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The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

SBC men’s basketball mid-season ranking

Hanna Singh

Half of the Sun Belt men’s basketball season is already complete, but that doesn’t mean the landscape of the conference Tournament is set in stone. In the spirit of returning to classrooms for the spring, it’s time that a few Sun Belt schools receive their mid-term grade. But instead of letter grades, they’ll be placed on a pyramid as an ode to the popular reality show “Dance Moms.” This won’t be a comprehensive list of all SBC schools but rather a broad look at the conference as a whole.

#8, Old Dominion:

First on the bottom is Old Dominion. Now, Texas State has the same conference record as the Monarchs, but it isn’t the overall record that splits the difference. 

In almost every per game and percentage category, ODU has a worse opponent differential than the Bobcats. In some cases, Texas State even has a positive differential. 

It may go without saying, but doing worse than your opponent in almost everything is not going to get you very far. 

While having fewer turnovers per game and more points off turnovers sounds like a winning recipe, the only numbers that truly matter are the ones on the scoreboard.

#7, Louisiana Monroe:

You miss every shot you don’t take, but surely you make a few shots you do take, right? 

Having the lowest points per game in the conference is a pretty damning stat. The 0.275 3-point percentage and less than automatic 0.652 free-throw percentage is most likely to blame. 

But missing shots presents opportunities to get a second chance, and the Warhawks shine in offensive rebounds; they lead the conference with 14.1 per game. 

Call the Warhawks anything you want, just don’t call them quitters.  

#6, South Alabama:

Next up is South Alabama. The Jaguars sit at a modest 0.500 overall, but their 3-5 conference record won’t do them much good for tournament seeding. 

South Alabama’s 11.3 turnovers per game puts the school well above the majority of the conference. 

However, not pushing into the paint means other stats crumble, such as its 0.97 assist/turnover ratio or 8.5 offensive rebounds per game. 

The Jaguars are comfortably average when shooting field goals, so sending more guys to clean up the leftovers may be what’s keeping them in the lower half of the conference.

#5, Georgia Southern:

The best of the worst goes to Georgia Southern. Of all three SBC schools to be 0.500, the Eagles have the worst point differential, an astonishing -9.2. 

Despite allowing the most PPG in the conference and ranking 12th in offense, Georgia Southern rectifies that stat by coming in at 3rd for 3-point percentage and 2nd for 3-point field goals made per game. 

If the Eagles finish the season by cleaning up defensive errors and upping total rebounds, there isn’t much stopping them from climbing up the conference standings. 

#4, Louisiana Lafayette:

Starting out the middle row is Louisiana Lafayette. A scoring margin of +5.3 isn’t bad by any means, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have some wins under their belt. 

That said, they also aren’t racking up blowouts left and right. 

ULL lives and dies by the field goal, touting the third best percentage (0.470) while also allowing its opponents to make 0.457, second-worst in the conference. 

Aside from that, the Ragin’ Cajuns make a hefty amount of their free-throws (0.735) and an inoffensive number of turnovers per game. 

Down in Cajun country, these are some pretty mild peppers.

#3, Southern Mississippi:

There must be something in the water in Hattiesburg because the Golden Eagles seem to be doing the most with the least. 

Having one of the best conference records so far, it would make sense to have great stats. Looking at the numbers however, you’ll find that’s not the case. 

The Golden Eagles barely break even in scoring margin (+0.1), but still have a 6-2 conference record. 

In almost every other stat, USM floats in a sea of mediocrity.

#2, James Madison:

Coming in as the runner-up for the top spot, we’ve got James Madison. The Dukes rule the scoring margin stat with a monstrous +16.7 differential, the best in the conference, in addition to having the highest assist/turnover ratio among SBC schools. 

The intensity of JMU’s offense makes itself clear in almost every scoring stat category. 

In addition, the Dukes’ incredible ability to force turnovers ties Troy for most in the conference (15.7 per game.) 

While the upset in East Lansing was a brilliant way to open the season, it doesn’t quite live up to the Power five victory by the top spot on the pyramid. 

#1, Appalachian State:

How poetic that the highest spot goes to the Mountaineers themselves, and for good reason. 

Sure, Michigan State was ranked No. 4 when the season started, and still a huge kudos to JMU for getting such an upset. But App State beating Auburn in Boone means even more given how the season is going for the Tigers. 

Flashy wins aside, App State backs up its top spot with a solid +13.9 scoring margin on average, partially thanks to allowing the fewest PPG at 63.7. 

The Mountaineers hang around the Dukes in most stats. And while it’s just a one-game difference, the better conference record speaks for itself.

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