Warhawks picked 5th, Hooper on 2nd All-Conference Team

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Middle Tennessee, UALR and North Texas are picked to lead the Sun Belt Conference this season, while Blue Raider forward Desmond Yates headlines the Preseason All-SBC team, as voted on by the league's 13 head men's basketball coaches. Middle Tennessee was selected to win the East, while UALR and North Texas are picked to tie for the top spot in the West.
Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis welcomes back all five starters and nine letterwinners to a team that went 17-15 last season, including 11-7 in the Sun Belt. The Blue Raiders narrowly missed punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament last season, falling short to champion WKU in the SBC Tournament Finals. Davis, along with his talent-rich club of returners, will also welcome four newcomers to aid in the Blue Raiders quest for the title.
North Texas returns a pair of starters among its eight lettermen and welcomes a talent-rich recruiting class to Denton. The Mean Green was 20-11 overall last season, including a 10-8 mark against league foes and for a second straight year, led the Sun Belt in nearly every rebounding category, and averaged 5.5 steals per game. Head Coach Johnny Jones will once again have the scoring prowess of the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year – Josh White.
UALR Head Coach Steve Shields will look to continue his streak of division titles, as UALR returns all five starters, among its nine letterwinners from a team that went 20-11 last season and tied for the West Division crown. UALR has won three SBC divisional championships in the last five years and will once again be a top contender this season with the help of Brandon Patterson. Patterson enters his senior season with the Trojans, after transferring to UALR from Ole Miss. Patterson made an appearance in 28 contests last season, including 23 starts.
Yates, the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year, enters the 2008-09 campaign as the league's top returning scorer after averaging 16.0 points per game a year ago. The Tennessee native also posted a 58 percent shooting percentage, notched double-digits in 26 different contests and led the Blue Raiders in rebounding 11 times. Moreover, he has scored in double figures in 70 percent of 64 career games and enters his junior season with 860 career points. He is among Blue Raider all-time leaders in scoring, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
Last season, the Sun Belt Conference finished 14th in the RPI Standings – its best finish in three seasons – as its squads compiled a 213-196 (.521) overall mark. WKU and South Alabama gave the league a pair of 25+-win teams for only the third time in the conference's 32-year history (1985 - VCU 26-6, UAB 25-9 and 1993 - UNO 26-4, WKU 26-6). In the league's 32-year history, the Sun Belt Conference has had multiple teams earn NCAA berths a dozen times, but the appearances by the Hilltoppers and Jaguars in 2008 marked the first season of multiple berths since 1994.
1. Middle Tennessee - 76 points (11 first-place votes)
2. South Alabama - 60 points (2 first-place votes)
3. WKU - 52 points
4. Florida Atlantic - 38 points
5. FIU - 33 points
6. Troy - 14 points
1. UALR - 76 points (6 first-place votes)
1. North Texas - 76 points (4 first-place votes)
3. Louisiana-Lafayette - 75 points (3 first-place votes)
4. Arkansas State - 43 points
5. ULM - 39 points
6. Denver - 35 points
7. New Orleans - 20 points
Carlos Monroe, FAU
Russell Hicks, FIU
Desmond Yates, MT
Josh White, NT
Brandon Davis, USA
Tony Hooper, ULM
Kevin Kanaskie, MT
Collin Dennis, NT
Domonic Tilford, USA
Jeremy Evans, WKU
Steven Moore, UALR
Paul Graham III, FAU
Chris Gradnigo, ULL
Kyndall Dykes, UNO
A.J. Slaughter, WKU
Desmond Yates, MT