TUESDAY, JANUARY 06, 2004
A-Sun Men's Hoops Begins 2004 on High Note

Jan. 6, 2004

MACON, Ga. - The Atlantic Sun Conference begins the new year on a men's basketball high note as the A-Sun completed its non-conference schedule with an RPI rating of 18th in the nation (RPI data as of Jan. 1, 2004). The A-Sun finished last season at 20th, but is looking to improve on that number after a strong start to the 2003-04 campaign.

Along with key non-conference victories by several A-Sun schools, the league also offers one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. The A-Sun's strength of schedule stood at fourth in the nation to close out 2003, trailing only the A-10, the West Coast, and the Big Ten. While facing tougher competition, the A-Sun schools have had success, including a 71-67 win by Belmont at #22 Missouri on December 30th. Other key non-conference wins include Georgia State defeating Auburn and Tulsa, Troy State topping San Diego St. and Weber State, UCF defeating Niagara on the road, Mercer turning back Ohio, and Jacksonville downing Tennessee Tech.

With the non-conference season complete, A-Sun schools now turn their attention to the heart of the conference schedule. UCF (9-2, 4-0) and Troy State (8-3, 4-0) are off to fast starts this season after competing in the A-Sun championship game a year ago. Belmont (8-3, 3-1) and Florida Atlantic (6-5, 3-1) are just a game back with four conference games played. Georgia State (7-4, 2-2) and Mercer (5-8, 2-2) are both at .500 after suffering through some early season injuries. The A-Sun currently offers three teams with winning percentages over .700 (UCF, TSU, Belmont) and five teams with winning percentages over .600 (Georgia State and Jacksonville).

A-Sun play continues this Thursday with three games, followed by two games on Friday night. The first edition of the A-Sun Game-of-the-Week on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast will be this Friday night when Jacksonville hosts FAU at 7:30 ET. The regular season schedule concludes on February 29th, to be followed by the 2004 A-Sun Men's Basketball Championship. The championship will be played for the first time in Nashville, Tenn., in Belmont's brand-new Curb Event Center (5,000) on March 4-6. The championship will consist of the top eight eligible teams competing in a single-elimination tournament with the championship game on February 6th at 3:00ct. The winner of the championship game will earn the A-Sun's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.