Kentucky is looking for it's first snow of the season this weekend. Further, I have drawn some amazingly good weather of late on my Saturday long runs in preparation for the St. Jude Marathon (Memphis, TN) on December 6. It looks like Mother Nature is cashing in some of her kindness with a blast of arctic air and stiff winds for my 23-miler tomorrow.
But, after basketball's long winter of summer (that makes sense, right?), folks are crowding around the old wood stove to thaw in the cozy warmth of our first full slate of hoops since last March. There are a lot of lump-of-coal payday games on tap, but there are a few glowing embers as well.
First, this blog cares about the Sun Belt. Most of you don't--I get it. But, consider this non-conference season a case study in the life of non-power conference. There are some interesting story lines to follow.
SUN BELT SLATE
--UALR at Cal Poly. Cal Poly looks to be down. UALR should be decent-to-good. This is the type of road game the Trojans and the Belt need to win.
--Arkansas State at Mississippi. John Brady begins his tenure against a familiar SEC foe.
--Eastern Kentucky at FIU. Golden Panthers have four starters back and coach Sergio Ruoco likes this squad...but, we've seen/heard this before with FIU.
--Monmouth at FAU. The Mike Jarvis era begins at Florida Atlantic.
--Morehead State at UL-Monroe. Warhawks should be better than last year, but Morehead is a big-time sleeper in the OVC this season.
--Alcorn State at South Alabama. Jags should be OK this season if they get any sort of guard play.
--Denver at Northern Iowa. Pioneers were horrid on the road last year and they have 8 FR and 3 SO's on the roster.
--NC State at New Orleans. That's right, an ACC school visits a Belt school...and UNO won in the Pack's den last season.
--LA Tech at UL-Lafayette. The Cajuns return four starters and should contend out West.
--UAB at Troy. Huge, huge game for the league. Troy can be a tough place to play. They shoot so many threes that if a team like UAB catches them on a good night, an upset could easily occur.
--WKU at Houston. The Cougars have already lost to GA Southern on a neutral court and WKU lost a ton from last year's Sweet 16 team and the current roster is riddled with injuries. No idea what is going to happen here.
--UALR at Pepperdine. The Trojans are pulling a double on this weekend west coast road swing.
--Houston Baptist at Middle Tennessee. The Belt favorites should roll.
Big Six Teams on the Road
--Oregon State at Howard. Michelle Obama's brother starts his tenure on the road.
--Stanford at Yale. The SAT Score Classic.
--Florida State at Jacksonville. In-state battle and a big opportunity for the Dolphins.
--NC State at New Orleans. See above.
--Washington at Portland. Kentucky would NEVER play at WKU, Eastern Kentucky or Murray. EVER. Never, ever.
--Butler at Drake. Both will likely fall off a bit from last year, but it's still a good match up.
--Old Dominon at Charlotte. This is sort of like that UMass/SIU tilt. May not be meaningful, but a win like this early on gives a team hope.
--Winthrop at South Carolina. In state rivalry alert! Eagles are favored to win the Big South AGAIN. Gamecocks have a brand new coaching staff with a lot of players returning.