Sun Belt Conference men's basketball tournament

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Sun Belt Conference men's basketball tournament
Conference basketball championship
SportCollege basketball
ConferenceSun Belt Conference
Number of teams14
FormatSingle-elimination tournament
Current stadiumPensacola Bay Center
Current locationPensacola, FL
Last contest2023
Current championLouisiana
Most championshipsWestern Kentucky (9)
TV partner(s)ESPN2
Official websiteSun Belt Men's Basketball
Host stadiums
Charlotte Coliseum
Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum
Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex
Hampton Coliseum
E.A. Diddle Arena
Richmond Coliseum
Mobile Civic Center
Mississippi Coast Coliseum
Barton Coliseum
Mitchell Center
Alltel Arena
Lakefront Arena
UNT Coliseum
Murphy Center
Summit Arena
Hartsell Arena & Pensacola Bay Center
Host locations
Charlotte, NC (1977–1980, 1989)
Jacksonville, FL (1981)
Birmingham, AL (1982–1984,1986,1990)
Hampton, VA (1985)
Bowling Green, KY (1987, 1994, 2003–2004)
Richmond, VA (1988)
Mobile, AL (1991, 2001, 2008)
Biloxi, MS (1992–1993)
Little Rock, AR (1995–1997)
Lafayette, LA (1998–1999, 2007)
North Little Rock, AR (2000)
New Orleans, LA (2002, 2014–2019)
Denton, TX (2005)
Murfreesboro, TN (2006)
Hot Springs, AR (2009–2013)
Pensacola, FL (2021–present)

The Sun Belt Conference men's basketball tournament has been played every year since the formation of the Sun Belt Conference prior to the 1976–77 American collegiate academic year. The winner of the tournament is guaranteed an automatic berth into the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament.



The size and format of the Sun Belt tournament has varied widely since its establishment in 1976. The size of the conference has ranged between a minimum of six teams and as many as thirteen.

Nonetheless, the tournament has consistently utilized a simple single-elimination style tournament. Through the 2018 edition of the tournament, with a few exceptions, all conference members were typically invited to each tournament. Depending on the total number of teams in the league during a particular year, higher-seeded teams have sometimes received byes into the quarterfinal or semifinal rounds. Teams have always been seeded based on regular season conference records, although some modifications were made when the league was split into divisions during the 2000s.

During the 2018 offseason, the conference announced radical changes to its basketball scheduling and tournament format.[1] A year later, many of these changes were reevaluated and placed on hold;[2] the ones listed here remained in place.

  • Effective with the 2019 edition forward, only 10 of the conference's 12 teams qualified for the tournament.
  • The format consisted of two stepladder-style brackets. The bottom four seeds played in the first round; the 5 and 6 seeds received byes into the second round; the 3 and 4 seeds began play in the quarterfinals, and the top two seeds received a triple bye into the semifinals.
  • In 2019, the bottom four seeds played first-round games at campus sites, hosted by the higher seed. The winners then joined the top six teams at Lakefront Arena.
  • Starting in 2020, all games prior to the semifinals will be at campus sites, again hosted by the higher seeds. The semifinals and finals remained in New Orleans, but moved to the Smoothie King Center.

On March 3, 2020, the conference announced that it had reached an agreement for Pensacola, Florida to host the men's and women's tournaments from 2021 to 2025. During that time, the tournament will completely abandon the use of campus sites and return to a format that features all conference members. First- and second-round games will be played simultaneously at Hartsell Arena on the campus of Pensacola State College and the Pensacola Bay Center, with semifinals and finals at the Bay Center.[3]


With some exceptions, the tournament has historically been played at the home gym of one of the conference's members (e.g. Louisiana's Cajundome, North Texas' UNT Coliseum) or at a major arena in a nearby city (e.g. Mobile Civic Center near South Alabama).

Some of the more common host venues have included the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina (Charlotte), the venue now known as Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (UAB), Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Arkansas (Little Rock), and E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Kentucky (Western Kentucky).

However, the tournament has been hosted at a neutral arena site each year since 2009 (Hot Springs, Arkansas, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Pensacola, Florida). Lakefront Arena in New Orleans had previously hosted the event in 2002 when UNO was still a Sun Belt member, but the Privateers have since departed the conference. The only other neutral sites to host a Sun Belt tournament were the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia (1985) and the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi (1992–1993).

