The Sun Belt Conference released their preseason coaches’ men’s basketball poll this week, and UT Arlington is predicted to place second.
UTA guard Brian Warren, an All-Sun Belt third team selection last year, was selected to the preseason All-Sun Belt first team for 2019-2020. He did a tremendous job running the Mavs offense and hit several key shots during the season to win games or send games into overtime. Warren averaged 15 points on 39%+ shooting and making 80% of his free throw throws.
I think the poll is pretty accurate. Anything can happen in conference play and there’s always a couple of teams that seem to be better or worse than expected. Or, as the old saying goes, it doesn’t really matter how teams look on paper–that’s why the play the games. UTA is returning a lot of players a roster that played solid basketball in the second half of the season, using an swarming defense that shut down opponents’ three point shooting and utilizing an attacking halfcourt offense to earn a 12-6 record in conference play and earn the Mavs a chance to play in Sun Belt final last year.
South Alabama has several key transfer players that a lot of national writers believe will lead the Jaguars to the NCAA tournament. The Jaguars will light up a lot of arena scoreboards and have a great highlight reel for sure, but will they be able to slow down opponents on defense? South Alabama was eighth in opponent field goal scoring defense and sixth in scoring defense last year during conference play. Texas State is lead by star guard Nijal Pearson and could make a serious run at the conference title.
Georgia State will be without Coach Hunter, who took the head coaching job at Tulane. Former UTA Mavericks coach Scott Cross took over at Troy in the offseason and is picked last. There might be a year or two of rebuilding ahead for the Trojans.
If there’s a team that is picked lower than I expected in the poll, I think it might be ULM. With all their size and a great coaching staff led by 10th-year Keith Richard, the Warhawks played very, very good at times last year and could easily be top-two or top-four in conference in March.
Overall, not sure if UTA will have the overall best record in conference play (another 12-6 record will be hard to repeat) but I definitely think we place high enough to get a bye or two in the tournament and then it’s a very likely we get a couple of wins in a row. It will be Coach Ogden’s first of many trips to the NCAA tournament as head coach of the Mavericks.
2019-20 SUN BELT CONFERENCE MEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL & HONORS
Preseason Coaches’ Poll
First-place votes in parentheses
1. South Alabama (8) – 138 points
2. UTA (2) – 124
3. Georgia Southern (1) – 121
4. Texas State (1) – 110
5. Louisiana – 92
6. Georgia State – 76
7. Coastal Carolina – 75
8. ULM – 72
9. Appalachian State – 40
10. Arkansas State – 33
11. Little Rock – 32
12. Troy – 22
Preseason All-Sun Belt First Team
Quan Jackson, Georgia Southern (RJr., G, Tallahassee, Fla.)3
Josh Ajayi, South Alabama (RSr., F, El Monte, Calif.)2
Trhae Mitchell, South Alabama (RSr., F, Austell, Ga.)3
Brian Warren, UTA (Sr., G, Indianapolis, Ind.)3
Nijal Pearson, Texas State (Sr., G, Beaumont, Texas)1
Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team
Justin Forrest, Appalachian State (Jr., G, Decatur, Ga.)
DeVante Jones, Coastal Carolina (So., G, New Orleans, La.)*
Ike Smith, Georgia Southern (RSr., G, Gainesville, Fla.)
Kane Williams, Georgia State (Jr., G, Douglasville, Ga.)
Michael Ertel, ULM (Jr., G, Indianapolis, Ind.)3
Preseason All-Sun Belt Third Team
Isaac Johnson, Appalachian State (Sr., F, Charlotte, N.C.)
Isaiah Crawley, Georgia Southern (Sr., F, Ripley, Tenn.)
Cedric Russell, Louisiana (Jr., G, Alexandria, La.)
JD Williams, ULM (Sr., G, Birmingham, Ala.)
Don Coleman, South Alabama (RSr., G, North Augusta, S.C.)
Preseason Player of the Year
Trhae Mitchell, South Alabama (RSr., F, Austell, Ga.)3
12018-19 First Team All-Sun Belt selection
22018-19 Second Team All-Sun Belt selection
32018-19 Third Team All-Sun Belt selection
*2018-19 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year
Roster updates for 2019-2020:
After seeing a bit of roster turnover after the 2018-2019 season due to graduation and a coaching change, the 2019-2020 Mavericks team will look much more familiar:
- Played in 2018-2019 and returning for 2019-2020:
David Azore – sophomore guard
Brian Warren – senior point guard
Radshad Davis – senior forward
TiAndre Jackson Young – senior forward
Patrick Mwamba – sophomore forward
Jabari Narcis – senior forward
Ayoub Nouhi – sophomore guard/forward
- With team in 2018-2019, but first year to play for UTA:
McKade Marquis – redshirt freshman guard from Whitehouse, Texas
- New to team for 2019-2020 and expected to play:
Nicolas Elame – freshman guard from Paris, France, played for Bella Vista Prep
Sam Griffin – freshman guard from Miami, Florida
Hunter Lavelle – freshman guard played at Argyle H.S.
Jordan Phillips – sophomore guard played at Grace Prep in Arlington and transferred from University of Arkansas. I could be wrong, but I think Phillips has 3 full years of eligibility for the Mavericks.
Coleman Sparling – redshirt junior forward from Washington, played for College of Southern Idaho
Davis Steelman – junior guard from Bedford, played for New Mexico Military Academy
- First year with team, but won’t play until 2020-2021:
Grayson Carter – sophomore forward played at Denton Guyer and transferred from Georgetown University. Will sit out one year due to NCAA transfer rules – will have 3 seasons of eligibility remaining
Tre Jones – freshman forward from Kennedale H.S. will redshirt this season due to knee surgery – can play 4 seasons for UTA
- Played in 2018-2019, but not returning:
Pedro Castro – now playing at Blinn College
Edric Dennis – now playing at TCU
Andres Ibarguen – now playing at Angelo State