Kevin Hervey earned the first Sun Belt Player of the Year award in UT Arlington's program history. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/Ellman Photography)

MARK MADNESS | Mark Adams previews the Sun Belt Tournament

It's tournament time!

With all eyes on the conference tournaments this week, here's a look at the top contenders for the Sun Belt's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Favorite

UT ARLINGTON

  • Key question: Who can slow down Kevin Hervey and the Fun Belt's top scoring team?
  • Record: 24-7, 14-4 Sun Belt (No. 1 seed).
  • Wins vs. Power 5 & Big East: Beat Texas, 72-61
  • Sun Belt Tournament opener: Friday's vs. Wednesday's Coastal Carolina-South Alabama winner.
  • NCAA ranks: Erik Neal No. 8 in assists (6.5).
  • Sun Belt ranks: No. 1 in scoring margin (8.8) and assists (15.5); No. 2 in, field-goal defense (41.3%), 3-point defense (31.6%), rebound margin (4.1) and assist/turnover ratio (1.2).

Contenders

GEORGIA STATE

  • Key question: Who can deny Jeremy Hollowell, D’Marcus Simonds and head coach Ron Hunter’s Panthers from their second NCAA appearance in three years?
  • Record: 19-11, 12-6 Sun Belt (No. 2 seed).
  • Sun Belt Tournament opener: Friday vs. Wednesday's Louisiana-Little Rock winner.
  • Sun Belt ranks: No. 1 in field-goal shooting (47.4%), field-goal defense (40.9%) and blocked shots (4.3); No. 2 in steals (7.4).

GEORGIA SOUTHERN

  • Key question: Who can slow down the Eagles' four long-range bombers, led by Ike Smith, Tookie Brown and Jeremy Hollowell? They combine for 52.8 points per game.
  • Record: 19-11, 12-6 Sun Belt (No. 3 seed).
  • Sun Belt Tournament opener: Friday vs. Wednesday's Troy-Appalachian State winner.
  • Sun Belt ranks: No. 1 in 3-pointers made per game (9.4); No. 2 in 3-point shooting (37%) and assist/turnover ratio (1.3); No. 2 in assists (14.7), blocked shots (4.2) and turnover margin (2.47).

TEXAS STATE

  • Key question: Can anyone figure out how to score against the Bobcats but on the flip side can Texas State score enough?
  • Record: 18-12, 11-7 Sun Belt (No. 4 seed).
  • Sun Belt Tournament opener: Friday vs. Wednesday's Arkansas State-UL Monroe winner.
  • Sun Belt ranks: No. 1 in scoring defense (64.0) and assist/turnover ratio (1.3); No. 2 in blocked shots (4.2), turnover margin (2.47) and assists (14.7).

Longshot

ARKANSAS STATE

  • Key question: Will the Red Wolves end their season of improvement with an NCAA Tournament bid?
  • Record: 20-11, 11-7 (No. 5 seed).
  • Wins vs. Power 5 & Big East: Beat Georgetown, 78-72.
  • Sun Belt Tournament opener: Wednesday vs. No. 12 seed UL Monroe.
  • NCAA ranks: Devin Carter No. 13 in 3-pointers made per game (3.26).
  • Sun Belt ranks: No. 1 in 3-point shooting (38.2%) and 3-point defense (31.5%).

Other NCAA leaders

  • Individual: Bryce Washington, Louisiana — No. 5 in rebounds (11.5); Nick Coppola, UL Monroe — No. 6 in minutes (37.2).

Tournament schedule

WEDNESDAY

  • No. 8 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 9 South Alabama, 12:30 p.m. ET
  • No. 5 Arkansas State vs. No. 12 UL Monroe, 3 p.m. ET
  • No. 7 Louisiana vs. No. 10 Little Rock, 6 p.m. ET
  • No. 6 Troy vs. No. 11 Appalachian State, 8:30 p.m. ET

FRIDAY

  • No. 1 UT Arlington vs. Coastal Carolina-South Alabama, 12:30 p.m. ET
  • No. 4 Texas State vs. Arkansas State-UL Monroe, 3 p.m. ET
  • No. 2 Georgia State vs. Louisiana-Little Rock, 6 p.m. ET
  • No. 3 Georgia Southern vs. Troy-Appalachian State, 8:30 p.m. ET

SATURDAY

  • Semifinals: 12:30 and 3 p.m.

SUNDAY

  • Championship: 2 p.m. ET

Projected automatic bid

UT ARLINGTON


Mark Adams is ASN's lead basketball analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @EnthusiAdams.

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