With many observers expecting the NCAA to hand down its notice of allegations soon to Miami, the NCAA instead revealed that it was essentially putting its investigation from the Nevin Shapiro scandal on hold while it hires an external agency to look into a charge of improperly obtaining information for its investigation. The NCAA has retained the services of Kenneth Wainstein, who has previously served in the roles of Homeland Security Advisor, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and FBI General Counsel. It is a rather sudden turn of events and means that both Miami and other involved parties (see: Missouri’s Frank Haith) can breathe easy for a little while. It remains to be determined whether this will affect any punishments that are ultimately handed down or if in fact the NCAA will have to abandon the entire case, but if the latter is true, it’s safe to say that it will probably be the most embarrassing moment in the NCAA’s long history of rules enforcement.
Leslie McDonald, who missed North Carolina‘s last three games with an injury to his right knee, will be out for another three games, but not because of his knee. Instead, he will miss the additional games because he did not take care of his “responsibilities as a student-athlete.” While this could mean a variety of things, we are assuming that the “student-athlete” bit means scholastic problems. In any event, the Tar Heels will need to overcome McDonald’s extended absence as they appear to have turned a corner (for now) but have games at home against Georgia Tech and on the road at North Carolina State and Boston College. With the weakness of the top teams in the power conferences so far this year, North Carolina would still be in the NCAA Tournament as of today, but they cannot afford too many more mistakes.
After quite a bit of drama and instability in the first couple months of the season, UCLA has seemed to put the pieces back together in recent weeks but there are still some loose ends to tie up. Enigmatic former center Josh Smith has resurfaced at Georgetown, but until yesterday, it was still undetermined where former guard Tyler Lamb would end up. While Smith looked to get as far away from Westwood as possible, Lamb is simply moving about 30 miles southwest to the LBC. He will suit up for Dan Monson’s Long Beach State squad beginning in 2013-14, bringing a solid scoring punch and ability to distribute the ball to a team that appears to be following the Missouri template for adding talented high-major transfers in bulk (Keala King, Dan Jennings, and Tony Freeland). Lamb chose LBSU over San Diego State and began practicing with the team yesterday.
Luke Winn‘s weekly Power Rankings came out prior to Wednesday night’s games, but as we all know, the real value in his column comes from the unique statistical analysis and sartorial commentary that Winn provides each week. Perhaps portending Duke’s struggles at Miami (FL) last night, Winn examines the Blue Devils without Ryan Kelly in the lineup while also making time to evaluate a disturbing trend in Nike uniforms adding a logo to the team’s chest (we completely agree, by the way). As always, you’ll learn more reading this column in 10 minutes that you will reviewing 95% of the college basketball coverage on the web, so get on over there and give it a try if it’s not part of your weekly routine.
A final note about a quirky scheduling anomaly where the nation’s highest scoring team, Northwestern State (85.0 PPG), will face the nation’s lowest scoring defense, Stephen F. Austin (allowing 49.4 PPG), in a battle of contrasting Southland Conference tempos this coming weekend. According to a press release put out by the league on Wednesday, this is the first time that anyone can remember in college basketball history that such a game will occur. We can’t say that we’re going to set aside two hours to watch this one at 4:00 PM ET on Saturday, but we will keep an curious eye on the result to determine whether the old coaching adage is true that great defense is preferred over great offense.
The Player of the Year race in college basketball is an interesting and bizarre thing. The most talented player is rarely selected, and the winner is seldom a National Champion. I don’t want to go so far as to say the race is a popularity contest, but it’s something akin to one. Instead of picking the best player, the voters like to pick the most emblematic player, or failing that, the most interesting. Oh, and that player has to almost inevitably be a bit of a ball hog. Evan Turner was not the best basketball player in the country last year, as fans of the Philadelphia 76ers know all too well, but he was a skilled-enough, multi-talented player on a pedigreed team that won a lot of games. With that logic in mind, it’s pretty safe to pencil in Jimmer Freddete, Jared Sullinger, Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker or Nolan Smith as the front-runners of that race. This was true in December, as well. I don’t want to say that the national Player of the Year race is dead, just that it’s perpetually unsurprising, even if the final result does have that extra spice of arbitrariness thrown in for good measure.
