Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2011

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

A Look Back

  • Statistically Speaking: The McNeese State Cowboys lead the East Division in the Southland Conference with a 2-0 mark, but they don’t lead in any of the team statistical categories. Individually, senior P.J. Alawoya leads the SLC in defensive rebounding with 5.7 boards per game.
  • Two D-I Wins: Suffice it to say that the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders played a tough non-conference schedule, but the season still hasn’t been what their fans thought it would be. The Islanders’ only D-I wins have come over Bethune-Cookman and the University of Houston en route to a disappointing 5-11 mark thus far.
  • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Heralded Kentucky transfer A.J. Stewart played in all of 12 games before being dismissed by Texas State. It is unclear why the 6’9 forward was kicked off the team. He averaged 9.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in 12 games.
  • Player of the Week: Lamar guard Mike James made national headlines by scoring 52 points against Louisiana College to earn SLC Player of the Week honors. James followed up the outburst with 22 points against Central Arkansas.

Power Rankings

  1. Stephen F. Austin (10-4, 1-1) – The Lumberjacks barely hold down the No. 1 spot after losing their SLC opener to Southeastern Louisiana 64-54, but bounced back with a win over Central Arkansas. SFA faces big tests in UTSA and UT-Arlington next week.
  2. McNeese State (10-5, 2-0) jumps up from No. 5 into the second spot after going 2-0 to open SLC play with wins over A&M-CC and Lamar. Patrick Richard (14.9 ppg) and Diego Kapelan (13.7 ppg.) remain the steady forces for the Cowboys, who test Texas State and SELA next week.
  3. Sam Houston State (8-7, 1-1) – The Bearkats hang onto the No. 3 spot by the skin of their teeth after a road win over UTSA and a home loss to UT-Arlington. Gilberto Clavell continues to carry SHSU on his back, but teams are starting to realize the Kats don’t have very good perimeter shooting and are double-teaming Clavell (19.3 ppg).
  4. Southeastern Louisiana (7-6, 1-0) – The Lions make the move from No. 7 to No. 4 by virtue of a ten-point win over Stephen F. Austin in their SLC home opener. SELA faces A&M-CC and McNeese State in its next two games.
  5. UTSA (7-7, 1-1) – The Roadrunners barely lost to SHSU, then defeated A&M-CC to even its SLC mark. Two games next week against SFA and Northwestern State will give the UTSA faithful a look at how good this team might be.
  6. Nicholls State (7-6, 1-1) – The Colonels played a very tough non-conference schedule and split their first two conference games. Anatoly Bose (23.5 points per game) needs help, and he often gets it from Fred Hunter (15.8 ppg), but after those two players, it’s rough for the Colonels to score. NSU faces Sam Houston and Central Arkansas in its next two contests.
  7. UT-Arlington (7-8, 1-1) – The Mavericks were hammered by Nicholls State 66-48 in the conference opener, then went on the road to dispose of SHSU. LaMarcus Reed III and Bo Ingram are the only starters in double figures. UTA will host both Lamar and A&M-CC and try to improve to 3-1.
  8. Northwestern State (9-8, 1-1) – The Demons could be ranked higher, but drop from No. 4 after losing five of their last six, including an embarrassing defeat to LSU Shreveport. Northwestern State bounced back and topped NSU 73-64. Things could get better as they face UCA and UTSA.
  9. Lamar (7-8, 1-1) – The Cardinals stay in the No. 9 spot after splitting their first two conference games. With his 52-point scoring effort, Mike James leads the Cardinals in scoring at 15.3 ppg. Lamar hits the road to play Texas-Arlington then battles Arkansas State in a non-SLC game.
  10. Texas State (6-9, 1-0) – The Bobcats move up from the cellar after winning their last three games. A huge week lies ahead with a road game against McNeese State and a home game with Sam Houston. Cameron Johnson (13.4 ppg) is rounding back into form as he has scored 18, 19, 19 in his last three games.
  11. Texas A&M-CC (5-11, 0-2) – The Islanders aren’t getting much from their backcourt or from senior forward Justin Reynolds these days. McNeese put a 72-49 whipping on A&M-CC, then it fell to UTSA. Reynolds averaged 8.5 points and four rebounds in the losses. Terence Jones leads the team with a meager 2.3 assists per game.
  12. Central Arkansas (4-11, 0-2) – Having lost five of their last six, the Bears started the SLC schedule with two losses. UCA doesn’t put up many impressive stats as their leading scorer, Imad Qahwash, averages 12.8 points and Chris Henson paces the team with 5.3 rebounds. Northwestern State and Nicholls State are on tap for the Bears.

A Look Ahead

After getting all the butterflies out in the first week of conference play, things will heat up this week. Nicholls State travels to Huntsville in a rematch of last year’s first-round SLC conference tilt. Bose scored 40 on the Bearkats in the loss. Other games of note include SFA on the road against UTSA on Saturday. McNeese State will battle Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

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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. (

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.

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    State Of The Big Blue Nation: Mood Indigo

    Posted by jstevrtc on March 2nd, 2009

    (OR, Why Rick Pitino Is Like School On Thanksgiving)

    John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

    Kentucky basketball fans are wondering if they might have built their new state-of-the-art basketball practice facility on a Native American burial ground.

