On the FunBelt Podcast, the boys and I made our picks for Sun Belt Tourney Dark Horse. Dusty put his chips on South Alabama, the “all-transfer” team led by Charles Manning Jr. and Jay Jay Chandler – two guys who can, when inclined, light up the scoreboard. Ben played his hand conservatively, rolling with 2-seed Appalachian State, a talented team that has yet to solidify consumer confidence despite its successes. Me, I tabbed Coastal Carolina, a team with outside and inside presence and a knack for upsetting the world order.
By the end of Thursday night, Coastal and South Alabama were both upset by lower seeds and unceremoniously bounced from Pensacola. My Sun Belt Tournament bracket was annihilated.
When Entropy was finished with its destructive self-indulgence, UA Little Rock (whom I said would have NO chance to win the tournament) dusted off South Alabama behind eight three-pointers from Jordon Jefferson, and Georgia Southern simply outlasted Coastal Carolina thanks to 15 points from Elijah McCaddan. Oh yeah, and the mercurial Cajuns slipped by UTA as an “adios” from the Sun Belt.
However, the Sun Belt Tourney story is Norchad Omier
With respect to UA Little Rock, the narrative belongs to Norchad Omier, whose 35 points, 13 boards and two steals powered Arkansas State over a Warhawks club that always seems to find its shooting touch when playing the Red Wolves.
On Thursday evening, the Sun Belt Player (and Defensive Player) of the Year became an agent of unbreakable will worthy of a Green Lantern. He was what the French call “an idea with a sword,” sealing his reputation as the conference’s best baller by drumming jumpers and dunks upon hapless Warhawks. His blood was lava. His furious intensity inspired greatness from the Wolves around him. Desi Sills and Marquis Eaton combined for 23 points on the contact hight alone.
When ULM put up resistance, it served only to insult Omier, who challenged every Andre Jones bucket to a duel at dawn. By the end of the game, Ervin Johnson awoke from a horrible dream knowing in his heart that “Magic” was now the intellectual property of Norchad Omier.
Troy, the tournament’s fourth seed, is the biggest winner of the First Round, avoiding in-state rival South Alabama to face Little Rock, who recorded exactly three conference wins this season. Scott Cross likely performed a series of cartwheels on the beach.
Texas State also dodged an in-state rival, getting a mach-up with Louisiana over UTA. The Cajuns have better talent than their record. The 6’11” combo of Jordan Brown and Theo Akwuba will be a tough plate for the Bobcats to swallow.
It’s unclear who Appalachian State would have preferred to meet in Round Two. Georgia Southern has lost both games to the Mountaineers this season, but the Eagles looked uncharacteristically strong against the Chants – perhaps there’s something in the salt air that appeals to the Eagles.
As for the Red Wolves, Georgia State presents an element of mystery. Arkansas State was set to host the Panthers to open the conference, but the the game was Covid Canceled. Georgia State is the Sun Belt’s resident zombie, crawling out of its self-dug grave to finish third in the Sun Belt thanks to a stretch of seven straight wins. The talent is legit for the Panthers.
But we have a Norchad.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Wagner