Walker Headlines a Strong NPOY Group of Candidates
So instead of breaking down the Player of the Year race and debating just how good, on the scale of really good to incredibly good all those familiar faces are, I thought we could take some time to show some love to some mostly unfamiliar faces who are having extraordinary and superlative seasons of their own. Maybe they don’t play a great all-around game, maybe their teams don’t win, and maybe some of them aren’t good so much as weird, but let’s celebrate them all anyway. We need a name for this party, though, so let’s call it the Other Guys of the Year Awards, dig into the depths of Ken Pomeroy’s stats tables, and hand out some imaginary statuettes.
The first awards go to a pair of players who play for the same team in the Big South. The Iron Man Award goes to Khalid Mutakabbir of Presbyterian who has played 96.1% of all available minutes, a greater percentage than any other player in Division I. Mutakabbir has used those minutes well, shooting a high percentage from the field, and a very impressive 51.7% from beyond the three-point line. The Ultimate Ball-Hog Award goes to Mutakabbir’s teammate, Al’Lonzo Coleman, who somehow comes off the bench, yet uses 36.3% of all possessions, more than The Jimmer himself. While Coleman is undoubtedly president of the Ball-Hog Club, let’s give some special recognition to the other players who, despite living outside the national limelight, have managed to dominate the ball more than Mr. Fredette: Special thanks to Keion Bell of Pepperdine, Anatoly Bose of Nicholls State, Brandon Bowdry of Eastern Michigan, Adrian Oliver of San Jose State, and Will Pratt from Northwestern State. You have all out-Jimmered the Jimmer, except for, you know, the winning games thing.
We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months. You have too. In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while. Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage. Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face. Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep. Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style. The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go. Are you? To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month. We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er. Or whatever. Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with. That’s the hope, at least. We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so all of this week we re-visited some of the timeless moments from the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Enjoy.
NCAA First and Second Rounds
Context: The opening tip of the First Round is less than twelve hours away, and nothing says March Madness excitement more than the epic buzzer beaters that we’ve come to associate with it throughout its modern history. We all know the usual suspects — Bryce Drew and Tyus Edney immediately come to mind — but here are a few of our favorites that may have slipped your mind in the intervening years. Hopefully we’ll have a couple more of these by the end of the weekend!
2000 First Round – Florida vs. Butler – Mike Miller
2003 First Round – Maryland vs. UNC-Wilmington – Drew Nicholas
2006 First Round – Northwestern State vs. Iowa – Jermaine Wallace
2008 First Round: Western Kentucky vs. Drake – Ty Rogers
Lamar 14-18, 5-11 (pre-season pick #5) Did not qualify for tournament
SEASON IN REVIEW
The prognosticators were nearly right on target with their preseason polls and selections. Texas State threw a curveball into the mix as both the coaches and sports information directors picked the Bobcats to finish last in the SLC West. Not only did the Bobcats finish in fourth place in the tough West Division, but they also earned a No. 5 seed in the Southland Tournament.
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings as of Feb. 26, 2010
Stephen F. Austin 19-7 (9-4)
SE Louisiana 15-11 (7-6)
Northwestern State 10-16 (5-8)
Nicholls State 9-17 (5-8)
McNeese State 9-18 (4-9)
Central Arkansas 8-19 (2-11)
Sam Houston State 20-6 (12-1)
Texas-Arlington 16-10 (8-5)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 14-13 (8-5)
UT-San Antonio 17-9 (7-6)
Texas State 12-15 (6-7)
Lamar 14-15 (5-8)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
UTSA guard Devin Gibson was named Southland Conference Player of the Week. The junior from Cy-Falls in Houston averaged 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals as he hit 64.3 percent from the field.
ALMOST TOURNEY TIME
With its victory over McNeese State on Feb. 24, the Sam Houston State Bearkats clinched the top spot in the 2010 State Farm Southland Conference Basketball Tournament in Katy, Texas. SHSU (20-6, 12-1) also earned at least a share of the regular season championship, the school’s third since 2003.
Stephen F. Austin (19-9, 9-4) also punched its ticket to the conference tournament. The Lumberjacks won the regular season championship last year.
If the SLC tournament started today, the seeding would be:
Sam Houston State (12-1)
Stephen F. Austin (9-4)
A&M-Corpus Christi (8-5)
Southeastern Louisiana (7-6)
Texas State (6-7)
Northwestern State, Nicholls State or Lamar (5-8)
SFA – Still battling with a couple of teams to earn the second-place seed for the Southland Tournament. The Lumberjacks have three games remaining – A&M-CC, Central Arkansas and UTSA. The prediction here is that SFA goes 2-1 down the stretch and retains the No. 2 spot for the tourney.
