With South Alabama improving as a team, the Sun Belt should be just as competitive as it was last season. Chemistry should be much greater at Georgia State with most of its players returning. Offense should improve at LA Monroe with its new additions. Louisiana and Georgia Southern should remain competitive as usual.
With a new coach on board and with several new players on the roster what’s the chemistry going to be like at UT-Arlington?
Here is what we predict the Sun Belt Conference would look like in 2018-2019:
Coach: Ron Hunter
Graduate: Jordan Session
Key Players Possibly Returning: Devin Mitchell (SG), Jeff Thomas (SG), D'Marcus Simonds (SG), Malik Benlevi (SG), Jordan Tyson (C), Chris Clerkley (PF), Kane Williams (SG), and Josh Linder (PF)
Key Transfer(s) added: Damon Wilson (SG, Pitt)
Key Freshmen added: Nelson Phillips (SG) and Kavonte Ivery (SF)
Although this team has no real point guard, they have a bunch of guards who can shoot. Georgia State will return their top three scorers in D'Marcus Simonds, Devin Mitchell and Jeff Thomas. Outside of their starting line up its hard to find someone who will add more points to the boards?
Basically, this team looks the same as it did last season- no real point guard, great defense and lacking in rebounds. Fortunately, with most of its players returning, chemistry should be much greater.
Look for Georgia State to be in contention with for the Conference regular season and conference tournament championships.
2017-2018 Record: 24-11 (12-6) NCAA Tournament Appearance 1st round exit
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 14+
Coach: Keith Richard
Graduate: Kiir Deng, Jordon Harris, Marvin Jean-Pierre, Sam McDaniel, and Lance Richard
Key Players Possibly Returning: Travis Munnings (SF), Sam Alabakis (C), Calvin Anderson (SG), Michael Ertel (PG), Brandon Newman (SG)
Key Transfer(s) added: Javien Williams (SG, Tallahassee), Youry White (PF, Copiah-Lincoln), Daishon Smith (SG, Wichita State), Jontray Harris (SG, Oral Roberts), Javonte Perkins (SF, Southwestern Illinois), Tyree White (SF, Moberly Area), and Andre Washington (PF, Hill)
Key Freshmen added: Jalen Hodge (PG)
Louisiana-Monroe should have three (3) out of five (5) starters returning in 2018-2019 in Travis Munnings, Sam Alabakis, and Michael Ertel. With these three (3) returning this team should remain one of the top three (3) defensive teams in the Sun Belt.
However, scoring was a problem for this team last season. Louisiana-Monroe averaged 69.9 points per game, making them the fourth (4th) worst offensive team in the Sun Belt. Luckily, this team held their opponents to an average 68.3 points per game.
Offense should get better with the additions of JUCO transfer(s) Javien Williams and Javonte Perkins. Both players were big scorers on their former teams. Perkins averaged 20 points per game in his final season at Southwestern Illinois Community College while Williams averaged 16.8 points per game in his final season at Tallahassee Community College.
Also expect rebounding to improve with the additions of big men Youry White and Andre Washington. Louisiana-Monroe has a great chance of winning the Conference Regular season and Tournament Championships in 2018-2019
2017-2018 Record: 16-16 (9-9) CIT 1st Round
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 14-
Coach: Bob Marlin
Graduate: Frank Bartley IV, Jacob Broussard, Larenz Stalcup, Johnathan Stove, and Bryce Washington
Key Players Possibly Returning: JaKeenan Gant (PF), Marcus Stroman (PG), Malik Marquetti (SG), Cedric Russell (SG), Justin Miller (PF), P.J. Hardy (PG), Ka'Davion Evans (PG), and Jerekius Davis (SF)
Key Transfer(s) added: Jeremy Hayes (PG, Howard TX)
Key Freshmen added: Randy 'R.J.' Gladney (C), Trajan Wesley (PG), Kobe Julien (SF), and Kristian Lafayette (C)
Louisiana will get back, arguably, the best point guard in the Sun Belt in Marcus Stroman. With the addition of point guard Jeremy Hayes, a transfer from Howard Community College, Louisiana should be one of the best ball handling teams in the Country. Hayes averaged 16 point, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in his final season at Howard Community College.
Expect Cedric Russell and Justin Miller to play bigger roles and Louisiana to remain a solid tream in 2018-2019.