    (photo credit:

    As if the Wednesday night emasculation at South Carolina and yesterday’s home-court disappointment against LSU weren’t enough, two pieces of news are currently at the forefront of the collective mind of the Big Blue Nation, as Kentucky fans are known.  First, it looks like Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino has decided to take a giant crap on any good will he had left in the non-Louisville part of Kentucky by profiting off of one of the worst moments in Wildcat basketball history.  We’ll get to that in a moment.  Second, in addition to the growing possibility of watching this year’s NCAA tournament from their dorm rooms, this weekend the team and their supporters have had to deal with this now well-publicized incident in which sophomore forward A.J. Stewart, sick of watching from the pine as his team loses more games than they should, told everybody where they could go a few days ago and actually quit the Wildcat squad for about 24 hours after the aforementioned South Carolina loss.  He’s obviously been reinstated by his team, since he played in the home loss to LSU yesterday.

    Reinstatement or not, Kentucky fans have to be wondering — what on EARTH have we done to deserve all of this?

    “This” all started two years ago, specifically when Tubby Smith decided he’d had enough of (whether warranted or not) the second-guessing in Lexington and hit the road for Minnesota, which might have well been any place, as long as NCAA Tournament bids and occasional Sweet Sixteen appearances are acceptable goals there.  If you recall, it was at this time that the one coach in the country that just about every Kentucky supporter considered their Heir Apparent, Florida’s Billy Donovan, flirted very seriously with the Kentucky job before actually accepting the same position with the Orlando Magic…only to back out on THAT commitment 48 hours later to stay at Florida.  At that moment, Kentucky fans had to know — something was up.

    Enter Billy Gillispie, not exactly the program’s first choice but a good selection for them since he had earned the reputation as the New Resurrector after his stints at UTEP and Texas A&M.  He made friends early by ensuring that the Tubby Smith-recruited Patrick Patterson would still attend UK, but then dropped games to the likes of Gardner-Webb and San Diego (both at home), causing much head-scratching.  Despite a tough season with injuries and personnel-juggling, Gillispie’s first UK team battled back, made the tournament (and it looked bleak for a while), and Gillispie won co-Coach of the Year honors in the SEC.  About twelve seconds after their first-round loss, Kentucky fans were looking forward to the next season, knowing it would be better once everyone was healthy and some new bad-ass recruits came into the fold.  The Billy Donovan snub was virtually forgotten.

    One of those players returning to health in that off-season was versatile point guard Derrick Jasper.  Having gotten over all the physical and mental hurdles that come with microfracture surgery of the (left) knee, the 2008-09 edition of the Wildcats was his to lead.  Jasper was poised to be the floor general of one of the storied programs of college basketball.  It was to be “his” team.  But instead, in a move that nobody saw coming, after a mere two years of living in Lexington — citing “homesickness” — Jasper bailed on his chance to lead the program, choosing relative obscurity over an amazing opportunity.  He transferred to UNLV and left Kentucky high and dry with point guard problems that Gillispie hasn’t been able to solve with junior Michael Porter and freshman DeAndre Liggins.  How big was this loss?  Considering that the point guard handles the ball 60% of the time for any given team, is it a coincidence that Kentucky is 338th out of 341 Division I teams in turnovers per game?  Probably not.

    Only 1 of these three remains at UK.  (
    Only 1 of these three remains at UK. (photo credit:

    Then came the home loss to VMI earlier this year, an inexcusable loss given the Gardner-Webb debacle from the year before and the alarming talent disparity between the two teams.  With that loss still stinging, a few games later (in a game Kentucky still won), Liggins refused to re-enter a close game against Kansas State in a protest about playing time.  For a day or so it looked like Liggins’ status with the team was tenuous at best, but (just like what’s happened with the current A.J. Stewart situation) the players voted to reinstate him.  This had to remind Kentucky followers of the Alex Legion strangeness from the previous season; Legion was a prize recruit with a nice outside shot, and who they were going to count on for some serious point production…but he didn’t even make it to Christmas in his first year at UK, leaving because he (and his mom) felt he wasn’t getting enough PT.  And now — this weekend’s situation with Stewart.

    Kentucky fans are left wondering what has happened to the culture in their program.  Their obvious Heir Apparent in Billy Donovan declined to return even though he had been groomed for the job since the Pitino years; with inexcusable losses to comparatively talent-bereft teams (and not too many surprising wins) Billy Gillispie is starting to look like a good example of the Peter Principle; some important players have jumped ship, seemingly preferring oblivion over recognition and opportunity, and others choose unproductive ways to protest lack of playing time; and despite having two lottery picks on the team and some hard-working young role players, the Wildcats find themselves sliding down the bubble’s surface this season and are giving the tournament selection committee every reason to leave them off the bracket two weeks from now with these stretch losses.  This is a program that didn’t exactly weep when Tubby Smith left town; I’m not even saying they’re wrong about that, since after Smith’s 1998 title run with the Wildcats, he never returned to the Final Four in his next nine seasons — would UNC, Kansas, Duke, or UCLA fans put up with such a streak these days? — but keep in mind that, for unknown reasons, Billy Gillispie hasn’t even signed his contract at UK even though he’s basically got two seasons under his belt, now.  Many folks in Lexington wonder if he should even bother, with UK’s performance this year, even if the team slips into the tournament somehow.  And to make matters worse, if Kentucky fans have to watch this tournament without their Wildcats for the first time in 17 years, this is the time of year that a certain shot by a certain former Duke player gets played over and over again…

    Oh, but if only that were the end of it for the Big Blue Nation.

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