Checking In On… the Southland Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 3rd, 2011

Zach Birdsong is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference. You can also find his musings online at houstonianonline.com or on Twitter @zachbird_nerd.

Readers Take:

 

The Week That Was:

  • Logging Miles: Lamar guard Anthony Miles was named Southland Conference Player of the Week for his performance last week. Miles averaged 24.5 points and six assists per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds in two road wins for the Cardinals. Game-by-game, Miles dropped 18 points against Tennesee-Martin, where he shot the ball for 63% on 7-11 shooting as Lamar won, 80-69. Then Friday against Tennessee Tech, he scored a career high 31 points and dished out eight assists. The Cardinals dominated TTU in that one, 85-65.  Collectively, he shot 15-25 from the field, 3-5 from three-point range and 16-19 from the free throw line last week.

Anthony Miles Has Been Great For Lamar So Far This Season

  • Roadrunners Get A Boost: In the 2010-11 season, Melvin Johnson, III, was a critical weapon for the Roadrunners down the stretch and helped them reach the NCAA Tournament. After serving a two-game suspension for violating team rules, Johnson returned to the floor. Before the season, Johnson was expected to be among the top conference players. With him in the lineup, the Roadrunners are 3-3 this season, defeating UTEP, Fresno State and Cameron. In his six games this season, Johnson has had limited time on the court, averaging 10 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
  • Sam Houston State Slammed By Injuries: The Colonials had a relatively young team coming into the 2011-12 season with only one returning starter, forward Antuan Bootle. After the opening game of the season, Bootle has been saddled with a foot injury. Against Notre Dame, forward Steve Werner was also injured. Since then, Werner has played limited minutes and did not suit up Tuesday when the team took on Dallas Christian. Not being able to pass the ball inside has really hurt the Bearkats, who are shooting just 38.5% from the field and 23.8% from beyond the arc. Head coach Jason Hooten is optimistic and feels if his team can battle through these injuries, they’ll be stronger in conference play.