SELA – Took a big step toward trying to overtake SFA in the SLC East as they defeated the Lumberjacks on Feb. 20. The Lions have a very manageable schedule with Central Arkansas, McNeese State and Northwestern State left. Look for the Lions to go 3-0 in their last three games to jump past a couple of teams for the fourth seed in the tourney.
NORTHWESTERN STATE – Picked up a big win over Lamar on Feb. 20, but the Demons have a tough road ahead of them. NW State faces Texas State, Sam Houston State and SELA, so the prediction here is 1-2 with the Demons on the outside looking in come tournament time.
NICHOLLS STATE – Picked up two very important victories last week (Texas State, UCA) which thrust the Colonels into the mix. NSU has two road games this week (McNeese, UTA) then closes with Lamar at home. The prediction is a 2-1 finish and a berth in the tournament.
MCNEESE STATE – Has a very slim chance of getting into the tournament, but helped itself with a big win over A&M-CC on Feb. 20. The remaining schedule has Nicholls State, SELA and UCA. The Cowboys will likely go 1-2 which will not be enough to slip into the conference tournament.
UCA – Just trying to play out the last three games since its still in an NCAA-mandated transition period and is not eligible for this year’s postseason. But the Bears can play a seeding spoiler with SELA, SFA and McNeese still on tap.
SHSU – With its 20th victory of the year, Sam Houston joins some select company in terms of national statistical categories. SHSU stands as only 1 of 38 teams in the NCAA to have produced 20 wins in four of the last five years. The Bearkats close out the regular season UTA, Northwestern State and Texas State.
UTA – The Mavericks are trying to move past SFA into the second seed for the SLC Tournament. UTA has won three straight and gets SHSU, Nicholls and A&M-CC. They could finish 1-2 which would drop them into the fourth or five spot.
A&M-CC – Broke a three-game losing streak which dropped them into third in the West. The Islanders have SFA, Lamar and UTA in their last three games. The prediction here is a 1-2 finish and a No. 6 seed for the tournament.
UTSA – Put together a four-game winning streak which brought the Roadrunners out of the cellar. UTSA is the only team to defeat SHSU and has Lamar, Texas and Stephen F. Austin for its last three games. It looks like a 2-1 finish, and that would be good enough for a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the tournament.
TEXAS STATE – The tide could swing either way for the Bobcats as they have tough three-game stretch to end the season. TSU is on the road against Northwestern State and UTSA, then host Sam Houston. A 1-2 mark could be enough for a berth in the postseason, but 0-3 could spell doom.
LAMAR – A four-game losing streak puts the Cardinals in a must-win situation down the stretch, but Lamar must beat two teams ahead of them (UTSA, A&M-CC) and one tied with them (Nicholls State). If the Cardinals don’t finish 2-1 or better then their dreams of a postseason berth are likely down the drain.
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings as of Feb. 19, 2010
Stephen F. Austin 18-6 (8-3)
SE Louisiana 14-10 (6-5)
Northwestern State 9-15 (4-7)
McNeese State 8-17 (3-8)
Nicholls State 7-17 (3-8)
Central Arkansas 8-17 (2-9)
Sam Houston State 19-5 (11-0)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 13-12 (7-4)
Texas-Arlington 14-10 (6-5)
Texas State 12-13 (6-5)
UT-San Antonio 15-9 (5-6)
Lamar 14-13 (5-6)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
For the third time this season, Sam Houston State University junior Gilberto Clavell has been named Southland Conference Player of the Week. Clavell averaged 20.5 points per game as the Bearkats moved to 11-0 in conference play. Clavell posted his second 30-point performance of the year as SHSU defeated A&M-Corpus Christi on Feb. 13.
SFA – After a two-win week, the Lumberjacks now hold a two-game advantage over second-place Southeastern Louisiana in the SLC East. Those same two teams collide Saturday in Hammond, La., at 3 p.m. SFA then travels to San Marcos to face Texas State on Feb. 24.
SELA – Came out with a 1-1 mark last week in SLC play after defeating Nicholls and falling to Texas-Arlington. The Lions are two games behind SFA and two games ahead of third-place Northwestern State in the SLC East. SELA faces the Lumberjacks at home and A&M-CC on the road this week.
