RTC Conference Primers: #30 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2011

For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.   

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Southern & Grambling APR Victims.  When the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report in May, the SWAC contained two of the five basketball programs facing a postseason ban in 2011-12 as a result of consistently poor scores over several years.  While this news shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the APR since it was implemented several years ago, the teeth of the rule is finally taking hold on individual institutions.  Southern and Grambling probably were not going to be in a competitive position to make the NCAA Tournament this season anyway, but this is something that each school must take seriously in order to secure their D-I existence.  The two institutions submitted APR improvement plans to the NCAA over the summer, and with good reason — without a considerable short-term jump in scores,  the next penalty is restricted membership in Division I.
  • Will the APR Eliminate HBCUs in Division I?  Southern and Grambling’s APR predicament highlights a harrowing situation among the two Division I basketball leagues comprising historically black colleges and universities.  With the APR cut line increasing from 925 to 930 as of next year, and a corresponding postseason penalty for programs failing to make that cut in the future, the SWAC  and MEAC could face an untenable situation where every one of its members is ineligible for postseason play, and ultimately on restricted status.  If the 930 threshold had been in effect last year, for example, only one school — the SWAC’s Alcorn State, with its 4-24 overall record and 944 APR score — would have been eligible for the NCAA Tournament.  The APR has been shown to correlate strongly with African-American enrollment, and at the low-budget HBCUs that comprise the SWAC and the MEAC, this development presents tremendous cause for concern.  Whether this is purposeful or not, we’ll leave for you to decide.
  • All-SWAC Forward Justin Patton Leaves Grambling.  The APR is also impacting players’ careers, as All-SWAC forward Justin Patton was granted an immediate transfer from Grambling when the senior learned that he would not have a chance to play in the postseason during his final season there.  He will transfer to North Texas for his final year, bringing averages of 13 PPG and 7 RPG to a team in need of front court support to go along with incoming star Tony Mitchell in 2011-12.  What’s odd about this is that Grambling is banned from the postseason as a result of its players’ APR scores; even though Patton only played at Grambling one season, does it make sense that he would be allowed immediate eligibility elsewhere for a penalty that ultimately derives from the players themselves?

The APR Penalties Caused All-SWAC Star Justin Patton to Bail on Grambling

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Mississippi Valley State (14-4)
  2. Alabama State (13-5)
  3. Texas Southern (12-6)
  4. Jackson State (10-8)
  5. Alabama A&M (10-8)
  6. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (10-8)
  7. Grambling State (7-11)
  8. Prairie View A&M (7-11)
  9. Alcorn State (4-14)
  10. Southern (3-15)

All-Conference First Team

  • Jenirro Bush, G, Jackson State (14.2 PPG).  The 6’7″ Bush is an explosive open-court athlete who is the favorite for SWAC Player of the Year in 2011-12.  His length on the perimeter gives teams fits in trying to stop him defensively.
  • Lawrence Johnson-Danner, G, Texas Southern (13.4 PPG, 41.5% 3FG).  The SWAC Freshman of the Year is on his way to great things in this league from the wing, as his 71 threes last season attests.
  • Casey Cantey, G/F, Alabama A&M (12.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG).  The undersized forward manages to get it done inside without much fanfare, and he’ll be called upon for even more contributions with a new coach and two productive starters graduated.
  • Demarquelle Tabb, F, Alabama A&M (8.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG).  Another slightly built A&M forward looks to make the jump as a junior after a promising inital campaign.
  • Paul Crosby, C, Mississippi Valley State (12.1 PPG, 7.o RPG).  The bruising 245-pound Crosby punished SWAC defenders last season as one of the better per-minute offensive rebounders and foul-drawers in the nation.  MVSU needs him to do it for a full season to compete for the crown.

6th Man:  Marquis Baker, G, Alcorn State (15.9 PPG, 1.6 SPG).  Baker is your classic gunner who can fill up buckets in a hurry when he’s feeling it.  He needs better shot selection in 2011-12 to help his team earn more than last season’s four wins.

Newcomer:  Phillip Crawford, F, Alabama State.  Crawford brings a sterling junior college resume to the frontcourt of last year’s representative in the NCAA Tournament.

Predicted Champion

Mississippi Valley State (NCAA Seed:  #16).  Sean Woods‘ team returns a talented cast of experienced players, led by the burly and powerful Paul Crosby (12.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG) in the post and a pair of senior guards in Terrence Joyner (10.1 PPG) and Falando Jones (8.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG) on the perimeter.  Woods believes in challenging his team by playing a ridiculously difficult schedule in November and December before settling into conference play — his guys will visit Notre, Dame, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, South Carolina, DePaul, Ole Miss, Arkansas and several others this year.  He has the experience and poise to challenge a couple of those teams in their buildings, and the belief here is that his team will ride its run-and-gun style of play to the top of the SWAC in 2011-12.

