Mar 19, 2013 4:18 PM by Sun Belt Sports
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders kicked off a very good evening for the
Sun Belt Conference as MT was one of four teams selected for the postseason.
The Blue Raiders, the 2013 SBC Tournament champions, earned the 12th seed
in the Oklahoma City Regional and will face fifth-seeded Louisville on
Sunday, March 24 in Louisville, Ky. in the first round of the NCAA
Tournament. Middle Tennessee (25-7) completed a strong season that saw the
Raiders win their fifth consecutive SBC regular season title. In the Sun
Belt Tournament, MT won three games and picked up a 53-48 victory over UALR
to claim their seventh Sun Belt Tournament title.
The Raiders have made the NCAA Tournament in nine out of 10 years and is
led by three 1,000 point scorers in Icelyn Elie, Ebony Rowe and Kortni
Jones. In his eight seasons, head coach Rick Insell has led the Raiders to
the big dance seven times. Louisville (24-8) is making its 16th NCAA
Tournament appearance and seventh appearance in the last eight years.
Additionally, three other SBC women's basketball teams were selected for
the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). WNIT first round games
will take place March 20-22. All games in the single-elimination format are
played at the main or alternate facilities of participating schools.
UALR, FIU and WKU were each selected after a successful regular season.
UALR, the SBC West Division champs were selected as the conference's
automatic bid to the WNIT while FIU and WKU were chosen as at-large
representatives to the 64-team field.
UALR (24-8) finished as the runner-up in the SBC Championship, falling
53-48 to Middle Tennessee. UALR made the championship game for the
5th-straight year and faced the Blue Raiders for the fourth time in five
The Trojans will travel to Stockton, Calif. to take on the Pacific Tigers
in the first round of the WNIT on Friday, March 22. The Tigers won the
regular season title in the Big West before succumbing to Cal Poly, 62-49,
in the finals of the Big West Tournament. It will be the first meeting all
time between the two teams. UALR has not played any current member of the
Big West Conference.
FIU will host Florida in a first-round contest on Thursday, March 21, in
the friendly confines of U.S. Century Bank Arena. FIU brings a record of
19-12 into postseason action. The Panthers will make their second-straight
and seventh overall Postseason WNIT appearance, as FIU owns a 5-7 all-time
record in Postseason WNIT play.
A season ago, FIU earned an at-large bid to the postseason event, as the
Panthers defeated the Stetson Hatters in a home game at U.S. Century Bank
Arena before falling to USF in Tampa, Fla., in second-round action.
FIU was led by All-American candidate Jerica Coley who leads the NCAA with
a 25.9 scoring average. The SBC Player of the Year led the Panthers to its
third-straight SBC semifinal game appearance.
Across two tournament contests, Coley averaged 23.5 points per game, as she
extended her double-figure scoring streak to 29-straight games and picked
up her 21st and 22nd 20-plus, point performances of the season. The
two-time SBC Player of the Year also averaged 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists
WKU (21-10) will host East Carolina on Thursday, March 21 as the Lady
Toppers go for their 30th postseason win. WKU has reached the postseason in
26 of the past 30 seasons.
East Carolina is 22-9 on the year and finished 11-5 in Conference USA. The
Pirates have four players averaging between 9.6 and 12.0 points per game
In her first year as coach of the Lady Toppers, Clark-Heard engineered one
of the nation's best turnarounds. She led WKU to 12 additional wins over
the prior season, tying the SBC record for largest winning improvement. She
also helped WKU to eight additional conference wins over the prior season,
tying the league record. Following the regular season, she was named the
2013 SBC Coach of the Year.
Game times for the Women's NIT will be determined on Tuesday, March 19.