Sun Belt Preview: Louisiana to overtake Georgia State?


Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Sun Belt Conference.

The last two seasons, Ron Hunter’s Georgia State team has reigned supreme over the Sun Belt Conference. They’ve won 34 league games and a pair of outright regular season titles during that stretch, advancing to the 2015 NCAA tournament where they pulled off an upset of No. 3 seed Baylor in the opening round.

But that GSU team is gone for the most part. R.J. Hunter went pro while Curtis Washington and Ryan Harrow graduated, but the Panthers still should be able to compete at the top of the league this season. Former Louisville guard Kevin Ware is back for his senior season while Indiana transfer Jeremy Hollowell is eligible to play this year. Throw in the return of Marcus Crider, a physical, undersized four that was named to the preseason  all-Sun Belt second-team, and Hunter has a group capable of making it a three-peat.

They won’t, however, be favored to do it. Louisiana will be, as Bob Marlin returned the league’s best player in Shawn Long. Long is a difference maker at this level, a 6-foot-9 shot-blocker with three-point range and the ability to pop off for a double-double on any given night. He can win games on his own, but the good news for the Ragin’ Cajuns is that he won’t have to. Devonta Walker is back up front while Kasey Shepard and Jay Wright man an underrated back court.

The third real contender for Sun Belt supremacy is Louisiana-Monroe. Losing Tylor Ongwae is going to hurt, but the Warhawks do bring back two all-conference caliber players in big man Majok Deng and guard Nick Coppolla. They have size, they have length and they can defend. The question is going to be whether or not they can score enough without Ongwae; they struggled in the game they were missing him last season.

Both Arkansas State and South Alabama are worth keeping an eye on if, for no other reason, than because they have two of the best players in the league on their roster. Arkansas State big man Anthony Livingston averaged a double-double as a sophomore and would be the best front court player in most mid-major conferences. USA’s Ken Williams is the best guard in the conference and is a very well-coached team that swept Louisiana last season. Texas State also falls in this category. They can really defend and have a first-team all-league player in Emani Gant, although their issues on the offensive end will be tough to overcome.

Georgia Southern and Arkansas-Little Rock both lost a ton of talent, but UALR was able to land FAMU transfer Jermaine Ruttley, which is a major reason they’re picked to finish in the middle of the pack instead of the bottom of the league.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Louisiana-Lafayette. They have a ton of talent, not just Shawn Long. They have a really nice front court, Jay Wright is underrated in the back court. They have the most coming, the best player coming back. They’re good, and there’s a reason they got picked to win. Bob Marlin does a fantastic job.”
  • Sleeper: “You gotta talk about Arkansas State. Livingston is really good. They missed the conference tournament last year, but they bring everybody back.”
  • Star to watch: “Shawn Long is the best player in the league. There are two ‘high major’ players in the conference — Long and Livingston — but Long, on a great night, can win game by himself. Talent wise, size wise, he’s an NBA guy. When he’s on, nobody in the league can stop him. He’s that level of player.”


With R.J. Hunter in the NBA and Ryan Harrow lost to graduation, Long becomes the biggest name in a league that has become known as a place for high major transfers to land on their feet. Long, whose career at Mississippi State was derailed by the post-Renardo Sidney fallout, is arguably the best big man in mid-major basketball. He’s a 6-foot-10 low post scorer that can knock down threes and is the best rim protector in the league. He’s got a shot at an NBA career when he’s done in college.


  • Anthony Livington, Arkansas State: Still just a junior, Livingston averaged 15.3 points and 10.0 boards last season.
  • Emani Gant, Texas State: An excellent defender, Gant is the best offensive weapon on a team that can struggle to score.
  • Ken Williams, South Alabama: With the Georgia State guys gone, Williams is the best guard in the league.
  • Kevin Ware, Georgia State: Ware will have plenty of opportunity as a senior after playing behind a pair of shot-happy guards last year.



1. Louisiana
2. Louisiana-Monroe
3. Georgia State
4. Arkansas State
5. South Alabama
6. Arkansas-Little Rock
7. Texas State
8. Georgia Southern
9. Appalachian State
10. UT-Arlington
11. Troy

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.