Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by jstevrtc on January 29th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings as of Jan. 29, 2009:

EAST

  1. Stephen F. Austin 14-5 (4-2)
  2. SE Louisiana 11-8 (3-3)
  3. Nicholls State 7-12 (3-3)
  4. McNeese State 7-12 (2-3)
  5. Northwestern State 6-12 (1-4)
  6. Central Arkansas 7-13 (1-5)

WEST

  1. Sam Houston State 13-5 (5-0)
  2. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 11-8 (5-0)
  3. Texas State 10-10 (4-2)
  4. UT-San Antonio 12-6 (2-3)
  5. Lamar 10-11 (2-4)
  6. Texas-Arlington 9-9 (1-4)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi forward Kevin Palmer was named the SLC Player of the Week after extending his scoring in double figures to 40 games with a season-high 32 points in a victory over Lamar last Wednesday. Palmer then came through with 18 points in an overtime win over UTSA. This is the second league player of the week honor for the senior from Baltimore, Maryland.

UNBEATENS

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Sam Houston State sit atop the Southland Conference with identical 5-0 marks. The two teams have a showdown on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Corpus Christi for unbeaten supremacy.

TEAM UPDATES

EAST

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN – The ‘Jacks sit at the top of the SLC East, one game ahead of Southeastern Louisiana. Both of the Lumberjacks’ losses in conference play have come on the road to SHSU and Nicholls State, respectively. The ‘Jacks have a three-game conference winning streak as they overpowered Southeastern Louisiana in Nacogdoches by 11 and took down Northwestern State by 10 on the road.

SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA – After starting conference play 2-0, they lost three straight before picking up a seven-point win over Central Arkansas on Jan. 27. SELA will have to travel to Nicholls State then host Texas State this week.

NICHOLLS STATE – A Jekyll and Hyde team, the Colonels can’t seem to string any wins together on a consistent basis. NSU’s leading scorer, Anatoly Bose (18.8 PPG) was held to six points in the loss to UCA. NSU faces the East’s top two teams this week in SELA (Jan. 30) and SFA (Feb. 3).

MCNEESE STATE – Halted a five-game (non-conference and SLC play) skid by beating SELA, 71-67, on Jan. 20, then lost to Nicholl State by two on Jan. 27.  The Cowboys face streaky Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State this week.

NORTHWESTERN STATE – Picked up its initial SLC win with a 99-98 win over Nicholls State on Jan. 23. The Demons have lost nine of their last 11 dating back to a Dec. 12 setback at the hands of LSU. NW State could pick up a couple of wins as they face Central Arkansas (Jan. 30) and McNeese State (Feb. 3).

CENTRAL ARKANSAS - The Bears picked up their first Southland Conference win of the year (64-50) against Nicholls State as former Bear and NBA great Scottie Pippen looked on. UCA retired Pippen’s No. 33 uniform at halftime. Pippen was a two-time NAIA All-American for UCA and delivered a pregame talk to the Bears. They promptly lost two more games to McNeese and SELA.

WEST

SAM HOUSTON STATE – The Bearkats are riding a five-game SLC win streak and have won eight of their last 10 games. In those five SLC games, the ‘Kats are beating their opponent by 15 PPG on average. Sam Houston hits the road for a big game Saturday as they face fellow unbeaten A&M-Corpus, then they host UTSA.

TA&M-CC – The only other unbeaten in the conference, the Islanders have put together a six-game SLC winning streak. The streak comes on the heels of A&M-CC losing six of seven games before picking up a league win against UCA. After the SHSU tilt, the Islanders hit the road to test UTA.

TEXAS STATE – The Bobcats have come as bit of a surprise after starting the season 3-8. TSU has won three of its last four conference games and can separate itself a little from the middle of the pack with games against UTA (Jan. 30) and SELA (Feb. 3).

UTSA – Has lost three straight in league play after winning its first two games. Lost a close four-point game to league-leading A&M-Corpus Christi, then took it on the chin by 14 points against Texas State. The Roadrunners need to pick up at least one victory over Lamar or SHSU 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).

UTA – The Mavericks haven’t found their rhythm as they have lost two consecutive SLC games twice this year. They took a day off from SLC play to defeat Houston Baptist, but face hot teams in Texas State and A&M-CC this week.

BOXSCORE BREAKDOWN

Stephen F. Austin had four players in double figures and shot 57% from the field in the second half to escape with a 10-point victory over Northwestern State on Jan. 27. Eddie Williams, Walt Harris and Jereal Scott all score in double digits for the Lumberjacks.

DeShawn Patterson tied a career high with 17 points and Southeastern Louisiana held off Central Arkansas on Jan. 27.

Anatoly Bose scored a Southland Conference season-high 46 points, but the Nicholls State Colonels fell 99-98 in double overtime to Northwestern State on Jan. 23.  Bose then went off for 23 points and 11 rebounds in a victory over McNeese State.

McNeese State – Held UCA to 28% from the field, including 19 percent from three-point land in a 15-point win on Jan. 23.

Devon Baker hit a free throw with one second left to give Northwestern State a 99-98 win over Nicholls State in double overtime on Jan. 23. In the overtime win, Damon Jones scored a season-high 25 points, then came back with only one point in a loss to SFA.

