The Sun Belt Tournament kicks off today with the early rounds of the women’s bracket in New Orleans. If you are a long time fan of the Trojans and the Red Wolves, or you are new, here is a guide on how things will go down.
When Arkansas Teams Play
Women’s Basketball starts Wednesday the 9th for the first round, then they play Friday, and Saturday. See Brackets at the bottom of the story
Little Rock: The Little Rock Women are the #2 seed and play at 5 (or 30 minutes after the game ahead of them ends) on Wednesday against Texas State. If they win they move on to 2pm Friday.
ASU: Arkansas State is the #1 seed in the tournament and started off at 11:30 today with a 81-61 victory over Appalachian State. They move on to play the Friday at 11:30.
Men’s Basketball kicks off on Thursday at 5 p.m., then they play daily rounds until Sunday for the championship.
Little Rock: The Trojans are the #1 overall seed in the tournament and pick up a couple of byes to start play on Saturday at 1 p.m.
ASU: The Red Wolves just missed the top 8 cut, landing at #9, needed to get into the tournament in part to a 9 game losing streak to end the season.
How to Watch
Television: Fortunately for all of us not willing to drive to New Orleans, the games are televised through ESPN. All of the women’s games will air on the digital network, ESPN 3, while the first three rounds of the men’s games appear on ESPN3 with the championship game at 12pm on Sunday airing nationally on ESPN.
If you are not familiar with ESPN 3, you can typically access it if you have a major cable provider at WatchESPN.com, or through any number of mobile, tablet, or connected tv apps.
Tickets: Tickets should be available for any of the upcoming games. Here is a link to purchase tickets through ticketmaster.
No doubt, the bracket format for the Sun Belt is strange. Only the top 8 teams from each sport make the tournament, but that is the only similarity.
Women’s Bracket: The women’s bracket is fairly straightforward. All 8 teams play on opening day and progress through three rounds until a champion is crowned. This is your traditional sports playoff bracket.
Men’s Bracket: The Men’s is highly modified. Only 4 teams play per round (until the final) advancing two each time. That means that the tournament starts with the #5-8 seeded teams. The #3 and #4 seeds get a first round bye while the #1 and #2 teams get to set out two teams. It gives a clear advantage for the higher seeded teams.
Women Basketball: The Sun Belt Women have been dominated by Little Rock in recent history. Little Rock has won 3 out of the past 5 tournaments. This year’s Trojans got off to the worst start under coach Joe Foley at 5-11. The Trojans then rallied off 13 consecutive wins to end the season, including an upset of Arkansas State who was holding on to an 18 game win streak at the time.
Arkansas State had their most dominating Sun Belt season ever, only losing the one conference game to Little Rock, and won an amazing 16 conference games by double digits. The Red Wolves picked up their second regular season championship in history. The tournament has not been kind to the Red Wolves however.
Men’s Basketball: The Trojans have not advanced past the second round in four years since winning the tournament in 2011. This year’s Trojans have taken the country by storm with first year head coach Chris Beard, being a constant fixture in the top-5 of the mid-major poll.
ULM however sits at #2 and has surged at the end of the year, winning 9 straight including a victory over the Trojans. When the two teams met in Little Rock earlier this year, the Trojans escaped with a 1 point victory after ULM had at least 3 good opportunities to put the ball in to win the game.
Georgia State as a #1 seed won the tournament last year, however the tournament has a long history of low seeds winning 4 games in 4 days to win the tournament, Little Rock did it themselves in 2011. In fact over the last 10 years only 2 overall #1 seeds have won the tournament. The Red Wolves have advanced to the championship game in two tournaments
What is at Stake
Women’s Basketball: Neither Little Rock or Arkansas State will pick up an NCAA tournament berth without winning it all. Both schools should be considered for NIT spots, especially given the Trojan’s history of play and the huge win streak from the Red Wolves this year.
Men’s Basketball: The Trojans had a good shot at an NCAA at large bid regardless of what happened in the tournament until they lost to Appalachian State. It was technically the largest upset by winning percentage in NCAA basketball. They still have an outside shot, but most likely need to win the tournament to get in.