One of the most unique conference tournaments is the setup for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Only 10 of the 12 teams make it into the tournament, but the conference really draws this thing out. Games actually get played on campus sites from March 7-11 and then the semifinals and the finals are at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
The bottom four teams play on Saturday. Then the winners play the 5 and 6 seeds on Monday. Then the 3 and 4 teams play those winners on Wednesday. Then the semifinals begin, with the #1 seed Little Rock and the #2 seed from out of nowhere, South Alabama, in action for the first time with a triple bye.
There simply have to be betting opportunities with a format like this. There are a ton of moving parts to say the least and we’ll try to navigate through it all if we can in this Sun Belt Tournament breakdown.
Here are the teams, records, seeds, and odds from Circa Sports for the 2020 Sun Belt Conference Tournament:
- Little Rock 21-10 (15-5) +290
- South Alabama 20-11 (13-7) (H2H tiebreaker) +410
- Texas State 20-11 (13-7) +260
- Georgia State 19-12 (12-8) (record vs. Little Rock) +385
- Georgia Southern 18-13 (12-8) +1200
- Appalachian State 17-14 (11-9) +3000
- UT Arlington 14-17 (10-10) +3000
- Louisiana 13-18 (8-12) (H2H record v. Ark State & Coastal Carolina) +40000
- Arkansas State 16-15 (8-12) (record vs. GA State and GA Southern) +30000
- Coastal Carolina 15-16 (8-12) +10000
Alright, now that we have that settled, we can really hone in on these teams. Little Rock won the regular season, but both Ken Pomeroy and Bart Torvik have three teams ranked higher than the Trojans. As far as Ken Pom’s “Luck” metric, Little Rock ranks 31st in Luck. South Alabama, ironically enough, ranks 39th.
On the flip side, UT Arlington ranks 346th. Texas State ranks 298th. Georgia State ranks 287th. Those are the three teams rated above Little Rock on both sites. Little Rock won a ton of close games, particularly early in conference play. On one hand, we can say that they know how to win those if it comes up here in the conference tournament. On the other hand, they may be a #1 seed in name only.
Like I said, there are a lot of opportunities here.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 SBC Tournament:
Saturday March 7
11 a.m. CT: 9 Arkansas State at 8 Louisiana
2 p.m. CT: 10 Coastal Carolina at 7 UT Arlington
Monday March 9
6 p.m. CT: 9/8 winner at 5 Georgia Southern
6 p.m. CT: 10/7 winner at 6 Appalachian State
Wednesday March 11
6 p.m. CT: 9/8/5 winner at 4 Georgia State
7 p.m. CT: 10/7/6 winner at 3 Texas State
Saturday March 14
11:30 a.m. CT: 1 Little Rock vs. 9/8/5/4 winner
2 p.m. CT: 2 South Alabama vs. 10/7/6/3 winner
Sunday March 15
1 p.m. CT: Championship Game
As mentioned, Saturday and Sunday are played in New Orleans. The first six games are played on the campus of the higher-seeded team. With two seemingly vulnerable seeds at the top, a lot of things could happen here, particularly with Texas State and Georgia State. It might be a little bit tougher for UT Arlington, who grades very well, but would have to win five games in just over a week.
Texas State is going to be popular. The Bobcats rate the best of any team in the league. They are the league’s top offensive team and top defensive team by adjusted efficiency. They started 0-3 in league play, avenged every one of those losses, and finished 13-7. They lost to South Alabama on the last day of the regular season to miss out on the triple bye. We’ll see if that comes back to hurt them.
The lone issue with Texas State is a big one. They do not shoot well. They are 48.7% from 2 and 31.7% from 3. They love to grind the game down to a halt with a very low tempo, which can help hide some offensive shortcomings, but could also be a real big problem in a one-and-done format such as this one.
The #2 seed South Alabama actually ranks sixth in the conference per Torvik, so that is another reason why Texas State will get a lot of run. They actually draw a much better semifinal game than Little Rock, who is likely to run into Georgia State or Georgia Southern, two teams that like to push the tempo.
In a game with extra possessions, Little Rock could be at a disadvantage with one of the country’s highest turnover rates. Texas State and UT Arlington take the best care of the basketball in this league, but Little Rock is among the worst. Georgia State is about average and so is Georgia Southern.
My pick in this conference is Georgia State. The Panthers have to go through the #1 seed, which is the tougher of the two semifinal paths, but Texas State’s inability to make shots is very worrisome. Georgia State forces turnovers at a similar rate to Texas State, but shoots it a lot better, at least from deep. Texas State likely gets UT Arlington in the quarterfinals and I’d rather take my chances with Georgia Southern than UT Arlington.
This is a conference where chaos is certainly a possibility. I’ll take Georgia State to finish above the fray.
Pick: Georgia State +385