Conference Tournament Primer: Southland ConferencePosted by Tommy Lemoine on March 12th, 2014
Championship Fortnight continues with yet 10 more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Southland, SWAC, Mountain West and Atlantic 10.
Dates: March 12-15
Site: Merrell Center (Katy, TX)
What to expect: It would be shocking if Stephen F. Austin fails to win this tournament. The Lumberjacks are one of only three teams to go undefeated in conference play this season, dominating Southland opponents by more than 16 points per game and winning 12 of their 18 league contests by double-figure margins. In fact, Brad Underwood’s club has not lost a game of any kind since before Thanksgiving, a streak of 26 straight. They are the most offensively and defensively efficient team in the conference and rank 101 KenPom spots higher than any other Southland member. Put simply — SFA should further extend its impressive winning streak and punch a ticket to the Dance here, its first since 2009.
Favorite: Stephen F. Austin. For all the reasons mentioned above, the Lumberjacks are the overwhelming, odds-on favorite in Katy this weekend.
Darkhorse: Northwestern State. The super-up-tempo Demons had Stephen F. Austin on the ropes a few weeks ago before Jacob Parker – the Southland Player of the Year – picked off an errant pass and slammed home a game-winner as time expired. Northwestern State has the athletes to compete with any team in the conference (Mike McConathy’s guys took Baylor to overtime in December), so this might be the squad the Lumberjacks need to look out for. They will meet in the semifinals if things play out as they should.
Who wins: Stephen F. Austin. It would be contrarian for contrarian’s sake to pick against the Lumberjacks. They have dominated all year long and there’s no reason to think they won’t take care of business in the Merrell Center this week.
Player to Watch: Jacob Parker – Stephen F. Austin. Parker was named the conference Player of the Year for a reason. He’s the leading scorer (14.5 PPG) and leading rebounder (7.1 RPG) on a team that spreads the wealth and minutes very evenly, and his 126.8 offensive rating suggests he’s one of the most efficient players in the country. And when Parker steps out and shoots threes, which he does on occasion, the junior is lights-out from distance (45 percent). Northwestern State guard Brison White is also worth keeping an eye on — he’s an incredible dunker for a guy his size.
Bubble Implications: The Lumberjacks’ RPI (#67) is not great and their schedule strength is among the worst in the country. If Underwood’s team should lose this weekend, will the committee overlook those numbers and instead focus on the eye-popping win total? That remains to be seen. SFA fans hope we never have to find out.