Pittsburgh’s ACC Slump: Where Does It End?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 6th, 2017

Just one short month ago, Pittsburgh was coming off an overtime win over Virginia that evened its ACC record at 1-1. Since then, the Panthers have dropped eight straight contests to take a position of solidarity at the bottom of the conference standings. The fact that Pitt’s last two defeats were highly competitive affairs only enhances the sting as North Carolina and Duke beat the Panthers by a combined margin of only 10 points. Considering the team’s good work in the non-conference portion of its schedule — a defeat of Maryland on the road, as well as a win over Marquette on a neutral floor — Kevin Stallings’ squad has been among the most disappointing teams in the nation since the new year. Is there any hope going forward?

Kevin Stallings still believes in his Pittsburgh squad despite eight straight defeats.
(Joshua Lindsey – USA TODAY Sports)

Former head coach Jamie Dixon put together a strong 13 years at the helm after his predecessor Ben Howland had re-established the program in the early 2000s. Despite making 11 trips to the NCAA Tournament over that span, a clear downward trajectory that included two NCAA misses in the last five years led to a move to his alma mater, TCU, last offseason. Pittsburgh raised some eyebrows by hiring longtime Vanderbilt head coach Stallings to replace him, but he inherited some experienced talent in senior forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis — currently the ACC’s top two scorers. The issues that he has struggled with is that there is no true point guard on the roster — at least one good enough to compete at an ACC-quality level — and the Panthers have the ACC’s toughest conference schedule, including two games each with heavyweights North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville and Syracuse.

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ACC Stock Watch: January 17

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 17th, 2017

Each week during the ACC season, RTC will review the last seven days to discuss the teams, players and anything else trending across the league.

STOCK UP

  • Notre Dame. As expertly diagrammed by our Brad Jenkins last week, winning on the road in the ACC is quite the chore. So when a team can win a pair of games over likely NCAA Tournament teams away from home in the same week — as Notre Dame did with victories over Miami and Virginia Tech — it will result in a “Stock Up” spot on our list for the second consecutive week. Irish point guard Matt Farrell has made so many big plays down the stretch for his team that, according to David Peel, head coach Mike Brey referred to Farrell as “his Aaron Rodgers.” Now that’s some high praise, indeed.

Donovan Mitchell is becoming the leader of a very talented Louisville team. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

  • Donovan Mitchell, Louisville. When you think about the great Rick Pitino teams, you think about terrific guards — players like Peyton Siva and Russ Smith from Louisville’s 2013 National Championship team or Tony Delk and Wayne Turner from Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship squad. Pitino’s best teams have always had outstanding athletes in the backcourt leading the way. Sophomore Donovan Mitchell is the next name on that list. In the Cardinals’ last five games, Mitchell is averaging 19.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game. His ascension to stardom will become even more important in the short term as news broke last night that starting point guard Quentin Snider will miss 2-3 weeks with a hip injury. If Mitchell can continue to play at a very high level, Pitino could be headed back to another Final Four.
  • North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ home win over Florida State on Saturday was an important step for Roy Williams’ team if it wants to win the ACC this season. After also beating Syracuse during Big Monday last night, North Carolina has now won five straight games after an ACC-opening hiccup at Georgia Tech. The key to the streak has been Williams’ offense, as the Tar Heels, riding stellar three-point shooting to the tune of 40.5 percent, have scored at least 85 points in each of those five games. When they miss, extra opportunities abound, with North Carolina also averaging nearly 17 offensive rebounds per game during the stretch. A combination of an offense that is clicking, domination of the offensive glass and a favorable schedule over the next few weeks could give the Tar Heels an early advantage in the ACC title race.

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Is Cameron Johnson the Key for Pittsburgh?

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 14th, 2017

When Kevin Stallings took over the Pittsburgh program last spring, it wasn’t the typical rebuilding job most new coaches walk into. Rather, Stallings inherited seniors Jamel Artis and Michael Young, who at this point in the season are the top two scorers in the ACC (Artis – 22.8 PPG; Young – 22.0 PPG). While the first-year head coach surely feels lucky to have two excellent players on hand, he also knows that they alone cannot get Pittsburgh back to the NCAA Tournament. The dynamic duo needs help, and perhaps the most vital piece to solving that problem is redshirt sophomore wing Cameron Johnson, who has become a strong third contributor this year. With so much defensive emphasis placed on containing Artis and Young, Johnson has been able to feast on a steady diet of open looks, shooting a career-best 38.9 percent from three-point range and producing a team-best Offensive Rating of 123.1.

