UT- Arlington finished a strong 3rd in the Sunbelt last season. Expect them to grow on that success this coming season with nearly all of their key players returning. Arkansas State has arguably the best recruiting class coming in for the 2016-2017. Can they do what Little Rock did in 2015-2016? Coastal Carolina joins the Sun Belt this year –and with the legendary coach Cliff Ellis at the wheel they will always be competitive.

Is Georgia State strong enough to take back the top spot in the Sun Belt after a dismal 2015-2016 season? They have a shot. Here is a look at what we think the Sunbelt may look like next season.

1. UT-Arlington Basketball

Coach: Scott Cross

Off Roster:
Graduated: Kennedy Eubanks and Courtney Austin
Transferred: Nick Pallas (Cal State San Marcos)

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Erick Neal (PG), Jalen Jones (SG), Kevin Hervey (SF), Drew Charles, Jorge Bilbao, Kaelon Wilson (PG), Nathan Hawkins (SG), and Faith Pope (SF)
Key Role Player(s): Mairega Clarke (SF) and Julian Harris
Key Freshmen: D.J. Bryant (SG) and Erkam Kırıs (PF)

UT-Arlington is returning one of the top offenses in the country. There back court is one of the best in the NCAA basketball – UT-Arlington ranked 13th nationally in assists per game and 43rd nationally in scoring. With that said, UT-Arlington needs to get much better defensively. They had problems guarding the three point line on several occasions. UT-Arlington is average in size - but yet they were the best rebounding team in the country. Kevin Hervey should be healthy after a season ending knee injury last season. Expect UT Arlington to compete for the top of the Sun Belt.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 24-11 (13-7) CIT Quarter Finals Exit
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 15+

2. Arkansas State Basketball

Coach: Grant McCasland

Off Roster:
Graduated: Nouhoum Bocoum, Kelvin Downs, Frederic Dure, Sean Gardner, Josh Pierre, and Charles Waters
Transferred: Anthony Livingston (Texas Tech) and P.J. Hardwick

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Donte Thomas (PG) and Devin Carter (SF)
Key Transfer(s): Deven Simms (Conners State, SF), Nelson Nweke (Seminole State, PF), Tamas Bruce (John A. Logan, PF) and Rashad Lindsey (Moberly Area Community, PG)
Key role player(s) returning: C.J. Foster (SG), Connor Kern (SG), and Christian Davis (SF)
Key Freshmen: Jake Scoggins (PF), Christian Willis (SG) and Jahmiah Simmons (SG)

Arkansas State (ASU) has lost a lot of players to graduation and transfers. But, I wouldn’t call what they’re doing “rebuilding”. ASU is “resetting” with one of the best recruiting classes in the Sun Belt this year. McCasland and ASU are bringing in some high quality JUCO recruits to make a run for the top of Sun Belt. Nelson Nweke is a protector of the rim, a scorer and a great rebounder. Nweke was ranked 17th in rebounds per game and 60th nationally in blocked shots in his last season at Seminole State and averaged 20.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Deven Simms was one of the best all around players to come out of junior college this year. Simms ranked 22nd in rebounds, 22nd in points per game and 60th nationally in steals per game in his final season at Conners State. Tamas Bruce, an Arkansas native, was ranked 72nd in rebounds per game and 55th nationally in blocks per game in his final season at John A. Logan. Finally, they’re adding a very good point guard in Rashad Lindsey. Lindsey averaged 12.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in his final season at Moberly Area Community College. Look for Arkansas State to be very competitive in the Sun Belt.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 11-20 (7-13) No Appearance
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 14+

3. Coastal Carolina Basketball

Coach: Cliff Ellis

Off Roster:
Graduated: Tristian Curtis, Badou Diagne, Michel Enanga, Marcus Freeman, and Aaron Law
Transferred: Ron Trapps (North Carolina Central)

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Elijah Wilson (SG), Shivaughn Wiggins (PG), Jaylen Shaw (PG), Colton Ray-St Cyr (SG),
Key Role Player(s): Kevin Holmes Jr. (SF), Josh Coleman (C), and Christian Adams (SG)
Key Freshmen: Art Labinowicz (SG), Wade Coomer (SG), Amidou Bamba (SF), Leroy Butts (PF), and Onyx Boyd (C)

