Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings (as of Dec. 30, 2009)

EAST

  1. Stephen F. Austin 9-3
  2. SE Louisiana 7-4
  3. Northwestern St. 5-6
  4. McNeese State 5-7
  5. Central Arkansas 5-7
  6. Nicholls State 4-9

WEST

  1. UTSA 8-3
  2. Sam Houston 8-4
  3. UTA 5-5
  4. Lamar 6-7
  5. A&M Corpus 5-6
  6. Texas State 4-8

PLAYER OF THE WEEK.  UT-Arlington guard Marquez Haynes scored 31 points and grabbed seven boards in a 101-85 win over Texas Wesleyan. This is the second POW honor for Haynes this year.

NON-CONFERENCE.  With Southland Conference action slated to begin the second week of the New Year, let’s take a look at the games, players and statistics from non-conference play in 2009:

GAMES

  • Sam Houston State University set several Rupp Arena records as they lost to the nation’s fourth-ranked team, Kentucky, 102-92, then hammered fellow SEC member Auburn 107-89 a month later.
  • The Nicholls State Colonels began the season losing their first eight games after being picked second in the SLC East in the preseason polls. Included in the 0-8 start was a 72-58 loss to Division II Alaska.
  • Texas A&M Corpus Christi started the season off with a bang by downing Oregon State, of the Pac-10, 67-43, in Lubbock of all places. The Islanders were led by Kevin Palmer’s 23 points.
  • In its first contest of the year in Ames, Iowa, UTSA bested Iowa 62-50. The loss snapped Iowa’s 46-game winning streak in home openers.
  • The Southland Conference has battled numerous Top 25 teams in non-conference thus far, including teams ranked No. 1 (Kansas), 2 (Texas), 3 (Kentucky).

PLAYERS

  • One of the biggest surprises has been the improvement of Lamar’s Anthony Miles. The 6’1 sophomore guard from Clear Brook High School is seventh in the league in scoring (15.2) after averaging 6.3 ppg as a freshman last year. Miles has doubled his stats in nearly every statistical category this year.
  • UTA’s Haynes, a senior transfer from Boston College, has lived up to his billing as a preseason All-Southland Conference selection. Haynes has scored in double figures in all 11 Maverick games and has posted 30 or more points four times. He leads the conference in scoring at 24.7 ppg.
  • Another All-SLC preseason pick, SHSU’s Corey Allmond, has been streaky thus far. The senior guard from Maryland torched Kentucky and Auburn for 37 and 25 points, respectively. He hit 11 of 16 three-pointers against Kentucky, which is a Rupp Arena record. The 37 points are a career high.
  • Nicholls State’s Anatoly Bose is on a tear. The 6’6 junior from Australia has scored more than 20 points in five consecutive games with a season-high of 27 points coming against Southern-New Orleans. It’s no coincidence that the Colonels have won four of their last five games as Bose has heated up.
  • Kevin Palmer, a 6’6 senior at A&M CC, has scored at least 20 points in six of the Islanders’ 11 games this year. He is second in the SLC in scoring at 20.2 ppg.
  • Lamar’s Justin Nabors continues to lead the SLC in rebounding. His 9.2 boards a game is nearly three more than the 6’7 senior averaged two years ago. Nabors pulled down a league-high 24 rebounds against Louisiana College.
  • SLC newcomer and junior college transfer Gilberto Clavell has helped SHSU to an 8-4 mark. Clavell averaged 25.2 points per game during a four-game stretch. His 34 points against Auburn are a season and career high.
  • Stephen F. Austin’s Jordan Glynn had a stretch where notched a double-double in five straight games, averaging 13.8 points and 11.2 rebounds a game during that span.