Cameron Johnson knocking down shots is critical for Pittsburgh’s success (Pitt Athletics)

The ACC has illustrated Johnson’s importance to the Pittsburgh offense. In an overtime win over Virginia, he scored 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range and grabbed eight rebounds in the Panthers’ biggest victory of the year. However, in Pittsburgh’s three ACC losses — road defeats at Syracuse and Louisville in addition to a home loss to Notre Dame — Johnson shot just 3-of-21 from three-point range. Young and Artis are excellent shooters in their own right — both well over 40 percent from distance — but when Johnson is also knocking down shots, it makes Pittsburgh much tougher to beat. Against the Cavaliers, Johnson nailed four threes and the Panthers won. Against the others, he didn’t and Pittsburgh lost.

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ACC Burning Questions: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 27th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Who will replace James Robinson as Pittsburgh’s point guard?

Before departing for his alma mater TCU, Jamie Dixon put together a solid 13-year run as Pittsburgh‘s head coach, taking the Panthers to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances along the way. The best years of Dixon’s tenure occurred in the Big East, with two Sweet Sixteens (2004, 2007) and an Elite Eight (2009) coming on his watch. Since joining the ACC in 2013, the program has experienced a slight but notable drop in both wins and recruiting. But that doesn’t mean that new head coach Kevin Stallings has a complete rebuilding job awaiting him in Pittsburgh. The squad he inherits has plenty of talent and experience returning at all but one position. Unfortunately, that one deficiency is at perhaps the most crucial spot on the floor — point guard. With no obvious choice to replace James Robinson — a four-year starter with an outstanding 3.4 assist/turnover ratio in his career — to whom is Stallings going to give the keys to the Panthers’ offense?

Kevin Stallings claps for the Pitt band as he arrives at his introductory news conference as the new head coach for the Pittsburgh basketball team on Monday, March 28, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Kevin Stallings has a veteran team to clap for as the new coach for Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

A look at Pittsburgh’s roster reveals several players listed as guards, including three newcomers. The lone holdover to see much backcourt duty is 6’5″ sophomore Damon Wilson. Wilson arrived at school as a four-star wing, but Stallings’ hope is that he can further develop the point guard skills he showed in limited minutes last year backing up Robinson. Among the incoming guards, three-star freshman Justice Kithcart is the only one viewed as someone with the potential to run a high-major college offense. Crisshawn Clark and Jonathan Milligan each sat out last year after starting their careers in junior college, but both are more highly regarded as natural scorers than distributors. They join an already deep wing core that features veteran Chris Jones, a starter in nine games last year, and talented redshirt sophomore Cameron Johnson — a 37.5 percent three-point shooter. Of course, none of the options available sound like a solution to the problem at hand — replacing Robinson. Based on comments made in the preseason, it appears that Stallings will try a position switch to solve his point guard dilemma. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Tournament Takeaways: Wednesday Afternoon

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 9th, 2016

Things got off to a shaky start in the Verizon Center on Wednesday – numerous clock malfunctions caused several delays in the opening game’s first few minutes. But once we moved past the technical difficulties, there was an afternoon of thrilling rivalries awaiting at the ACC Tournament. In the day’s opener, it looked more like an old Big East Tournament game, as Pittsburgh beat Syracuse 72-71 in an exciting game that featured huge runs by each team. A matchup of two of the more traditional ACC programs followed for the second act, as Duke and Tobacco Road rival NC State staged an old fashioned shootout, which was eventually won by the Blue Devils, 92-89. Here are quick takeaways for each of the Wednesday afternoon combatants.

