Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (15-3) at Texas Arlington Mavericks (12-7)
We picked up yet another win last night when we backed the Ohio State Buckeyes at Northwestern. The Buckeyes led by double digits almost the entire game but made us sweat a little bit down the stretch as the Wildcats fought hard in front of their home court fans. Ohio State eventually held on for the 71-65 victory, covering the -3-point spread. Ohio State officially needs to be mentioned in all conversations about who the best team in the Big-10 is this season.
They have been red-hot in conference play and sit alone atop the standings at 7-0 in league play. For Northwestern it looks like another season ending in heartbreak. They returned much of the squad that led them to the big dance for the first time ever last season, but alas, this team just doesn’t have that same magic.
Today I will be switching gears in a big way and breaking down a matchup in the Sun Belt Conference between Louisiana Lafayette and Texas Arlington.
Conference supremacy is on the line tonight when the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana Lafayette travel to Arlington, Texas to face the Mavericks of Texas Arlington. UT-Arlington won the regular season Sun Belt title last season before getting upset by Troy in the Sun Belt tournament and missing out on the madness.
They were the consensus pick to win the league again this season but have stumbled so far in league play. It is the Ragin’ Cajuns of LA-Lafayette that look poised to run away with the title this year as they are 5-0 in Sun Belt play and 15-3 on the season.
The UT-Arlington Mavericks will be slight -1-point home favorites tonight. The game total over-under is set at 157.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:15 PM PST from College Park Center.
The UT-Arlington Mavericks have way more talent than their 12-7 record might imply. They returned basically all of last year’s regular-season championship team that won 27 games, and should be the class of the Sun Belt this season, they just aren’t. They have struggled badly on the road in conference play, dropping games to outmatched squads like Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, and Arkansas Little Rock.
The Mavericks cannot afford to drop a game at home if they want any chance to compete for the Sun Belt title this season. The Mavericks are led against by superstar Kevin Hervey. Hervey is a lock to be playing in the NBA someday and is a rare talent for a school in the Sun Belt.
The 6-7 230 pound forward has an NBA body and is having another stellar season, averaging 20 points and 8 boards a game. Hervey has had his struggles recently, and they will need a vintage performance from him tonight if they have any shot of holding off a very talented Ragin’ Cajuns team tonight at home.
It was hard to see this level of success coming this year for the LA-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. They finished just 10-8 in conference play last season, although they did have a solid overall record of 21-11. The Ragin’ Cajuns have been steamrolling through the Sun Belt so far this season, blowing out most teams. They own wins over Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, and La-Monroe by an average of almost thirty points.
The Cajuns are a fast-paced team that loves to score, averaging almost 85 points a game. They have four starters averaging double digits scoring with senior guard Frank Bartley leading the way at almost 17 a contest.
The key to the Cajun’s success this season? Upperclassmen. LA-Lafayette starts three seniors and two juniors. They have a very experienced roster, and they aren’t afraid of heading into Arlington to knock off the defending champs on their own court.
This game will likely decide who wins the Sun Belt this season. It might not decide which team wins the regular season title, as the Mavericks have dug themselves into a little bit of a hole that is going to be hard to dig out of fully, but it will set the tone for who the best team in the league really is. And you don’t have to remind the Mavericks that winning the regular season title doesn’t get you into the tournament after they got snake bit last year.
The Cajuns have a bit of a pumped-up record as they played a very soft non-conference schedule. You can only beat the teams you play but the Cajuns haven’t gotten too many real tests this year, and their record is a little inflated because of it.
Arlington is the exact opposite. They played some really solid teams in the non-conference, and their record is worse than it should be. Games against BYU, Alabama, Northern Iowa, and Creighton have led to this team being battle tested and ready to make an impact in the NCAA tournament if they earn a trip to the big dance.
This is as razor thin of a game as there is going to be in the Sun Belt this year. As is almost always the case, this is a one-bid league. You win the conference tournament, or you stay home. Whichever team comes out as the winner of this home and home matchup is going to be the odds-on favorite to win the conference tournament and to get that coveted NCAA tournament bid. This game is being played in Texas, so I will give the slight edge to the Mavericks.
They need Kevin Hervey to play like Kevin Hervey, and I expect a great game that should be fast tempo and a lot of scoring. Both of these teams love to run and gun, and this game is going to be a nail-biter. I just think the Mavericks are too talented and will be too motivated tonight at home to let this opportunity slip away.
Give me the UT-Arlington Mavericks -1-point tonight at home!