Solomon Bozeman heard the rumors. They said he wasn't good enough. They said he couldn't handle the rigors of the best conference in the sport. Overmatched, others said. Undersized, whispered the rest. Worse yet, misinformed fans were even starting to question his dedication.
And this all happened because a local kid from Little-Rock, Arkansas just wanted to come home to play some hoops. Shortly after wrapping up his sophomore campaign with South Florida, an unhappy Bozeman shocked some close to the program when he put in for a transfer. "A lot of people thought I left the Big East because I couldn't play at that level, but I knew the whole time I could," Bozeman said. In truth, the 20-year old simply wanted to be closer to family, and especially his father Eric, the head coach of Central Arkansas' men's squad.
In the end, the Trojans offered Bozeman two things he couldn't pass up: 1.) a starring role, and 2.) a chance to deliver a Sun Belt title to his hometown city. And that's pretty much how things went down. The six-foot guard set his sights on a league championship and went to work in the gym.
It paid off. From his junior to senior seasons, Bozeman's three-point accuracy became his most valuable asset. A weak point before as a 33.3% shooter, the senior hit a stunning 46.4% from deep this year on the exact same number of attempts. So when the Trojans needed a big shot to keep their season alive in the Sun Belt title game on Tuesday, you can guess who they called upon.
It was the biggest shot of his career, and instead going for the tie like most of the conservative minds on this planet would have preferred, Bozeman went straight for the jugular. And now he's a champion because of it. Mission complete.
A breakdown after the jump...
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Record: 19-16 (7-9)
What to know:
- No giveaways - the Trojans are tied for the NCAA lead w/ a 6.3% turnover percentage on offense. Two other schools who also rank in the top five, Ohio State and Wisconsin, could be potential opponents in round one. It doesn't need to be repeated how valuable a statistic like turnover percentage can be around this time of year. The issue for Arkansas-Little Rock is that it simply cannot make two-point shots at a consistent clip (42.1% - last in Sun Belt), and that alone is helping to counteract the benefits of being so sure-handed with the ball.
- Lacking in size - Little Rock's average height is 74.5", exactly two inches shorter than the national average. With a whopping 343 schools ahead of them, that officially makes the Trojans the second shortest team in America. Salvation could come in the form of 6'9" freshman Gus Leeper (seriously), a big body who saw extended minutes over the last two games (25.5 mpg) but desperately needs to stay out of foul trouble.
- Let's be real here - The Trojans finished eighth over a 16-game season in the Sun Belt. They also dropped 7 of 10 games down the stretch, and own a resume highlighted by a two-point victory over NIT-bound Tulsa. That's a bad thing. Real bad. Things get much worse when you throw in a 26-point loss to Oral Roberts and a 34-point drubbing at the hands of Missouri State in non-conference play. How in the world is Little Rock going beat a powerhouse when it can't even beat mediocre teams? Good question.
Projected seed: #16. Bozeman and his big-shot ability belong on the national stage for as long as possible, so we're going to be selfish and hope UALR gets forced into a play-in game for the chance at Kansas or Ohio State. But if you're looking for an upset special in your bracket pool, for the sake of sanity please look elsewhere.
Know Your Small Conference Winners