Sun Belt Tournament Preview & Predictions by the 4th Street Sports Show

PENSACOLA, Fla – Southern Miss men’s and women’s basketball hit the road this weekend to compete in the 2023 Hercules Tires Sun Belt Basketball Tournament. The 4th Street Sports Show, which has covered both teams all season, gave their final predictions in their weekly podcast, which you can listen to below. But also, you can read further for written predictions by our staff.



Women’s bracket

Charlie Luttrell

Nathan Lee: What a season it has been for Women’s Sun Belt Basketball! The possible matchups are highly intriguing to me when looking at this bracket. When looking at the Lady Eagles, the team is playing its best ball right now. This improved play earned the Lady Eagles a double bye and the third seed. After analyzing the bracket, I see this tourney coming down to four teams in the semifinal round. I expect the Lady Eagles will draw an extremely tough matchup against the Texas State Bobcats. This game is a coin flip for me, but I usually go with the team with the better star in games like that. Texas State has an impressive talent in Da’Nasia Hood, as she is averaging 17 points with almost eight rebounds a game this season. Still, I believe Domonique Davis will be a more prominent star in this game and possibly take over to capture a victory over the Bobcats. I have James Madison taking on the Troy Trojans in the other semifinal matchup. Troy has had a rollercoaster of a season with seeding in the Sun Belt. Troy also recently pushed James Madison to overtime, making me believe it will be a similar game. Still, James Madison’s talent and coaching will be too much for the Trojans. In the Championship, the number one-seeded James Madison Dukes will prove why they won the regular season conference title by defeating the Golden Eagles in a close game. Winner: James Madison

Jackson Howell: The Lady Eagles went on an unprecedented run to end the season, making the largest comeback in school history before clinching a share of the Sun Belt regular season title. They seemingly have the hot hand, but the Lady Eagles have a tough road to travel to a potential championship game. Southern Miss should have little problem with Arkansas State, as they bested them with ease twice in the season already. After that, though, they face a wall with a Texas State team that blanked them twice in the regular season. Though the Lady Eagles were playing their best basketball to end the year, I believe that the break will be an added detriment to the team. I predict that the Lady Eagles will make the semifinals, but Texas State will defeat them for a third time this season. Troy is an under-the-radar team in this tournament because they stumbled down the stretch. Pitted as the fourth seed, I predict the Trojans will make a run all the way to the championship. Troy vs Texas State would be an unbelievable matchup in the Sun Belt, and I believe Troy gets it done in the end. This takes nothing away from a historic season for the Lady Eagles, but I believe the talent level at the top of the Sun Belt is too much of a gauntlet for them to handle. Winner: Troy

Charlie Luttrell: The women have the third seed, but this bracket is wide open. Three teams split the regular season crown and No 4. through No. 6 were all 12-6. Only five teams finished under .500 on the season. They will have to face Arkansas State, who are on a roll to start the tournament, but the Lady Eagles have beaten them twice this season and will take the third game too. Southern Miss will then face a team that beat them twice this season at Texas State, and that’s where they can flip the script. The Lady Eagles are playing their best basketball of the season so far and really just now unlocking the full dynamics of their offense. If they stay healthy, they will take the championship game against Troy. Winner: Southern Miss 

Dima Mixon: Southern Miss women’s basketball has been a sleeper in the Sun Belt all year, and even in the eyes of some Southern Miss fans due to all of the success the men have had this season. The Lady Eagles started rough this season, getting absolutely embarrassed by Ole Miss for one thing. But that’s all behind them. They are now a shareholder in the Sun Belt Regular season title and are the No. 3 seed in the tournament. Fresh out of the gate is Arkansas State at 5 PM on Friday. Southern Miss has already bested the Red Wolves twice this season, both times in a pretty convincing fashion. They will no doubt start kind of slow, to get all the jitters out, but should settle in and handle the Red Wolves to get to the Semi-Finals. There, I predict they will play Texas State, which is a really solid basketball team that has beaten the Lady Eagles both times this season pretty convincingly. This is where I think the Lady Eagles’ run will end, as they will lose to Texas State. Texas State will play Troy in the championship and the Trojans will get a bid to the big dance. Winner: Troy

