Sun Belt Deep Dive

1.Little Rock Trojans

Lineup

PG: Marquis Nowell

SG: Ben Coupet

SF: Alsean Evans

PF: Kris Bankston

C: Ruot Monyyong

Bench: Isaiah Palermo, Marko Lukic, Jovan Stulic, Marko Andric, Admir Besovic, Nikola Maric, Yacine Toumi 

Additions: Yacine Toumi

Departures: Kamani Johnson (Arkansas)

In the Trojans’ history, they have only made five tournament appearances, but that is due to change this season. Ruot Monyyong is the Sun Belt preseason player of the year, a former JUCO product that, in his first season for Little Rock, had 11.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.0 BPG as a junior. Monyyong is a tremendous talent, someone that can score inside with ease while shooting a 56% clip and adding elite defense on the opposing bigs. Monyyong not only is going to be fantastic in College but is a potential NBA draftee in 2021. The leading scorer for last year’s Trojans squad is back with Markquis Nowell, a guy with 17.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.7 APG this past season, though he’s underrated due to his 5’7 frame you can’t teach though. Nowell posted a phenomenal 39% from three on seven attempts per game and shot 87% from the line. Height isn’t everything, and Nowell proved that. The lengthy Ben Coupet shot 36% from three this past season. Coupet will be one of the top scorers in the conference this season. One intriguing breakout player is Isaiah Palermo; he posted reliable figures in limited minutes as a freshman but could have a tremendous season as he gets more minutes. A significant loss late in the off-season was when Kamani Johnson decided to transfer to Arkansas after posting a solid season for Little Rock. The Trojans could be dangerous come March.

2.South Alabama Jaguars

Lineup

PG: Michael Flowers (Western Michigan)

SG: Howard Washington (Syracuse)

SF: Terrence Lewis (Iowa State)

PF: Sam Iorio (American)

C: Kayo Goncalves

Bench: John Pettway, Tyreke Locure, David Walker, K.K. Curry, Andrew Anderson, Zondrick Garrett, Jamal West Jr

Additions: Michael Flowers (WMU), Howard Washington (Syracuse), Terrence Lewis (Iowa State), Sam Iorio (American), David Walker

Departures: Josh Ajayi, Chad Lott, Trhae Mitchell, Andre Fox, Herb McGee

Richie Riley’s team was the 2nd most experienced team in College Hoops last season, only behind South Carolina State. The Jaguars won twenty games this past season but has an entirely different lineup due to losing the whole starting lineup. A transfer laden team led by Michael Flowers Jr, a transfer from Western Michigan that posted 16.9 PPG and shot 36.8% from three in 2019-20 for WMU. Flowers is a sneaky candidate for conference POTY that nobody is talking about for some reason. Howard Washington Jr, coming in from Syracuse, played sparingly in his three seasons for the Orange. Former top-100 prospect Terrence Lewis, a transfer from Iowa State that posted 6 PPG last season as a long, athletic G/Wing hybrid. Lewis could be a sneaky player this season for the Jaguars in 2020-21 in the Sun Belt. Iorio was an illustrious scorer in the Patriot league playing for American, as a stretch-four that is a tremendous shooter. Iorio adds a ton of versatility with his in-and-out scoring ability. Tyreke Locure is a player that started 13 games for Richie Riley in 2019-20, a player that could break out at some point this season. I think South Alabama could pick-up the tempo a bit this season from being ranked 310th in adjusted tempo this past season. I think the players they have now allow them to play a bit faster. South Alabama hasn’t made the Big Dance for 12 seasons. That could change this year.

