Conference Tournament Primer: Southland Conference

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 12th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with yet 10 more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Southland, SWAC, Mountain West and Atlantic 10.

Dates: March 12-15
Site: Merrell Center (Katy, TX)

Sthland

What to expect: It would be shocking if Stephen F. Austin fails to win this tournament. The Lumberjacks are one of only three teams to go undefeated in conference play this season, dominating Southland opponents by more than 16 points per game and winning 12 of their 18 league contests by double-figure margins. In fact, Brad Underwood’s club has not lost a game of any kind since before Thanksgiving, a streak of 26 straight. They are the most offensively and defensively efficient team in the conference and rank 101 KenPom spots higher than any other Southland member. Put simply — SFA should further extend its impressive winning streak and punch a ticket to the Dance here, its first since 2009.

FavoriteStephen F. Austin. For all the reasons mentioned above, the Lumberjacks are the overwhelming, odds-on favorite in Katy this weekend.

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O26 Game of the Week: VCU Visits Saint Louis in Defensive Clash

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 12th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Virginia Commonwealth (19-5) at Saint Louis (22-2) – 2:00 PM ET, ESPN2, Saturday

This game punctuates what could be a decisive week in the Atlantic 10. If VCU can take down George Washington on Wednesday night, it will claim sole possession of second place and remain just two games back of Saint Louis heading into Saturday. A victory would pull Shaka Smart’s club within a game of the top spot, setting the stage for a crucial rematch on March 1st; a loss would give the Billikens an overwhelming advantage over the rest of the league, nearly guaranteeing a second-straight regular season title. And conference implications aside, this game offers each team—both stingy-defensive units with second-weekend potential—the opportunity to notch a resume-bolstering victory just one month out from Selection Sunday. A lot will be at stake in Chaifetz Arena.

VCU travels to Saint Louis for an enormous Atlantic 10 tilt. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

VCU travels to Saint Louis for an enormous Atlantic 10 tilt. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

If last year was any indication, Saint Louis should have no problem handling VCU and its HAVOC defense, which is predicated on forcing turnovers and scoring points in transition. In their only regular season meeting of 2013, the Billikens—who run a slow-paced, ball-control offense—broke the Rams’ press time after time down the floor, committing just eight turnovers and getting countless easy looks under the basket. In turn, VCU was unable to get anything in the way of transition buckets—a huge problem against a dominant half-court defense adept at taking away the three point shot, the Rams’ next-best scoring method. Saint Louis coasted to a 14-point home victory in that one and validated it a month later in the A-10 Championship game, again staving off VCU’s pressure on its way to claiming the league’s postseason crown.

So, then, what hope could the Rams possibly have this year, on the road against virtually the same team? Well, for starters, the Billikens have been skating on the thin ice in recent weeks. Three of their last five games have been one possession contests in the final minute of regulation, including an overtime home victory over then-winless George Mason. They won all three—part of a current 16-game winning streak—but showed slight vulnerabilities on defense and at times struggled to score. If Saint Louis continues playing with fire, odds say it will eventually get burned. Plus, this season’s Billikens aren’t quite the offensive team they were a year ago (scoring at a modestly lower rate), and VCU is even better on defense. Anytime a middle-of-the-pack offense meets an elite defense, the former is probably going to have trouble at various points in the game. Of course, the same can be said for VCU’s offense and Saint Louis’ defense, but the point remains: the Rams certainly have a chance. And if they do manage to pull one out on the road, the A-10 will become a whole lot more interesting.

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Southland Race Gets More Interesting With Mandated Forfeitures

Posted by Adam Stillman on January 9th, 2014

Man, what a crazy season it’s been for the Southland Conference. It’s only January, but the league has already found itself in the news a couple of times, and that’s without any shocking upsets. It started in early December when Oral Roberts announced it would return to its original stomping grounds — the Summit League — for the 2014-15 season. Then it was announced on Wednesday that Stephen F. Austin and Oral Roberts would be forfeiting games based on a misunderstanding of NCAA scheduling rules.

Stephen F. Austin (pictured) and Oral Roberts will be forfeiting Southland Conference games. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

Stephen F. Austin (SFA, pictured) and Oral Roberts will be forfeiting Southland Conference games. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

That about explains it all right there. Basically NCAA Division I programs aren’t allowed to play more than four games against non-Division I programs in any given year, regardless of whether they’re exhibition or regular season contests. To date, Stephen F. Austin has played two regular season games and one exhibition contest against non-D-I opponents, while Oral Roberts has faced a four non-D-I teams in the exhibition and regular seasons. That’s not more than four, you might say, so what’s the beef? Alas, a pair of Southland Conference teams will count against that tally. With Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word transitioning from Division II to Division I this season, those two programs still technically count as non-Division I programs. After playing Abilene Christian on January 30 (its fourth) Stephen F. Austin will forfeit a home game to Incarnate Word on February 1 (its fifth), while Oral Roberts will forfeit a January 16 game at Abilene Christian (its fifth) and a January 18 contest at Incarnate Word (its sixth).