Coastal Carolina finished 2nd in the Big South last season behind High Point. They were very good defensively, ranking 48th nationally, but were only average in the scoring category. Coastal Carolina held their opponent to 66.5 points per game while putting up an average 73.0 points per game. Coastal Carolina is going to be competing against two (2) very good offensive teams in UT- Arlington and Arkansas State this coming season. They are going to need to find a few more points out of their new guys to keep up.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 21-12 (12-6) CIT Semi-finals
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 14-

4. Georgia Southern Basketball

Coach: Mark Byington

Off Roster:
Graduated: DeVince Boykins
Transferred: Jason Burnell and Jonathan Sanks

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Tookie Brown (PG), Mike Hughes (SG), Ike Smith (SG), Jake Allsmiller (SG), Coye Simmons (PF), Devonte Boykins (PG), Montae Glenn (PF), and Shawn O'Connell (PF)
Key Role Player(s): Aubrey McRae (SG) and Shawn O'Connell(RS)
Key Transfer(s): B.J. Gladden (Eastern Florida State, SF)
Key Freshmen: Quan Jackson (SG)

Georgia Southern will get all of their core players back. They should get better as a rebounding team with the addition of JUCO transfer, B.J. Gladden. Gladden averaged 11.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in his final season at Eastern Florida State. He was ranked 27th nationally in rebounds that season.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 14-17 (10-10) No Appearance
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 12+

5. Georgia State Basketball

Coach: Ron Hunter

Off Roster:
Graduated: Jalen Brown, Markus Crider, T.J. Shipes, and Kevin Ware

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Isaiah Williams (PG), Jeremy Hollowell (SF), and Jeff Thomas (SG)
Key Role Player(s): Austin Donaldson (SG), Malik Benlevi (SG), and Jordan Session (PF)
Key Transfer(s): Willie Clayton (Charlotte, PF), Jeremiah Davis (Ball State), and Devin Mitchell (Alabama, SF)
Key Freshmen: D'Marcus Simonds (SG), and Chris Clerkley(PF)

Georgia State is bringing in a pretty good recruiting class as well. Coach Ron Hunter will be getting a special shooting guard in freshman D'Marcus Simonds. The once Mississippi State commit can flat out score. This four star shooting guard is fast, can shoot out side, and can jump. He’ll be joined by two (2) pretty good division 1 transfers, Willie Clayton from Charlotte and Jeremiah Davis from Ball State. Georgia State, who was one of the worst rebounding team in the country, desperately needs Clayton’s services. Clayton was a pretty good rebounder at Charlotte, averaging 6.3 rebounds per game.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 16-14 (9-11) No Appearance
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 12+

6. Little Rock Basketball

Coach: Wes Flanigan

Off Roster:
Graduated: Josh Hagins, Jermaine Ruttley, Roger Woods, and Daniel Green
Transferred: Mareik Isom (Texas)

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Marcus Johnson Jr. (PG), Kemy Osse (SG), Lis Shoshi (C), Jalen Jackson (SF), and Maurius Hill
Key Role Player(s): Stetson Billings (SG) and Deondre Burns
Key Transfer(s): Corbyn Jackson (S. Georgia Tech, PF) and Oliver Black (Mississippi State, PF)
Key Freshmen: Andre Jones (SG), Ryan Pippins (PG) and Shandon 'Biggie' Goldman (SF)

Two (2) out of three (3) of Little Rock’s top scorers have graduated. Three (3) of their best defenders Josh Hagins, Roger Woods and Mareik Isom are gone. Even with Little Rock’s success last season, they were not a very good scoring team. They won most of their games off of hard nose defense. However, Little Rock still has a lot of good pieces returning to make a run for the top spot in the Sun Belt. The team will add two (2) quality JUCO transfers in Corbyn Jackson and Oliver Black. Jackson is a pretty good defender of the rim. He ranked 87th nationally in blocked shots - with 37 blocked shots in a season. Black didn’t add much to the stat book at Mississippi State but he gave them some quality minutes off the bench.