Cameron Johnson's 24 points off the bench sparked Pittsburgh to victory over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. (Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports)

Cameron Johnson’s 24 points off the bench sparked Pittsburgh to victory over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. (Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh (21-10): The Panthers completed the season sweep of Syracuse and should now feel good about their chances for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Jamie Dixon received great production from his bench today, particularly redshirt freshman Cameron Johnson, who hit four three-pointers and scored a career-high 24 points. Dixon has definitely cracked the code of the Boeheim zone, as he improved to 15-6 against the Orange in his 13 seasons on the Pitt sideline. Up next for the Panthers: top-seeded North Carolina, who handled Pittsburgh rather easily (85-64) in Chapel Hill in the only meeting between the two teams this year.

Syracuse (19-13)The Panthers seem to just have Syracuse’s number, as the Orange have now dropped five consecutive meetings with Jamie Dixon’s club. Syracuse did a better job keeping Pitt off the glass this afternoon than they have in the past; the Panthers grabbed just 12 offensive boards after allowing them to grab 49 percent of their misses in the two previous meetings. The Orange made six of their eight second half three-point attempts, but even that wasn’t enough to complete a frantic comeback. After dropping this game, the Orange fall to 9-10 against ACC competition for the year. A sub .500 conference mark is not necessarily a disqualifier from NCAA at-large consideration, but it does mean that Jim Boeheim’s squad will be sweating it out until the field is announced Sunday night. Their ultimate postseason fate is anyone’s guess.

Duke (23-9): The Blue Devils once again won with outstanding offense, despite allowing the Wolfpack to score nearly as freely as they did. Duke trailed 53-50 at the half in the 2nd highest combined first half score in ACC Tourney history. For the game, both teams shot over 50 percent from the floor. Turnovers were also scarce – Duke finished with just four, while NC State only gave the ball away six times. Looking ahead, we would expect Thursday afternoon’s Duke-Notre Dame quarter-final matchup to display similar levels of offensive efficiency. Neither squad is known for playing with defensive intensity, and they each possess offenses rated in KenPom’s national top 10. Mike Brey has had recent success against his coaching mentor Mike Krzyzewski, including a wild 95-91 Irish victory this year in Cameron Indoor.

NC State (16-17): The Wolfpack’s season comes to an end with a third close loss to Duke this year. Much like the first meeting between the two (Jan. 23 in Raleigh), NC State was on fire in the first half and refused not go away at any point, even when Duke appeared to be in solid control in the second half. Anthony “Cat” Barber capped off a tremendous junior season with 29 points and seven assists. As was often the case this year, Mark Gottfried’s club was just not good enough defensively this afternoon, as they allowed the Blue Devils to score 1.35 points per possession. The Wolfpack should be a deeper team next year – two of their most talented players are sitting out this year, and high profile recruit Dennis Smith will join the mix. The big offseason question is easy: Will Barber forgo an early pro career to join Smith in a super talented backcourt?

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 18th, 2016

Saturday was a day for upsets in the ACC as four underdogs were victorious. Notre Dame won a shootout over Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium in the marquee matchup of the weekend; the Clemson Tigers continued their amazing run with a home rally over Miami; Virginia Tech overcame a large late deficit to beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta; and Syracuse got its second ACC win by blasting Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The other two games on the day ended as expected – Pittsburgh handled Boston College at home and North Carolina, the ACC’s only undefeated team in conference play, overcame a slow start to finish off North Carolina State in Chapel Hill. In the only ACC action on Sunday, Virginia‘s road woes continued in a loss to Florida State in Tallahassee. Here are some of the other highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Brad Brownell and Jaron Blossomgame have had plenty to celebrate during Clemson's five straight ACC upset wins. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Brad Brownell and Jaron Blossomgame have had plenty to celebrate during Clemson’s five straight ACC upset wins. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

