2009-10 Conference Primers: #18 – Southland

Posted by jstevrtc on October 19th, 2009

seasonpreview

Predicted Order of Finish:

East

  1.      Southeastern Louisiana (12-4)
  2.      Nicholls State (11-5)
  3.      Stephen F. Austin (10-6)
  4.      Northwestern State (7-9)
  5.      McNeese State (5-11)
  6.      Central Arkansas (4-12)

West

  1.      Sam Houston State (13-3)
  2.      Texas-San Antonio (11-5)
  3.      Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (10-6)
  4.      Texas-Arlington (9-7)
  5.      Lamar (7-9)
  6.      Texas State (6-10)

All-Conference Team:

  •    Marquez Haynes (G), Sr, Texas-Arlington
  •    Ashton Mitchell (G), Sr, Sam Houston State
  •    Anatoly Bose (F), Jr, Nicholls State
  •    Kevin Palmer (F), Sr, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
  •    Corey Allmond (G), Sr, Sam Houston State

6th Man. Devin Gibson (G), Jr, Texas-San Antonio

Impact Newcomer. Rodney Jones (G), Jr, Southeastern Louisiana

What You Need To Know.  The Southland is comprised of twelve schools over three states (you can probably figure them out from the schools’ names).  The conventional wisdom says that the league is “West-heavy,” though we feel that’s giving Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State a little less credit than they deserve.  Stephen F. Austin was last year’s representative in the NCAA Tournament but they lost their two best players from last year (actually, the conference’s last two Players-Of-The-Year!), Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley.  And, with transfers and new freshmen, half of their personnel are totally new.  Since the 1985 NCAA Tournament, the Southland’s tournament representatives have logged only two wins in the Big Dance, both by Northwestern State:  2001’s play-in game against Winthrop, and that thriller against #3-seed Iowa in 2006.

Predicted Champion.  Sam Houston State (NCAA Seed: #14).  Ashton Mitchell and Corey Allmond are a formidable guard combo who blend together seamlessly; Mitchell was 8th in the nation in assists (6.5 APG) last season and averaged 12.5 PPG as well, while Allmond is more than happy to accept those dimes from Mitchell as the leading returning scorer (15.3 PPG) on the team and ranking 4th in the conference in 3FG% (43.4).  Senior forward Preston Brown will see a rise in minutes and touches as the main inside scoring threat though he’ll be partnered with Gilberto Clavell, a promising junior college transfer.

Top Contenders:

  • Southeastern Louisiana.  Mississippi transfer Rodney Jones will be counted on for immediate minutes as will junior college transfer Trent Hutchin, but the focal point of the offense will be senior forward Patrick Sullivan, who averaged 12.1 PPG and 7.0 RPG last year while swatting an average of 2.1 blocks each game (32nd nationally).  For these fellows to be at their best, the Lions will have to get more production from sophomore point guard Brandon Fortenberry, at least in the assists column (4.0 APG while playing an average of 30 MPG last year).
  • Texas-San Antonio.  Not to be outdone by Sam Houston State, UTSA coach Brooks Thompson has a fine guard tandem of his own in the form of 5-7 Omar Johnson and junior Devin Gibson.  Of the 12.8 APG that UTSA averaged last year, Johnson and Gibson were responsible for 7.5 of them, with both of them averaging just over 12 PPG as well.  The Roadrunners’ fate, though, will be determined by how much production they get out of their post players; seniors Demarco Stepter and Josh Bonney will be asked to step it up this year to that end.
  • Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  Perry Clark’s Islanders lost second-leading scorer Tim Green to graduation but welcomes back the other nine of their top ten scorers from 2008-09.  They can probably boast having the conference’s best overall player in Kevin Palmer (18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG).  Senior Shamnar Coombs will probably split time at the point guard position with previously ineligible Terence Jones in the beginning, but Jones should be a bigger factor and contributor once he gets his sea legs.