The fact that there is not a true point guard on the team is a concern.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 30-5 (17-3) NCAA Tournament 2nd Round Exit
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 10+

7. Louisiana-Monroe Basketball

Coach: Keith Richard

Off Roster:
Graduated: Majok Deng, Mack Foster, DeMondre Harvey, Justin Roberson, and Jamaal Samuel

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Nick Coppola (PG) and Travis Munnings (SF)
Key Role Player(s): Marcus Washington (SG) and Prince Cooper (SG)
Key Transfer(s): Marvin Jean-Pierre (Miami Dade, SG), Jordon Harris (Lamar State-Port Arthur, PG), Sam McDaniel (Southeastern, SF), and Kiir Deng (Copiah-Lincoln, SF)
Key Freshmen: Ramses Sandifer (SG), Roderick Taylor(PF) and Sam Alabakis (C)

Louisiana Monroe loses several of their core players to graduation. However, they are making up for their loss it with the additions of some pretty good JUCO transfers in Marvin Jean-Pierre, Sam McDaniel, Jordon Harris and Kiir Deng. Pierre, who started in twenty (25) out of thirty (30) games in his final season at Miami Dade College, was ranked 23rd in steals. Standout JUCO point guard Jordon Harris averaged 18.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5 assists per game in his final season at Lamar State. Harris ranked 12th nationally in steals, 27th nationally in points and 34th nationally in assists.

2015-2016 Record: 20-14 (15-5) CIT 1st Round Exit
Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 10-

8. South Alabama Basketball

Coach: Matthew Graves

Off Roster:
Graduated: John Brown, Barrington Stevens, and Tafari Whittingham
Transferred: Taishaun Johnson (Kent State)

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Ken Williams (PG), Georgi Boyanov (PF), Nick Stover (SF), Shaq Calhoun (SG), Nikola Marijan (C), Don MuepoKelly (PG), and Nick Davis (SF)
Key Transfer(s): Lance Crawford (UMass Lowell, PG)
Key Freshmen: John Pettway (PG), Herbert McGee (PG), Trhae Mitchell (SF), Josh Ajayi (PF) and Kevin Morris (PF)

South Alabama picks up an all around player in UMass Lowell’s transfer guard, Lance Crawford. Crawford was UMass Lowell’s 2nd best scorer in 2014-2015. He sat out the 2015-2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules. According to Lowellsun.com, Crawford transferred from UMass Lowell for person and academic reasons. South Alabama is a pretty good rebounding team given the fact that it’s one of the tallest team in the Sun Belt. Their average height is a little over 6’5”.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 14-19 (9-12) No Appearance
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 8-

9. Troy Basketball

Coach: Phil Cunningham

Off Roster:
Graduated: Jeremy Hollimon and John Walton III
Transferred: Kelton Ford, Damion Ottman (Alabama), Christian Harrison and Jordan Howard

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Wesley Person (SG), Daniel Peace (PG), Jeremy Hollimon (PG), Jordon Varnado (SF), B.J. Miller (PG), Shawn Hopkins (SG), and Jaro Moravek (PF)
Key transfer(s): Alex Hicks (Walters State, PF), Juan Davis, Jr. (East Mississippi, PF), DeVon Walker (Florida, SF), and Kevin Baker (Pensacola State, SG)
Key Freshmen: Darian Adams (SG) and Whit Moreman (PF)

Troy has several key players returning mixed with some quality recruits. This team gets better overall. They’ve picked up Alex Hicks of Walters State who is a very good defender and rebounder, Juan Davis, Jr. of East Mississippi, who is also a very good defender, and Kevin Baker of Pensacola State, who will give the team some quality minutes.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 9-22 (4-16) No Appearance
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 7+

10. Louisiana Lafayette Basketball

Coach: Bob Marlin

Off Roster:
Graduated: Shawn Long, Matt Marlin, Kasey Shepherd, Devonta Walker, Tiremone Williams, and Steven Wronkoski
Transferred: Hayward Register, Jay Hedgeman, and Tyrone Wooten