NORTHWESTERN STATE – Breaking a three-game losing streak, the Demons won twice last week and moved ahead of McNeese State and Nicholls State in the SLC East. NW State bounced both Central Arkansas and McNeese State last week and look to continue its inspired play with games against two teams from the SLC West (Lamar and UTSA).
MCNEESE STATE – A four-game losing streak in conference has placed the Cowboys in a tie with Nicholls State at 3-8. Things don’t look too bright for MSU as they face the West’s top two teams in A&M-Corpus Christi (Saturday) and SHSU (Feb. 24).
NICHOLLS STATE – The Colonels have two big losing streaks this season, and one of them is in league play. NSU lost eight straight to begin the season and now have a five-game losing streak in SLC play to put them in fifth in the SLC East. Nicholls faces Texas State and Central Arkansas this week.
UCA – The Bears picked up an inspiring win over UTSA this past week, then fell to Northwestern State and remained at the bottom of the SLC East standings. UCA has a chance to even its conference record with Nicholls State as the two teams face-off Feb. 24.
SHSU – Disposed of second-place A&M-CC with relative ease 90-74 on Feb. 13 and still have an unblemished conference record. Pesky UTSA is next up for SHSU on Saturday, then the Kats face McNeese in Huntsville.
A&M-CC – Fell out of contention for the SLC West title with two losses this last week. The Islanders are 2-4 in their last six conference games. A&M-CC faces two Louisiana schools in McNeese and SELA as they attempt to stay ahead of UTA in the standings.
UTA – Jumped a couple of teams in the West standings and have won six of its last seven conference games. The Mavs have two winnable games against Central Arkansas and Lamar as they try to pass the Islanders and jump into second place.
TEXAS STATE – The Bobcats are pulling out just enough wins to stay right in the middle of the pack in the strong SLC West. Texas State defeated Lamar by 14 on Feb. 13 to move past the Cardinals. They face Nicholls State and Stephen F. Austin this week.
UTSA – Has won three of its last four conference games and moved up a notch in the West with wins over UTA and A&M-Corpus. The Roadrunners battle SHSU and Northwestern State this week – both games are in San Antonio.
LAMAR – The Cardinals were riding a wave of wins until fellow West Division members Texas State and SHSU hung them with two losses. Lamar has Northwestern State and Texas-Arlington on its plate this week as it tries to climb out of the cellar.
Stephen F. Austin dominated Northwestern State on the glass in a 69-59 victory on Feb. 10. The Lumberjacks nearly had as many offensive rebounds (24) as the Demons had total rebounds (28).
Northwestern State’s Will Pratt has scored in double figures in 10 straight games, averaging 17.1 points per game over that time period.
Despite making only 2 of 12 three-point attempts and shooting 10 less free throws than its opponent, UTA outrebounded Southeastern Louisiana by 13 and came out on top 85-73.
Devon Baker scored a season-high 24 points and led Northwestern State to an 82-76 victory over UCA on Feb. 13. Baker has scored in double figures in all but four games and is averaging 13 ppg.
SHSU’s Gilberto Clavell scored 30 points against the Islanders as he went 13 of 17 from the field. Clavell is averaging 20.2 points per game over his last five games.
McNeese State’s Dontae Cannon is averaging only 3.6 points per game, but on Feb. 13 in a loss to SFA, the freshman from Alexandria scored 10 points in 10 minutes of action.
Nicholls State’s Fred Hunter scored a season-high 26 points in a loss to Sam Houston on Feb. 10. Hunter averaged 23.5 points per game this past week.
Central Arkansas continues to be a balanced scoring team as four players score in double figures and one sits as 9.3 points per game.
Sam Houston sits at 11-0 in SLC action this year with five games to play. Only four teams have ever finished the Southland season undefeated: Abilene Christian 1965; Arkansas State 1966; Louisiana Tech 1971; and Arkansas State 1974.
Preston Brown scored a season-high 19 points to lead the Bearkats past Lamar on Feb. 17. This past week, Brown was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Team 2010 All-District honor squad.
UTSA guard Devin Gibson became the 13th player in UTSA history to surpass 1,000 career points. He currently ranks 12th on the Roadrunners’ all-time scoring list.
SHSU senior point guard Ashton Mitchell needs only 14 points to hit 1,000 career points for the Bearkats. Mitchell recently surpasses Donald Cole for 21st on SHSU’s all-time list.
