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FIU/USA leads off SBC Tourney

Wittel16 fiubase SPTS ADD Better hope the Golden Panthers are early risers. Because the Sun Belt Conference Tournament is going to start at 9 a.m. Central whether they are or not.

FIU (31-22, 17-13 SBC) opens the SBC Tourney Wednesday morning against South Alabama (31-25, 17-13 SBC), which the Panthers swept at home just two weekends ago, outscoring the Jaguars 25-5.

Much, much more to come on the matchup Tuesday.

But first, one last glance at the Player of the Year race before the award is given out at the conference bash in Murfreesboro Tuesday night. Word is FIU's Garrett Wittels, which you may have heard is riding a 48-game hitting streak, is one of five finalists for the award. The other four, as we understand it: Troy's Adam Bryant, Middle Tennessee's Blake McDade, South Alabama's Jake Overstreet and Florida Atlantic's Andy Mee.

Compare their stats:

Adam Bryant, Troy: .361, 19 HR, 58 RBI, 61 runs scored
Blake McDade, MT: .400, 5 HR, 46 RBI, 62 runs scored
Andy Mee, FAU: .390, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 11 saves
Jake Overstreet, USA: .345, 11 HR, 69 RBI, 48 runs scored
Garrett Wittles, FIU: .415, 2 HR, 53 RBI, 37 runs scored

Looking purely at the numbers, Bryant would probably win it in a normal year. But there's nothing normal about Wittels' season. He won the batting title by a full 15 points over McDade. Then there's the matter of 48 straight.

My guess is the voting will be razor-close.

Here's Turtle Thomas' take: "In my book he's player of the year, and if we could vote for our own players, I'd certainly vote for him. And I hope a lot of other coaches will do the same."

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