• Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball bounces into the New Year resuming conference play among the 13 games on the schedule for the week. All 12 league games are set for live coverage on ESPN+.
• Arkansas State (10-3, 2-0 Sun Belt) jumps back into conference play with 10 wins in its first 13 games for just the sixth time in school history. Prior to this season, the last time the Red Wolves accomplished this feat was 2003-04 when Arkansas State posted an 11-2 record. The Red Wolves have 10 wins before New Year’s Day for just the second time ever with the first time coming in 2016-17 season when the team hit double-figures in the win column on New Year’s Eve.
• Little Rock (8-5, 2-0) enters the week having won three in a row. The Trojans return to action on Thursday, Jan. 2 against Texas State (7-6, 0-2) after a 12-day hiatus from the hardwood. Little Rock is off to its first 2-0 start in Sun Belt play since the 2015-16 season.
• The 12-game start for Georgia State (8-4, 2-0 Sun Belt) is tied for the fifth-best start to a season in program history. The Panthers are closing out their most successful decade in program history. Georgia State enters its final game of the decade having won 196 games since Jan. 1, 2010, blowing past the 158 games won in the 2000s.
• Three former Sun Belt standouts are now on NBA rosters this season. Former Little Rock star Rayjon Tucker is the latest addition, signing with the Utah Jazz on Dec. 23. Tucker spent the first part of the season with the Wisconsin Herd, the NBA G League affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks, starting 16 games and averaging 23.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.8 minutes per game. Tucker joins Louisiana’s Elfrid Payton, who is in his sixth NBA season and first with the New York Knicks, and UTA’s Kevin Hervey, who signed a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 13.
• Coastal Carolina senior guard Tyrell Gumbs-Frater continues to be among the top shooters in NCAA Division I, currently ranking second in three-point field goal percentage (.536, 37-of-69).
• The Sun Belt is home to the top teams in the nation in three-point field goal percentage with Coastal Carolina sitting seventh (.406, 108-of-266) and Georgia State just behind in eighth (.405, 98-of-242).
• South Alabama (7-6, 0-2) boasts the Sun Belt’s top two scorers in terms of field goal percentage – redshirt senior forward Josh Ajayi (.612, 74-of-121) and graduate guard Chad Lott (.578, 74-of-126).
• Arkansas State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State were among the teams receiving votes in the most recent CollegeInsider.com Men’s Mid-Major Top 25.
• The Sun Belt is currently ranked 15th among the Division I conferences, according to the Jeff Sagarin Ratings.
• The Sun Belt is one of 10 NCAA Division I conferences that received approval from the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Rules committees to permit the use of electronically transmitted data to the bench for coaching purposes during the 2019-20 season.
• Georgia Southern redshirt senior guard Ike Smith, South Alabama redshirt senior forward Trhae Mitchell and Texas State senior guard Nijal Pearson were among the preseason picks on the watch list for the 2019-20 Lou Henson Award, presented annually to the nation’s top Division I mid-major player.
• The Sun Belt is slated to showcase a record 341 games on the ESPN family of networks – 327 regular-season home games (172 men and 151 women) and 18 Sun Belt Basketball Championship games (nine men and nine women).
• The Sun Belt pulled in numerous national preseason honors and recognitions, headlined by South Alabama recognized as the conference’s preseason favorite by multiple publications.
• The Jaguars were selected by the conference’s 12 head coaches as the preseason favorite as well to go along with Mitchell selected as the league’s Preseason Player of the Year.
• Sun Belt men’s basketball has three new head coaches roaming the sidelines this season – Appalachian State’s Dustin Kerns, Georgia State’s Rob Lanier and Troy’s Scott Cross.
• The 2020 Sun Belt Men’s Basketball Championship is set to feature a 10-team bracket with first-round games on Saturday, March 7, second-round games on Monday, March 9 and quarterfinal games on Wednesday, March 11 hosted by the higher seeds on campus sites. The four men’s teams that advance from the quarterfinals will then converge on New Orleans and the Smoothie King Center, home of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, for semifinals games on Saturday, March 14 and championship game on Sunday, March 15. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds receive byes directly to the semifinals. First-round, second-round, quarterfinal and semifinal games are set for live coverage on ESPN+. The championship game is set for Sunday, March 15 at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Ike Smith, Georgia Southern (RSr., G, Gainesville, Fla.)
Georgia Southern redshirt senior guard Ike Smith led all scorers with 25 points in the Eagles’ loss at Georgia. Smith shot 10-of-18 from the field, including hitting five of his 10 three-point attempts. He added six rebounds and one assist in 29 minutes of work. This marks Smith’s third Sun Belt Player of the Week honor (Jan. 24, 2017 and Nov. 14, 2017).