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Know thy enemy, part 2

Getting to know the contenders of the Sun Belt Converence


July 22, 2014

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    Last week, we profiled Idaho, New Mexico State, Texas State and Texas-Arlington — the four Sun Belt members furthest away from Georgia Southern. This week, we’ll work our way closer to home by getting to know a little bit about the schools in Arkansas and Louisiana.

University of Arkansas-Little Rock; Little Rock, Arkansas
Enrollment: 13,062
Nickname: Trojans


    Like UT-Arlington, Arkansas-Little Rock is a non-football member of the Sun Belt Conference. For those who have been around Georgia Southern for a while, you may remember a pretty good basketball rivalry with UALR in the old TAAC days. Georgia Southern beat the Trojans in the 1983 TAAC men’s basketball championship game to advance to the NCAA Tournament and the Eagles hold a 14-12 advantage in the series.
    UALR men’s basketball won the Sun Belt championship in 2011 to earn a trip to the Big Dance, and their women’s basketball program is pretty doggone good too. In every season from 2007-2013, the women earned a bid to either the NCAA tournament or the WNIT. During that run, they won three consecutive Sun Belt tournament titles from 2010-2012.
    Georgia Southern’s first encounters with UALR as Sun Belt foes will be on October 5, as volleyball and women’s soccer will both meet in Statesboro.

University of Louisiana-Lafayette; Lafayette, Louisiana
Enrollment: 16,885
Nickname: Ragin’ Cajuns

    UL-Lafayette has had the best overall athletics program in the Sun Belt over the past few years. The Ragin’ Cajuns took home football, baseball, men’s basketball, men’s tennis and softball conference championships last year. ULL was ranked 34th in a CBSSports.com poll for best athletics programs in the nation and the Cajuns had the third-best overall winning percentage in all of Division I, behind only Louisville and Florida.
    The good life in Lafayette is expected to continue as the coaches have picked the Cajuns to win the Sun Belt in the preseason football poll released last week.
    Georgia Southern will not play UL Lafayette in football this year, but the first meeting between the two schools as conference opponents will be a volleyball match-up on September 27 in Lafayette.

University of Louisiana-Monroe; Monroe, Louisiana
Enrollment: 8,858
Nickname: Warhawks

    UL-Monroe football has made headlines in the past few years as well. In 2012, the Warhawks beat Arkansas to open the season and then had Auburn dead to rights before falling in overtime the next week. A week later, Monroe hosted Baylor in a nationally televised game that turned into a track meet as Baylor escaped with a 47-42 win. ULM finished that season 8-4 and with the respect of a few power conference teams.
    This season, the Warhawks host Wake Forest to open the year and also have games at LSU, Kentucky and Texas A&M. Nobody can accuse them of scheduling cupcakes. Georgia Southern will meet ULM for the first time on the football field at Paulson Stadium on November 29.
    As for other sports, ULM has been anywhere from average to bad across the board over the last few years. Georgia Southern volleyball and women’s soccer will travel to Monroe on September 26 for the first conference meetings.

Arkansas State University; Jonesboro, Arkansas
Enrollment: 13,239
Nickname: Red Wolves

    Arkansas State is another school longtime members of the Eagle Nation will remember. The two schools met in the 1986 I-AA national championship game. Tracy Ham led Erk’s Eagles to a second national title with a 48-21 thrashing of the then-nicknamed Indians. They changed their mascot to the Red Wolves in 2008.
    ASU shared the conference title with UL Lafayette last year and is picked to finish second in the preseason football coaches poll. We can also expect the Red Wolves to be pretty solid in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and women’s soccer.
    Georgia Southern and A-State will not play in football this year, but the Eagles’ first meeting with the Red Wolves will be September 21 for a volleyball match in Statesboro.
    
    Next week, we’ll look at the four closest Sun Belt members in proximity to Georgia Southern — which will likely produce some of the biggest rivalries the Eagle Nation can look forward to over the next several years.


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