Checking In On… the Southland Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Conference play opens up: Southland Conference play has opened up and even though we are just a few games into the conference schedule, the games have already been exciting and closely contested and featured some real nailbiters. Out of the 12 teams in the conference, just four of the teams remain unbeaten as this season already looks to be competitive. Every season proves that the later we get into these games, the more dominant teams start to show. It will be exciting to see which teams emerge as contenders for the conference title and whether or not there will be a surprise team this year.
  • Mike James repeats as Player of the Week: Lamar senior guard Mike James has been sensational this year. In three out of the last four weeks, he has been named conference “Player of the Week.” His recognition comes after he averaged 26 points in the first two games of conference play. In one of those games, against A&M Corpus Christi, he finished with a season high 31 points. Against Central Arkansas, the senior was able to put up 21 points in an easy victory for the Cardinals. During those two games, James shot 65% from the floor (19-of-29) including 85% from three-point territory (6-of-7).
  • Two top teams clash early in conference play: Early into the Southland Conference schedule, fans were treated to a delight as last year’s regular season conference champion McNeese State took on Pat Knight’s Lamar Cardinals. Before the season, the Cowboys were predicted to win the conference, but they struggled during their non-conference schedule. Lamar on the other hand was looking great despite having played three of the top 10 teams in the country. That being said, both teams battled to a close contest as the Cowboys eventually won a close one, 57-54, proving that experience matters. These teams still have to play one more time this season, and just like this meeting, expect it to be a good game.

LaMarcus Reed III Has Been One Of Many Standouts For Texas-Arlington (uta.edu)

Power Rankings

  1. Texas-Arlington (10-5, 3-0): Three games into conference play and no team has been more impressive than the Mavericks. In their three Southland games against SE Louisiana, Nicholls, and SHSU, they have won by an average margin of 31 points. They have been doing it on both sides of the ball as well. As a team, the Mavericks are shooting 46.5% from the floor and are holding teams to shooting just 34% and 16% from beyond the arc. Senior LaMarcus Reed III has been a leader for the Mavericks, averaging 16 points in those three games.
  2. Northwestern State (9-7, 2-0): Northwestern State continues to impress me this season. After losing at Oklahoma to close 2011, the Demons have rallied and reeled in two victories against Texas State and at Nicholls. Though they were predicted to be one of the top teams in the conference, what’s been impressive is their offense. In their two conference wins, the team has averages 81 points. What worries me the most about the Demons is their consistency and whether or not they will be able to continually score points. Against some of their tougher teams, the team hasn’t been able to put up as many points. But until they prove to struggle, I am high on this Demons team.
  3. Stephen F. Austin (9-7, 3-0): I’ll admit, I was not high on the Jacks before the season started, but they have started to catch my attention. After a pretty good non-conference schedule, the ‘Jacks started Southland play with three straight wins. In their non-conference schedule, senior center Jereal Scott was a dominate force for the ‘Jacks, but during conference play, other players have started to step and be scorers. That will be crucial for this team moving forward. If they can continue to dominate inside with Scott and the other guards as well as shoot it well beyond the arc, this team will easily be one of the top teams in the conference.
  4. McNeese State (6-8, 2-0): It’s been a rough start for the Cowboys as they didn’t do so hot in non-conference play. However, in conference play they have gone 2-0, defeating a good Lamar squad and Corpus Christi, both in close games. Senior guard Patrick Richard is finally showing why he was predicted as the preseason Conference Player of the Year and has averaged 22 points in those two games. The team has nowhere played perfect so far and the real question is will they be able to keep this up? What works in their favor is the fact that they have eight members from last year’s regular season Southland Conference title team.
  5. Lamar (11-6, 2-1): Pat Knight and the Cardinals had the toughest non-conference schedule in the Southland as they played three of the current top 10 teams on the road. Though they lost all three of those games, the Cardinals have been highly competitive. In conference play, the Cardinals started out with two easy victories against Corpus Christi and Central Arkansas before falling at McNeese. While they rank amongst the top teams in the conference, it just seems like they need to get over that last hump and need that extra leadership. Senior guard Mike James has done his part and their two wins averaged 26 points. Against McNeese though, James was completely shut down and scored just eight points.