3.Georgia State Panthers

Lineup

PG: Justin Roberts

SG: Corey Allen

SF: Kane Williams

PF: Eilel Nsoseme

C: Jalen Thomas

Bench: Ryan Boyce, Nelson Phillips, Joseph Toppin, Kaleb Scott, Collin Moore, Evan Johnson

Additions: Ryan Boyce

Departures: Damon Wilson

There’s a lot to like with Georgia State this season is led by star guard Justin Roberts. The former DePaul guard had a tremendous first season in the Sun Belt, throwing up 13.2 PPG while shooting 40% from-distance. Though last season’s leading scorer is Kane Williams, someone with 14.7 PPG but his efficiency numbers were lackluster across the board. The third go-to scorer is Corey Allen, who had somewhat of a disappointing shooting season in terms of what he did for Detroit in the Horizon League, posting figures of 44% and 38% in two seasons, but just 34% last season. I think Allen should improve shooting wise this season. The two significant issues for the Panthers this past season is that they allowed a ridiculous amount of offensive rebounds and fouled a ton also. If those dyer issues can get fixed, things are looking up.

4.Texas Arlington Mavericks

Lineup

PG: Sam Griffin

SG: Shahada Wells

SF: David Azore

PF: Grayson Carter (Georgetown)

C: Lazaro Rojas

Bench: Carson Bischoff, Nicolas Elame, Patrick Mwamba, Brandyn Talbot, Tre Jones

Departures: Kipp Warren, Radshad Davis, TiAndre Jackson-Young

The Mavs struggled one offense mightily at times this past season, ranking 280th in effective field goal percentage and 310th in 3-point-percentage. One of the main reasons for the struggle was senior Brian “Kipp” Warren, who shot the ball a ton and was extremely inefficient, hampering some of the few bright spots of the offense this past season. David Azore had a tremendous bounce-back season after posting a dreadful 32% from the field just two seasons ago. Azore’s FG% jumped to 43.8% this season, and if he can continue that upward trajectory, things are looking up for last season’s leading scorer. Sophomore Sam Griffin looks to be a burgeoning star for UTA after posting 9.4 PPG while shooting 35% from three as a freshman. Buy stock now. Shahada Wells is an illustrious JUCO product coming in after dropping an astounding 46.5% from three while dropping 21 PPG. Wells looks to be an All-Sun Belt guy in his first season in D1 Hoops. UTA could turn some heads this season with some pure scorers looking to make a name for themselves.

5.Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Lineup

PG: Devante Jones’

SG: Ebrima Dibba

SF: Garrick Green

PF: Isaac Hippolyte

C: DeShawn Thomas (LSU)

Bench: DeAnthony Tipler, Malik LeGania, Kevin Williamson, Tyrik Dixon, Ahmard Harvey, Essam Mostafa, Tim Caesar

Additions: DeShawn Thomas (LSU), Tyrik Dixon

Departures: Tyrell Gumbs-Frater, Tommy Burton

This past season was an impossible one for Coach Cliff Ellis to have a successful one. The heartache started early when up-and-coming guard Ebrima Dibba suffered a gruesome season-ending injury before his season even got rolling. More losses happened when the team’s best shooters, Keishawn Brewton, entered the transfer portal in February. Sophomore guard Devante’ Jones put the team on his back last season, and he’s back this season to continue his destruction of the Sun-Belt. Jones this past season put out gaudy numbers, including 17.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists-per-game, absolutely absurd. Ebrima Dibba, as mentioned earlier, is coming back this season following the devastating injury. Dibba, the hefty guard, can drive at the basket with ease getting him to his 45% shooting percentage during Dibba’s freshman campaign. A key transferee is coming in for the long-time Chants head-man Cliff Ellis is DeShawn Thomas from LSU. The thing about that is that Thomas never actually suited up for the Tigers, as he dealt with injuries last season. The ex-Missouri State guard Tyrik Dixon also enters the fold as someone that should be the best defender on this Chants team instantly. Cliff Ellis hasn’t had a winning season since 2015-16, which will change this season.

