RTC Conference Primers: #31 – SWAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 4th, 2010

David Ely is an occasional contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Jackson State (15-3)
  2. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (13-5)
  3. Alabama State (12-6)
  4. Texas Southern (11-7)
  5. Alabama A&M (9-9)
  6. Prairie View A&M (9-9)
  7. Mississippi Valley State (9-9)
  8. Grambling State (7-11)
  9. Southern (3-15)
  10. Alcorn State (2-16)

All-Conference Team

  • Junior Treasure (G) — Texas Southern
  • Tyrone Hansen (G) — Jackson State
  • Savalance Townsend (G) — Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • De’Suan Dixon (F) — Jackson State
  • Shannon Behling (F) — Mississippi Valley State

6th Man:

  • Cornelius Hester (G) — Alabama A&M

Junior Treasure (with ball) is the best among the bevy of guards featured in the SWAC. (AP/Val Horvath)

Impact Newcomer

  • Terrance Joyner (G) — Mississippi Valley State. The transfer point guard could be a difference maker for the Delta Devils as they try to leave the middle of the pack and return to the conference’s elite. Joyner definitely has the talent to push his new team to its 2008 level when the Delta Devils won the SWAC Tournament. Joyner was a three-star recruit and the No. 22 point guard prospect in the class of 2008, according to Rivals.com. He originally committed to New Mexico State, but he only spent one year there and played another season at the College of Eastern Utah. If Joyner plays to his talent level, the Delta Devils could be tough to beat.

What You Need To Know

  • Guard Play: It’s all about the little guys in the SWAC. Nearly every team in the conference relies on its backcourt to get the job done, and these guys don’t just hang out around the three-point line. They slash through the lane and get to the cup. The best of the bunch might be Texas Southern’s Junior Treasure, who averaged 14.6 points per game last year.
  • New Faces: Of the 15 players that were named to an all-conference team last year, only five return to their respective programs this season. Gone is Player of the Year Garrison Johnson (Jackson State), and gone is Defensive Player of the Year Darnell Hugee (Prairie View A&M).  The only first team All-SWAC selection to return is Mississippi Valley State’s Shannon Behling.
  • New Coach: Well, technically. Bobby Washington is officially the head coach at Grambling State after a prolonged interim period. Washington already has done impressive work with the Tigers. Last season, Grambling State made the SWAC Tournament for the first time in two years, and the Tigers knocked off regular season champ Jackson State in the opening round.

Predicted Champion

  • Jackson State (NCAA Seed #16). The Tigers are the team at the top that endured the least amount of roster attrition heading into 2010-11. Jackson State lost SWAC Player of the Year Garrison Johnson, but practically everyone else from a squad that went 17-1 in conference play last season is back. Guard Tyrone Hansen returns, along with his 11.4 points per game, as does De’Suan Dixon (10.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG). Jackson State also has the added motivation of an embarrassing loss to Grambling State in the opening round of last year’s SWAC Tournament that cost the Tigers a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.

Top Contenders

  • Alabama State has been a factor in the SWAC for much of the past decade — no reason to think that changes in 2010-11. Alabama State did lose two first team All-SWAC players in Menji Mundadi, who averaged 15.6 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from downtown, and Tramayne Moorer, who averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Senior guards Tramaine Butler and A.J. Spencer have to step up their games if the Hornets hope to dance in March.
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff captured the first NCAA Tournament bid in school history last year, and they could easily win the SWAC again. They aren’t the favorites after losing Terrance Calvin (10.2 PPG), Tavaris Washington (9.5 PPG) and Lebaron Weathers (9.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG) to graduation but there’s still senior guard Savalance Townsend. Townsend, who averaged 9.9 points per game last year, has the ability to shoulder the scoring load along with the range to be a threat from beyond the arc.
  • Texas Southern returns one of the SWAC’s top 1-2 scoring punches in guard Junior Treasure and forward Travele Jones. The two combined to average more than 28 points per game last year. It will be tough to shut both of these guys down for any game, and if one of them gets hot, that’s enough to win a game by itself.

Top 5 RPI Boosters

  • Nov. 18, 2010 — Jackson State at Baylor (7 p.m. ET)
  • Nov. 20, 2010 — Jackson State at Louisville (Time TBD)
  • Nov. 21, 2010 — Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Stanford (8 p.m. ET)
  • Dec. 11, 2010 — Mississippi Valley State at Butler (7 p.m. ET)
  • Dec. 18, 2010 — Mississippi Valley State at Kentucky (8 p.m. ET)

Key Conference Games

  • Jan. 8, 2011 — Texas Southern at Prairie View A&M
  • Jan. 22, 2011 — Texas Southern at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • Jan. 31, 2011 — Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Jackson State
  • Feb. 2, 2011 — Alabama A&M at Alabama State
  • March 3, 2011 — Alabama State at Jackson State

Digging Deeper

There’s no guarantee that winning the regular season title means a team will waltz through the conference tournament and into March Madness. Last year, Jackson State went 17-1 during the regular season but lost to Grambling State in the first round of the SWAC Tournament. In the past ten years, the regular season champ earned the conference’s automatic bid only five times, and no conference tournament champion has repeated since Texas Southern in 1993-94.

NCAA Tournament History

Until Arkansas-Pine Bluff‘s triumph over Winthrop in last season’s play-in game, the conference hadn’t notched a tournament victory since 1993, when a #13-seeded Southern squad upset a Bobby Cremins-led Georgia Tech team. Since the play-in game was introduced in 2001, it has included a SWAC team five times, more than any other conference in the nation.

Final Thoughts

Tired of just flipping a coin to decide which team in your bracket wins the play-in game and then gets a shot at immortality against a No. 1 seed? Then follow the SWAC. Arkansas Pine-Bluff beat Winthrop in last year’s battle to be No. 64, and Alabama State lost that game in 2008. Chances are slim that Alabama St., Jackson St., or Arkansas Pine-Bluff could take down one of the big boys come March, but the more you know about the SWAC champ, the smarter you’ll look in your office pool.

 

Brian Goodman (771 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.


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