    Outstanding Lamar Guard Mike James (5) Racked Up Another POTW Award (AP)

  6. Texas-San Antonio (9-7, 2-1): After an easy victory against Nicholls State, it hasn’t exactly been easy for the Roadrunners as their other two conference games have come down to the wire. On the road against Sam Houston, the Roadrunners played a close one, escaping with a two-point victory. Against the Corpus Christi, the Roadrunners weren’t as lucky as they lost a heartbreaker, 50-49. As shown, this team in just the first few games of conference play, this team is very inconsistent. However, last year it was late in the season when they began to shine. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see whether or not they can have the same success as last year.
  7. Texas State (7-8, 0-2): Speaking of inconsistent teams, Texas State should be at the front of that line. It hasn’t been easy as the team has really struggled on the road, currently holding a 0-6 record away from San Marcos, most recently dropping one at Northwestern State. Not only are they winless away from home, they have been getting dismantled. Road record aside though, this team isn’t that bad. Their home record is fairly good despite losing a close one to SFA. It’s hard to tell what you are going to get from this team as they have been schizophrenic all season. That mixed in with their road record is why I have a hard time buying into the Bobcats.
  8. Southeastern Louisiana (6-8, 0-2): Things started so well for the Lions, but with recent injuries it’s been a frustrating season. Most notably the team has been without leading scorer and forward Brandon Fortenberry who has been written out indefinitely as he continues to deal with a foot injury. Though the team kept it close when they took on Texas Tech, they have been blown out by UTA and SFA in back to back games, losing by an average margin of 33 points. From the look of it too, things aren’t going to get any better for the Lions as conference play is just getting under way.
  9. Texas A&M Corpus Christi (3-12, 1-2): Things have not been good for the Islanders so far this season. However, it’s important to note that they are a young team and are still developing. They started conference play with two difficult games against Lamar and last year’s regular Southland Conference champions. While getting blown out by the Cardinals, they really turned things around against McNeese and just lost a close one, 71-69. On the road against UTSA, the Islanders got their third win of the season in a tight one, 50-49. With those two games behind them, it will be interesting to see if they can start to build some consistency. They won’t be amongst the top teams in the conference this season, but they could start laying some foundation for the future.
  10. Sam Houston (6-10, 0-2): It’s been a frustrating season for Bearkats head coach Jason Hooten. This season he’s had a team that has been decimated by injuries. However, the team got some good news, and has had some of the injuries clear up. In two games during conference play, they have dropped both games as they took on UTSA in a thriller and then lost at UTA. The Bearkats continue to struggle shooting the ball and this season they have a team field goal percentage of 40% and just 26.9% from three-point territory. If they want to make a move this season, they need to start getting the pieces together soon.
  11. Central Arkansas (5-9, 0-2): It’s been an inconsistent year to say the least for the Bears. After losing three straight to open the season, they then went on a five-game winning streak. But after that, it’s been all downhill as they have dropped six straight. These losses haven’t even been close either and so far in conference play they have dropped two games to Lamar and SFA by the average score of 28 points. If things don’t improve and improve fast, this is going to be an extremely long season for the Bears.
  12. Nicholls State (4-11, 0-3): Nothing has come easy this season for the Colonels. Early in conference play, they have dropped all three games including two to UTSA and UTA. Against those two teams, they lost by an average margin of 35 points. However, against Northwestern State, they kept it close and dominated the majority of the game. However, the Demons were just too much and won a close one 80-79. It will be interesting to see if that game meant that the tide was turning for Nicholls State. I’m not buying in yet to that theory and think they have a long way to go.

Looking Ahead

  • Saturday, January 14: UTA vs. Lamar — Two of the top conference teams collide in this matchup. Both the Cardinals and Mavericks have had good seasons so far and it will be interesting to see who comes out victorious in this one. The defenses will tell the story in this game. If the Mavs are able to limit the Cardinals good looks at the baskets, it will play straight into their hands. However, if Lamar is able to get good shots, this game will be a close one.
  • Wednesday, January 18: Northwestern State vs. UTSA — Again this game will feature two of the top teams in the conference. UTSA was able to close last year with an impressive run. So far they have been inconsistent so it will be interesting to see if they have improved. On the other side, Northwestern State has significantly improved offensively and has the ability to put up points.
  • Wednesday, January 25: SHSU vs. SFA — In this version of the “Battle of the Piney Woods” rivalry game, this is a matchup of two teams that have had opposite seasons. But, as time has proved, expect the unexpected. The Bearkats have been getting some of their players back from injury and are looking to get their season going in a positive direction and what better way than to do it against their rivals. However, look for Jereal Scott and the ‘Jacks to have a big game as they try to defend their home court.

Spotlight on Southland Conference Television Network

  • As the Southland Conference looks to expand its market, they have introduced the Southland Conference Television network. The Network capitalized on broadcasting conference football games, but has now expanded and is covering some key conference basketball games. The network premiered its first basketball game on January 3rd when Lamar took on A&M Corpus Christi before broadcasting the SFA and Central Arkansas game on January 11.
  • Five more games will be broadcasted on that network and if fans are in the conference area, they can find the games on an affiliate network. Those outside of the conference area can still catch the games as they will be transmitted on Espn3.com.
rtmsf (3741 Posts)


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