Out of all the teams in the Sun Belt, Arkansas State has the best mixture of returning players and incoming talent. This team has depth and should improve in every category with its new additions. Arkansas State finished 11-7 in the Sun Belt last season.

Georgia Southern also finished 11-7 last season and is returning all of their starters, but they were not as good of a defensive team as Arkansas State.

Louisiana and Troy also had winning records in 2016-2017. Both teams are returning several key players this season.

Texas State is probably one of the most dangerous teams in the Sun Belt with all the great talent that they have coming in.

UT Arlington, Georgia State, and Coastal Carolina are teams that know how to win.

There are a lot of great teams in the conference this year. Therefore, we may see a repeat of the 2016-2017 season where a total of eight (8) teams ended the season with winning records. With that said, here is a prediction of what the Sun Belt could look like in 2017-2018:

1. Arkansas State Basketball

Coach: Mike Balado

Off Roster:
Graduated: Devin Carter and Donte Thomas
Transferred: Jahmiah Simmons (North Texas)


On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Rashad Lindsey (PG), Deven Simms (SF), C.J. Foster (SG), Tamas Bruce (PF), Connor Kern (SG), and Nelson Nweke (PF), Christian Willis (SG)
Key Transfer(s): Shaquillo Fritz (PF, Paris), Ty Cockfield (PG, Georgia Highlands), Grantham Gillard (SG, South Plains), and Tristin Walley (PF, Jones County)
Key Freshmen: Marquis Eaton (PG) and Jake Scoggins (PF)

Arkansas State will have a new coach on the bench in Mike Balado. Thankfully, the previous coach Grant McCasland left this team in great health before his departure to North Texas. Arkansas State will be returning several key players from the 2016-2017 season.

In addition to the returning players, coach Balado has added several quality JUUCO transfers in which each were sound defenders at their previous schools. Both Tristin Walley and Shaquillo Fritz are great rim protectors. Walley blocked a total of 43 shots in his final season at Jones County Community college while Fritz blocked a total of 40 shots in his final season at Paris community college.

Ty Cockfield, a Jones County Community College transfer, is both a scorer and a great defender. Cockfield average 16.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in his final season. Cockfield also had a total of 60 steals in 32 games that season.

We should expect great things from this team.

2016-2017 Record: 20-12 Overall (11-7 Conference)
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 13+

2. Georgia Southern Basketball

Coach: Mark Byington

Off Roster:
Transferred: Devonte Boykins (North Carolina A&T)

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Tookie Brown (PG), Ike Smith (SG), Mike Hughes (SG), Jake Allsmiller (SG), Montae Glenn (PF), B.J. Gladden (SF), Coye Simmons (PF), Coye Simmons (PF), David Georgiev (PF), and Jared Hamilton (SG)
Key Transfer(s): David-Lee Jones (PG, Santa Fe)
Key Freshmen: Quan Jackson (SG) and Tyshaun Crawford

Georgia Southern will be getting all five (5) of their key starters back, which includes their top three (3) scorers, Tookie Brown, Ike Smith (SG) and Mike Hughes.

With the addition of JUCO transfer David-Lee Jones, Georgia Southern should improve greatly this coming season. Georgia Southern had the worst assist per game rating in the Sun Belt last season. Jones should help in that category. He average 14.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game in his final season at Santa Fe Community College.

The only one concern with this team is their size. This team is small with average height of 6’ 4”.

2016-2017 Record: 18-15 Overall (11-7 Conference) CBI Tournament 1st round finish
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 13+

3. Louisiana Basketball

Coach: Bob Marlin

Off Roster:
Graduated: Jay Wright
Transferred: Roydell Brown

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Larenz Stalcup (C), Bryce Washington (PF), Johnathan Stove (SG), Justin Miller (PF), P.J. Hardy (PG), Kadavion Evans (PG), and Jerekius Davis (PF)
Key Transfer(s): Marcus Stroman (PG, South Carolina), Malik Marquetti (SG, USC), and Jakeenan Gant (PF, Missouri)
Key Freshmen: Cedric Russell (SG) and Elijah McCoy (PF)

The best offensive team in the Sun Belt is returning several key players from the 2016-2017 season, which includes two (2) of their top three (3) scorers, Frank Bartley IV and Bryce Washington. However, Jay Wright is gone and Louisiana still had the worst defense in the Sun Belt even with Wright on the team.

If Louisiana could find a way to improve greatly on defense they should have a chance to compete for the top of the Sun Belt.

2016-2017 Record: 21-12 Overall (10-8 Conference)
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 11+

4. Troy Basketball

Coach: Phil Cunningham

Off Roster:
Graduated: DeVon Walker, Daniel Peace, and Jeremy Hollimon

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Wesley Person (SG), Jordon Varnado (SF), Kevin Baker (SG), Davis Jr., Juan (PF), Hicks, Alex (PF), B.J. Miller (PG), Jaro Moravek (PF), Shawn Hopkins (SG), and Whit Moreman (PF)
Key Freshmen: Malik Burnett (SG), Darian Adams (SG), Atakan Sahinkaya (SF), Javan Johnson (SF), and De'Lazarus Keys (PF)

Troy was one of the top scoring teams in the Sun Belt last season. They will be returning several key players from that team, which includes their top two (2) scorers, Wesley Person and Jordon Varnado.