RPI Boosters:

  • Nov. 16, 2009:  Stephen F. Austin at Minnesota at 8pm
  • Nov. 19, 2009:  SE Louisiana at Mississippi State at 8pm
  • Nov. 19, 2009:  Central Arkansas at Kansas at 8pm
  • Nov. 19, 2009:  Sam Houston State at Kentucky (at Cancun Challenge) at 7pm
  • Nov. 24, 2009:  Central Arkansas at Memphis at 8pm
  • Dec. 5, 2009:  Texas-San Antonio at Oklahoma State at 4pm
  • Dec 12, 2009:  Texas State at Texas at 4pm
  • Dec. 30, 2009:  Texas-Arlingon at Michigan State at 7pm
  • Jan. 2, 2010:  Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Texas at 8pm

Key Conference Games:

  • Jan. 9, 2010:  Sam Houston State vs Stephen F. Austin at 8pm
  • Jan. 13, 2010:  UTSA vs Nicholls State at 8pm
  • Jan. 16, 2010:  SE Louisiana vs Sam Houston State at 4pm
  • Jan. 16, 2010:  UT-Arlington vs UTSA at 8pm
  • Feb. 13, 2010:  Sam Houston State vs Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 8pm
  • Feb. 20, 2010:  UTSA vs Sam Houston State at 8pm
  • Feb. 24, 2010:  Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs SE Louisiana at 8pm

Digging Deeper:

  • What a year 1985 was for the Southland Conference, as it was home to a couple of fellows who know just a little bit about winning:  Joe Dumars (McNeese State) and Karl Malone (Louisiana Tech, now in the WAC).  Dumars won his second straight scoring title in ’85 and Malone took home his second rebounding crown, having previously taken that honor — in addition to being tops in steals — two years earlier. 
  • You haven’t heard much from them lately, but historically this conference belongs to Lamar, who boasts 9 conference titles; McNeese State is next with 5, then a tie between seven schools with 2 championships apiece.  Louisiana-Monroe could indeed boast 7 conference titles but they left the Southland in 2006 for the Sun Belt.
  • Since division-style play began in the 2006-07 season, five different teams have won the possible six division titles, so, technically, no team has repeated though Stephen F. Austin can claim something akin to a repeat.  They won the West Division in 2008, then switched to the East Division and won that title the next year.
  • Sam Houston State’s Bob Marlin is the current leader in terms of active coaches on the all-time wins list for the Southland Conference.  Since Marlin started there in the 1998-99 season, SHSU has averaged 22.7 wins a season for a .607 winning percentage and a total of 159 wins.  This ranks Marlin fifth all-time for Southland wins, and another 20-win season would move him into second.  He’ll have a way to go to catch all-time wins leader Mike Vining (383) who coached the departed Louisiana-Monroe from 1983 to 2005.

Fun With KenPom.  Last year the conference’s highest-rated team on KenPom.com was (as you would figure) Stephen F. Austin at 98th.  The lowest was Central Arkansas who was listed at 322d (out of 344…ouch).  We’ll definitely give Lamar a little credit for last year’s non-conference strength-of-schedule — they ranked 24th with a non-conference slate that included Kentucky (in December, when it still meant something), Louisville, Memphis, and Texas Tech (whom they beat). 

NCAA Tournament History.  As mentioned, Northwestern State owns the last two wins by this conference in the NCAA Tournament, and the Southland’s last victory came in 1985 when the Mailman and Louisiana Tech snagged a #5-seed in the Midwest region and knocked off Pittsburgh and Ohio State en route to the Sweet 16, where they lost by two points in an overtime heartbreaker to #1-seed Oklahoma.  Before that, in earlier NCAAs, the conference could be counted on pretty reliably for at least one win all the way back to 1972, usually by Lamar.  Interestingly, since 2000, the Southland has sent nine different teams as its NCAA Tournament representative, with only Texas State, Nicholls State and Central Arkansas, who is still getting used to Division I, left wanting (Texas State and Nicholls State have been prior to 2000).

Final Thoughts.  It will be fun to watch the Southland Conference standings this season because, depending on which expert you ask or which publication you consult, as many as six teams are felt to have the talent to be conference champs.  Stephen F. Austin will be a popular pick just because they got there last year, but losing two previous conference POYs might be too much to overcome.  Sam Houston State will also be a popular choice, and probably the most sensible since they have the best overall guard combo in a guard-dominated league.  But look at that NCAA Tournament history…as a single-bid conference, moreso than most, the Southland is one of those conferences where you simply never know, since everything depends on the conference tournament.  The fact that the conference has had eleven of its twelve teams represent it over the last 13 NCAA Tournaments makes it even more compelling.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)


Share this story

One Response to “2009-10 Conference Primers: #18 – Southland”

  1. Terry Short says:

    Rush The Court » Blog Archive » 2009-10 Conference Primers: #18 …: Texas-San Antonio. Not to be outdone by Sa.. http://bit.ly/1KVAWv

Leave a Reply