College Basketball Odds, Picks, Futures: 2022-23 Sun Belt Conference Betting Preview
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonas Hayes (Georgia State)
Last season in the Sun Belt, Georgia State cut down the nets and earned an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
But four new programs enter the conference through realignment this season, and they hope to establish themselves atop the league.
How these new programs adjust to the playing style of the Sun Belt will be an element worth monitoring early in the season.
The Sun Belt Newcomers
James Madison Dukes
Head coach Mark Byington finds himself back in the Sun Belt after the conference reconstruction.
The Dukes showed promise in non-conference play last season after opening 11-3, including victories over Virginia, Florida Atlantic and George Mason. But the group floundered down the stretch, with a 6-12 record in CAA play.
The program will be led by a veteran-savvy group that returns 82% of its minutes from last season, according toBartTorvik.
The Dukes run a pick-and-roll heavy offense that focuses on getting downhill and attacking the rim. Vado Morse was the main outside shooting threat, as he connected on 34% of his 213 attempts last season. Transfer Noah Freidel will have an immediate impact on the offense as a career 39% 3-point sniper.
James Madison has the chance to take this conference by storm with its high-powered offense. But the defense ranked 347th in defending 2-point shot attempts last season.
Interior defense is a major concern, and the Dukes' matchup against Louisiana’s Jordan Brown will go a long way toward determining their chances.
Marshall Thundering Herd
Marshall is known for its hyper-fast pace that ranked seventh in the nation last season. It didn’t produce the results Dan D’Antoni was hoping, though, as the Herd finished with a 12-21 record.
They were horrid shooting the basketball in 2021-22, hitting just 30% from deep, which ranked 325th nationally.
The Herd will get some help from VMI transfer Kam Curfman, who was a sniper from outside last year.
But that may not be enough to help a defense that allowed 78 points per game, which ranked 332nd in the country.
KenPom has Marshall ranked second in the Sun Belt, and I will be looking to fade this program early in the season.
Old Dominion Monarchs
Old Dominion joins the Sun Belt from the Conference USA after an up-and-down season that led to a 13-18 record.
Like Marshall, the Monarchs were horrid from the outside, hitting just 29% from 3-point range, which ranked 350th in the entire country.
Unlike Marshall, the program played at the 321st tempo in the country.
But the lack of shooting isn’t too much of a concern, as head coach Jeff Jones wants to establish his bigs and pound the ball in the paint. The Monarchs took 61% of their shot attempts from 2-point territory, the fourth-highest rate in the nation.
I think the Monarchs' playing style will fit quite nicely with the rest of the Sun Belt. I anticipate Jones to rebound and get his program back to its winning ways this season.
The Second Tier
Georgia State Panthers
The Panthers are the reigning Sun Belt champs and even gave Gonzaga a run for its money in the first half of their NCAA tournament game.
But Jonas Hayes will have his work cut out for him in his inaugural season — the Panthers lost 73% of their minutes from last season, according toBartTorvik.
The top six scorers from last season — who accounted for 79% of the teams’ total points — will need to be replaced. However, Hayes brings in a trio of transfers in Dwon Odom (Xavier), Jamaine Mann (Vanderbilt) and Brenden Tucker (Gardner-Webb).
That is a strong trio for Sun Belt standards, but finding cohesiveness with all the new additions is a cause for concern.
With the talent level so high, the Panthers are certainly live for potential back-to-back Sun Belt titles.
South Alabama Jaguars
South Alabama returns only 32% of its minutes from last season, which is only ahead of Georgia State among Sun Belt programs.
But Richie Riley has continued his reliance on the transfer portal and scored a key addition in TCU’s Kevin Samuel. He also brings in 6-foot-10 freshman Julian Margrave to join Samuel in the front court.
Samuel and Margrave will be a dominant 1-2 punch for the Jaguars' interior defense. That’s proven to be an important aspect of Riley’s defense, which ranked first in block percentage and second in field goal percentage against Sun Belt foes last year.
The offense will be a work in progress after losing Jay Jay Chandler and Charles Manning Jr. (30 PPG combined), but the Jaguars' defense should be able to propel them toward the top half of the Sun Belt Conference.
Appalachian State Mountaineers
The Mountaineers have a monster hole to fill after Adrian Delph was drafted into the G-League. Delph averaged 18 points per game while hitting 40% of his 265 3-point attempts last season. He rarely came off the court and was the heartbeat of an offense that averaged 67 points per game last season.
Now that he’s gone, I’m not sure who will step up to replace that production. The group returns only one double-digit scorer from last season in Donovan Gregory (he wasn’t a high-volume shooter).
Last year’s roster took 43% of its shots from behind the perimeter, which accounted for 38% of the teams’ points. Without Delph, this offense is going to need to change that approach.
I will see how the Mountaineers play in the non-conference schedule before jumping in on them.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Coastal Carolina is another Sun Belt program in rebuilding mode after losing 60% of its minutes from last season.
The Chanticleers ranked among the middle of the conference on both ends of the floor last year.
The program had three players average above a dozen points last year. Only 6-foot-9 center Essam Mostafa returns after averaging 13 points and nine rebounds per game.
The Chanticleers' roster is built off of high-volume shooters who will need to show some improvement from an efficiency aspect before the team sees positive results in the win/loss column.
Troy ranked second in the nation in bench minutes last season and utilized a 13-man rotation. That depth will be heavily leaned on this season, as the Trojans return only 47% of its minutes played from last season.
Troy owned the second-best defense in the Sun Belt from an efficiency standpoint last season — though it loses a post presence in Efe Odigie (12 PPG, 7 RPG).
That could allow the Trojans to play a more up-and-down style this season.
This is another program I will monitor in the early box scores before jumping into any matchups.
Georgia Southern Eagles
Georgia Southern looked to lean on its defense last season.
The only issue is that the defense wasn’t any good. The group ranked among the bottom of the conference in nearly every defensive metric last season. Combine that with the lowest-scoring offense (66 PPG), and it resulted in a 5-11 conference record.
I don’t anticipate much change this season, and I project the Eagles among the bottom of the Sun Belt.
The No Shots
Southern Miss/UL Monroe/Arkansas State
All three of these programs will need a miracle if they want to make the leap to the top half of the Sun Belt this season.
Southern Miss ranked outside the top 325 in efficiency ranking on both ends of the floor last season. The Golden Eagles are a newcomer to the Sun Belt and it’s about to be a rude awakening for them.
UL Monroe finished 5-13 in conference play, with all its victories coming against bottom-tiered programs.
Arkansas State returns less than half of its minutes from last season from a group that assisted on 61% of its made field goals. That cohesiveness is gone, as it faces almost an entirely new rotation.
It's hard to imagine the Red Wolves can reproduce that effort this season.