Friday, September 22, 2017

Sun Belt: Lafayette or Georgia Southern Could Deny Troy and Arlington Repeat Hoops Titles

The Sun Belt boasts a few solid football programs, including the Appalachian State team that moved up to FBS after shocking Michigan, Arkansas State, Troy and a LA-Lafayette team with a history of offense. UT Arlington looked ready to give the conference another tournament win with a top 40 RBI and 27-9, but Troy won the conference tournament and then fell short is a spirited effort against Duke.

Admittedly I am biased toward the Sun Belt since my twins had great runs for South Alabama cross country in their first D1 runs as freshmen, both placing high as the women won and men finished second.

Such are the dangers of a conference with seven teams that won 20 or more games, and Arlington will need a repeat Player of the Year season from 6-foot-7 Kevin Hervey as well as great point guard play from Erick Neal to regain the conference championship they dominated for years.

Value Add projects Lafayette to win, but with six teams ranking in the top half of all Division 1 schools, this projects as a dangerous conference.

Here is where Value Add ranks each Sun Belt team for the season, and the Massey Rankings rank the football teams against all other schools, led by three top 90 programs.

Team - 2017 SeedHoopsFootball
Louisiana Lafayette92124
Georgia Southern114141
Troy 1514290
UT Arlington152
Coastal Carolina163145
Appalachian St.16777
Georgia St.179170
Texas St.186191
Arkansas St.23185
Louisiana Monroe299160
South Alabama301129
Little Rock328

Here are the top 15 projected players in the conference in order. Subjectively we believe Neal ranks much higher than the third team All-Conference team, as this ranking would indicate. Certain things that ball handlers and perimeter defenders do cannot be measured via stats, and he seems to be one of those cases.

Top 15 Sun Belt PlayersValue AddSchoolHt
Kevin Hervey 257.67Texas Arlington`6-07
Bryce Washington 326.51Louisiana Lafayette`6-06
Ike Smith 35.91Georgia Southern`6-04
Jordon Varnado 235.80Troy`6-06
Wesley Person 35.74Troy`6-03
Tookie Brown 45.30Georgia Southern`5-11
Malik Benlevi 25.19Georgia St.`6-05
Frank Bartley 45.02Louisiana Lafayette`6-03
Jaylen Shaw 54.78Coastal Carolina`6-01
Ronshad Shabazz 24.10Appalachian St.`6-05
D'Marcus Simonds 153.96Georgia St.`6-03
Tamas Bruce 323.93Arkansas St.`6-07
Deven Simms 233.77Arkansas St.`6-04
Erick Neal 13.70Texas Arlington`5-10
Nijal Pearson 223.38Texas St.`6-05

Ken Pomeroy ranked the Sun Belt 15th of 32 Division 1 basketball conferences, which will all be previewed here with notes on which schools are now "basketball" or "football" schools based on which program is stronger this season. Football revenue is much higher, but programs are much more expensive between equipment and the requirement of matching enough women's scholarships in other sports. Therefore some programs forgo FBS football programs to focus on low cost basketball programs as their biggest revenue sport.

Sports IllustratedFox Sports and ESPN have lauded Value Add Basketball for estimating the number of points each college basketball players is worth to his team above a replacement player - similar to baseball WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Massey Ratings is used for the football rankings above.

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