TEAM BREAKDOWNS

EAST

  • Stephen F. Austin – Put together winning streaks of three and four games to start the year 9-3. Nearly missed on big wins against Texas Tech and Arkansas. Won the SLC West last year with a 12-4 mark. Looks to start the New Year and SLC season off right when they play arch-rival Sam Houston State in Huntsville on Saturday, Jan. 9.
  • Southeastern Louisiana – Might be a little of an unknown quantity in the SLC this year. Picked to finish third in the East, SELA played Mississippi State and LSU relatively well, but has played a relatively weak non-conference schedule with three non-Division games. Senior center Patrick Sullivan (15 ppg, 8.4 rpg) will need to play big as conference play begins.
  • Northwestern State – Looking to improve after a dismal season last year, the Demons are streaky at best. They are last in the SLC in free-throw percentage (61 percent) and in the middle of the pack in field goal and 3-point percentage. The Demons have no real go-to player, but senior guard Damon Jones tries to fit that bill, having scored in double figures in six of the last seven games.
  • McNeese State – Led by senior Diego Kapelan and sophomore Patrick Richard, the Cowboys played eight of their 12 games on the road thus far. Kapelan has increased his scoring average each year, and after scoring five points a game as a freshman last year, Richard is now throwing in 12 ppg.as a sophomore. McNeese closes out the non-conference schedule with Texas Tech and LSU before playing three tough SLC games to open the season.
  • Central Arkansas – Picked by most to finish last in the SLC East, the Bears lost four of their first five games, then went on a four-game winning streak and sit at 5-7. UCA boasts a balanced scoring attack with five players netting double figures. Junior guard Chris Poellnitz leads the way with 13.8 points a game. The play of JC transfer Tadre Sheppard (11 ppg.) has the Bears optimistic they can better last year’s 3-13 mark in the SLC.
  • Nicholls State – The Colonels were picked to finish second in the rough and tumble SLC East, but began the 2009 campaign by losing their first eight games. NSU rebounded by winning four of its next five, but the Colonels have an 18-day layoff until their SLC season begins. Forward Anatoly Bose has been a beast of late, but NSU will need more production from Fred Hunter and Maurice Foster if they want to start the SLC off the right way.

WEST

  • UTSA – Junior point guard Devin Gibson (13.7 ppg.) from Cy-Falls in Houston has led an experienced group of Roadrunners to an SLC West best 8-3 mark. Of UTSA’s eight leading scorers, six of the players are either a junior or senior. The Roadrunners played in the championship game of the SLC Tournament last year, losing to SFA. UTSA begins SLC play on the road in two of its first three games.
  • SHSU – Year in and year out the Bearkats are one of the teams to beat in the SLC. Picked to finish first in the West, SHSU has played well in non-conference, but four of its eights wins have come against non-Division I teams. JC transfer Gilberto Clavell has been labeled by his coach as a “beast” and he brings toughness down low to the Kats, who rely heavily on their guard play. SHSU tips off conference play at home against bitter rival Stephen F. Austin.
  • UTA – The Mavericks have one of the best scorers in college basketball on their side. Senior guard Marquez Haynes has scored in double figures every time he has stepped on the court, and along with fellow senior Brandon Long (16.6 ppg.) make up a troublesome duo for teams in the SLC. Things could be rough for the Mavs without senior guard Tommy Moffitt, who broke his foot in early December. UTA opens with Texas State in Arlington on Saturday, Jan. 9.
  • Lamar – Had a stretch of six of seven games on the road, but has won three of its last four to stand at 6-7. Senior forward Ashton Hall (9 points, four rebounds a year ago) has only played one minute this year due to a knee injury. The Cardinals are picked to finish second-to-last in the West after finishing in last place a year ago. Look for guard Anthony Miles and senior Justin Nabors to carry the load.
  • TAMU-CC -The Islanders are picked to finish right behind SHSU in the West, and have played some stiff competition in non-conference to check in with a 5-6 mark. Mr. Everything Kevin Palmer was an All-SLC pick a year ago and he hasn’t disappointed thus far. Palmer scores 20 points per game to go with 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists and 3 steals. The Islanders start conference play with Central Arkansas, Texas State, Northwestern State and Lamar and could be 4-0 on Jan. 20.
  • Texas State – After finishing fifth in the West last year, the Bobcats are picked to be the team in the cellar this season. TSU has losing streaks of five and three games this year and open the SLC campaign against two strong opponents in UTA and A&M-CC. The Bobcats have three players scoring 10 points each – John Rybak (10.9), Cameron Johnson (10.9) and J.B. Conley (10.2). One of these players will need to step up for Texas State to be competitive in 2009-10.

LOOKING AHEAD

Saturday, Jan. 9

  • Stephen F. Austin at Sam Houston State, 2 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 13

  • Southeastern Louisiana at Northwestern State, 7 p.m.
  • Nicholls State at UTSA, 7 p.m.
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2008-09 Season Primers: #20 – Southland

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2008

There is no RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference, but we’re still taking applications.