6.Louisiana Rajun Cajuns

Lineup

PG: Cedric Russell

SG: Mylik Wilson

SF: Kobe Julien

PF: Jacobi Gordon (California)

C: Dou Gueye

Bench: Trajan Wesley, Brayan Au, Michael Thomas, Chris Spenkuch, Isaiah Richards, Devin Butts (Mississippi State)

Additions: Brayan Au, Michael Thomas, Isaiah Richards, Devin Butts (Mississippi State)

Departures: Jalen Johnson (Mississippi State), P.J. Hardy

An utter disaster 2019-20 was for the Cajuns and Coach Marlin, based on winning percentage, Bob Marlin’s worst since his first D1 season with Sam Houston State in 1998-99. I’m sure Coach Marlin has been chomping at the bit to get back on the court so he can put 2019-20 in the rear-view mirror. Louisiana has the talent for that to happen, led by super sophomore Mylik Wilson, a player that should have his name squarely in the running for Conference Player of the Year in the Belt. It’s hard to teach Wilson’s kind of efficiency that he possessed as a freshman, adding 47% overall along with 35% from three. Alongside Wilson, you have veteran Cedric Russell, who is the teams returning leading scorer. Even though Russell had 14 points-per-game, the junior was mightily inefficient, shooting a measly 41% overall and 33% from deep. If the Ragin Cajuns want to compete for the tournament, potentially Russell needs to force fewer shots. Kobe Julien showed his star potential during his freshman season that ended after eight games due to injury but showed a vast talent. Replacing last year’s top scorer Jalen Johnson, who opted to transfer, will be Julien’s job to snag. Coach Marlin should turn it around this season.

7.Georgia Southern Eagles

Lineup

PG: Zach Bryant (UAB)

SG: Grant Weatherford (IUPUI)

SF: Elijah McCladden

PF: Kaden Archie (UTEP)

C: Ralueke Orizu

Bench: Eric Boone, Andrei Sarasov (TTU), Kamari Brown, David Viti, Mackenzie McFatten, Fred Odhiambo, Prince Toyambi (Cincinnati)

Additions: Zach Bryant (UAB), Prince Toyambi (Cincinnati), Andrei Sarasov

Departures: Ike Smith, Quan Jackson, Calvin Wishart, Simeon Carter, Trey Dawkins

Brian Burg hit the transfer portal this off-season. He was adding Zach Bryant from UAB, most notably. Bryant had been dismissed from UAB only three games into the last season and then landed at GASO after posting two consistent seasons of double-figures for the Dragons. You can bet on Bryant being a shoo-in for a spot on an All-Sun-Belt team this season. One of the few key returning players is Elijah McCadden. As a sophomore, McCadden posted double figures while posting above-average 3-point-numbers at nearly 36% from deep. They were adding a former-top-100 prospect with Kaden Archie, a player that’s on stop number three, with TCU and UTEP being the first two. Archie is a versatile player due to being a hybrid forward, a good athlete. Look for Archie to be one of the top-end defenders in the Belt this season. Keep an eye on JUCO product Eric Boone, who is coming in from John A. Logan CC, the school that produced Jay Scrubb, a player that was picked directly out of JUCO in the 2020 draft. Along with Scrubb, they also have a 7’2 big-man in Jamarion Sharpe, so it’s safe to assume that Boone was on a team with legit talent. Boone posted 15-a-game for John A. Logan, along with shooting 51% from the field and 38% from three. Coach Burg’s men could surprise people if the transfers fill-in seamlessly.

8.Texas State Bobcats

Lineup

PG: Mason Harrell

SG: Marlin Davis

SF: Shelby Adams

PF: Isiah Small

C: Alonzo Sule

Bench: Caleb Asbury, Darien Jenkins, Addison Wallace, Drew Tennial, Dylan Dawson, Nate Martin

Additions: Drew Tennial, Dylan Dawson, Nate Martin

Departures: Nijal Pearson, Eric Terry

For many teams, it was a rough offseason having to deal with COVID-19 and trying to figure out how to have a season, but even more so for Texas State as Head Coach Danny Kaspar was called out by multiple former players, including Jaylen Shead, for making racially insensitive remarks. Kaspar resigned not long after things were made public. With little time in the midst of a pandemic to go on a coaching search, they appointed Terrance Johnson on an interim basis. Even with those issues, there is tons of talent returning this season, especially on the defensive end. The Bobcats return two of the top three in the conference in defensive-box-plus-minus (DBPM) with versatile forward Isiah Small and Marlin Davis. Along with those two previously mentioned, Mason Harrell is also a plus

defender. The defense will carry the load for this Bobcats team this season, but the real key is improving on their 31.8% as a team from three. 