NCAA performances[edit]

The Sun Belt has a storied basketball history, sending multiple teams into the NCAA tournament in the 1980s and 1990s (most recently 1994), and then again in 2008 when both regular season champion South Alabama, and tournament winner Western Kentucky received bids, and in 2013 with Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.

Charlotte, then known athletically as UNC Charlotte, reached the Final Four in 1977, and future Sun Belt member Western Kentucky reached the Final Four in 1971. Overall, past and present Sun Belt schools have posted 21 wins in the NCAA Tournament during the time they were conference members.

Champions by year[edit]

Season Tournament champion Score Runner-up MVP Game site
1977 UNC Charlotte 71–70 New Orleans Cedric Maxwell, UNC Charlotte Campus Sites – First Round
Charlotte Coliseum (Charlotte, NC) – Finals
1978 New Orleans 22–20 South Alabama Nate Mills, New Orleans
1979 Jacksonville 68–54 South Florida James Ray, Jacksonville
1980 VCU 105–88 UAB Edmund Sherod, VCU
1981 VCU 62–61 (OT) UAB Kenny Stancil, VCU Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum (Jacksonville, FL)
1982 UAB 94–83 VCU Oliver Robinson, UAB Birmingham–Jefferson Civic Center (Birmingham, AL)
1983 UAB 64–47 South Florida Cliff Pruitt, UAB
1984 UAB 62–60 Old Dominion McKinley Singleton, UAB
1985 VCU 87–82 Old Dominion Mike Schlegel, VCU Hampton Coliseum (Hampton, VA)
1986 Jacksonville 70–69 UAB Otis Smith, Jacksonville Birmingham–Jefferson Civic Center (Birmingham, AL)
1987 UAB 72–60 Western Kentucky Tracy Foster, UAB E. A. Diddle Arena (Bowling Green, KY)
1988 UNC Charlotte 81–79 VCU Byron Dinkins, UNC Charlotte Richmond Coliseum (Richmond, VA)
1989 South Alabama 105–59 Jacksonville Jeff Hodge, South Alabama Charlotte Coliseum (Charlotte, NC)
1990 South Florida 81–74 UNC Charlotte Radenko Dobraš, South Florida Birmingham–Jefferson Civic Center (Birmingham, AL)
1991 South Alabama 86–81 Old Dominion Chris Gatling, Old Dominion Mobile Civic Center (Mobile, AL)
1992 Southwestern Louisiana 75–71 Louisiana Tech Todd Hill, Southwestern Louisiana Mississippi Coast Coliseum (Biloxi, MS)
1993 Western Kentucky 72–63 New Orleans Darnell Mee, Western Kentucky
1994 Southwestern Louisiana 78–72 Western Kentucky Michael Allen, Southwestern Louisiana E. A. Diddle Arena (Bowling Green, KY)
1995 Western Kentucky 82–79 Arkansas–Little Rock Chris Robinson, Western Kentucky Barton Coliseum (Little Rock, AR)
1996 New Orleans 57–56 Arkansas–Little Rock Lewis Sims, New Orleans
1997 South Alabama 44–43 Louisiana Tech Rusty Yoder, South Alabama
1998 South Alabama 62–59 Southwestern Louisiana Toby Madison, South Alabama Cajundome (Lafayette, LA)
1999 Arkansas State 65–48 Western Kentucky Chico Fletcher, Arkansas State
2000 Louisiana–Lafayette 51–50 South Alabama Virgil Stanescu, South Alabama Alltel Arena (North Little Rock, AR)
2001 Western Kentucky 64–54 South Alabama Chris Marcus, Western Kentucky Mitchell Center (Mobile, AL)
2002 Western Kentucky 76–70 Louisiana–Lafayette Derek Robinson, Western Kentucky Lakefront Arena (New Orleans, LA)
2003 Western Kentucky 64–52 Middle Tennessee Patrick Sparks, Western Kentucky E. A. Diddle Arena (Bowling Green, KY)
2004 Louisiana–Lafayette Vacated 67–58 New Orleans Bo McCalebb, New Orleans
2005 Louisiana–Lafayette Vacated 88–69 Denver Tiras Wade, Louisiana-Lafayette UNT Coliseum (Denton, TX)
2006 South Alabama 95–70 Western Kentucky Chey Christie, South Alabama Murphy Center (Murfreesboro, TN)
2007 North Texas 83–75 Arkansas State Calvin Watson, North Texas Campus Sites – First Round
Cajundome (Lafayette, LA) – Finals
2008 Western Kentucky 67–57 Middle Tennessee Jeremy Evans, Western Kentucky Campus Sites – First Round
Mitchell Center (Mobile, AL) – Finals
2009 Western Kentucky 64–55 South Alabama A. J. Slaughter, Western Kentucky Summit Arena (Hot Springs, AR)
2010 North Texas 66–63 Troy Eric Tramiel, North Texas
2011 Arkansas–Little Rock 64–63 North Texas Solomon Bozeman, Arkansas-Little Rock
2012 Western Kentucky 74–70 North Texas George Fant, Western Kentucky
2013 Western Kentucky 65–63 FIU T. J. Price, Western Kentucky
2014 Louisiana–Lafayette 82–81 (OT) Georgia State Bryant Mbamalu, Louisiana-Lafayette Lakefront Arena (New Orleans, LA)
2015 Georgia State 38–36 Georgia Southern Kevin Ware, Georgia State
2016 Little Rock 70–50 Louisiana–Monroe Roger Woods, Little Rock
2017 Troy 59–53 Texas State Wesley Person Jr., Troy
2018 Georgia State 74–61 Texas–Arlington D'Marcus Simonds, Georgia State
2019 Georgia State 73–64 Texas–Arlington Malik Benlevi, Georgia State Campus Sites – First Round
Lakefront Arena (New Orleans, LA)
2020 Cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic
2021 Appalachian State 80–73 Georgia State Michael Almonacy, Appalachian State Hartsell Arena – Select first-and second-round games
Pensacola Bay CenterAll remaining games (Pensacola, FL)
2022 Georgia State 80–71 Louisiana Corey Allen, Georgia State Pensacola Bay Center (Pensacola, FL)
2023 Louisiana 71–66 South Alabama Jordan Brown , Louisiana

