Little Rock (LR) men’s basketball has struggled under first-year coach Darrell Walker this season with a 10-16 record (at time of print) and are in the midst of a battle to secure one of the last two seeds ahead of the Sun Belt Championship.
While the Sun Belt is made up of twelve different schools, only the top-10 receive invites to the Championship in New Orleans. Combining a 3-9 away record with an average 7-7 home record, the Trojans find themselves in danger of missing out on the tournament.
LR, currently 10th in the Sun Belt Conference standings, are attempting to hold one of the final two seeds with in-state rival Arkansas State, seeded ninth with an 11-15 record, from fellow conference bottom-dwellers Appalachian State (App. St.) and Troy. App St. and Troy, ranked 11th and 12th in the conference, hold records of 9-16 and 11-14, respectively.
At the top of the conference, Texas State leads the way with a 21-5 record, while Georgia State and Georgia Southern currently hold the second and third seeds with records of 18-8 and 16-10, respectively.
Texas-Arlington, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Coastal Carolina, and South Alabama make up the middle of the conference standings with records of 12-14, 15-10, 13-11, 12-12, and 12-14, respectively.
In any potential conference championship appearance, the Trojans will rely on redshirt-junior Rayjon Tucker to lead the offense. Tucker is averaging 20.1 points per game this season.
In an otherwise frustrating season, one of the few bright spots has been the emergence of freshman point-guard Markquis Nowell. Nowell, a native of Harlem, N.Y., has averaged 12.1 points per game, 4.4 assists, and leads the team with 32 steals. Nowell will have to be at his best for LR to succeed in New Orleans.
On the defensive end, LR will rely on sophomore Kris Bankston’s shot-stopping abilities to stifle opposing offenses. Bankston leads the Trojans with 30 blocks. Tucker averages almost seven rebounds per game, while freshman Kamani Johnson averages almost five and both will anchor the offensive and defensive glass for LR.
The Sun Belt Championship tips off with first round games on campus March 12, followed by games played in New Orleans starting March 14. All games can be viewed on ESPN+, while the final will be televised on ESPN2.