Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016/17 Sun Belt Men's Basketball Predictions

I posted the Sun Belt Conference women's basketball predictions yesterday. They open the conference portion of the schedule tonight. Now I post the men's version. This was a lot tougher than past years as the Sun Belt looks to have a great chance to make a splash.

Nine teams are over .500 with another even in wins and losses. Of the two teams below the majority mark, one is by a single game. Yes, a few of those wins came against non-Division I opponents, but this is the best mark I have seen in the SBC since UTA joined.

Before I introduce my selections, here's what the coaches predicted for the SBC finish:

1. UT Arlington (10)
2. Little Rock (1)
3. Georgia State (1)
4. Georgia Southern
5. Coastal Carolina
6. South Alabama
7. Louisiana
8. Louisiana-Monroe
9. Troy
10. Arkansas State
11. Appalachian State
12. Texas State
I think if the coaches did what I did and voted now, there would be a lot of changes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016/17 Women's Basketball Sun Belt Conference Predictions

Time for the annual basketball conference predictions. Refresher for those who are new or don't obsess over this blog (and why not, hmm?), I don't like making preseason predictions without seeing the teams in action. There are too many unknowns and I feel I can give it more accuracy by seeing teams play against their non-conference opponents.

All good? Great! Here's how the coaches thought the end-of-year-standings would look:

1. Troy (3)
2. Little Rock (5)
3. UT Arlington (3)
4. South Alabama
5. UL Lafayette
6. Texas State
7. Arkansas State
8. Appalachian State (1)
9. Georgia State
10. Georgia Southern
11. Coastal Carolina
12. UL Monroe

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Now They Are What We Thought They Were

The UT Arlington men's basketball team sure has been making noise lately. If you look to this blog as your sole source of UTA news, you probably missed the part where the Mavs beat the UT-Austin Longhorns for the first win against the burnt orange in school history on November 29. They followed that up with a road win against regional rival North Texas, the fourth win in a row and ninth in 11 tries in that series. That was followed up with a solid, all-around win against Division III UT-Dallas. Then on Thursday, UTA traveled to Saint Mary's, ranked 12th at the time, and beat the Gaels for the first ranked win in school history.

Early in the season, I expressed concerns about not finishing out games after outstanding starts. To this point, UTA has not trailed at halftime yet this year. In the the three losses, they looked bad in the second half and in some of the wins, they did just enough to win.

But that Texas game was the start of a trend where UTA looks like they can play basketball for a full 40 minutes. They got behind early, but used a 10-0 run to close the first half and take a three-point lead. Another 8-0 run to start the second gave UTA a quick double-digit lead. The teams would essentially play even at that point until the final buzzer, giving the Mavericks a 72-61 win.

Afterwards it was entertaining for two reasons for me. One, to see the jubilation from the Maverick faithful. The other was to see the meltdown from the other side.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Overdue Catchup

As the UT Arlington women's basketball team enters the fourth year of the Krista Gerlich era, it looks like the team maybe finally renewing the talent and/or results of the Donna Capps era. The team is now 5-1, with many wins that would qualify as character victories.

There are many parallels to Gerlich and Capps, who took over with a low talent program and suffered a loss-heavy first season. Capps was 6-21 in 2000/01. Gerlich was 4-25. Capps was a game under .500 in year two while Gerlich was 17-13 in the sophomore season. The 13 win improvement is best in the UTA record books, besting Jody Conradt's 12-win improvement from 1974-75 to 1975-76. Capps reached the winning season in year three with a 15-13 mark. Gerlich declined a bit, thanks to a lot of extraneous factors, but was still competitive at 15-16. In the fourth year, Capps was 19-12 and third place in the Southland Conference.

That 2003-04 team won the first two games of the season before dropping five in a row to the likes of SMU (71-74), Michigan (51-68), TCU (73-43), Nebraska (59-81) and Saint Mary's (73-66). They would win 17 of the next 24 and make it to the SLC championship game, where the team lost to Northwestern State for the right to play in the NCAA tournament.

This year's team however, has looked much better to start.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Change at the Top

So much to write about right now in regards to the UT Arlington athletic program. After I put up the last men's basketball post, I started on an entry for the women's basketball team. Then came word about Coach Diane Seymour stepping down as head volleyball coach. Then, I don't know if you heard, but UTA beat UT Austin on Tuesday. Then there's some fallout from that. All of which are deserving of its own commentary. So just bear with me as I navigate the flood of topics coming out of Mav land.

On Monday, it was announced that Coach Seymour was retiring. She spent 13 years at the head of the program, amassing a 211-195 mark. She spent the previous eight seasons as an assistant coach under Janine Smith and was a player during the late 1980's, which is the period of the program's greatest achievements.

There's no question she is dedicated to the University and the community, as she was also an Arlington ISD product before starting at UTA. I knew her as a student broadcaster in the early 2000's traveling with the team broadcasting events for UTA Radio. So I don't take it lightly when I say that I believe the change was overdue.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Turning the Corner

When we last left the UT Arlington men's basketball team, the poor second halves the Mavericks displayed led them to a 1-3 start. In an attempt to right the ship after a demoralizing 0-3 road trip, UTA returned home to face NAIA's Saint Francis from Joliet, Illinois.

The game was similar to what we Mav fans have seen the first four games of the year, a great first half and a lackluster second. UTA raced out to 57-27 lead at the break. And like the previous games, had a second half that was poor. Even though St. Francis is a talented NAIA team, UTA should destroy them if they are at the level we were all hoping for during the offseason. Yet, somehow the Fighting Saints were able to play to a 41-40 second half. Now every Maverick did play, and Erick Neal led the team in minutes with 23, so the second half did see a lot of different players and combos, but one of the supposed strengths of the team is depth. Due to that, I'd expect better in the half. In the end, they won and I suppose that is all that matters.

The team ended their homestand with the Mount Saint Mary's Mountaineers, a team from the Northeast Conference that should be a contender within that conference. Their non-conference record is lacking as they are what UTA used to be, built for conference championships. The team, as has been the course of action this year, took the lead at the half, but with the slimmest of margins possible, 35-34.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Not Quite the Worst Case Scenario...

...but not far from it. If you would have told me prior to the start of the season that the UT Arlington Mavericks mens basketball team would have started the season 1-3, I wouldn't have been overly concerned. While the opponents aren't fantastic, they aren't pushovers either.

Texas Southern is a contender within the Southwest Athletic Conference only. Minnesota is likely to finish in the top half of the Big 10 at best. Florida Gulf Coast is a good team that is about where UTA is trying to go and Arkansas is similar to Minnesota but in the weaker Southeastern Conference. What has given me some major concern and dejection is what I have witnessed in all four games. Let's look at the following.

1) They have held a halftime lead in every game. Hard to think of an instance in where a team that is 4-0 at halftime is ultimately 1-3 when it matters. Against Texas Southern, UTA was up by double digits, before entering halftime at seven. UTA again pushed the lead to double digits before the Tigers tied it. UTA managed to find enough in front of a home crowd versus a team that won't finish in the top half in all of DI to get a win. I was concerned at the time, but brushed it off as early season jitters and rust.