  • Best Win: In one of the most improbable occurrences in college basketball this year, Clemson has overcome one of the ACC’s toughest early league schedules by winning five straight games as an underdog. The latest victim was Miami by a score of 76-65 on Saturday afternoon in Greenville. With seven minutes to go and Miami holding a six point lead, it looked like the Tigers’ streak was near its end. But Clemson closed out the game with a 25-8 run and has now won five straight ACC games for the first time since Rick Barnes was coaching the Tigers in 1997. Jaron Blossomgame led the way with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting. During the Brad Brownell era, the Tigers have always played good defense, but the difference this year is the Tigers’ offense. After finishing among the bottom three in ACC offensive efficiency the last three years (and never above 1.00 points per possession), Clemson is currently sixth in the league at a much improved 1.12 points per possession. A huge part of that success is the Tigers’ ability to punish teams from the foul line – they rank second in the ACC in free throw rate (45.1%) and first in accuracy (79.6%).
  • Worst Loss: Even though Wake Forest’s dismal effort in a home blowout to Syracuse technically may be the worst performance, we instead will go with the squad that suffered the most heartbreaking defeat, mainly because of what it may mean for that team’s confidence going forward. The team in question is Georgia Tech, who suffered a total meltdown at home against Virginia Tech. In our last weekend recap, we lauded Brian Gregory’s team for finally getting over the hump in winning a close league game. Well, the praise may have been a bit premature. The end of Saturday’s game in Atlanta played out exactly like many of the Yellow Jackets’ league games did a year ago, as the Jackets blew a 10-point lead over the last 4:14 of the game. In its final 12 possessions, Georgia Tech had more turnovers (4) than points (3). It certainly didn’t help that Adam Smith, the Jackets’ main outside threat, only made one three-pointer in seven tries from deep.
Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson punished Duke with 31 points in the Irish's big road win. (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson punished Duke with 31 points in the Irish’s big road win.
(Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Most Outstanding Player: Notre Dame’s Mike Brey has many weapons at his disposal, and that includes sophomore Bonzie Colson, who apparently loves to play against Duke. Colson helped the Irish defeat the Blue Devils in last season’s ACC Tournament semifinals with a then career-best 17 points. He nearly doubled that output on Saturday afternoon, finishing with 31 points and 11 rebounds (eight offensive) to lead the Irish to their fourth win over Duke in five meetings as ACC members. Colson scored in a variety of ways: post moves, putbacks, free throws (5-5) and even from deep (2-3 on threes). Afterwards, Brey commented on his play, “He gets pretty fired up when he does play them. Bonzie’s a big game guy. He loves a big game, and I thought he helped his teammates get confident.” Colson did not start the contest but logged 33 minutes as Brey recognized early on that the burly forward was a huge matchup problem for the Blue Devils’ thin frontcourt.
  • Unsung Heroes: With North Carolina’s top three scorers struggling against NC State, Roy Williams needed someone else to step up. That someone turned out to be Kennedy Meeks, who scored 25 points, grabbed six boards and blocked three shots to help the Tar Heels pull away from their rival. In only his second game back from a knee injury, Meeks had his highest point total since he tallied 25 in the season opener. Syracuse has not been a balanced team this year, having been carried by its backcourt to this point. But in Saturday’s rout of Wake Forest, junior forward Tyler Roberson delivered a dose of frontcourt production with 16 points and 13 rebounds. That makes four consecutive double figure scoring games for Roberson, who also helped the Orange’s defense Saturday with three steals. Pittsburgh’s Cameron Johnson only played 15 minutes in the Panthers’ win over Boston College, but he maximized that time with 20 points on an efficient seven of ten shooting performance. The redshirt freshman wing flashed a nice touch from deep, making four of his seven long-range attempts. He is now shooting 42.4 percent for the season from three-point range.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: With Notre Dame visiting Duke in a game featuring two of the top four offenses in the country, we expected a shootout. Boy did we ever get one. Rare are games in which both teams score at a rate higher than 1.30 points per possession, but that’s what happened in Cameron Indoor on Saturday. The Irish prevailed with an offense that posted 1.36 points per possession in the exciting 95-91 win. That’s the most points per possession allowed by Duke to an ACC foe at home in the 15-year KenPom era. As one might expect in a performance that efficient, Notre Dame was outstanding in multiple offensive areas. They made 51.8 percent of their two-point attempts; hit 43.8 percent from three-point range; converted 80 percent from the foul line; grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, and only gave the ball away six times. It took every bit of that efficiency to hold off a Duke team that made half of their 24 three-point attempts.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: In the weekend’s most lopsided game, Wake Forest managed only 0.77 points per possession in its 83-55 home loss to Syracuse. The Deacons had a tough time figuring out how to attack the Orange’s 2-3 zone from the outset and finished with 18 turnovers. When the Demon Deacons did get shot opportunities, they failed miserably, making just two of 20 from deep and missing 17 of 42 free throw attempts. Coming into the game, Wake figured to take advantage of Syracuse’s normally weak defensive rebounding, but things played out differently, as the Deacons only grabbed 25 percent of their misses. That percentage is well below Wake’s season average (35.1%) and that of Syracuse’s opponents (also 35.1%). Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim said, “This was the best defensive game we’ve had all year. We just were tremendously active. We had been doing a good job at the three-point line, but not so much inside. We were much better inside tonight.”