Austin Lindsey: The Lady Eagles have caught fire at the right time on a five-game win streak aiming to add three more wins to the streak. After earning the double-bye in the Sun Belt tournament, the team got much-needed rest with a week off as they now gear their focus to the Red Wolves of Arkansas State, who just defeated (6) Georgia State in a thrilling overtime win. Facing off twice this season against Arkansas State, Southern Miss went 2-0, winning the first match up 61-38 and the last matchup 68-59. Assessing the Lady Eagles’ play of late, I foresee the same outcome with a strong game from a well-rested team after a few knicks and bruises to key players such as Domonique Davis. If the Golden Eagles advance, they’d face (2) Texas State or (10) Appalachian State, who upset (7) Louisiana. Just last week, Southern Miss’ overtime victory against the Ragin Cajun propelled them to split the season title with Texas State and James Madison. However, Texas State should stop the potential Cinderella of Appalachian State by being the best defensive team in the tournament, only allowing 57 points per game. This matchup against Texas State is where the Golden Eagles go down in a close matchup due to the defensive prowess of the Lady Bobcats, which the Bobcats will ride to a Sun Belt tourney crown. Although, in one matchup that went into overtime, Texas State held Southern Miss to 52 points twice in previous matchups, and the Bobcats’ defense was critical to pulling away late. On the other hand, if Southern Miss can squeak by the Lady Bobcats, I see nothing stopping them from winning the championship if they are to figure out how to play consistent offense for 40 minutes. To win titles, role players have to take their play to the next level as for guards Lani Cornfield and Jacorriah Bracey, their play will dictate how far the Lady Eagles can go. Winner: Texas State


Men’s Bracket

Charlie Luttrell

Nathan Lee: The Sun Belt Basketball Tournament is officially here, with many incredible matchups throughout the conference. The Marshall Thundering Herd and Southern Miss Golden Eagles made Sun Belt seeding a dogfight as they both pushed for that number one spot. Southern Miss earned the first seed with a victory over Texas State and some help from the Old Dominion Monarchs defeating Marshall. Southern Miss is now in a fascinating spot as they will face the South Alabama Jaguars in the Quarterfinals, a team that beat them by 31 just two weeks ago. This is the most crucial game of the tournament for Southern Miss because a win over the red-hot Jaguars could give the Golden Eagles their swagger back. A victory over a team that defeated you by 31 will bring a different type of confidence, which should be enough to push them into the Championship game. However, Southern Miss will not face a Marshall or Louisiana team in the Championship. The Old Dominion Monarchs will upset Marshall and Louisiana to earn themselves a Championship berth. However, the mental wear and tear those two games will have on the Monarchs will favor the Golden Eagles. In the Championship, I have the Golden Eagles winning the tournament and booking themselves a ticket to the big dance. Winner: Southern Miss 

Jackson Howell: The Golden Eagles are in a unique situation. Though they were picked last in the preseason, they are now the top seed in the tournament, with every other team gunning for them. To make matters worse, their first matchup comes against a South Alabama team that is as hot as anyone, including a 31-point victory over Southern Miss in the last meeting between the two. An unfavorable matchup would be an understatement. I do believe that the Golden Eagles will get the job done against the Jaguars, and I have them advancing to the championship game after beating a red-hot Troy team as well. Troy will be no easy team, as they have won seven out of their last eight games. Be that as it may, I think the Golden Eagles get it done to have a rematch against Marshall in the finals. The other side of the bracket is loaded with two juggernauts in Marshall and Louisiana. The two are on a collision course for a semifinal matchup, where I have the Thundering Herd edging out the Ragin’ Cajuns. This sets up a matchup with Marshall, who beat Southern Miss but lost the regular season title to them. In the end, I think the team of destiny continues its run into the NCAA tournament. Though participating in the NIT would be a great honor for the school, Southern Miss will go to the big dance after edging Marshall in the finals. In order for this to happen, though, stars Felipe Haase and Austin Crowley have to come up big. I believe they will, and Southern Miss will go dancing as a result. Winner: Southern Miss

