Troy (10-17) vs. South Alabama (16-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Summit Arena (6,200) -- Hot Springs, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: Troy 6-7, USA 9-5. Away Record: Troy 4-10, USA 6-6. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, USA 1-0. Conference Record: Troy 5-11, USA 8-8. Series Record: South Alabama, 12-6.
GAME NOTES: The first round of the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Tournament kicks off tonight at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Arkansas, as the sixth-seeded South Alabama Jaguars battles the 11th-seeded Troy Trojans, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on Sunday to take on the Denver Pioneers.
Troy comes into the tournament having won back-to-back games to close out the regular season, joining Denver and Western Kentucky as the only teams coming into postseason play having won consecutive games. Still, the Trojans finished the season a disappointing 10-17 overall and 5-11 in the Sun Belt, losing a tie-breaker to FIU to earn the 11th and final seed. Troy is 4-6 all-time in the conference tournament.
South Alabama enjoyed a successful season at 16-11 overall and 8-8 in conference play, earning the sixth seed in this event -- the highest seeded squad not to be awarded a bye. The Jaguars lost at FIU in their regular-season finale, 81-74, but before that they were red-hot, having won four in a row and six of their previous seven games. Tonight, USA attempts to win its first Sun Belt Conference Tournament game since 2009.
South Alabama has doubled up Troy in the all-time series, 12-6, which includes a series sweep of the Trojans in the regular season.
Troy enters this clash as the ninth-best three-point shooting team in the nation, averaging 8.9 treys per game. The impressive rate of long-range shooting has helped contribute to the Trojans' second-ranked offense in the Sun Belt, and the team nets 70.9 ppg. Though they have accumulated big numbers at the offensive end, they're not always terribly efficient, shooting just 41 percent from the field, which includes 34.4 percent from three-point range. Will Weathers paces the offensive attack with 12 ppg and he leads the conference in assists with 5.7 per outing. Justin Wright (10.4 ppg) and Alan Jones (10.3 ppg) also average double figures for the Trojans. Troy's downfall comes at the defensive end, as it yields a league-worst 75.4 ppg.
It is fitting that South Alabama earned the sixth seed in the tournament, as it ranks sixth in the conference in both scoring offense (66.6 ppg) and scoring defense (66.9 ppg). The Jaguars have been led this season by star forward Augustine Rubit, who was just named to the All-Sun Belt Conference First Team. Rubit is the conference's top rebounder (9.3), its third-leading scorer (14.9 ppg) and he has strung together a league-best 11 double-doubles. Freddie Goldstein has been a nice complement from the outside, draining a conference-best 2.4 three-pointers per contest. Goldstein set a school single- game record for three-pointers in a game (nine) on Jan. 14 against Troy, then he tied that same mark less than a month later against ULM. South Alabama has trouble hanging onto the ball, ranking last in the conference in turnover margin (-3.41).
Troy has been playing better of late and regardless of the outcome, it usually puts up a good show. However, USA has had more sustained success this season and has the more well-balanced team overall, meaning the Jaguars should move to 3-0 against the Trojans on the year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 76, Troy 70
03/03 10:41:11 ET