Man, even ULM Warhawks can win the Sun Belt Basketball Tournament this year.

In 2019, the NCAA decided that RPI – which had measured the worthiness of college basketball programs since 1981 – was garbage, and replaced it with a metric called the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET. Swish! I know even less about NET than RPI, which is nearly impossible, but this story from The Tennessean that I quickly Googled offered this bon mot to chew on:

The formula is a bit of a mystery in that the public does not know how weighed each component (team value index, net efficiency, Division I record, weighted Division I record, margin of victory up to 10 points) is in the total equation. 

In other words, Duke is getting in. Honestly, I don’t really care because I haven’t the brain function to develop (or even comprehend) a dork-metric designed to determine who’s good at basketball. All I know is, according to NET, just about any Sun Belt team has a shot at winning the conference tournament.

If you’re a Georgia State fan, you’re probably pointing to the 158 point NET gap between the conference’s highest ranked program (the Panthers) and the lowest ranked program (the Warhawks). But honestly, so what, Panthers? This season was so COVID stupid, that the Sun Belt West has yet to even play the Sun Belt East. Furthermore, added to this whack-season is that the Warhawks have played six more games than the Panthers. What do we know about the Sun Belt? Nothing.

If the NET thinks it knows anything, then it certainly hasn’t unearthed anything resembling imagination. Both conference division leaders – Georgia State and Texas State – take top Sun Belt NET honors. Hey, man, they might be the top two teams, yo! All I’m saying is that the Panthers have four conference losses, including a pair to underachieving Appalachian State. Texas State has three conference losses – all to Louisiana. My point is, neither team are dominating. Only that the new Sun Belt tourney format of heavily favoring division champs by blessing them with TWO BYES gives either team an edge.

But does that justify my belief that the Warhawks have a shot? ULM beat Arkansas State twice, and that may be coloring my judgement. But also, the Warhawks play a steadily mediocre brand of basketball that is indicative of the SBC. They put some talent on the floor, and if it’s somehow enough to defeat South Alabama in the opening match-up, there’s no reason to believe that the Warhawks can’t drunken-boxing its way to the championship.

PHOTO CREDIT: Arkansas State University athletic department and Mark Taylor