Marquez Haynes continues to lead the SLC with 23.6 points per game, a figure that ranks third nationally behind Houston’s Aubrey Coleman (25.6) and Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody (24.1).
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings as of Feb. 5, 2010
Stephen F. Austin 16-5 (6-2)
SE Louisiana 13-8 (5-3)
McNeese State 8-13 (3-4)
Nicholls State 7-14 (3-5)
Northwestern State 7-13 (2-5)
Central Arkansas 7-15 (1-7)
Sam Houston State 15-5 (7-0)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 11-10 (5-2)
Lamar 12-11 (4-4)
Texas State 10-12 (4-4)
Texas-Arlington 11-9 (3-4)
UT-San Antonio 12-8 (2-5)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Southeastern Louisiana big man Patrick Sullivan was named the SLC Player of the Week after averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in wins over Nicholls State and Central Arkansas. Sullivan is a 6’9 senior from Florida, and scored a career-high 27 points against the Colonels to go with 12 rebounds. It was the 18th double-double of the year for Sullivan. The two scoring outbursts by Sullivan moved him into 11th place on the school’s all-time scoring list.
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE
In the battle of unbeatens, Sam Houston State defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 70-58 and is the only team in the Southland Conference with a perfect record in league play.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN – With two victories last week, not only do he ‘Jacks still sit at the top of the SLC East (6-2), but have now reeled off five straight wins in SLC play. SFA downed McNeese State in Lake Charles, then pulled out a one-point overtime victory over Nicholls State on Feb. 3. The ‘Jacks face two middle-of-the-road teams in Lamar and Northwestern State this week.
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA – Trying to keep pace with East Division-leading SFA, the Lions won both games last week with relatively easy wins over Nicholls State (84-65) and Texas State (75-66). SELA trailed TSU at halftime, but outscored the Bobcats by 12 in the second half. The Lions go up against UTSA and Nicholls State this week.
MCNEESE STATE – Jumped past Nicholls State in the SLC East by going 1-1 this past week. The Cowboys snapped a two-game SLC losing streak with a 92-85 victory over NW State in Natchitoches. McNeese will head from Louisiana to Texas this week with games against Texas State and UTA.
NICHOLLS STATE – Started another two-game losing streak with losses at home against SELA and on the road to Stephen F. Austin. The loss to SFA was particularly tough in that the Colonels got 38 points from Anatoly Bose. NSU faces two Texas schools in A&M-CC and Sam Houston State this week.
NORTHWESTERN STATE – Picked up a nice win against Central Arkansas (74-68) then had a letdown at home in losing to McNeese State 92-85. The Demons will face a tough Texas duo in Texas-Arlington and SFA this week.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS – The struggle continues in Southland Conference play for the Bears, who have now lost four straight in conference play and 10 of 12 overall. UCA travels to Huntsville to face SHSU, then hosts UTSA.
SAM HOUSTON STATE – The Bearkats were forced to scramble after trailing the Islanders by 15 early in the first half, but came out on top 70-58 to become the only undefeated team in the Southland. SHSU hosted UTSA and pulled out a six-point win to sit at 7-0. SHSU hosts Central Arkansas then hits the road to test Nicholls State.
A&M-CC – The Islanders coasted out to a 15-point lead against rival Sam Houston State, then the wheels fell of and A&M-CC took its first loss of the season, 70-58. Things didn’t get much better as they were defeated by UTA on the road four nights later. Nicholls State and Texas State stand in the way of the Islanders getting back in the win column this week.
LAMAR – After winning two games against UTA and McNeese State, the Cardinals fell back to Earth with three straight losses to the Islanders, Bobcats and Bearkats. Important games loom against UTSA (Jan. 30) and Central Arkansas (Feb. 3).
TEXAS STATE – After two inspiring wins at the end of January, the Bobcats came crashing back to Earth as they lost to UTA and SELA. Things don’t get any easier for TSU as they compete against McNeese and A&M-Corpus Christi this week.
UTA – Two wins against Texas State and A&M-CC have the Mavericks feeling good and they could steady the ship with Northwestern State and McNeese on the horizon this week. Plus, the Mavs have welcomed back senior leader Tommy Moffit.
UTSA – How the mighty have fallen! The Roadrunners started conference play with two wins, but have now lost their last five games and are in the West cellar. A tough game against Southeastern Louisiana looms ahead, then UTSA might get a reprieve when they face Central Arkansas.
