT broke away on an 11-2 run thanks in part to six points from Jacob Holmen.
Hilltoppers forward Teen Akol is the only scorer in double digits at the half, with 12 points, two blocks and two rebounds. Mean Green forward Tony Mitchell leads UNT in scoring with 9 points and four rebounds. Both teams have shot well at the charity stripe, with WKU a perfect 6-of-6 and UNT 5-of-6. Statistically, both teams have been evenly matched through one half - WKU has 19 rebounds to UNT's 18, and both teams have seven turnover.
The winner of tonight's game advances to the NCAA Tournament with the Sun Belt's automatic bid.
For more coverage of March Madness, be sure to check out SB Nation's college basketball page.
After No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee State and No. 3 seed Denver were upset earlier in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, North Texas has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament without playing a team seeded higher than No. 5.
They defeated the No. 9 seed Arkansas State on Monday night 76-72 and now play No. 7 seed Western Kentucky in the conference championship Tuesday.
It's the third straight championship game appearance for Johnny Jones' program: they lost 64-43 to Arkansas-Little Rock last season after defeating Troy 66-63 in 2010.
Western Kentucky, like North Texas, has overcome a mediocre regular season to go on a real run in the conference tournament, winning three straight games and taking down the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the process.
If the Hilltoppers, at 14-18 overall, manage to upset the Mean Green, the Sun Belt will be represented by a team with a losing record in the NCAA Tournament. Indeed, there's a good chance that whoever wins the game will be sent to play in the First Four on the Tuesday before the first round of the Big Dance.
Game time/date: 7:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Location: Summit Arena, Hot Springs, Ark.
North Texas will make its third straight trip to the Sun Belt final after pulling out a 76-72 win over Arkansas State on Monday. The Mean Green will play either Denver or Western Kentucky in the tournament final on Tuesday.
Jacob Holman led North Texas with 21 points including five three-point baskets. Holman hit 8-11 shots and played 39 minutes in the contest. Alzee Williams added 12 points while Tony Mitchell and Brandan Walton added 11 points each. Roger Franklin also finished in double figures with 10 points.
North Texas knocked off the fourth seed Louisiana Lafayette 65-62 on Sunday thanks to a Brandan Walton three-pointer. The Mean Green can earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a win on Tuesday.
For more college basketball news and analysis head on over to SB Nation's College Basketball page.
North Texas faces Arkansas State Monday night in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
The two teams split their regular-season meetings, with the Red Wolves pulling out a 75-72 home win on Jan. 7 and the Mean Green holding serve with a 76-64 win in Denton on Jan. 28.
In Sunday's quarterfinals, North Texas, the No. 5 seed, defeated the No. 4 seed Louisiana-Lafayette 65-62. Junior guard Brandon Walton was the hero, leading the Mean Green with 16 points and hitting the game-winning three pointer with 8 seconds left.
Arkansas State, the No. 9 seed with a 14-19 record, had the biggest upset of the tournament so far, defeating 25-6 Middle Tennessee State, the regular season champion.
The 6:00 PM game will be streamed online at ESPN3 while Tuesday's championship game will be on ESPN2.
In a tough opening-round game, North Texas was able to sneak by Louisiana-Lafayette 65-62, advancing to the semifinals of the Sun Belt Tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Mean Green won with a balanced offensive attack, as four different players scored in double digits, with junior guard Brandan Walton leading the way with 16.
While Tony Mitchell, North Texas' star freshman power forward, had only five points, he dominated the interior of the lane for most of the game, with 11 rebounds and 6 blocks.
Walton hit a three-pointer with eight seconds left to give the Mean Green a 65-62 lead, but the game wasn't decided until Josh Brown's three-point attempt didn't go down in the game's final moments.
After an inconsistent 16-12 regular season, things are all of a sudden looking way up for North Texas, as regular season champion Middle Tennessee State, whom they were set to meet in the next round, was upset by No, 9 seed Arkansas State 64-61.
Their semifinal match-up will be at 6:00 PM Monday.
The SMU Mustangs avoided the cellar in the final 2012 Conference USA regular season standings but will enter next week's conference championship tournament as the No. 11 seed. The Mustangs finished the season with a 4-12 conference record just one game ahead of Tulane for dead last.
Here is a look at the final Conference USA standings:
(updated 3.4.2012 at 3:21 AM EST)
|Southern Miss. Golden Eagles||11||5||24||7|
|Central Florida Knights||10||6||21||9|
|Tulsa Golden Hurricane||10||6||17||13|
|Marshall Thundering Herd||9||7||18||12|
|East Carolina Pirates||5||11||14||15|
|Tulane Green Wave||3||13||15||15|
The 2012 Conference USA Championship will be played at the FedExForum in Memphis from Wednesday, March 7 through Saturday, March 10. The top four finishers in the regular season all receive byes in the first-round of the tournament.