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Jay Wright (PG), Johnathan Stove (SG) and Bryce Washington (PF)
Key Role Player(s): Scott Plaisance (PF)

Key Transfer(s): Frank Bartley IV (BYU, SF) and Curtiss Anderson(Western Texas, PF)
Key Freshmen: Ka'Davion Evans(PG), P.J. Hardy(PG), Herman Williams(SG), Jordan Adebutu (SG), Jerekius Davis(SF), Roydell Brown(SF) and Justin Miller (PF)

La Lafayette has lost a lot of players to graduation and transfer. However, they still have a few pieces to work with. Jay Wright (PG), Johnathan Stove (SG) and Bryce Washington (PF) are all returning starters. La Lafayette will also add two (2) quality transfers to the roster in Frank Bartley IV, a BYU transfer guard, and Curtiss Anderson, a JUCO transfer from Western Texas College. Bartley, who will be eligible to play this coming season, saw little playing time while at BYU. He averaged only 9.3 minutes per game out of a total of 33 games played. He averaged 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in the 33 games. He should get the opportunity to see a lot of playing time this coming season. Anderson averaged 9.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in his final season at Western Texas. Even though La Lafayette lost a lot of players, they have enough pieces to remain competitive in the Sun Belt.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 19-15 (12-8) CIT Quarter finals
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 7-

11. Texas State Basketball

Coach: Danny Kaspar

Off Roster:
Graduated: Emani Gant, Ethan Montalvo, and Cameron Naylor
Transferred: Anthony Roberson, Ka'Juan 'K.J.' Malveau

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Kavin Gilder-Tilbury (PF), Ojai Black (PG), Maljhum McCrea (SF), and Bobby Conley (PG)
Key Role Player(s): Courtney Julien (SG) and Kendell Ramlal (C)
Key Transfer(s): Deris Duncan (Weatherford, SG), Immanuel King (Wallace State), Eric Terry (Temple), Trelarenz Nottingham (Mt. San Jacinto College), and Tyler Blount (New Mexico)
Key Freshmen: Nijal Pearson (SG), Marlin Davis (SG), Nedeljko Prijovic (SF), and Maxwell Starwood (PF)

Like most teams in the Sun Belt, Texas State was very good defensively. On the other hand scoring was another thing. Texas State held their opponents to an average 64.3 points per game but scored only 66.0 points per game. Rebounding was also a problem but Texas State looks to get better in that department with the addition of Immanuel King. King averaged 7.9 rebounds per game in his final season at Wallace State. He was ranked 88th nationally in rebounds per game. Defense should continue to be good with their additions but scoring may also remain a problem.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 15-16 (8-12) No Appearance
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 7-

12. Appalachian State Basketball

Coach: Jim Fox

Off Roster:
Graduated: Chris Burgess, Dustin Clarke, Frank Eaves, Jacob Lawson, and Michael Obacha
Transferred: Mike Kobani

On Roster:
Key player(s) possibly returning: Ronshad Shabazz (SG), Tyrell Johnson (SF), Griffin Kinney (PF), Emarius Logan (PG), and Bennett Holley (SF)
Key Role Player(s): Matt O'Boyle (SG), and Jake Babic (SF)
Key Freshmen: Patrick Good (PG), Zach Cottrell (SG), Kelvin Robinson (SG), and Isaac Johnson(SF)

Appalachian State didn’t make any spectacular improves to their roster for 2016-2017. However, they still have a few good pieces returning to be competitive in the Sun Belt.

NCAA Basketball 2015-2016 Record: 9-22 (7-13) No Appearance
NCAA Basketball Projected Conference Wins 2016-2017: 5-

*This projection is the sole view of d1coachcorner.com and should be seen as for entertainment purposes only. As for stats, all stats were taken from NCAA statistics via ncaa.com and the from the National Junior College Athletic Association statistic via NJCAA.com.

Jack Williams, D1caochcorner.com
6-23-2016

 

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Jack Williams, D1CoachCorner.com 5:30am June 23, 2016 -*updaed 6-24-2016 to include Coastal Carolina
Icon Sportswire via AP Images

Sun Belt Basketball 2016-2017 Very Early Projections

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