Top Contenders

  • Texas Southern.  If MVSU falters, expect TSU to be ready to pick up the pieces.  After running away with the conference crown last season resulting in an NIT appearance, the Tigers fell in the second round of the SWAC Tournament to eventual NCAA representative Alabama State.  Texas Southern was led by the SWAC POY (Travele Jones) and Newcomer of the Year (Kevin Galloway), both of whom are now gone, but the SWAC FrOY, Lawrence Johnson-Danner could catapult himself to POY honors by taking reins of this team.
  • Alabama State.  No conversation about winning the conference title can leave out the Hornets, champions of two of the last three SWAC Tournament titles and a mainstay at or near the top of the league standings during Lewis Jackson‘s tenure in Montgomery.  Some talent remains from a team that was among the peskiest defensive squads in the country last year (creating turnovers on 23.5% of opponents’ possessions), so Tramaine Butler (10.7 PPG, 1.7 SPG), Kenderick Washington (8.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG), and Ivory White (7.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) will be asked by Jackson to step up.

Reader’s Take II

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Sean Woods: Up and Comer in the Profession?

Sean Woods, Mississippi Valley State head coach.  Many people cautioned Woods against taking this dead-end job in 2008, but he didn’t listen and has instead proceeded to gradually raise the talent base and reputation of the Delta Devil program through hard work and emotional fortitude it takes to serve as power conference cannon fodder for two straight months.  When he arrived in Itta Bena three summers ago, he inherited three middling players and an attitude that it couldn’t be done there.  Last year’s team won 13 games (12 in the SWAC) and MVSU appears on the verge of being a serious contender in this year’s league race.  Should his team win the SWAC and play under the spotlight of March Madness, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the former Unforgettable begin fielding offers to move on to the greener pastures in Conference USA or a similar league.  You know, places where your team doesn’t have to practice in a middle school gymnasium.

Spotlight on… Alcorn State’s Weird Offense

It’s not very often that the team with the fastest pace in college basketball will have trouble scoring points, but that’s exactly the situation with Alcorn State’s 4-24 disaster of a team from 2010-11.  Despite ripping off over 80 possessions per game, the Braves only were able to score 0.81 points per trip, which amounts to the lowest such metric in college basketball.  How was this possible?  Try shooting a national-worst 36.9% from the field and turning the ball over on nearly 17% of their possessions.  New head coach Luther Riley will have to figure out a way to coerce his players to give up the Y-ball mentality if he expects his team to approach double figures in wins anytime soon.

NCAA Tournament History

The SWAC champion has settled in as a #16 seed mainstay, forced to travel to the play-in game the last three seasons and seven of the last ten years.  Only once, in 2010 when Arkansas-Pine Bluff defeated Winthrop, did the SWAC representative enjoy a second game (Duke won 73-44).  Prior to that, you have to go back to a really good Southern University team in 1993 to find a victory — his #13 Jaguars knocked off #4 Georgia Tech in convincing fashion (15 points).  Alcorn State in the early 1980s has the other three total NCAA wins (5-31, .139) in the conference’s basketball history.  Perhaps playing as one of the regular #16s slotted into Dayton as part of the First Four will give the conference a better opportunity for wins in coming years.

Final Thoughts

The SWAC may not be many things to many people, but nobody will argue it isn’t exciting.  Only once in the last five seasons (Alabama State in 2008-09) has the SWAC regular season champion won the conference tournament and moved on to the NCAAs.  With teams generally relying on transfers and junior college products more often than freshmen, continuity is difficult to build for any team in this league.  Since 2000, eight of the ten members of the SWAC have gotten to taste the NCAA Tournament, with Grambling and Prairie View A&M being the only two exceptions.  The conference is better known for its legends on the gridiron (Eddie Robinson and Jerry Rice), but its teams know each other equally as well on the hardwood and they take great pride in representing their schools in pursuit of conference glory.

rtmsf (3743 Posts)


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One Response to “RTC Conference Primers: #30 – SWAC”

  1. [...] the NCAA in 2005, has mainly been the scourge of schools that already have insufficient resources. While Southern and Grambling struggle to move beyond the post-season bans brought on by a failure to meet the required APR, the power conferences remain mostly unscathed by [...]

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