The Cajuns are led by head coach Bob Marlin, who is in his third season with the program. In two years he's put together a respectable 21-11 Sun Belt record during his tenure, but has lost both contests to Middle Tennessee
since his arrival.
Louisiana-Lafayette enters tonight's game with a 2-4 record and are coming off of a near upset of 15th ranked Michigan State
, a game in which they forced the Trojans into 14 second half turnovers.
Their two wins came against Oakland (2-5) and Southern New Orleans (4-2), but neither of those teams are considered to be powerhouses. It should be noted that both wins came at the Cajundome, so ULL remains undefeated at home this season.
Louisiana-Lafayette Team Stats
ULL enters tonight's matchup averaging 68.5 points per game, which is good for seventh in the Sun Belt. Unfortunately for them, opponents are averaging 70.5 points per game on the year. The Cajuns are middle of the pack in free throw percentage (.667), field goal percentage (.409) and three pointer percentage (.315), which seems to indicate that their performance against Michigan State might have been more of a down game for the Spartans than an indication of improvement from ULL.
That said, the Cajuns are a young team. Out of their starting five they have two juniors, two sophomores and one freshman.
Their leading scorers are a pair of sophomores: 6-9 forward Shawn Long (averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game) and 6-3 guard Elfrid Payton (12.3 points and 4.8 assists per game). Both have scored in double digits in five times this season and their average points per game combine to represent 40 percent of the Cajuns' 68.5 point average.
In short, Long and Payton are crucial to the Cajuns' success. Shut down their production and win the ballgame.
Middle Tennessee by comparison
On paper, this is a favorable matchup for Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders are tops in the league in three point shooting (.406), FG percentage (.448)and scoring margin (+13.4). When compared to Louisiana-Lafayette's middle of the pack defensive numbers, Middle definitely has the advantage.
The Blue Raiders have the edge in rebounds, too. They're currently tops in the league in rebound margin with a +8 mark on the season compared to ULL's -7. Ouch.
While I realize the sample size isn't quite enough to give a true indication of either team's strengths or weaknesses, Middle Tennessee is returning enough impact players from last season's squad to put together their third straight win over Lafayette. If Kermit can put together a game plan that allows his squad to dictate the pace of the game and control Long and Payton then the Blue Raiders should start the Sun Belt slate off on the right foot.
Official BRZ prediction:
75-64 Middle Tennessee
While most Blue Raider fans have spent the day focusing on the move to Conference USA, Kermit Davis and crew have been preparing for their Sun Belt opener tonight against the Ragin' Cajuns. Keep reading to get caught up with the Cajuns, discuss their season so far and learn the names to know.
Men's hoops opens conference play tonight at the Cajundome.