2008-09 Season Primers: #20 – Southland

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2008

There is no RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference, but we’re still taking applications.

 

Predicted Order of Finish:

 

East

  1. Stephen F. Austin  (18-9, 12-4)
  2. Northwestern St.   (18-13, 10-6)
  3. SE Louisiana    (14-15, 9-7)
  4. McNeese St.    (12-17, 8-8)
  5. Central Arkansas  (10-19, 4-12)
  6. Nicholls St.   (8-21, 4-12)

West

  1. UT-Arlington  (19-10, 11-5)
  2. Lamar   (16-13, 11-5)
  3. UT-San Antonio   (15-13, 10-6)
  4. Sam Houston St.  (13-16, 7-9)
  5. Texas A&M-CC  (9-21, 5-11)
  6. Texas St.  (9-20, 4-12)

 

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  The Southland Conference is an overlooked conference in an area of the country that doesn’t exactly embrace college basketball.  While the league has traditionally been cannon fodder for first-round high seeds in the NCAA Tournament, there are indications that may be changing.  Last year’s champion, Northwestern St., was a Cinderella entrant who got bombed by #1 Memphis, but in the period from 2005-07, the Southland champion was competitive with #2 seeds Oklahoma and Wisconsin, and of course everyone remembers the #14 NW St. upset victory over #3 Iowa in 2006.  In the early 2000s, the league was consistently rated among the bottom half-dozen conferences on an annual basis, but in the current environment with a solid few programs leading the way, the conference is now regularly in the 20-25 range.  It’s moving on up!

 

Predicted Champion.   Stephen F. Austin (#16 NCAA).   The ‘Jacks are jacked.  Coming off a 26-6 (13-3) 2007-08 campaign that led to an NIT appearance (SFA lost 80-60 to UMass), Danny Kasper’s squad returns four starters, including arguably the best two players in the league (Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley), from a withering defensive-minded unit that only allowed 56 ppg last year (on 39% FG shooting).  Last year’s team had NCAA written all over it, having won road contests at NCAA entrants Oklahoma and San Diego, until Northwestern St. upset SFA in the semis of the conference tournament – the ‘Jacks are loaded and will probably not be denied this time around.   

 

Others Considered. 

  • UT-Arlington.  As a #7 seed in last year’s conference tourney, UT-Arlington got hot at the right time and defeated three higher seeds en route to its first conference championship and NCAA appearance.  The Mavericks return two key starters, Rog’er Guignard and Brandon Long, but all eyes will be on BC transfer Marquez Haynes, a 6’3 guard who played starter’s minutes for the Eagles in 2006-07.  This team won’t be overlooked again.
  • Lamar.  Lamar should provide the biggest challenge for UT-Arlington in the West, as the Cardinals return significant experience in the form of nine returnees.  The key to Lamar’s success lies with PG Kenny Dawkins, last year’s Newcomer of the Year, who averaged 15/5 apg leading his team to a league-best 13-3 record.
  • Northwestern St.  We threw Mike McConathy’s team on here as a challenger simply because, no matter what personnel they lose from year to year, they always seem to find a way to remain competitive, having been to the last four conference title games (winning one).   The Demons’ style of play doesn’t depend on one or two players, so this year should be no different.   

RPI Boosters. 

  • Northwestern St. @ Indiana (11/15/08)
  • Stephen F. Austin @ Texas A&M  (11/18/08)
  • Northwestern St. @ LSU  (11/23/08)
  • Lamar @ Kentucky  (12/03/08)
  • Lamar @ Louisville  (12/08/08)
  • Texas Tech @ Lamar  (12/13/08)
  • Stephen F. Austin @ Arkansas (12/20/08)
  • UT-Arlington @ Baylor  (12/20/08)
  • Northwestern St. @ Oklahoma St.  (1/03/09)

Neat-O Stat.   The Southland, like many conferences is a twelve-team league with two divisions of six each (East and West).  Ok, no big deal, right?  Well, what’s strange about this setup is that the current alignment allows for Stephen F. Austin (East) and Lamar (West) to switch divisions every two seasons.  Since the current alignment began in 2006-07, this means this will be the first year of SFA in the East and Lamar in the West for a while.   The league made this arrangement for travel purposes, with seven Texas teams (v. five Louisiana/Arkansas teams), but can you imagine if the SEC did this – Florida and LSU switch sides every couple years?

65 Team Era.  The Southland is 4-24 (.143) in the era, but one of those wins was from the PiG in 2001, and two others are from Karl Malone’s #5 Louisiana Tech team back in 1985 (La Tech is no longer in the conference).  In other words, the league has had only one legit NCAA win since 1985, but oh, what a great one it was (see video below). 

Final Thoughts.  As mentioned above, the Southland appears to be a conference on the rise.  The big-conference team that gets pitted against SFA in the NCAAs this year (assuming they make it through the conference tourney unscathed) should really pay attention or they will get burned.  The conference has proven it can play with teams at the BCS level in a one-game scenario.  This was not always the case – from 1997-2004, the average margin of loss for a Southland team in the NCAA Tournament was 29 points.  Since then, it has been 12 (including a 1-pt win).  Who will be the next Iowa?

rtmsf (3738 Posts)


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