 

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ACC Preview: Pittsburgh’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 28th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Can Pittsburgh’s defense improve enough to get Jamie Dixon back to the NCAA Tournament?

The tempo-based statistics revolution has shed new light on the brilliance of many programs across the country, but perhaps none more so than Pittsburgh during the 12-year Jamie Dixon era. The Panthers have won a lot of games under Dixon but never scored a ton of points — characteristics that were traditionally viewed as an indication of a poor offensive team that plays excellent defense. That was the consensus perception about Dixon’s program for years, and even now, the majority of casual basketball fans might still believe that Pitt’s real strength has been its defense. Put simply, however, that is not the case, and we have the statistics to prove it.

Jamie Dixon's Team Was Beyond Impressive on Thursday Afternoon (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon’s team needs to be much better defensively in 2015-16. (Photo: US Presswire)

This misconception about Pittsburgh is of course related to how slowly the Panthers have played during Dixon’s tenure. Over the last 12 seasons, only one Pitt team finished among the top 200 nationally in adjusted tempo. During the same span, eight Panthers’ squads have finished among the bottom 50 in pace, including each of the last six seasons. With such a well-established track record of low-possession basketball, it’s not surprising that point totals are going to be misleading when evaluating the Panthers’ effectiveness on both ends. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Preview: Pittsburgh’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Pittsburgh overcome key personnel losses and injuries to compete with the ACC’s big boys?

Last year was Pittsburgh’s first season in the ACC, and the Panthers came out of the gate like gangbusters, winning 18 of their first 20 games and starting conference play with a 6-1 record. Then things headed south as Jamie Dixon’s squad limped home, finishing fifth in the league with an 11-7 mark. There was even some talk that Pittsburgh was on the bubble before they won two games in the ACC Tournament to secure an NCAA bid. Now the Panthers are ready for a second go-round in an improved ACC, but without the services of last year’s two best players, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna.

Jamie Dixon's Team Was Beyond Impressive on Thursday Afternoon (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon’s Team Has Already Suffered Some Key Injuries in the Preseason (US Presswire)

The explanation for last year’s dropoff midway through the ACC season was twofold. The primary reason was a series of injuries that ran through the squad like a mini-epidemic. Durand Johnson was Pitt’s third-leading scorer when he tore his ACL in a January win over Wake Forest, immediately ending his season. While his was the only major injury, the team was soon beset by nagging ailments that seemed to hit at the same time. Patterson was mentioned as a possible ACC Player of the Year candidate before a hand injury caused the senior to lose his shooting touch. Zanna played through a severe ankle sprain, but the injury zapped him of his explosiveness and caused the Panthers staples — interior defense and rebounding — to suffer immensely. Others that played hurt were freshmen Michael Young (back) and Chris Jones (thumb). The second problem was that the schedule got tougher after that excellent ACC start, and the Panthers subsequently went 0-5 against the ACC’s top four teams. That issue, combined with an extremely weak non-conference slate (278th nationally), is what put Pitt in the position of needing quality wins in Greensboro to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers got that cherished victory when they barely held off North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals. Can Dixon’s squad avoid the same scenario this season?

