February 19, 2009 10:48 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
Troy at Florida International (Sun Belt)
Golden Panther Arena - Miami, FL
8:05 PM EST
With mid-majordom's top Sweet 16 aspirants like Saint Mary's, Davidson, Butler and Utah State taking recent losses and struggling through February, the number of double-digit win streaks on this side of the Red Line is down to three. You know about OVC first-place Tennessee-Martin and Lester "Done Ruthless" Hudson (up to 11), and you know about The Citadel, winners of 10 straight in the SoCon after blowing out Curry-less Davidson last night. Can you guess the third?
If you guessed Florida International, you're right... over there in the "wrong" column. The Troy Trojans (17-10, 12-3), in just their fourth year of Sun Belt life after eight in the TAAC/Atlantic Sun, are your surprise Eastern division leaders after upending Western Kentucky last Saturday. They haven't lost since Jan. 10, a 10-game stretch. If you're Johnny Mnemonic and you're looking for a good way to remember what Troy does, just know that the school's name sounds like the French word for three... the Trojans, most famous for scoring 258 points in a game back in 1992 while at the D-II level, have been synonymous with that particular weapon and have adjusted well to the new line. They're led by junior guard Brandon Hazzard, who dropped 35 on WKU and has been the Sun Belt player of the week three straight times -- a big reason why is that he's nailed 45 percent of his tries (70 of 155) from the land of three. Three, three, three.
Not much has gone right for Florida International this season, a program that has never really found its footing in its 11-year run as a fellow TAAC ex-patriate. Sergio Rouco's fifth attempt at a breakthrough season has yielded a 5-9 league record, which may not be enough to allow the team to break a two-year run of double-digit Sun Belt tourney seeds. The Golden Panthers have been decent enough at home (8-6), where they'll be tonight, but they just can't find wins elsewhere (2-11), and Rouco is now 10-56 on the road as FIU's coach. They'll likely have to settle for being the best Sun Belt team in Florida, a title that's eluded them over the past three seasons since Florida Atlantic followed the lead of Troy and FIU and joined the exodus up from the A-Sun. With FAU bottoming out at 2-13 (6-22 overall) in Mike Jarvis' first year as coach there, sunshine states are relative.
|Hickory Picket Fences||27629|
|The Hopping Cats||21526|
|Under a Blood Red Line||10379|
|Jen Folds Five||6895|