The only question about this team is at the point guard position.

2016-2017 Record: 22-15 Overall (10-8 Conference) NCAA Tournament Appearance 1st round exit
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 11+

5. UT Arlington Basketball

Coach: Scott Cross

Off Roster:
Graduated: Jorge Bilbao, Drew Charles, Jalen Jones, and Faith Pope

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Erick Neal (PG), Kevin Hervey (SF), Kaelon Wilson (PG), Link Kabadyundi (C ), DJ Bryant (PG), Nathan Hawkins (SG), Julian Harris (SF), and Mairega Clarke (SF)
Key Transfer(s): Davion Turner (PF, Hill ) and Johnny Hamilton (C, Virginia Tech)
Key Freshmen: Pedro Castro (SG), Tim Holland (PF), and David Azore (SG)

UT Arlington is still in good hands with the return of two (2) of their top three (3) scorers, Kevin Hervey and Erick Neal. Averaging 17.1 point, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.1 rebounds per year, Hervey was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year. Neal led the Sun Belt in assists which earned him an All Second Team Honor.

With Jorge Bilbao Jalen Jones, and Faith Pope gone from the lineup, UT Arlington will have to find a way to replace a total of 13 rebounds per game. Hopefully, JUCO transfer Davion Turner will help to fill that void. Turner averaged 12.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in his final season at Hill Community College.

2016-2017 Record: 27-9 Overall (14-4 Conference) NIT Quarter Finals
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 11+

6. Texas State Basketball

Coach: Danny Kaspar

Off Roster:
Graduated: Ojai Black, Kavin Gilder-Tilbury, Bobby Conley, and Maljhum McCrea
Transferred: Maxwell Starwood (Southeastern Louisiana)

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Nijal Pearson (SG), Immanuel King (PF), Marlin Davis (SG), Nedeljko Prijovic (SF), Tyler Blount (PG), and Deris Duncan (SG)
Key Transfer(s): Tre Nottingham (PG, Mt. San Jacinto), Isaiah Gurley (SG, McLennan), Eric Terry (C, Temple), and Alex Peacock (PF, Iowa Western)
Key Freshmen: Reggie Miller (PG), Shelby Adams (SG), and Alonzo Sule (PF)

Texas State has had very good defense over the last couple of years, but offense seems to be the thing to keep them from competing for the top spot in the Sun Belt. Texas State held their opponents to an average 62.7 points per game last season but only put up on average 66.9 points per game.

Offense should only get better this coming season with the additions JUCO transfers Tre Nottingham and Isaiah Gurley. The both of them are very good at putting points on the boards. Nottingham averaged 19.2 points per game in his final season at Mt. San Jacinto community college, which made him one of the top scores in the National Junior College Athletics Association. Gurley averaged 17.5 points per game in his final season at McLennan Community College.

Texas State should improve on their successful 2016-2017 season.

2016-2017 Record: 22-14 Overall (11-7 Conference) CIT Quarter Final finish
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 11+

7. Georgia State Basketball

Coach: Ron Hunter

Off Roster:
Graduated: Jeremy Hollowell, Willie Clayton, Isaiah Dennis, Justin Seymour
Transferred: Austin Donaldson (Clark Atlanta)

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Malik Benlevi (SG), D'Marcus Simonds (SG), Isaiah Williams (PG), Jordan Session (PF), Jeff Thomas (SG), Devin Mitchell (SG), and Chris Clerkley (PF)
Key Transfer(s): Jordan Tyson (C, St. Bonaventure) and Basil Smotherman (SF, Purdue)
Key Freshmen: Kane Williams (SG), Denis Alibegovic (SG), and Josh Linder (PF)

Most of Coach Hunter’s teams are pretty good defensively. This season shouldn’t be any different. The question is who is going to replace Jeremy Hollowell’s 15.2 points per game? He was only one (1) of two (2) players on the team to average double digits in scoring last season.

2016-2017 Record: 20-13 Overall (12-6 Overall) CIT First Round
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 10-

8. Coastal Carolina Basketball

Coach: Cliff Ellis

Off Roster:
Graduated: Elijah Wilson, Colton Ray-St Cyr,
Transferred: Joseph Williams-Powell (Texas A&M-Ccommerce), Jaylan Robertson

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Jaylen Shaw (PG), Demario Beck (PF), Artur Labinowicz (SG), Josh Coleman (C), Amidou Bamba (SF), jay Sanders (SG, Olney Central), and Christian Adams (SG)
Key Transfer(s): Chas Brown (PF, Coppin State) and Zac Cuthbertson (SF, Mineral Area)
Key Freshmen: Jaylen Sebree (SF), Devante Jones (PG), and Tre Brown (PG)

Two (2) out Five (5) of Coastal Carolina’s starters are returning from the 2016-2017 season, which includes two (2) out of the three (3) top scores, Jaylen Shaw and Demario Beck.