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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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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

A Look Back

  • Puzzling Player: Stephen F. Austin senior Eddie Williams was selected as a preseason first-team Southland Conference pick, but the 6’2 guard is having a down year thus far. Williams is averaging only seven points and three rebounds after putting up 13 points and six boards a year ago. His shooting percentage is down nearly 16 points from last year – 51.5% last year compared to 35.9% this season.
  • Roadrunner from Australia: Texas-San Antonio freshman Jeromie Hill, from Cairns, Australia, is making an early case for Newcomer of the Year. Hill has scored in double figures in all but one game and is averaging 14.6 points and 6.5 rebounds. His best game came against Evansville, when he tallied 27 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Surprise, Surprise, Surprise: Two players who were going to be counted on by their teams have stepped up their beyond expectations this year. Texas State senior guard Tony Bishop has scored in double figures in all eight games this year after hitting double figures only 10 times last year. The 6’6 forward is averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds, compared to seven points and five boards last year. Demond Watt, a 6’8 forward for the Islanders, could challenge for player of the year honors if he keeps up his current pace. Watt is averaging 16.6 points and 10.2 rebounds and is the only Texas A&M-CC player scoring in double figures.
  • Player of the Week – UTSA junior forward Stephen Franklin earned the award after going for 18 points and nine rebounds in a five-point loss to the University of Houston. Players named as honorable mention for the award include David Ndoumba (SELA), Patrick Richard (McNeese), Gilberto Clavell (SHSU) and Jereal Scott (SFA).

Power Rankings

  1. Stephen F. Austin (6-2) – The Lumberjacks’ only two losses have come at the hands of Big 12 members Texas A&M and Texas Tech. SFA could be 10-2 heading into Southland Conference play with the biggest challenge coming December 20 at UTEP.
  2. UTSA (6-2) – The Roadrunners have played a pretty good non-conference schedule and could be sitting at 8-0, but fell on the road to Evansville and UC-Riverside. They open SLC play at home against Sam Houston State.
  3. Sam Houston State (5-3) – The Bearkats fell from the top spot of the power rankings, but their losses have come at the hands of the University of Texas, the University of Houston and Cleveland State. Gilberto Clavell leads the team with 19.8 points and 8.1 rebounds.
  4. Northwestern State (7-3) – The Demons have won six of their last seven games with the three losses coming against LSU, Memphis and Indiana. Will Pratt (17.5 PPG) and Devon Baker (15.7 PPG) lead NW State in scoring.
  5. McNeese State (6-4) – The Cowboys have three players in double figures and will have a big best right before conference play starts when they face No. 25 Texas A&M in College Station.
  6. Nicholls State (5-4) – As senior forward Anatoly Bose goes, so go the Colonels, but at times, even Bose can’t do enough. Bose is averaging 25 points a game and has topped 30 points twice. Fred Hunter provides help with 15 points a game.
  7. Southeastern Louisiana (5-3) – The Lions face two SEC teams before conference play begins. SELA hits the road to play Vanderbilt and Mississippi before opening up at home versus SFA. Senior Trent Hutchins paces the squad with 16.6 points per contest.
  8. UT-Arlington (5-3) – After four wins in a row, the Mavericks have fallen twice to North Texas and Samford, respectively. Freshman Darius Richardson was a heralded recruit coming out of Fort Bend Bush High School, and he is living up to the status, averaging 9.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in his first go-round.
  9. Lamar (5-4) – The Cardinals played Texas tough before going down 76-55, then had Rice down by ten at halftime before losing, 75-73. Is Lamar close to tunring the corner? Senior guard Kendrick Harris paces the team in scoring at 12.8 points a clip.
  10. Texas A&M-CC (3-6) – The tough schedule continues for the Islanders as they face Houston, Memphis and Texas Tech before conference begins. They have defeated only one Division-I opponent in Bethune Cookman.
  11. Central Arkansas (3-7) – The Bears have beaten only one Division I foe in Chicago State and have #13 Missouri and Oklahoma on tap. Their leading scorer, Chris Henson, averages a paltry ten points per game.
  12. Texas State (2-6) – A preseason full of hope has turned ugly thus far. The Bobcats have lost five straight, including a 14-point defeat at home to Texas Southern. Senior Cameron Johnson is a preseason all-SLC pick, but is having a hard time staying on the court. The 6’7 forward is only playing 19 minutes a game and has fouled out of two contests and picked up four fouls in two more games.

A Look Ahead

The Southland Conference slate begins in three weeks on January 8 with a full allotment of games. In the meantime, SLC schools will play the likes of Missouri, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Ole Miss, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

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