Dallas Colleges: Florida International Golden Panthers

ESPN.com's Sun Belt basketball preview

October, 29, 2012

Before getting to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Sun Belt, read Dana O'Neil's profile of new Florida International coach Richard Pitino, Myron Medcalf's look at North Texas' nonconference schedule and Western Kentucky's place in ESPN.com's 50 in 50 series.

Blue Ribbon's in-depth previews of all 11 Sun Belt teams: Insider

Arkansas-Little Rock

Arkansas State

Florida Atlantic Insider Free

Florida International



Middle Tennessee

North Texas

South Alabama


Western Kentucky

As for an added bonus, ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan picked the top 10 national rebounders heading into the season, and North Texas' Tony Mitchell made the list. His take:

7. Tony Mitchell, North Texas: The former Missouri signee is the kind of talent you don't often see in the Sun Belt, and his rebounding numbers back it up. He averaged 10.3 rebounds per game, and notched the fourth-highest defensive rebounding rate in the country (28.8 percent). He wasn't quite as effective on the offensive end -- he barely missed the 10 percent mark in offensive rebound rate, at 9.6 -- but that is also a byproduct of being the primary focus of the Mean Green offense. Mitchell has already proven his bona fides; the next step is a truly dominant season.

A&M crushes FIU in opener, 17-3

June, 4, 2010
Garret Wittels extended his hitting streak to 55 games, but his Golden Panthers were no match for the Aggies in the Coral Gables Regional. A&M starter Barret Loux stayed in the game for eight innings, throwing over 120 pitches. It would be tough to ask much more of him this weekend.

NCAA preview: Coral Gables Regional

June, 4, 2010


40-17, 21-12 ACC, 4-6 last 10

Analysis: On paper. The Hurricanes look like a dominant team from their stats and if you had to guess their record just from that, you'd probably get pretty close. But looking at how they lost, Miami was routinely beat in two of three games by the country's best teams. The Hurricanes can adjust on the fly and have proven that they can beat some of the best teams in the tournament.

Biggest strength: Yasmani Grandal is as good a player as you'll find in the country. He has hit .422 with 22 doubles and has an insane .545 on-base percentage.

Last NCAA appearance: 2009 (Regional)


40-19-1, 18-12-1 Big 12, 9-1 last 10

At their best: The Aggies have four great starters that eat up a lot of innings and ace closer John Stilson. Offensively, they're on a recent tear, scoring less than five runs only once in their last 10 games.

Biggest strength: Flamethrower Barret Loux (126 strikeouts) and Stilson are perhaps the most potent starter/closer combo in college baseball. Loux's opponent's batting average is .196; Stilson .172. Together they've struck out 232 hitters this year. Scary.

Last NCAA appearance: 2009 (Regional)


36-23, 22-14 Sun Belt, 7-3 last 10

At their best: Garrett Wittels' needs a hit in four consecutive games to tie the NCAA record of 58, so FIU must win at least two games. Wittels' .412 batting average is just one of the Panther's four over .350 and they have three players with 80 or more hits. They score fast and consistently.

Biggest strength: While Wittels is the story, the entire offense is worth admiring. Mike Martinez is hitting .389 with 89 hits and 54 RBIs, Jeremy Patton is .375, with 84 hits and 44 RBIs and Yoandy Barroso is .364 with 48 hits and 23 runs in just 35 starts.

Last NCAA appearance: 2002 (Regional)


25-16, 15-8 Ivy League, 5-5

Analysis: The Ivy League champs have two good pitchers, but they haven't seen near the quality hitters they'll see all weekend. Chris O'Dowd and Jason Brooks are two good hitters who can play with the big boys.

Biggest strength: O'Dowd has a .489 on base percentage, Brooks has 42 RBIs in just 37 starts and both are good fielders (.991 fielding percentage or better). One would imagine they're pretty smart, too.

Last NCAA appearance: 2009 (Regional)

As stackjr put it, my picks last week were weak. I went 4-4. Many of you did that same. I didn't see Baylor beating Missouri (congrats, Bears) or Nebraska upsetting Oklahoma. Let's try to make some better predictions this week.

Utah at TCU: Dan Jenkins called this the biggest game at Amon G. Carter Stadium since 1955. Jenkins would know. The longtime sportswriter and novelist is a TCU season-ticket holder and has seen or covered many games in Fort Worth. The sellout crowd and new uniforms should really excite the Frogs. But Utah is a solid team that knows how to win, which makes the fact that TCU is such a heavy favorite surprising. Utah's freshman quarterback, Jordan Wynn, has a real challenge in his second collegiate start. Look for TCU to disrupt the Utah offense with various formations and for Andy Dalton to do just enough against a stingy Utah defense to get the victory. BTW, I'll be in Fort Worth blogging and chatting at the game. Join me. Prediction: TCU 24, Utah 14

Texas at Baylor: I can't see the Longhorns looking past Baylor this week. The Bears just won a road game at Missouri, something I'm sure the Texas coaches reminded their players about this week. Texas has too much firepower. Look for Colt McCoy to put up some numbers and continue to make his case for Heisman Trophy consideration. And don't be surprised if the Longhorns' secondary gets involved in the scoring, either. This is a tremendous Texas defense. Prediction: Texas 44, Baylor 13

Texas A&M at Oklahoma: Both teams are looking to rebound from tough losses last week. Watch Sooners quarterback Landry Jones in this game. We're going to learn a lot about him. He threw five interceptions last week. Can he forget about that and bounce back this week? How will he respond if he throws an early interception Saturday? My bet is he plays well and the Sooners win. Oklahoma's defense played well against Nebraska last week. They need a similar performance this week. The Aggies keep it close early. Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Texas A&M 24

Texas Tech at Oklahoma State: Who will start at quarterback for Texas Tech? It could be Taylor Potts. Oklahoma State is the only other ranked Big 12 team besides Texas right now. And they should have plenty of motivation: If they keep winning, they'll play in a top-flite bowl. This should be a great matchup between two evenly-matched teams. But I'll take the Cowboys at home. Prediction: Oklahoma State 27, Texas Tech 24

UTEP at SMU: The Mustangs will face the best running back they've seen all year when Donald Buckram comes to Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Buckram is fourth in the nation in rushing at 131.22 yards per game. SMU has a lot on the line on Saturday. A win and they are bowl eligible and probably headed to Hawaii. I can tell you that despite the attendance at last week's Rice game, SMU fans are excited. They should be. And they'll go bowling this year. Prediction: SMU 28, UTEP 21

North Texas at Florida International: It's not too late for the Mean Green to go on a run. They could start with Florida International. UNT did not run the ball well last week in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe (the La.-Monroe defense is 12th in the nation against the run). I think they're extra motivated to fix that Saturday. Look for Lance Dunbar to play well against a defense that is No. 118 against the run. Prediction: North Texas 38, Florida International 28

Your turn. What are your picks for this week?