Semifinals Preview: 2014 Sun Belt tournament

A breakdown of the road Western Kentucky may travel for the 2014 conference title.

After winning four games in four days to win the 2012 and 2013 Sun Belt conference titles, Western Kentucky earned the No. 2 seed and a double bye in the 2014 tournament.

Here's a look at who the Toppers could have to play to win their third straight championship.

Monday we'll breakdown the potential semifinal matchups and Tuesday will be the potential finals.


Semifinals:

No. 3 seed Louisiana-Lafayette: WKU swept ULL in the regular season, winning 79-70 on the road and 75-72 in Diddle Arena.

Why WKU could win--ULL earned an offensive rebounding rate of 35 percent in the 79-70 loss, and 49 percent in the 75-72 loss. On average, the Toppers only allow an offensive rebounding rate of 27.7 percent, ranked 25th in Division 1. So the Cajuns' earned more offensive rebounds than most opponents do against WKU, yet still couldn't earn victories in either contest. If WKU controls the glass like they do against most opponents, their odds of winning grows.

Why WKU could lose--WKU combined to shoot 48-of-60 free throws (80 percent) in those two wins, a far deviation from their average of 65.5 percent. The combined win margin for WKU in the two matchups is 12 points, but if the Toppers shoot their average (39-for-60,) that margin is lowered to only 3. It's important to note that WKU's average was helped by ULL putting Chris Harrison-Docks on the line at a higher rate than normal, and he made them pay, finishing a combined 14-for-14 in the two games.

In one sentence--Barring a horrible effort by ULL, the Toppers will need at least an above-average performance to beat the Rajin' Cajuns.


No. 6 seed UT Arlington: WKU split the regular season series, winning 77-72 in Diddle and losing 80-73 in Arlington.

Why WKU could win--WKU dominated 30 minutes of the 80-73 road loss, only to allow 31 points in the final 10 minutes. The Toppers led 59-47 with 10:48 to play in the 2nd half, giving them a 93.1 percent chance to win, according to Kenpom.com. UTA needed a career night from Reger Dowell to complete the comeback, as he finished with 37 points on only 24 shots (and 15-for-18 from the free throw line).

Why WKU could lose--WKU didn't deviate far from their season averages in these two games, although three-point shooting was hot, with the Toppers a combined 18-for-48 (37.5 percent) in the two games, an improvement on their 33.2 percent average. However, the Arlington defense may have played a part, as UTA allows teams on average to shoot 38 percent from three-point range.

In one sentence--An above-average UTA performance combined with a below-average WKU performance is the bare minimum required for an Arlington upset.


No. 7 seed Louisiana-Monroe: WKU swept the regular season series, winning 69-51 in Monroe and 72-63 in Diddle.

Why WKU could win--Not much to analyze here, the Toppers dominated large portions of both games, including leading from start-to-finish in the Diddle matchup.

Why WKU could lose--It would be a home-state game for the Warhawks, and WKU won't have Alex Rostov or Kevin Kaspar like they did in the road blowout win. Still, ULM would be the most-desired matchup for WKU in the semi-finals.

In one sentence--A far above-average effort for ULM, combined with a far below-average effort for WKU would be needed for the Warhawks to get the upset.


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