RTC Conference Primers: #23 – Southland Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 12th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

East Division

  1. Southeastern Louisiana (13-3)
  2. Nicholls State (10-6)
  3. Lamar (9-7)
  4. Northwestern State (6-10)
  5. McNeese State (5-11)
  6. Central Arkansas (3-13)

West Division

  1. Stephen F. Austin (13-3)
  2. Sam Houston State (12-4)
  3. Texas State (9-7)
  4. UTSA (7-9)
  5. A&M-Corpus Christi (6-10)
  6. Texas-Arlington (3-13)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • Anatoly Bose (F) – Nicholls State (21.1 ppg, 86 three-pointers made)
  • Gilberto Clavell (F) – Sam Houston (17.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
  • A.J. Stewart (C) – Texas State (5.7 PPG in 2008-09 for Kentucky)
  • Anthony Miles (G) – Lamar (14 ppg, 3.0 apg)
  • Devin Gibson (G) – UT-San Antonio (12.5 ppg, 4.4 apg)

Sixth Man

  • Cameron Johnson (F) – Texas State (14.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

Impact Newcomer

  • A.J. Stewart (F) – Texas State pulled in several transfers, but none bigger than the 6’9 Kentucky transfer. Having played in 29 games for the Wildcats as a sophomore, Stewart could have a big impact in a league not known for fielding a plethora of big men. Stewart led Arlington Country Day (Fla.) High School to three straight state championships.

A.J. Stewart, formerly a bench player with Kentucky, hopes to celebrate an expanded role with Texas State. (ukwildcatcountry.com)

What You Need to Know

  • The Southland is a two-division league and made a change during the offseason. Stephen F. Austin moved from the East Division to the West and Lamar jumped from the West to the East.
  • The Merrell Center in Katy is the site of the 2011 Southland Conference Basketball Tournament. This is the third straight year the tournament has been played at a neutral site.
  • The five-year transition process for Central Arkansas‘ athletic department is over. The school has now gained Division I active membership and will be eligible for postseason play in the Southland Conference and at the national level.
  • There was a shake-up on the coaching front of a couple of teams in the offseason. Central Arkansas hired former Razorback great Corliss Williamson as its head coach, while Sam Houston State promoted assistant Jason Hooten after longtime coach Bob Marlin took over the helm at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Predicted Champion

Stephen F. Austin (NCAA seed: #15). The Lumberjacks were beaten in the tournament championship game by rival Sam Houston State last year. Head Coach Danny Kaspar always has his team in contention and this year his team-oriented style of play could reap benefits as the conference is void of any big-time NBA caliber talent. It could be a toss-up with Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston, but both teams should come out of the West bloodied, but not beaten.

    Top Contenders

    • Sam Houston should be a viable threat to SFA with 2010 all-conference pick Gilberto Clavell back for his senior year. The Bearkats thundered through the conference season last year with a 14-2 mark, but it lost key components in guards Ashton Mitchell and Corey Allmond, plus forward Preston Brown. First-year head coach Jason Hooten recruited well and the Kats hope its bench players from last year step up into starter’s roles this season.
    • Southeastern Louisiana lost one of the top players in the league in Patrick Sullivan, but have nearly 50 points per game in returning players. The Lions are in the weaker East division and should pad their record with easy victories.
    • Nicholls State boasts the league’s top returning scorer in Anatoly Bose (21.1 PPG), who put his name in the NBA Draft, then withdrew. Bose can go off at anytime and nearly single-handedly beat SHSU in last year’s conference tournament with 40 points in the first round.
    • An interesting team to make note of this year is Texas State. The Bobcats could sneak up on some teams with a mixture of homegrown talent and tranfers. TSU lost in overtime of the first round of the SLC tourney to SLU. Cameron Johnson heads into his senior season as the leader and was a third-team all-league pick last year. Transfers A.J. Stewart (Kentucky), Eddie Rios (Miami) and Matt Staff (New Mexico) make the Bobcats an intriguing team this year.

    Top 10 RPI Boosters

    • Nov. 12: Northwestern State at LSU – The Demons battled LSU last year and lost by 11 points after leading by six at halftime.
    • Nov. 13: McNeese State at Washington – The Cowboys will face the Huskies and preseason Wooden Award candidate Isaiah Thomas.
    • Nov. 14: Texas-Arlington at Oregon State – The Beavers defeated SLC member A&M-Corpus Christi last year by 24 points in the first game of the year.
    • Nov. 15: Texas A&M at A&M-Corpus Christi – The Islanders landed a big game by hosting Texas A&M from the Big 12.
    • Nov. 17: Northwestern State at Memphis – The Tigers bounced Central Arkansas by 32 points last year, but Memphis missed the NCAA Tournament.
    • Nov. 21: Nicholls State at Oklahoma State – Oklahoma State defeated UTSA in Stillwater last season, but by just six points. Can the Colonels do what the Roadrunners couldn’t?
    • Nov. 23: A&M-Corpus Christi at Kansas – This is just one of a few “money” games the Islanders will play this year. Kansas hammered UCA by 50 last season.
    • Nov. 23: Sam Houston at Texas – The Bearkats will face a Longhorn team that is full of young high school All-Americans.
    • Nov. 26: Northwestern State at Indiana – The Demons travel to storied Assembly Hall the day after Thanksgiving.
    • Dec. 30: Central Arkansas at Oklahoma – The Sooners had two players selected in the 2010 NBA Draft.

    Key Conference Games

    • Jan. 8: Stephen F. Austin at Southeastern Louisiana – This early matchup between the two divisional favorites could be a precursor to a big game in the conference tournament.
    • Jan. 15: Nicholls State at Sam Houston – Both teams will see if they are for real in a rematch of last year’s first round SLC Tournament game.
    • Jan. 19: Sam Houston at Texas State – The Bobcats should be comfortable with each other at this point in the season. This game will allow us an early look at what the hierarchy in the West could be.
    • Jan. 22: Texas State at UTSA – These two teams are separated by 45 miles and this has become a hard-fought annual battle.

    Digging Deeper

    • Lamar’s roster has the biggest change in the conference with eight players from last year either having graduated or left the program. There are seven JUCO or college transfers on the Cardinals’ roster.
    • Sam Houston State lost two key freshman recruits this summer. Kuamaine Osborne (Florida Air Academy) changed gears, enrolling at San Jacinto Junior College, and Randy Collins (La Porte, Texas), who quit the team after summer conditioning sessions.
    • Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has a murderous non-conference schedule on tap, including Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Ohio University, Kansas, Marquette, Houston, Memphis and Texas Tech. Talk about your all-time gauntlets.

    NCAA Tournament History

    Despite the fact that the Southland Conference doesn’t receive much love from the national media, its members do a fair job of competing in the NCAA Tournament. The league has sent two teams to the Sweet Sixteen as well as a squad to the NIT Final Four. In 2006, playing as the #14 seed, Northwestern State upset #3 Iowa 64-63 with a buzzer-beater. Last year, Baylor found a way to beat SHSU 68-59 in the first round, but not without some trepidation.

      Final Thoughts

      Year in and year out, the conference has its upper echelon teams and its bottom feeders, but this season could be one with more parity. Most of the real all-stars of the conference graduated last year and have gone on to play in the NBA summer league and overseas. In terms of any one team making a run to distance itself from the pack, that probably won’t happen.

        Brian Goodman (966 Posts)

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

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