Busting Brackets

Sun Belt Basketball: 2022 conference tournament preview and predictions

The Pensacola Bay Center revealed its new basketball floor on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, as the arena prepares to host the Sun Belt Conference basketball tournament next year.Sunbelt Basketball
The Pensacola Bay Center revealed its new basketball floor on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, as the arena prepares to host the Sun Belt Conference basketball tournament next year.Sunbelt Basketball /

The 2022 Sun Belt Basketball Conference Tournament will get underway in Pensacola (Fla.) on March 3 with all 12 conference teams are participating.

The 2022 Sun Belt Conference Tournament will get underway at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola (Fla.) on March 3. All 12 conference teams are participating in the single-elimination tournament.

Texas State ended the regular season on a nine-game winning streak to finish atop of the Sun Belt standings at 12-3. The Bobcats have now claimed the conference’s regular-season crown in both of Terrence Johnson’s seasons at the helm. The Cats are 39-13 overall, including 24-6 in conference play, under the 2022 Sun Belt Coach of the Year. All-Conference first-team selection Caleb Asberry leads the way while second-team all-Sun Belt choice Mason Harrell gives TSU  a nice sidekick.

Reigning conference tournament champion Appalachian State (18-13, 12-6) is the No. 2 seed, followed by preseason favorite Georgia State (15-10, 9-6). Troy is the fourth seed and the last team to earn a bye to the quarterfinals. Here is the link to the bracket.

There will be four first-round games that will take place on Thursday. The quarterfinal round will commence on March 5, and the semifinals will take place on Sunday. Those three rounds will be broadcast on ESPN+. Meanwhile, CBS Sports Network will televise Monday’s championship game.

The winner of the Sun Belt championship will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a closer look at each team participating.

1. Texas State (21-6, 13-3)

The Bobcats uses a senior-laden lineup that consists of four guards and one forward. While their top five players are seniors, Texas State is a small team that shoots the ball exceptionally well. TSU led the Sun Belt in field goal percentage (45.3%), 3-point percentage (39.2%), free throws made, and was second in FT% (76.2%).

They are pretty efficient defensively, ranking 59th in the nation in that category as they allowed the second-fewest points during conference play (65.2). Asberry averages 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds, tops five players scoring at least eight points a game. Harrell (11.6 PPG, 3.1 APG) and 6-foot-8 forward Isaiah Small (10.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG) also average double-figures.

2. Appalachian State (18-13, 12-6)

The Mountaineers have an experienced guard-oriented, although they are not very deep. Senior guard Adrien Delph — a first-team all-conference selection — leads four players averaging over nine points with a league-high 17.3 points a contest. App State is one of the worst shooting teams in the league, but they love launching 3-pointers. They led the league in 3-pointers made (8.1) and 3-pointers attempted (24.1), as well as had the fewest turnovers (9.7) and committed the fewest fouls.

3. Georgia State (15-10, 9-5)

The Panthers are also a veteran team and are arguably the most athletic team in the league. Georgia St. loves to shoot from beyond the arc, but the Panthers also have two quality big men in Jalen Thomas (7.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and Eliel Nsoseme (8.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG). The Panthers are the worst shooting team in the league. However, they make up for those woes by playing fast, hitting the offensive glass hard, and owning the league’s top defense.

4. Troy (19-10, 10-6)

The Trojans are one of the bigger and deeper teams, but they are also pretty young, with their top four players being underclassmen. Troy defends the 3-point line decently well and gets to the free-throw line a ton, but they turn the ball over and foul way too much.

5. South Alabama (19-10, 9-7)

The senior-laden Jaguars are the conference’s biggest team, with their top-8 players being 6-4 or taller. USA is fantastic on the defensive end — ranking 23rd in the nation in efficiency — and shoots the ball well. They also have two players who can create their own offense in Jay Jay Chandler (15.3 PPG, 2.6 APG) and Charles Manning (15.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.6 APG).

6. Arkansas State (17-10, 8-7)

The Red Wolves share the ball and score around the hoop well. ASU also rebounds the ball well, although they turn over the ball too much. Norchard Omier (17.2 PPG, 12.0 RPG), the Sun Belt’s POY and DPOY, leads the way, while Desi Sills (12.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.0 APG) and Marquis Eaton (11.7 PPG, 3.4 APG) are quality guards.

7. Coastal Carolina (16-12, 8-8)

The Chanticleers are a big and deep team that shoots the ball from beyond the arc and defends the 3-point line well. Coastal also is a solid rebounding team; however, they turn over the ball and foul too much. Vince Cole leads the team in scoring at 15.4 points a contest while Rudi Williams (13.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG) and 6-9 center Essam Mostafa (13.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG) also average double-figures. Junior point guard Ebrima Dibba tops the league with 5.7 dimes a game.

8. Louisiana (13-14, 8-9)

The Ragin Cajuns is the top-scoring team in the league at 71.1 points a game, led by twin towers Jordan Brown (15.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG) and Theo Akwuba (9.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG) while Kobe Julien (12.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG) also scores in double-figures. Louisiana shoots the ball decently well and protects the rim. Turnovers and fouling are a problem.

9. UT-Arlington (11-17, 7-10)

The athletic Mavericks use an 11-man rotation as they play fast on both ends of the court. UTA gets to the hoop and shares the ball well, and they create havoc on the defensive end. They are also an excellent offensive rebounding team, but defense and turnovers are their biggest bugaboo. Six-foot-4 senior guard David Azore can really score as he upped his production to 23.7 points a game on 44.1% shooting from the field and 37.5% from long distance during conference play.

10. Georgia Southern (12-15, 5-11)

The Eagles have a well-balanced attack from their nine-man rotation as seven players average at least seven points and two rebounds. They lost six of their final seven games.

11. Louisiana-Monroe (13-17, 5-13)

The Warhawks are not very deep, and they struggle mightily to defend. ULM also doesn’t get to the free-throw line, and they are the second-worst rebounding team in the league. Andre Jones (15.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.9 APG) leads four players in double-figures.

12. Little Rock (3-13, 8-18)

The Trojans have many problems, which is why they have lost four straight and won only three league games overall.

Next. Predictions for all 32 conference tournaments. dark

Who will win?

This is a toss-up as I can see any of the top-8 seeds coming out on top of the bracket. Texas State is the hottest team though Georgia State has run off seven straight victories. However,  each squad has its own weaknesses, and pretty much every team has proven they can win away from home. South Alabama, Coastal Carolina, and App State join TSU are probably the tourney favorites, while Georgia State can take home the trophy if they are at the top of their game.