Performance by school[edit]

School Championships Years
Western Kentucky
1993, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013
South Alabama
1989, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2006
1992, 1994, 2000, 2014, 2023
1982, 1983, 1984, 1987
Georgia State
2015, 2018, 2019, 2022
1980, 1981, 1985
1977, 1988
1979, 1986
New Orleans
1978, 1996
North Texas
2007, 2010
Little Rock
2011, 2016
Appalachian State
Arkansas State
South Florida
  • Teams in bold represent current conference members as of the 2022–23 season



Year Network Play-by-play Analyst
2023 ESPN2 Mike Morgan Mark Wise
2021 Doug Sherman Tim Welsh
2020 Kevin Fitzgerald Dane Bradshaw
2019 Rich Hollenberg Chris Spatola
2018 Mitch Holthus Mark Adams
2017 Rich Hollenberg
2013[4] Mark Jones
2012[5] Adam Amin
2011 Rob Stone
2010[6] Ron Franklin
2009[7] Dave Pasch Bob Valvano
2007[8] Dave Barnett Jimmy Dykes


Year Network Play-by-play Analyst
2017 TAG Sports Group T. J. Rives Dineaux Hanson
2016 College Sports Now Mark Wise
2012[9] Westwood One Brad Sham Bill Frieder
2011[10] Dave Odom

See also[edit]

Sun Belt Conference women's basketball tournament


  1. ^ "Sun Belt Conference Announces Strategic Men's Basketball Plan" (Press release). Sun Belt Conference. June 4, 2018. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  2. ^ "Sun Belt CEOs Conclude Spring Meeting, Conference to Reevaluate Men's Basketball Strategic Plan" (Press release). Sun Belt Conference. June 3, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  3. ^ "Pensacola Selected to Host 2021-25 Basketball Championships" (Press release). Sun Belt Conference. March 3, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  4. ^ "Championship Week Presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods Schedule - ESPN Press Room U.S." 4 March 2013.
  5. ^ "Championship Week: Coverage of a Record 137 Men's Games Begins March 1 | ESPN MediaZone". Archived from the original on 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2012-02-29.
  6. ^ "Championship Week Begins Thursday, March 4 | ESPN MediaZone". Archived from the original on 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  7. ^ "20090226_ChampionshipWeekBeginsMarch5". Archived from the original on 2009-03-07. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  8. ^ "What to Watch: College basketball lovers rejoice". Archived from the original on 2009-02-07. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  9. ^ "Sun Belt Championship Highlights: Western Kentucky 74 – North Texas 70 | Westwood One SportsWestwood One Sports". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2011-03-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)