Texas State’s Cameron Johnson strung together three games where he averaged 22.3 points per game and 12 rebounds, but crashed against SELA with eight points and two rebounds.
UTA’s Mr. Everything Marquez Haynes was “held” to 21 and 20 points, respectively, after going off for 32 points against non-conference foe Houston Baptist.
Lamar sophomore Anthony Miles never stepped off the court in two wins last week. Miles played all 40 minutes against UTSA and had 19 points and six assists, then 40 minutes against UCA and had 14 points and four assists.
An odd two games for UTSA… First the Roadrunners lost to Lamar as they were outrebounded 37-23 and placed only one player, Morris Smith IV, in double figures (19). Then UTSA outrebounded SHSU 35-29 and had five players in double figures, but still lost the game.
Not a great free-throw shooting team as they are hit 69 percent of their charity tosses, SHSU made 17 of 18 (95 percent) against A&M-CC and 15 of 18 against UTSA (83 percent).
After scoring 0 and 11 points in his two previous games, SHSU forward Gilberto Clavell went off for 27 against UTSA.
A&M-Corpus Christi’s Kevin Palmer (21 games) and UTA’s Marquez Haynes (20 games) have both scored in double figures in every game this season.
Nicholls State forward Anatoly Bose hit for 38 points in a loss to SFA on Feb. 3, but that wasn’t his high for the year (46 points on Jan. 23). Bose is on a scoring tear right now averaging 32.7 points per game in the last four games.
Patrick Sullivan and Trent Hutchin each scored a career-high 27 points and Southeastern Louisiana beat Nicholls State 84-65 on Jan. 30.
Texas State junior Tony Bishop scored a season-high 19 points against SELA on Feb. 3. Bishop averages 7.4 points per game.
P.J. Alawoya was a difference maker in McNeese State’s win over Northwestern State on Feb. 3. The 6’7 junior from Alief Hastings HS scored 13 points and pulled down a season-high 16 rebounds.
Both Will Pratt (Northwestern State) and Tadre Sheppard (Central Arkansas) filled up the box score as the Demons prevailed 74-68. Pratt had a season-high 29 points to go with eight rebounds, while Sheppard scored 17 points, had 11 rebounds and five steals.
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings (as of Dec. 30, 2009)
Stephen F. Austin 9-3
SE Louisiana 7-4
Northwestern St. 5-6
McNeese State 5-7
Central Arkansas 5-7
Nicholls State 4-9
Sam Houston 8-4
A&M Corpus 5-6
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, Jan. 9
Stephen F. Austin at Sam Houston State, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 13
Southeastern Louisiana at Northwestern State, 7 p.m.
Impact Newcomer.Rodney Jones (G), Jr, Southeastern Louisiana
What You Need To Know. The Southland is comprised of twelve schools over three states (you can probably figure them out from the schools’ names). The conventional wisdom says that the league is “West-heavy,” though we feel that’s giving Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State a little less credit than they deserve. Stephen F. Austin was last year’s representative in the NCAA Tournament but they lost their two best players from last year (actually, the conference’s last two Players-Of-The-Year!), Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley. And, with transfers and new freshmen, half of their personnel are totally new. Since the 1985 NCAA Tournament, the Southland’s tournament representatives have logged only two wins in the Big Dance, both by Northwestern State: 2001′s play-in game against Winthrop, and that thriller against #3-seed Iowa in 2006.
Predicted Champion.Sam Houston State (NCAA Seed: #14). Ashton Mitchell and Corey Allmond are a formidable guard combo who blend together seamlessly; Mitchell was 8th in the nation in assists (6.5 APG) last season and averaged 12.5 PPG as well, while Allmond is more than happy to accept those dimes from Mitchell as the leading returning scorer (15.3 PPG) on the team and ranking 4th in the conference in 3FG% (43.4). Senior forward Preston Brown will see a rise in minutes and touches as the main inside scoring threat though he’ll be partnered with Gilberto Clavell, a promising junior college transfer.
There is no RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference, but we’re still taking applications.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Stephen F. Austin (18-9, 12-4)
Northwestern St. (18-13, 10-6)
SE Louisiana (14-15, 9-7)
McNeese St. (12-17, 8-8)
Central Arkansas (10-19, 4-12)
Nicholls St. (8-21, 4-12)
UT-Arlington (19-10, 11-5)
Lamar (16-13, 11-5)
UT-San Antonio (15-13, 10-6)
Sam Houston St. (13-16, 7-9)
Texas A&M-CC (9-21, 5-11)
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.