Here is the complete Conference USA Championship matchups and schedule:
(All times central)
Wednesday, March 7
(7) Rice vs. (10) East Carolina (CSS) 12:00p
(6) Marshall vs. (11) SMU (CSS) 2:30p
(8) UTEP vs. (9) Houston (CSS) 6:30p
(5) UAB vs. (12) Tulane (CSS) 9:00p
Thursday, March 8
(2) Southern Miss vs. Rice/ECU (CBS Sports Network) 12:00p
(3) Tulsa vs. Marshall/SMU (CBS Sports Network) 2:30p
(1) Memphis vs. UTEP/HOU (CBS Sports Network) 6:30p
(4) UCF vs. UAB/Tulane (CBS Sports Network) 9:00p
Friday, March 9
Semifinal # 1 (CBS Sports Network) 3:00p
Semifinal # 2 (CBS Sports Network) 5:30p
Saturday, March 10 Championship Game (CBS) - 10:35a
For more college hoops news and analysis head on over to SB Nation's College Basketball Page.
The TCU Horned Frogs have earned a No. 5 seed in the 2012 Mountain West tournament. Check out the bracket and schedule as games will begin on Thursday, March 8.
The program: Since taking over as head coach at North Texas in 2001, Johnny Jones, who played and coached for LSU in the Final Four in the 1980's, has turned the Mean Green into one of the most consistent programs in the Sun Belt. It took him awhile to get his feet under him, but North Texas has had five consecutive 20-win seasons while appearing in the 2007 and 2010 NCAA Tournaments.
The season: A young team with only two upperclassmen (junior F Roger Franklin and G Brandon Walton) in their top 6 in terms of minutes played, the Mean Green have undergone growing pains this season, with a 16-13 overall record and a 9-7 mark in Sun Belt play. They tested themselves in non-conference play, coming up short in their four games against BCS teams (Texas, Texas Tech, Mississippi State and LSU), but they've improved as the year has progressed and their average margin of defeat in their last five losses is only 3 points.
The stakes: It's all or nothing for North Texas. With a middling overall record and no signature wins, they're unlikely to receive a post-season berth unless they run the table over the next week.
The conference: The Sun Belt has traditionally been dominated by Western Kentucky, as the Hilltoppers made the Sweet 16 in 2009 and have produced several NBA players like the Houston Rockets' Courtney Lee. This year, Middle Tennessee is the clear favorite, as they've gone 25-5, including non-conference victories over UCLA and Ole Miss. The other team to keep an eye on is 21-8 Denver, who have the Sun Belt's other signature win, a 70-58 defeat of St. Mary's.
The schedule: North Texas, the No. 5 seed in the tourney, plays UL-Lafayette, the No. 4 seed, on Sunday March 4 at 6:15 PM in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Both regular season games between the two schools came down to the last minute, with UL-Lafayette winning 64-62 at home on Jan. 25 and 57-53 in Denton on Feb. 18. The game Sunday will be streamed online here.
The players to watch: UNT freshman Tony Mitchell, the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, is the conference's one legitimate NBA prospect. An athletic 6'9 220 power forward from Dallas, Mitchell was one of the top 20 players in the class of 2010. He signed with Missouri out of high school but was ruled ineligible, forcing him to sit out a year as he transferred to North Texas.
After an impressive showing as part of Team USA's U-19 team in Lithuania this summer, Mitchell has averaged a double-double as a freshman, putting up 15.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks on 58.1% shooting. He's still an extremely raw player, but he's a dominant interior defender at this level and is comfortable playing with the ball in his hands.
Even in a loaded 2012 Draft, Mitchell would probably sneak into the end of the first round. But if he comes back and continues his upward progression, he could be receiving lottery talk at this time next year.
A slightly bizarre video made encouraging people to "vote for Tony", although what it is they would be voting for is not actually mentioned:
The outcome: When you have the best player in the field, you always have a chance. The Mean Green have hung tough against the top of the Sun Belt: losing 68-66 to No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee and defeating No. 2 seed Arkansas-Little Rock 75-67 in an OT road victory. North Texas will need to improve their late-game execution, but if the ball bounces their way, they have a chance to make significant noise.
After up-and-down seasons, UNT, TCU and SMU all have the opportunity to stun the college basketball world as their respective conference tournaments begin.