2017-2018 Record: 27-7 (16-2) No Appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 12+
Coach: Mark Byington
Graduate: Jake Allsmiller, B.J. Gladden, Mike Hughes, Tione Jones, and Coye Simmons
Transferred: Shawn O'Connell (UNCW),
Key Players Possibly Returning: Tookie Brown (PG), Ike Smith (SF) Ike Smith (SF), Montae Glenn (C ), Quan Jackson (SG), David-Lee Jones Jr. (PG)
Key Transfer(s) added: Isaiah Crawley (PF, Columbia State), Simeon Carter (C, Iowa State) and Latravis Dawkins (PF, Southwest Tennessee)
Key Freshmen added: Elijah McCadden (SG), Calvin Wishart, Will Dillard, David Viti, Jr., and Tyshaun Crawford (C, RS)
Georgia Southern should have three (3) starters returning in Tookie Brown, Ike Smith, and Montae Glenn. Coach Byington will probably look for more production out of Quan Jackson, who started in nine (9) games last season.
Hopefully, this team will find a way to move the ball better. Georgia was ranked 345th nationally and last in the Sun Belt in assists per game last season. There is no evidence that this team has made additions designed to combat this problem.
Other than that, Georgia Southern should remain be well balanced offensively and defensively and should remain competitive in the Sun Belt.
2017-2018 Record: 21-12 (11-7) No Appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 10+
Coach: Jim Fox
Graduate: Craig Hinton and Griffin Kinney
Transferred: Zach Cottrell (North Georgia)
Key Players Possibly Returning: Justin Forrest (PG), Ronshad Shabazz (SG), Tyrell Johnson (SF), Isaac Johnson (PF), Hunter Seacat (PF), O'Showen Williams (PG), Bennett Holley (PF), and Jake Wilson (C)
Key Transfer(s) added: Michael Bibby (PG, South Florida) and Joseph Battle (SG, Tulsa)
Key Freshmen added: Adrian Delph (SG) and Breki Gylfason (C)
Appalachian State will have four (4) out of five (5) starters returning from the 2017-2018 season. This team finished 5th in the Sun Belt last season with a 9-9 record. With many of its players returning this team has nowhere to go but up. Hopefully, Coach Fox will find a way to get this team to improve defensively.
2017-2018 Record: 15-18 (9-9) No Appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 9+
Coach: Richie Riley
Graduate: Nick Davis, Devin Epps, Dederick Lee, and Rozelle Nix
Key Players Possibly Returning: Rodrick Sikes (PG), Herb McGee (SG), Josh Ajayi (PF), Trhae Mitchell (SF), Kevin Morris (PF), Jordan Andrews (SG), and John Pettway (SG)
Key Transfer(s) added: R.J Kelly Jr. (PF, Savannah State), Kory Holden (PG, South Carolina), and Tashombe Riley (SG, South Carolina State)
Key Freshmen added: De'Monte Nelson
South Alabama will return four (4) out of five (5) starters from the previous season. This very good defensive team had problems offensively last season though - but we can expect offense to improve greatly with the additions of division 1 transfers Tashombe Riley, R.J Kelly Jr., and Kory Holden. Each one of these players can average double digits in scoring come 2018-2019. This team should be highly competitive in the Sun Belt.
2017-2018 Record: 14-18 (7-11) No Appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 9+
Coach: Danny Kaspar
Graduate: Tyler Blount, Deris Duncan, and Immanuel King
Key Players Possibly Returning: Nijal Pearson (SG), Marlin Davis (SG), Alex Peacock (PF), Tre'Larenz Nottingham (PG), Isaiah Gurley (SG), Shelby Adams (SG), Alonzo Sule (PF), and Eric Terry (PF)
Key Transfer(s) added: Akiem Daschner (SF, Ranger)
Key Freshmen added: Mason Harrell (PG)
Texas State will have their top scorer, Nijal Pearson, returning for the 2018-2019 season. Pearson was the only player on the team to average double digits in scoring. Fortunately, he’ll be joined by JUCO transfer Akiem Daschner, who averaged 17.6 points, 10 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game in his final season at Ranger Community College. With another player on the roster who is capable of averaging double digits in scoring, Texas State should improve dramatically in scoring next season.
2017-2018 Record: 15-18 (7-11) No appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 9-
Coach: Phil Cunningham
Graduate: Kevin Baker, Juan Davis Jr., and Wesley Person
Transferred: Shawn Hopkins (North Georgia)
Key Players Possibly Returning: Jordon Varnado (SF), Alex Hicks (PF), B.J. Miller (PG), Darian Adams (SG), Javan Johnson (SF), and Malik Burnett (SG)
Key Transfer(s) added: Davion Thomas (PF, Middle Tennessee), Devante Foster (C, South Georgia Tech), Charles Norman (SG, Barton)
Key Freshmen added: Atakan Sahinkaya (SF, RS), Malik Burnett (SG), Kevin 'KJ' Simon (PG), Spencer Rodgers (SG), and Xavier Williams (PF)
Troy will return three (3) out of five (5) starters, which includes their top two (2) scorers, Jordon Varnado and Alex Hicks. The concern with this team is depth. Who’s going to back up B.J. Miller at the point guard position?