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.
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?
WYN2K. On its surface, the Southland appears to be an improving league. Over the last three seasons, the league has won progressively more games against OOC D1 opponents (26/33/41) for an overall record of 100-212 (.321) during this period. Additionally, while the league has been a #16 seed in six of the last eleven NCAA Tourneys, it has earned a higher seed five of the last six years (#14/#15/#16/#15/#14/#15). The #14 seed in 2006 (Northwestern St.) paid off with one of the biggest upsets of that year’s tournament, as the Demons defeated #3 Iowa 64-63 in miraculous fashion (see below). We think that the competitive balance among the top of the league this year will allow the Southland to continue to earn a higher seed than #16.
Predicted Champion. Sam Houston St. (#15 seed NCAA). There are five teams who we figure can win this league, but out of the group, we like SHSU’s experience returning along with POY candidate Ryan Bright. Bright is a stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire – he finished in the top 250 players nationally last year in several categories, including eFG% (183), dReb% (120), blocks% (161) and steals% (178). The Bearkats were poised to challenge Texas A&M-CC last year before a first-round conference tournament upset at the hands of Lamar.
Others Considered. Texas-Arlington is a rising program, returning everyone of consequence from a team that won eight of its last eleven games last year. Still, we’re not completely sold on a team that had a losing record (13-17). Lamar is another intriguing team, as they return four starters and have brought in a couple of juco PGs to battle over that position, but again, they only went 15-17 last year. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi lost nearly everyone from a team that gave Wisconsin a huge scare last year in the NCAAs (Tx A&M-CC was up 25-7 at one point), but the one key player they return (7’0 Chris Daniels) was last season’s conference POY and tournament MVP. Northwestern St. can’t be counted out either, as they always seem to find themselves in the conference mix, having been to five of the last eight Southland title games.
Games to Watch. Again, only one Southland game will be on the national radar.
Southland Championship Game (03.16.08). ESPN2.
RPI Booster Games. The Southland hasn’t shied away from scheduling BCS teams, with 34 on the agenda this season. Last year the conference defeated three BCS bottom-dwellers (Texas A&M – CC over South Florida; SE Lousiana over Oregon St. and Penn St.), and there are some similar opportunities this year.
Northwestern St. @ Stanford (11.10.07)
Texas Tech @ Sam Houston St. (11.14.07)
Lamar @ Mississippi (11.16.07)
Northwestern St. @ LSU (12.15.07)
Mississippi St. @ Texas A&M – CC (12.21.07)
Texas A&M – CC @ Auburn (01.02.08)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.Slim to none. Had Texas A&M-CC not lost just about everyone, we could have made an argument for their inclusion as an at-large and likely 26-4 team, but that’s not the case. This is a one-bid league.
Neat-o Stat.Nicholls St. apparently believes in stomping on its players’ throats and eviscerating their spleens trial by fire, as its nonconference schedule last year was rated #17 by Pomeroy and it is on target for that level of difficulty again. Last year the Colonels played Mississippi St., Northern Iowa, Washington, Pepperdine, LSU, Texas, Ole Miss, Auburn and Vanderbilt, losing every game. This year NSU will play the likes of Florida St., California, LSU, Alabama, UNC, Minnesota and UNLV – all on the road, all before the new year, and all likely Ls. Hard to build much confidence that way.
64/65-Team Era. The Southland is 4-23 (.148) in the era, but those four wins are a little misleading – two of the wins were from Karl Malone’s Louisiana Tech team in 1985 that went to the Sweet 16, and one of the wins is from the PiG in 2001 (Northwestern St. defeated Winthrop 71-67). The only other first-round win was mentioned above – Northwestern St. over Iowa in 2006.
We’ll Take Any Excuse to Bust Out this Pic
Final Thought. The champion of this league is a team to watch next March. Last year, Texas A&M – CC gave Wisconsin all it wanted for 30 minutes. The previous year we know what happened to Iowa at the hands of Northwestern St. And in 2005 #2 Oklahoma St. struggled against #15 SE Louisiana before pulling away to win 63-50. The championship-caliber teams that come out of this league can play, especially against the Big 10 (it seems)!