Sun Belt Conference Tournament 2013 schedule and bracket: Can anyone challenge Middle Tennessee State?

USA TODAY Sports

The Sun Belt Conference Tournament kicks off on Friday night with three games, but substantial favorite Middle Tennessee State doesn't play until the quarterfinals on Saturday.

Middle Tennessee State hopes to continue its dominance of the Sun Belt Conference this weekend in order to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Raiders finished the regular season going 27-4 (19-1 in the Sun Belt) and would be on the bubble if they don't win the Sun Belt tournament, which begins on Friday at the Summit Arena and Convention Center Court in Hot Springs, Ark.


Last year Middle Tennessee State was expected to breeze through the tournament and lost its first game to Arkansas State. No. 7 seed Western Kentucky would go on to win the tournament and the Blue Raiders were forced to settle with the NIT, failing to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which they have not attended since 1989.

Game 1: No. 6 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. No. 11 Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks - 7 p.m. ET

Western Kentucky (16-15, 10-10) is the defending tournament champion and has won three of the last five Sun Belt Conference tournaments. With only three seniors they are a young team, led by sophomore T.J. Price in scoring. The Warhawks (4-23, 3-17) struggled throughout the year with WKU taking both meetings between the two during the season. The winner of this game will play South Alabama.

Game 2: No 8 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns vs. No. 9 North Texas Mean Green - 7:30 p.m. ET

The Ragin' Cajuns (12-19, 8-12) played perhaps their best game of the season the last time they met the Mean Green (12-19, 7-13), with the Cajuns winning 105-74. That was the only time this season Louisiana-Lafayette topped 100 points. The Ragin' Cajuns won their other game against North Texas as well. Keep an eye on Shawn Long of Louisiana-Lafayette, who averaged a double-double this season. The winner of this game will face the tall task of taking on Middle Tennessee State.

Game 3: No. 7 Florida Atlantic Owls vs. No. 10 Troy Trojans - 9:30 p.m. ET

The Owls (13-18, 9-11) are lead by Greg Gantt, who averages more than 20 points per game. Troy (11-20, 6-14) struggled down the stretch, losing their last five games. FAU swept the season series between the two and looks for a third in Friday's nightcap. The winner of this game advances to take on Arkansas State.

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