9.Appalachian State Mountaineers

Lineup

PG: Justin Forrest

SG: Michael Eades

SF: Adrien Delph

PF: Kendall Lewis

C: R.J. Duhart

Bench: Michael Alomancy, Donovan Gregory, Xavion Brown, C.J. Huntley, Roger Wilson Jr, Aleksandr Glukhsov

Additions: Michael Eades, Michael Alomancy, C.J. Huntley

Departures Isaac Johnson, O’Showen Williams

After a 17-win season, Coach Kearns returns his best player, Justin Forrest, for his senior season. You have a two-way player with Forrest, a good defender who had 17-a-game mostly due to his innate talent of getting to the foul line. The big question for Forrest is if he can fix his subpar efficiency from the field. The junior guard Adrian Delph looks to have a bounce-back season as he struggled during his sophomore season. The inability to shoot the three plagued the Mountaineers last season; if they can improve on that, watch out.

10.Arkansas State Red Wolves

Lineup

PG: Caleb Fields

SG: Marquis Eaton

SF: Carter Jeffries

PF: Keyon Wesley

C: Antwon Jackson

Bench: Markise Davis, Lazar Grbovic, Norchad Omier, Caleb London, Malcolm Farrington, Tim Holland Jr

Additions: Tim Holland Jr, Carter Jeffries, Markise Davis

Departures: Melo Eggleston (Bryant), J.J. Matthews, Jerry Johnson

What a bizarre season for the Redwolves last season, going 16-16 but struggling on defense was a huge problem. But the things that Ark St was good at, they were really good at. They got to the foul line more than anyone in the nation last season, along with being top five in block percentage. Losing Melo Eggleston and Jerry Johnson will be significant as they were two of the better scorers this last season. Both Eaton and Fields have shown upside as scorers; therefore, they’ll be the go-to players this season. Keep an eye on Carter Jeffries, a player that proved to be an elite shooter during his JUCO career. It should be an up-and-down season for Arkansas State.

11.Troy Trojans

Lineup

PG: Desmond Williams

SG: Kieffer Punter

SF: Jakevan Leftridge

PF: Nick Stampley

C: Zay Williams

Bench: Antwan Burnett, Khalyl Waters, Rory Pantoplet, Kam Woods, Duke Miles, Miles Mendes, Christian Turner

Additions: Kieffer Punter, Antwan Burnett, Rory Pantoplet, Kam Woods, Duke Miles, Miles Mendes, Christian Turner

Departures: Ty Gordon, Darian Adams, Tahj Small, Davion Thomas

This Trojans team is relying on a bunch of newcomers this season, off-the-bench having five freshmen and a JUCO transfer. Sophomore Desmond Williams is in for a big season during his sophomore season after showing big-time shooting prowess as a freshman. Stampley is the other returning starter as Stampley started 20 games in 2019-20 for Troy. This won’t be a competitive team at all.

12.Louisiana Monroe Warhawks

Lineup:

PG: Erie Oloande

SG: Koreem Ozier (Sacred Heart)

SF: Langston Powell

PF: Thomas Howell

C: Chris Efretuei

Bench: Elijah Gonzalez, Marco Morency, Johnnie Williams IV, Zaakir Sawyer, Luke Phillips, D’Marcus Hall

Additions: Koreem Ozier (Sacred Heart), Elijah Gonzalez, Johnnie Williams IV, Zaakir Sawyer, Luke Phillips, D’Marcus Hall

Departures: Michael Ertel (UAB), Tyree White, JD Williams

One of the slowest paced teams in the country this past season, ranking 322nd in Adjusted tempo. ULM only won 9 games last season and lost their top three scorers from that, which makes for a rough upcoming season. Chris Efertuei will be the biggest contributor returning. Efertuei is 7’1 and can move his way around the paint to get easy baskets. Four freshmen are coming into the fold this season with Williams, Sawyer, Hall, Howell. Year 11 of the Keith Richard era will be rough and could spell the end of his time in Louisiana. 

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