DENTON, Texas - Denver's men and North Texas' women earned the No. 1 overall seeds in the Sun Belt Conference Men's and Women's Tennis Championships, as the seeds were announced by the league office on Wednesday. The conference tournament is set to begin on Thursday, April 19 at Waranch Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.
For the third consecutive season, Denver's men's team earned the No. 1 overall seed as the highest ranked team in the league at No. 48, according to the most recent ITA rankings, and will have a first round bye. The Pioneers (12-8) are seeking their first title since joining the SBC in 1999. Denver has finished second three times at the league tournament under head coach Danny Westerman, who has guided the Pioneers to an 81-51 mark and two NCAA Tournament appearances in six seasons at DU.
Defending conference champion Middle Tennessee (16-7) earned the No. 2 seed with the next highest ITA ranking at No. 53, the highest mark under second-year head coach Jimmy Borendame. The Blue Raiders are looking for their fourth conference title and third since 2009 and enter the tournament having won eight of their last nine matches.
South Alabama (15-6) and Louisiana-Lafayette (14-7) are ranked No. 57 and No. 71, respectively; however, Louisiana-Lafayette earned the No. 3 seed as ULL defeated South Alabama during the regular season, and thus USA received the No. 4 seed. The Cajuns are seeking their first conference tournament title since 2006 and fourth for the program overall.
South Alabama enters the 2012 tournament having won more Sun Belt championships than any other school in the league at 16 and will be going for their first Sun Belt title since 2008. The team reached the Sun Belt finals a season ago but fell 4-3 to Middle Tennessee.
Rounding out the final three spots are No. 5 seed Florida Atlantic, No. 6 seed Troy and No. 7 seed Western Kentucky. FAU and WKU are seeking their first Sun Belt tournament crown while Troy looks to capture its second league title and first since 2010.
On the women's side, host North Texas (15-6) earned the No. 1 overall seed as the highest ranked Sun Belt team by the ITA at No. 59. The Mean Green will look to become the first host institution to win the conference tournament since South Alabama accomplished the feat in 2003. The last time the host institution was the No. 1 overall seed was also South Alabama in 2005. North Texas enters the tournament having gone 6-0 against Sun Belt competition.
The remaining teams were seeded based on their lowest cumulative ITA rankings of their top three wins based on the most recent ITA rankings released on Wednesday.
FIU, Middle Tennessee and Denver grabbed the next three seeds, respectively, to earn a bye in the first round.
As the No. 2 seed, FIU (5-14) will look for the program's sixth Sun Belt tournament title while defending its league crown from a season ago. The Panthers have played one of the toughest schedules in the conference with competition against 12 ranked opponents.
Middle Tennessee heads to Denton seeking the program's first SBC tournament title after finishing the regular season with a 14-6 record, its best mark since 2000. The Blue Raiders enter the tournament having won nine of their last 11, all since the beginning of March, including five of seven contests against conference foes to finish 6-2 against SBC competition this spring under first-year head coach Shelley Godwin.
The Pioneers (11-10) are seeking their third Sun Belt tournament title in program history, having claimed SBC titles in 2004 and 2008.
Louisiana-Monroe (14-3) brings a strong overall record into the start of postseason play this weekend, as it dropped just three matches all year. The three losses this season came against tough opponents, including SEC members Mississippi State and Auburn as well as No. 58 Tulane. The Warhawks are just one of two teams in the tournament undefeated against Sun Belt opponents and have won 10 of their last 11 matches.
South Alabama enters the tournament as a No. 5 seed with one of the biggest turnarounds in the league, having gone from a 3-13 record in 2011 to a 13-5 mark this season. Like the Jaguar men, the USA women's program has won more Sun Belt titles than any other team in the league at 16, including 12 consecutive conference championships between 1992 and 2003.
The remaining teams were seeded based on their lowest cumulative ITA rankings of their top three wins based on the most recent ITA rankings. Troy moved one spot to No. 7 ahead of Arkansas State as the Trojans defeated the Red Wolves in head-to-head competition during the regular season. ASU was then selected as the No. 8 seed, followed by No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic, No. 10 seed UALR, No. 11 seed Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 12 seed Western Kentucky.
The 2012 Sun Belt Conference Men's and Women's Championships are set for Thursday, April 19 through Sunday, April 22 at the Waranch Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Matches will be broadcast by Radio Tennis and available for listening online for free at radiotennis.com.
To follow the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Men's and Women's Tennis Championships, visit the Championship Central page. Also, follow along on Twitter: @The_Sun_Belt and Facebook: facebook.com/theSunBeltConference.
Men's Team Seeds
2. Middle Tennessee
4. South Alabama
5. Florida Atlantic
7. Western Kentucky
Women's Team Seeds
1. North Texas
3. Middle Tennessee
6. South Alabama
8. Arkansas State
9. Florida Atlantic
12. Western Kentucky
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2012
8:00 AM WM1 No. 10 UALR vs. No. 7 Troy
8:00 AM WM2 No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. No. 6 South Alabama
11:30 AM WM3 No. 8 Arkansas State vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic
11:30 AM WM4 No. 12 Western Kentucky vs. No. 5 Louisiana-Monroe
3:00 PM MM1 No. 2 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 7 Western Kentucky
3:00 PM MM2 No. 3 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. No. 6 Troy
6:30 PM MM3 No. 4 South Alabama vs. No. 5 Florida Atlantic
FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012
8:00 AM WM5 No. 2 FIU vs. Match 1 Winner
8:00 AM WM6 No. 3 Middle Tennessee vs. Match 2 Winner
11:30 AM WM7 No. 1 North Texas vs. Match 3 Winner
11:30 AM WM8 No. 4 Denver vs. Match 4 Winner
3:00 PM MM4 Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner
3:00 PM MM5 No. 1 Denver vs. Match 3 Winner
SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2012
9:00 AM WM9 Match 5 Winner vs. Match 6 Winner
9:00 AM WM10 Match 7 Winner vs. Match 8 Winner
MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
3:00 PM MM6 Match 4 Winner vs. Match 5 Winner
SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2012
WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
1:00 PM WM11 Match 9 Winner vs. Match 10 Winner