Charlie Luttrell: The men’s No. 1 seed has them in a favorable spot, but having to face South Alabama will be a real test. The Jaguars just beat the Golden Eagles by 31 points a couple of weeks ago and were on a roll to finish their season. After watching South Alabama at The Mitchell Center and the way they have competed lately, it’s hard for me to pick against them in the Golden Eagles’ opening match against the Jaguars. Kevin Samuel has been dominant defensively, they are spreading the ball, and their spacing is creating open looks for shooters. Southern Miss didn’t finish the season on the highest note, and what they struggled with in Mobile were problems that lingered into the season. They will be tasked with going against a team that clearly has momentum. Southern Miss is certainly a championship-caliber team, and have beaten them before, though. If they are able to climb that mountain, the road to the championship is open. Winner: Marshall

Dima Mixon: If you have read all of our predictions up to this point, you will have seen that Jackson and Nathan both picked Southern Miss to win the Sun Belt championships and punch a ticket to the big dance. Just typing that in a sentence would have seemed fanatical to begin the season, but here we are. Southern Miss is the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt tournament and their first test is, lo and behold, South Alabama a team that just beat Southern Miss by 31 points two weeks ago. Every Southern Miss fan dreaded the possibility of getting the Jaguars in week one, but you know it seems like the Southern Miss way to get the Jags after getting beat by 31. South Alabama has been the Achilles heel of Southern Miss athletics for some time now, and while yes, they have had the Golden Eagles number in pretty much all sports, that will not be the case Saturday morning. The Golden Eagles will beat the Jaguars and move on to a date with Troy on Sunday. While the Trojans will possess a challenge for the Golden Eagles, they won’t stop them from reaching the Championship. As great as it would be for Southern Miss to punch a ticket to the big dance, I think that dream stops in the Championship game, as I predict they will lose to Marshall in a tight one. Marshall will be just too much for Southern Miss. The good news for the Golden Eagles is that they will almost certainly get an NIT bid, but just not a spot in the big dance this year for Jay Ladner’s crew. But that doesn’t take away from the incredible season they have had this season. Winner: Marshall 

Austin Lindsey: Southern Miss basketball has been fundamentally sound all season, leading to a historic year for the Golden Eagles heading into the Sun Belt Tournament. However, for Jay Ladner and the crew, Southern Miss’ biggest foes are themselves. Closing the end of the season, Southern Miss hit a rough patch after tearing through the Sun Belt. A few slip-ups are bound, but these mishaps may have helped opponents gauge how to slow the squad down. The Golden Eagles get (8) South Alabama, who slaughtered Southern Miss in a shocking 30-point loss just two weeks ago, but now Southern Miss has the opportunity to prove this game was a fluke. This game spells “trap,” as South Alabama can play spoiler to NCAA tournament hopes for the Golden Eagles. However, Southern Miss responds to the challenge by taking down the Jaguars in an entertaining match that goes down to the wire. What better way for rivals to face off? In summary, winning the first game is, of course, the most important to stay alive after the week off to move on, but I see Southern Miss matching up well with whoever wins the (4) James Madison vs. (5) Troy leading to the championship matchup on Monday. It depends on the foe if Southern Miss somehow avoids Marshall en route to the title game. The Golden Eagles sweep the Sun Belt by storm with the regular season title and ticket punch. Ironically, suppose Southern Miss gets the Herd. In that case, this may be a matchup scare with the best backcourt in the Sun Belt currently in Taevion Kinsey and Andrew Taylor, averaging twenty-plus points in the conference. For Southern Miss, it’s a matter of whether they will be able to hit the big shot or make the winning defensive play when it matters most to help them get somewhere they’ve only been just three times in program history…and I think they will.  Winner: Southern Miss

Be sure to check out the 4th Street Sports Show for our full detail and breakdown of our picks.