|In the past few seasons, the Sun Belt Conference has become one of the nation’s best mid-major conferences in women’s basketball.
In three of the past five seasons, including the last two, the NCAA tournament field has included two teams from the SBC. The conference as a whole is looking to continue that streak as each team is in the early stages of conference play.
Like its male counterparts, the Lady Raiders are in the top spot in the Eastern Division.
Currently, they are in the middle of a five-game winning streak, as of Friday, which included a home win against No. 6 Kentucky on Dec. 28.
One of the reasons why, the Lady Raiders are one of the favorites again the SBC has been the play of the SBC Preseason Co-Player of the Year, sophomore forward Ebony Rowe.
Earlier this week, she was named Sun Belt Player of the Week after averaging 16 points per game and 12 rebounds per game during the 3-0 stretch last week.
Rowe had 21 points in the win over her hometown team, the Wildcats.
The other undefeated team in the East is Florida Atlantic (8-6, 3-0).
Western Kentucky is third in the East at 2-1, while South Alabama is 1-1. Florida International and Troy bring up the rear of the East with each team being winless in the conference. However, the Panthers are coming off a couple of wins over Albany and Auburn in the Sun & Fun Classic on Dec. 29 and 30. Troy only has one win on the season.
While in the West, it’s a three-way time for the top spot, North Texas, Louisiana-Monroe and Denver with each school at 2-1 in the conference.
The Mean Green has made the biggest improvement from its last season record. North Texeas finished the 2010-11 season with an 5-25 record, but so far the Mean Green are currently 10-6 with wins over Alabama, New Mexico and Southern Methodist University.
While the Pioneers have an impressive home record at 7-1, with the loss being against Lousiana-Monroe on Dec. 31 in its last home game.
Denver has also defeated teams from several major conferences this season, and it includes Wyoming, Air Force, Colorado State, Oregon and Minnesota
The bottom half of the West includes Arkansas Little-Rock, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.
Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State are winless in the conference, so far. The Red Wolves have lost four games in a row heading into Saturday’s play, so has the Ragin’ Cajuns. All 12 teams are in conference action on Saturday. Results were not available at press time.
When the SBC tournament comes around in Hot Springs, Ark., in early March, the league hopes to continue its trend of putting at least two teams in the Big Dance. However, the next two months will go a long way in determining who will be those teams in the NCAA Tournament.