Formerly known to the basketball world as the University of Arkansas – Little Rock, the Trojans have re-branded themselves both in terms of their name and on-court talent in advance of the 2015-16 season.
Now known as the Little Rock Trojans, “Little Rock’s Team” is ready to make a statement in the Sun Belt, and this may be the first of several years where the Trojans are in the thick of things in the conference race down the stretch.
The team is coming off a sub-.500 performance a season ago, so managing expectations for the team will be key for the coaching staff. Keeping the players focused on the on-court product and focusing on each game as they come will be key to helping the team develop and reach contender status.
During the 2015 NCAA Tournament, we saw our fair share of upsets over the duration of the tournament. We saw some Cinderella runs, some unexpected runs, and some big individual performances as the field was narrowed down from 68 to Duke cutting down the nets at the end of it all.
Two of the biggest upsets took place on the first day of the Round of 64. Georgia State and UAB entered the tournament as 14-seeds in their respective regionals, and were projected by many to lose their opening round game.
Nobody told them they weren’t supposed to win, and they proved everyone wrong in the process.
In two of the best games of the entire tournament, UAB took down #3 Iowa State in the South Regional, and Georgia State took down #3 Baylor just hours later in the West Regional.
Both teams would see their Cinderella runs end before they even got started, as both would bow out of the tournament in the Round of 32. UAB would lose to UCLA, and Georgia State would get knocked out by Xavier.
Both of the opening round upsets created more excitement and buzz around the NCAA Tournament, and has since led to a ton of optimism for the future around both of these programs.
But, two questions remain. One, can they recreate that magic again in the 2016 NCAA Tournament if they find themselves in the same situation as last year? Two, which of the two schools has the better chance to pull off another upset?
Back in April, it looked as though Florida A&M transfer Jermaine Ruttley was off to Louisiana Tech. The junior guard had committed to play for the bulldogs in 2015-16, but then things got interesting.
Mike White left the team, opting for the head coaching position down in Gainesville, FL with the Gators, and their top assistant went with him. With the coaching change, Ruttley de-committed from Louisiana Tech, and reopened his recruitment.
While he entertained possibilities like Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Tennessee, and Purdue, among others, he went off the map with his decision.
Year after year, teams enter the Sun Belt Conference as the pre-season favourite, and year after year the race for the conference title turns into a crap shoot.
Two seasons ago, the Georgia State Panthers entered the year as clear-cut favourites to win the Sun Belt title. As we all know, the title wasn’t in the cards. The Panthers lost to the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt tournament finals.
Georgia State made it back to the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15, avoiding any further upsets for the pre-season favourite.
On Saturday afternoon, the aforementioned Ragin’ Cajuns find themselves in a position that Georgia State knows all too well: pre-season Sun Belt favourite. The school was awaiting the decision of junior forward Shawn Long, who was predicted by many to be an NBA Draft pick in the upcoming draft. While Long was aware of the possibilities, he opted to return to school for his senior season, making the Ragin’ Cajuns a legitimate mid-major threat in the process. Continue reading Shawn Long is Returning to UL-Lafayette→
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