One of the best rebounding teams in the nation should get better with the additions of graduate transfer Chas Brown and JUCO transfer Zac Cuthbertson. Brown averaged 7.1 rebounds per game in just 18 games at Coppin State. Cuthbertson, who is also a great defender, averaged 7.5 rebounds per game in his final season at Mineral Area community college.

Coastal Carolina should improve in all categories with this roster.

2016-2017 Record: 20-19 Overall (10-8 Conference) CIT Finals
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 10-

9. Appalachian State Basketball

Coach: Jim Fox

Off Roster:
Graduated: Matt O'Boyle
Transferred: Emarius Logan (Wingate), Kelvin Robinson, and Patrick Good

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Ronshad Shabazz (SG), Griffin Kinney (PF), Tyrell Johnson (SF), Isaac Johnson (PF), Craig Hinton (SF), Bennett Holley (SF), Jake Wilson (C) and Zach Cottrell (SF)
Key Transfer(s): O'Showen Williams (PG, South Georgia State)
Key Freshmen: Justin Forrest (PG)

Appalachian State has three (3) starters returning from last season, Ronshad Shabazz, Griffin Kinney (PF), and Tyrell Johnson. Even with the three (3) of them, Appalachian State had one of the worst defenses in the Sun Belt. Hopefully, their defense will improve with the addition of JUCO transfer O'Showen Williams who had a total of 77 steals in 32 games in his final season at South Georgia State.

The question is will it be enough to boost the team to the top of the Sun Belt?

2016-2017 Record: 9-21 Overall (4-14 Conference)
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 6-

10. UL Monroe Basketball

Coach: Keith Richard

Off Roster:
Graduated: Marcus Washington and Prince Cooper
Transferred: Nick Coppola

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Sam McDaniel (SF), Travis Munnings (SF), Sam Alabakis (C), Roderick Taylor (PF), Marvin Jean-Pierre (SG), Wade Martin (SG), Roderick Taylor (PF), Jordon Harris (PG), and Ramses Sandifer (PF)
Key Transfer(s): Calvin Anderson (SG, Navarro), Brandon Newman (SG, Trinidad State), and Donovan Walker (PG, Iowa Western)
Key Freshmen: Michael Ertel II (PG)

UL Monroe will be returning two (2) out of three (3) of their top scorers from the 2016-2017 season. However, this team had big problems putting points on the boards. UL Monroe had the worst offense in the Sun Belt last season. Can this team put more points on the boards this coming season?

2016-2017 Record: 9-24 Overall (2-16 Conference)
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 6-

11. South Alabama Basketball

Coach: Matthew Graves

Off Roster:
Graduated: Ken Williams, Don MuepoKelly, Nick Stover, and Georgi Boyanov
Transferred: Shaq Calhoun (Tennessee Tech)

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Josh Ajayi (PF), Dederick Lee (SG), Trhae Mitchell (SF), Herb McGee (PG), Nick Davis (SF), Kevin Morris (PF), and Jordan Andrews (SG)
Key Transfer(s): Rodrick Sikes (PG, Southwest Mississippi) and Rozelle Nix (C , Pittsburgh)
Key Freshmen: John Pettway (PG), A.J. Caldwell (SG), and Joseph Thompson (PF)

Two (2) out of five (5) starters are returning for another season. But even with them on the roster, South Alabama had the 3rd worst offense in the Sun Belt. South Alabama attempts to solve that problem with the addition of JUCO transfer Rodrick Sikes, who was one of the best scoring point guards in Junior college. However, Sikes was not much of a floor general in junior college, which South Alabama needs.

2016-2017 Record: 14-18 Overall (7-11 Conference)
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 5-

12. Little Rock Basketball

Coach: Wes Flanigan

Off Roster:
Graduated: Maurius Hill, Marcus Johnson Jr., Kemy Osse, Lis Shoshi, Stetson Billings, and Jalen Jackson

On Roster:
Key Players Possibly Returning: Deondre Burns (PG), Khari Harley (SF), Oliver Black (PF), Andre Jones (SG), Ben Marcus (SF), and Ryan Pippins (PG)
Key Transfer(s): Wadly Mompremier (C , Ohio), Camron Reedus (PG, Three Rivers), Cézanne Carson (SF, St. Petersburg), and Wadly Mompremier (C ,Ohio)
Key Freshmen: Jaizec Lottie (PG), Cameron Corcoran (SG), Kris Bankston (PF), and Damir Hadžić

The entire Starting five (5) on this team are gone. This team seems to be in rebuilding mode. It may be a long uphill battle for the Trojans this coming season.

2016-2017 Record: 15-17 Overall (6-12 Conference)
Projected Conference Wins 2017-2018: 5-

 

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Sun Belt Conference: 2017-2018 Early Predictions
Jack Williams, D1CoachCorner.com September 18, 2017, 6:30am