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January 21, 2013

Surveying the Sun Belt: East Division

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East Division

Middle Tennessee State 14-4 (6-1)

The Blue Raiders remain on top in the standings after delivering two beat-downs this past week to UALR and ULL. Middle Tennessee might go ahead and run the table in the Sun Belt. They still have to play South Alabama again but at the moment, that’s the only game I see them losing.

WKU will close their season against MTSU on March 2nd. With a healthy team, I think we can beat MTSU in Diddle but don’t look for an upset this Saturday.

The Blue raiders have been hot all season with some nice wins over UAB, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. The Blue Raiders are also leading the Sun Belt in attendance with an average of over 5,100 spectators per game.

Their lone Sun Belt loss was to Arkansas St in overtime and have won 5 straight since.
The MTSU/WKU game on January 26th will be televised on ESPN2.

South Alabama 9-8 (6-3)

The Jags played only one game this week, a 71-56 win over Louisiana Monroe, remaining in second place in the east. South Alabama has put up wins against FAU, FIU, UALR, ULM twice, and ULL. Big man Augustine Rubit is averaging 19.5 points per game to go with his 10.8 rebounds per game. He is complimented by Xavier Roberson who is averaging 13.6 points per game while shooting 44% from behind the arc.

Jaguars will have a week off before the WKU game in Mobile on January 24th.

Florida International 10-8 (5-4)
The fighting Richard Pitino’s have leapfrogged WKU in the standings this week with wins against North Texas and Troy. The Golden Panthers also have wins over ULL and two wins over ASU.

Tymell Murphy and Malik Smith are leading the scoring charge for FIU, averaging 15.3 and 14.9 points per game.

The Golden Panthers play Louisiana Lafayette before facing off with South Alabama and Middle Tennessee.

Florida international will be in Bowling Green on February 16th.

Western Kentucky 10-8 (4-3)

Western Kentucky’s on-court play has been very offensive lately, or perhaps, a lack thereof.

Just when it seemed like the Hilltoppers were back on track, WKU’s offense failed to show up in a big home game against Arkansas-Little Rock. The Trojans have beaten the Tops both times they have squared off this season and have proven to be a difficult matchup for WKU.

Western Kentucky has dropped 4 of their last 5 games and have two brutal games coming up with a visit to Mobile, AL followed by a Saturday night stop in Murfreesboro, TN.
When will the bleeding stop for the Hilltoppers?

It’s tough to say.

The return of Jamal Crook will be huge but even Jamal can’t make the post players finish baskets.

Although I love his intensity, Brandon Harris should not be leading this team in rebounding.

It will be interesting to see what adjustments Ray Harper makes this week for the Tops but I’m not expecting to pick up a win on this road trip. South Alabama has had a week off to prepare for WKU and MTSU is hard to beat in “the hole”. Look for WKU to be sitting at 5-6 next Monday.

Florida Atlantic 10-10 (5-4)

The Sun Belt’s leading scorer suits up for the Owls of Boca Raton. Greg Gantt has been rock solid all season for FIU averaging 22.5 points per game to go along with 5 rebounds per game. He isn’t the only one who can score for the Owls. Freshman guard Stefan Moody is averaging 14.2 points per contest so far.

The Owls have wins over Troy twice, Arkansas State, Lafayette, and Western. They have dropped games to Monroe, Middle Tennessee, and South Alabama, and North Texas.

WKU will get a shot at revenge and perhaps love on Valentine’s Day.

Troy 7-12 (2-6)

Troy started off the season on a high note with a 56-53 win over Mississippi State but the season has been going downhill since.

The Trojans have dropped close games to UALR, WKU, and FAU, and was beaten at North Texas by 17 points. Troy will look to get on track this week, facing both Florida schools.

**UPDATED: Troy lost to both Florida schools, locking down their spot as the Sun Belt doormat.

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