6 p.m. tonight
UALR and Florida International, two pretty similar teams in a lot of ways, meet at 6 p.m. tonight in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Hot Springs Convention Center.
No, the teams don’t have similar personnel. UALR has a bigger, inside oriented team while FIU has more than solid guard play. But they did have similar seasons.
Click here for the UALR-FIU Advance Box
Click here for the UALR-FIU Scouting Report
UALR was 17-14 on the season while FIU was 16-13. Both teams went 11-9 in the Sun Belt. Both teams went 8-2 at home and 3-7 on the road in Sun Belt play. Both lost only at home to Middle Tennessee and South Alabama.
Florida International got the 4 seed over UALR because the Golden Panthers swept Arkansas State this year. But if there were ever a 4/5 matchup that was a 50/50 proposition, this is probably it.
Las Vegas set the opening line as pick 'em. This morning, it moved to FIU by 1. Jeff Sagarin’s Ratings in USA today rank UALR at 69.70 and Florida International at 69.09. In his predictor, he ranks FIU at 69.12 to and UALR at 69.00. Basically, they’re even on a neutral court.
UALR should have the advantage in fan support. By the way, tickets are $15 for adults and $1 for children 18 and under at the Summit Arena Box office. There’s no reason Convention Center Court isn’t rocking at tipoff tonight.
If you can’t go, don’t forget the Sun Belt Digital Network is live streaming tonight’s games at www.sunbeltondemand.com. If it works, we’ll embed the game live right here on Burn The Horse beginning at 6 p.m.
ON THE BUS
Once again tonight, UALR’s players will get on the bus from Little Rock to travel to Hot Springs for the game. UALR players will return to Little Rock after the game.
UALR is expected to be without sophomore guard Taggart Lockhart (concussion).
START THE FIRE
UALR Coach Steve Shields is 5-4 in its opening game of the Sun Belt Tournament under Coach Steve Shields. The Trojans are 8-7 under Shields in SBC Tourney play.
LONG WAY FROM HOMEFIU is 1-4 all-time in games played in Hot Springs. The Golden Panthers only Hot Springs victory came 53-49 over Denver in the 2010-2011 season. FIU's has reached the quarterfinals in Hot Springs twice, losing 73-38 to Middle Tennessee in 2011 and 66-48 to Western Kentucky in 2009.
BTH KEYS TO VICTORY
Turn it down: UALR and FIU combined for 89 turnovers in two games this season. Both teams had more than 20 in both games. I suspect it won’t be quite that high tonight for either club. The team that turns the ball over closest to 12 times wins.
Come to paint: has at least a four-inch size advantage on all but one of FIU’s players. UALR has to get the ball to the paint and score to be successful.
Free love: FIU is a very good free throw shooting team. UALR needs to contest shots without fouling. Sending the Golden Panthers to the line all night won’t help matters.
The Las Vegas line opened on Friday as a pick 'em. This morning FIU is favored by one point.
Not sure what predictions we’ll get tonight as many sites don’t update during the postseason. But we’ll give you those we find.
Real Time RPI (24-6): No pick
Omni Rankings (17-5): FIU (no score available)
The Sports Network (22-7): FIU 70, UALR 67
Jeff Sagarin (21-8): FIU 69, UALR 68
CBS Sportsline (19-10): FIU 73, UALR 69
BTH Average (21-8): FIU 70.1, UALR 68.0