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Oral Roberts’ Win Over Tulsa: Foreshadowing For a Big Season?

Posted by Eli Linton on November 11th, 2013

Eli Linton is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Oral Roberts vs. Tulsa game on Sunday.

A bigger upset than you might think happened in a relatively obscure part of the mid-major world on Sunday when  Oral Roberts celebrated a 74-68 non-conference road victory on the floor of their cross-town rival, Tulsa. Oral Roberts was able to overcome an abysmal shooting night (38 percent from the field) and the loss of Shawn Glover, their lone senior (fouled out with four minutes left in the game), and they did it by outrebounding the Golden Hurricane by 17 rebounds despite not having a starter over 6′ 7″. Tulsa also did its part by missing 19 free throws and going a horrific 1-of-9 from three-point territory.

Scott Sutton and his squad earned a quality win to start the season. (AP)

Scott Sutton and his squad earned a quality win to start the season. (AP)

It was a sloppy game by both teams — what you might expect for a season opener — but there were also some important takeaways from this game. Both programs found themselves in a similar place before their 49th meeting: They are coached by men who come from Bill Self’s growing coaching tree, and can’t help but bring great expectations with that experience. Both schools have tasted some historical NCAA Tournament success and are looking to end long droughts, and both programs find themselves under a lot of pressure to produce for fan bases that measure success through conference championships and NCAA berths. The two schools are even more connected by the fact that they are mid-major schools from the same city, usually lost in the preseason discussion of potential “Cinderella” teams that are doing their best to keep that dream alive and stay relevant in the never-ending realignment of the power conferences. Each will need to win its conference championship to have any hope of earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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O26 Primers: Conference USA, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC and WAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 9th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

With three conference tournaments concluding last night, it is only appropriate that five more get underway today. Conference USA and the Southland Conference are two of the most balanced leagues in the nation, while the WAC and Mountain West were just the opposite as they were dominated at the top. The SWAC is always a bit of a mystery come Championship Week and tournament time, but Texas Southern is the class of the league this year and will no doubt do their best to bring respect to the league if they are fortunate enough to advance to the Dance.

Conference USA

The Favorite: UAB won the regular season title with a 12-4 record, but that means very little in the ultra competitive CUSA this season as five teams are just behind the Blazers. There is something to be said though about UAB’s strong play down the stretch and the steady play of Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore. These reasons alone amidst several injuries that Mike Davis‘ club has overcome makes UAB the slight favorite over the rest of the bunch.

Dark Horse: Southern Mississippi is one the teams that are nipping at UAB’s heels. Although they fell in their last three games of the regular season, Larry Eustachy’s squad proved throughout the year they can beat anyone in the conference. Having Gary Flowers roam around the pain never hurts either.

Who’s Hot: UAB has won their last four games and seven of eight heading into the tournament. As well as UAB is playing, it would be very easy for that to stop on a dime. Throughout each week during the conference schedule, it appeared that one team in CUSA was emerging as the top dog, but they would quickly fade. Can UAB keep their streak going all the way into the NCAA Tournament?

Player to Watch: Papa Dia, Southern Methodist’s senior forward all the way from Senegal, is enjoying the best season of his career as he is averaging 18.5 points and 9 rebounds a game. In each of the previous three seasons, SMU has been below .500; Dia and his teammates clearly have something to prove in this tournament.

First-Round UpsetCentral Florida over East Carolina. UCF was the nation’s favorite story in the early going as they jumped out to a 14-0 record with wins over Florida, Miami (FL), and Princeton. The Knights then went onto lose eight straight games, thus proving that their early success was a fluke. Now, UCF has won five of seven games and if they can regain that success they had in those 14 games, a victory over East Carolina is absolutely within reach.

How’d They Fare? After going 7-9 in the conference, Houston caught fire in the tournament to surprise everyone by winning the title. In doing so, the Cougars stole a bid from a team on the bubble and earned a #13 seed in the Tournament where they lost to Maryland 89-77. UTEP—the team Houston beat to advance onward—was trounced by Butler as a #12 seed.

Interesting Fact: The last team to win an NCAA Tournament game hailing from Conference USA not named Memphis was Louisville in the 2005 Tournament. The ‘Ville advanced all the way to the Final Four that year where they lost to Illinois 57-52 in the semifinals. Both UAB and Cincinnati also won Tournament games that year.

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