 

Predicted Order of Finish:

 

East

  1. Stephen F. Austin  (18-9, 12-4)
  2. Northwestern St.   (18-13, 10-6)
  3. SE Louisiana    (14-15, 9-7)
  4. McNeese St.    (12-17, 8-8)
  5. Central Arkansas  (10-19, 4-12)
  6. Nicholls St.   (8-21, 4-12)

West

  1. UT-Arlington  (19-10, 11-5)
  2. Lamar   (16-13, 11-5)
  3. UT-San Antonio   (15-13, 10-6)
  4. Sam Houston St.  (13-16, 7-9)
  5. Texas A&M-CC  (9-21, 5-11)
  6. Texas St.  (9-20, 4-12)

 

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  The Southland Conference is an overlooked conference in an area of the country that doesn’t exactly embrace college basketball.  While the league has traditionally been cannon fodder for first-round high seeds in the NCAA Tournament, there are indications that may be changing.  Last year’s champion, Northwestern St., was a Cinderella entrant who got bombed by #1 Memphis, but in the period from 2005-07, the Southland champion was competitive with #2 seeds Oklahoma and Wisconsin, and of course everyone remembers the #14 NW St. upset victory over #3 Iowa in 2006.  In the early 2000s, the league was consistently rated among the bottom half-dozen conferences on an annual basis, but in the current environment with a solid few programs leading the way, the conference is now regularly in the 20-25 range.  It’s moving on up!

 

Predicted Champion.   Stephen F. Austin (#16 NCAA).   The ‘Jacks are jacked.  Coming off a 26-6 (13-3) 2007-08 campaign that led to an NIT appearance (SFA lost 80-60 to UMass), Danny Kasper’s squad returns four starters, including arguably the best two players in the league (Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley), from a withering defensive-minded unit that only allowed 56 ppg last year (on 39% FG shooting).  Last year’s team had NCAA written all over it, having won road contests at NCAA entrants Oklahoma and San Diego, until Northwestern St. upset SFA in the semis of the conference tournament - the ‘Jacks are loaded and will probably not be denied this time around.   

 

Others Considered. 

  • UT-Arlington.  As a #7 seed in last year’s conference tourney, UT-Arlington got hot at the right time and defeated three higher seeds en route to its first conference championship and NCAA appearance.  The Mavericks return two key starters, Rog’er Guignard and Brandon Long, but all eyes will be on BC transfer Marquez Haynes, a 6’3 guard who played starter’s minutes for the Eagles in 2006-07.  This team won’t be overlooked again.
  • Lamar.  Lamar should provide the biggest challenge for UT-Arlington in the West, as the Cardinals return significant experience in the form of nine returnees.  The key to Lamar’s success lies with PG Kenny Dawkins, last year’s Newcomer of the Year, who averaged 15/5 apg leading his team to a league-best 13-3 record.
  • Northwestern St.  We threw Mike McConathy’s team on here as a challenger simply because, no matter what personnel they lose from year to year, they always seem to find a way to remain competitive, having been to the last four conference title games (winning one).   The Demons’ style of play doesn’t depend on one or two players, so this year should be no different.   

RPI Boosters. 

  • Northwestern St. @ Indiana (11/15/08)
  • Stephen F. Austin @ Texas A&M  (11/18/08)
  • Northwestern St. @ LSU  (11/23/08)
  • Lamar @ Kentucky  (12/03/08)
  • Lamar @ Louisville  (12/08/08)
  • Texas Tech @ Lamar  (12/13/08)
  • Stephen F. Austin @ Arkansas (12/20/08)
  • UT-Arlington @ Baylor  (12/20/08)
  • Northwestern St. @ Oklahoma St.  (1/03/09)

Neat-O Stat.   The Southland, like many conferences is a twelve-team league with two divisions of six each (East and West).  Ok, no big deal, right?  Well, what’s strange about this setup is that the current alignment allows for Stephen F. Austin (East) and Lamar (West) to switch divisions every two seasons.  Since the current alignment began in 2006-07, this means this will be the first year of SFA in the East and Lamar in the West for a while.   The league made this arrangement for travel purposes, with seven Texas teams (v. five Louisiana/Arkansas teams), but can you imagine if the SEC did this – Florida and LSU switch sides every couple years?

65 Team Era.  The Southland is 4-24 (.143) in the era, but one of those wins was from the PiG in 2001, and two others are from Karl Malone’s #5 Louisiana Tech team back in 1985 (La Tech is no longer in the conference).  In other words, the league has had only one legit NCAA win since 1985, but oh, what a great one it was (see video below). 

Final Thoughts.  As mentioned above, the Southland appears to be a conference on the rise.  The big-conference team that gets pitted against SFA in the NCAAs this year (assuming they make it through the conference tourney unscathed) should really pay attention or they will get burned.  The conference has proven it can play with teams at the BCS level in a one-game scenario.  This was not always the case – from 1997-2004, the average margin of loss for a Southland team in the NCAA Tournament was 29 points.  Since then, it has been 12 (including a 1-pt win).  Who will be the next Iowa?

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