Power Rankings

  1. Texas-Arlington (4-2): Head coach Scott Cross has the Mavericks playing great basketball right now. The team led off the season with three straight wins before falling to #10 Baylor and Samford. The average margin in those two losses was six points and at Baylor, the team hung close. On both sides of the ball, the team has been dominant. They rank 75th in the nation in shooting 46.9% from the field and average 81.7 points per game. The team has three players who are averaging double figures in scoring. LaMarcus Reed, III, leads the team with 14 points a game, Kevin Butler with 12.5 and Bo Ingram with 11.2. If there’s one weakness for this team, it’s their free throw shooting as the team is only averaging 64.6% on the season.
  2. Texas-San Antonio (4-4): While their record may not show it, the Roadrunners are the second best team in the conference. They have struggled so far this season, but though they have lost four games, their average losing margin has been only six points. While the statistics may not be flashy, they have enough players on their team, to make big plays and score when need be. Melvin Johnson, III, who helped lead the team to the NCAA Tournament last season, is back in the lineup and will be a key piece for the Roadrunners.
  3. Lamar (4-3): Pat Knight has his team at Lamar believing. While only sporting a 4-3 record, they have faced some tough competition, traveling to #8 Louisville and TCU so far. The Cardinals’ defense has played well and the team ranks 28th in the nation in averaging 41 rebounds a game. The team will need to improve its shooting, though. So far, they’re shooting 43% from the field and a disappointing 31% from beyond the arc. Senior guard Anthony Miles has been the leader on the team, averaging 17.1 points a game, five rebounds and four assists while shooting 53.3% from three-point range.
  4. Texas State (4-2): In six games, Texas State has been impressive to say the least. They are tied for first in the conference standings and are seventh in the nation in points, averaging 86 per game. However, their competition hasn’t been very tough, facing teams like Texas Lutheran and Howard Payne. They’ve only played one away game this season against the UT-Pan Am, which they ended up losing. Their defense has to improve and they must be able to get rebounds as currently they rank 129th in the country in that category.
  5. Southeastern Louisiana (4-2): After starting the season with a loss to Tulsa, the Lions rallied and have now won four out of their last five games, most recently defeating Louisiana Tech in an overtime thriller, 72-69. While the team is winning at home, they have struggled away on the road, dropping both games that they have played. So far this season, the team has been sound on offense and is led by senior guard Brandon Fortenberry. Fortenberry has shot 50.7% from the field while averaging 18.2 points per game.
  6. McNeese State (3-4): While the Cowboys have dropped three games, they are the most experienced team in the Southland Conference. The team has faced some tough competition and have lost to Auburn and #23 California. The team still needs to figure out an identity, as they have lost their composure in a few games down the stretch. Senior Patrick Richard, who was selected as the preseason Southland Conference Player of the Year, could use some improvement. So far this, season he has shot the ball 41. 8% from the field and 20.6% from three-point territory.
  7. Northwestern State (4-3): Despite having over a .500 winning percentage, the Demons have struggled this season. Against top teams such as Marshall and Cincinnati, the Demons were run out of the gym, losing by an average of 25 points. As a team, they are shooting an awful 39.3% from the floor. Junior guard Shamir Davis has been one of the few bright spots offensively, averaging 12.5 points per game and shooting 47.5% from the floor. If they don’t turn around things soon, it could be a long season for the Demons.
  8. Stephen F. Austin (3-2): After losing two straight to San Diego and Texas Tech, the Lumberjacks responded and have won two in row. The team picked up a road win against the UTEP and more recently, they picked up a 72-66 win against Wiley. Offensively the team has been clicking, shooting 45.6% from the field. However, they have been struggling at the free throw line, shooting just 59.8%. Antonio Bostic and Jereal Scott have dominated teams, averaging double digits in scoring and both are shooting 49% from the field this season. Can the Lumberjacks keep it up?
  9. Sam Houston State (3-5): It’s been a tough season for the Bearkats so far. The team has been dealing with injuries to key players and that shows in their play as the team is cold from the floor, shooting just averaging a dismal 38.5% from the field. The team is dealing with injuries to big-name players that have limited what the Bearkats can do inside. However, the team ranks first in the conference for overall defense. When they get some key players back, this Bearkat team could finish in the top part of the conference.
  10. Central Arkansas (3-3): After losing their first three games of the season, the Bears have rallied and now have pulled to .500 winning their last three. Already this season, it’s easy to see that the team has improved from last year where they finished last in the Southland Conference with an overall record of 5-24. What keeps the Bears from the top part of the conference is the level of competition they have faced. Other than the first game of the season where the team battled Stanford, the rest of the competition has been mediocre. But the team has done a tremendous job at shooting the ball and has one of the best offenses shooting 46% from the field and averaging 78 points a game.
  11. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-4): Despite losing four games, there have been significant improvements. In the last two games, the Islanders have played Texas A&M and Texas Tech closely. Just like many young teams, TAMU-CC has been struggling to find an identity. The biggest weakness the team has had so far is their lack of offense. This season the team is shooting 35.4% from the field and only averaging 49.5 points a game. The team has also struggled holding onto the ball, turning it over 61 times in the young season. To be successful this season, the Islanders to find an identity and need to do it quickly.
  12. Nicholls State (1-6): Arguably, the Colonels have had the toughest non-conference schedule in the Southland. The team has faced LSU and Auburn on the road, losing both. It won’t get any easier as they’ll travel to take on Texas and North Carolina later this month. While the team hasn’t won a lot, there are some bright spots and the Colonels as a whole are shooting 42.3% from the field. But turning the ball over 117 times already has been a headache for head coach J.P. Piper.

Looking Ahead

  • Houston vs. Texas State: Texas State has been one of the most impressive teams in the Southland so far. But on Tuesday, they’ll host a fast paced Houston team that’s had its share of close games. Both these teams match up well and it will be a good game.
  • Sam Houston State University vs. Texas A&M: The Bearkats have had their trouble shooting the ball, but their defense is good enough to keep them in the game as they held Texas to just 31 percent. But they’ll be facing some tough competition on Wednesday. A&M is one of the top programs in the Big 12, but if the Bearkats can create turnovers and get good shot selection, this could be closer than people think.

POY Stock Watch

Rising

  • G Brandon Fortenberry, Southeastern Louisiana: Fortenberry has helped the Lions to a 4-2 record. He continues his hot streak in shooting the ball 50.7% from the field, including the game-winning shot against Louisiana Tech.
  • G Anthony Miles, Lamar: Coming off an impressive week where he was named SLC Player of the week, Miles adds his name to the watch list and is trending upward as he helps his team continue to win ball games and be a leader for the Cardinal squad.

Steady

  • G Michael Hale III, UTSA: After almost leading the Roadrunners to a victory at Oklahoma State, the team has struggled in losing three of the last five. Though Hale shouldn’t be blamed, his numbers have declined and he is shooting just 40 percent from the field.
  • F Brooks Ybarra, Texas State: Ybarra opened the season hot. While his team is still winning and his numbers are consistent, his shooting percentage and points per game have declined.

Falling

  • F Patrick Richard, McNeese: McNeese is struggling to find their identity and so is Richard. Despite being the team’s leading scorer, Richard has struggled knocking down shots.
Brian Goodman (767 Posts)

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


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