Troy will need more production from Darian Adams and Javan Johnson to compete for the Sun Belt regular season and Conference championships.
2017-2018 Record: 16-17 (9-9) No Appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 7+
Coach: Chris Ogden
Graduate: Mairega Clarke, Johnny Hamilton, Julian Harris, Nathan Hawkins, Kevin Hervey, and Link Kabadyundi, and Erick Neal
Key Transfer(s) added: Brian Warren (PG, Tyler), Radshad Davis (SG, Missouri State-West Plains), Davion Turner (PF, Hill), Jabari Narcis (PF, Jacksonville), Andres Ibarguen (PF, Trinity Valley), DJ Bryant (PG), Edric Dennis (SG, Hill), Tiandre Jackson-Young (SG, Tyler)
Key Freshmen added: David Azore (SG, RS), Pedro Castro (SG, RS), and McKade Marquis (SG, RS)
The fact that this team has so many players on it that has never played together is concerning. With a new coach and so many new players chemistry may be a problem.
2017-2018 Record: 21-13 (10-8) No Appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 7-
Coach: Cliff Ellis
Graduate: Demario Beck and Jaylen Shaw
Transferred: Artur Labinowicz (Evansville) and Christian Adams
Key Players Possibly Returning: Zac Cuthbertson (SF), Ajay Sanders (SG), Josh Coleman (C), Trevion Brown (PG), Amidou Bamba (SF), Ajay Sanders (SG), Tyrell Gumbs-Frater (SG), and Matt Lindsey (PG)
Key Transfer(s) added: Tommy Burton, Jr. (SF, Southern Idaho)
Key Freshmen added: Devante Jones (PG), Ebrima Dibba (PG), David Kralj (SG), Malik LeGania (SG), and David Pierce III (SG)
Coastal Carolina should have three (3) out of five (5) starters returning for the 2018-2019 season. With the addition of JUCO transfer Tommy Burton, Jr., defense and rebounding should remain strong. Burton averaged 10.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his final season at Southern Idaho Community College.
On the other hand, offense was this team’s Achilles Heel last season. They were ranked 8th in Sun Belt Conference and 233rd nationally in offensive scoring. Coastal Carolina will need more production from Trevion Brown and Amidou Bamba to solve this problem.
2017-2018 Record: 14-18 (8-10) No Appearance
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 6-
Coach: Darrell Walker
Graduate: Brandon Brady and Wadly Mompremier
Transferred: Oliver Black, Andre Jones, K.J. Gilmore, Cameron Corcoran (Florida International)
Key Players Possibly Returning: Jaizec Lottie (PG), Ryan Pippins (PG), Anthony Black (PG), Kris Bankston (PF), Ben Marcus (SF), and Damir Hadzic (PF)
Key Transfer(s) added: Rayjon Tucker (SF, Florida Gulf Coast) and Dani Koljanin (PF, Marshall)
Key Freshmen added: Markquis Nowell (PG), Kamani Johnson (SF), and Horace Wyatt, Jr. (SF)
Little Rock will return four (4) players from last season who have started in over 13 games each. Unfortunately, none of these players were very big scorers. Little Rock had one of the worst scoring offenses in the nation with these players in the lineup.
This team is also very small, which may result negatively in the rebounding department. Little Rock seems to be rebuilding with their new coach Darrell Walker.
2017-2018 Record: 7-25 (4-14) No Appearances
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 5-
Coach: Mike Balado
Graduate: Tamas Bruce, C.J. Foster, Rashad Lindsey, Andrew Riley, and Deven Simms
Transferred: Connor Kern
Key Players Possibly Returning: Ty Cockfield (PG), Tristin Walley (SF), Grantham Gillard (SG), Salif Boudie (PF) , Marquis Eaton (PG), Jake Scoggins (PF), and Christian Willis (SG)
Key Transfer(s) added: Quadree Smith (PF, Gulf Coast State), Canberk Kuş (SF, Central Florida), Jermaine 'J.J.' Matthews, Jr. (PF, Moberly Area), Larry McLeod, Jr. (SG, Palm Beach State), and Malik Brevard (SF, Palm Beach State)
How a team went from 5th place in 2016-2017 to nearly last place in 2017-2018 with most of the same players on the roster is puzzling. This team was bad in nearly every category last season, including ball movement, rebounding and especially defense. Arkansas State has added several JUCO big men to try and solve their defensive and rebounding problems. However, nothing was done to address ball movement.
2017-2018 Record: 11-21 (6-12)
Projected Conference Wins 2018-2019: 5-
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