Mike Rueter has come strong in the last few SLC games for UCA. The 6’6 senior from Batesville, Arkansas is averaging 14.5 PPG in the last four games and 11.7 PPG on the year.

A battle of two of the top offensive threats in the league played out with Sam Houston’s Gilberto Clavell scoring 25 points to go with 10 rebounds as SHSU beat UTA by three points on Jan. 23.  Marquez Haynes, leading the league with 24.5 PPG, had 23 for UTA.

SHSU sophomore Antuan Bootle posted double-figure rebounds in two of the last three games. Bootle had 12 rebounds in 20 mintues of action against Texas State, and 11 boards in 15 minutes against Lamar.

A&M-CC’s Demond Watt has heated up and scored in double-figures in 12 straight games to push his season average to 11.9 PPG. Watt tied a season-high with 13 rebounds against non-conference foe UT-Pan American on Jan. 25.

Texas State had six players in double figures in an overtime victory against Lamar on Jan. 23. Cameron Johnson had 24 points and 15 rebounds, and is averaging 16.6 PPG in conference play.

Devin Gibson had a season-high nine assists for UTSA in a loss to the Islanders. Gibson was two rebounds and one assist away from a triple-double.

Lamar’s Justin Nabors had a string of double figure scoring games snapped at 12 when he scored nine in a 90-63 blowout loss to SHSU. Nabors is close to averaging a double-double as he scores at a 13.7 PPG clip and pulls 9.7 RPG.

UTA guard Marquez Haynes netted his sixth 30-point game this year as he tossed in 32 points in a non-conference win over Houston Baptist. Haynes also dished out a season- and career-high nine assists in the victory.

The Mavericks welcomed back senior forward Tommy Moffit from a broken foot. The 6’5 Moffit missed 11 games, but came back against Houston Baptist to play 16 minutes.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Saturday, Jan. 30

Sam Houston at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 3

Texas State at Southeastern Louisiana, 7 p.m.

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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by jstevrtc on January 16th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings as of Jan. 15, 2009:

EAST

  1. SE Louisiana 10-5 (2-0)
  2. Stephen F. Austin 11-4 (1-1)
  3. Nicholls State 5-10 (1-1)
  4. McNeese State 5-10 (0-1)
  5. Central Arkansas 6-10 (0-2)
  6. Northwestern State 5-10 (0-2)

WEST

  1. UT-San Antonio 12-3 (2-0)
  2. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 7-8 (2-0)
  3. Sam Houston State 9-5 (1-0)
  4. Lamar 9-8 (1-1)
  5. Texas State 7-9 (1-1)
  6. Texas-Arlington 7-7 (0-2)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Sam Houston State University power forward Gilberto Clavell recently earned his second Player of the Week honor. The 6’7 junior scored 21 points and ripped down 12 rebonds in the Bearkats’ 66-57 Southland Conference opening win over Stephen F. Austin on Jan. 9.  Clavell and UTA’s Marquez Haynes are the only two players in the SLC to have won the award two times.

MID-MAJOR POLL

The Southland Conference is well represented in The CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll heading into league play. Texas-San Antonio, off to a 12-3 start, is ranked No. 22, while Sam Houston State University and Stephen F. Austin were listed among others receiving votes.

OFF TO A GOOD START

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, UTSA, Sam Houston and Southeastern Louisiana are the four unbeaten teams in the conference after the opening week, while Central Arkansas, Northwestern State and UT-Arlington have yet to pick up a win.

TEAM UPDATES

EAST

SE LOUISIANA – Opened SLC play by thumping Lamar by 22 points, then eased past Northwestern State on the road, 70-64. We’ll see if the Lions can make a stand this week as they face SHSU at home, then travel to Lake Charles to face McNeese State.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN – Things didn’t get off to a good start for the ‘Jacks as they were defeated in Huntsville, 66-57, in the 181st meeting between SFA and SHSU. Stephen F. Austin bounced back with a 15-point victory over Central Arkansas. They will take on Nicholls State in Thibodeaux, then host UTA.

NICHOLLS STATE – Played two close games to open its SLC season, beating Northwestern State by seven, then losing to UTSA by five. The Colonels will play SFA and Central Arkansas in the second week of conference play.

MCNEESE STATE – Got off to a bad start in conference action with a 78-69 loss to UTSA, but the Cowboys played well against the 12-3 Roadrunners. Nearly every stat was close, except McNeese let UTSA shoot it too well from the field (49%). The Pokes head west to face Lamar, then back to Louisiana for a showdown with Southeastern Louisiana.

CENTRAL ARKANSAS – Began SLC action 0-2 with a five-point loss to 2-0 A&M-Corpus and a 15-point defeat at the hands of SFA. The game with TA&M-CC was tied 51-51 with 1:50 to play, but the Islanders pulled away with great free throw shooting.

NORTHWESTERN ST. – Also started league play with a rocky start, losing to fellow Louisianans Nicholls State and Southeastern. The Demons led by six at the half against Nicholls State, but were outscored 43-30 in the second half. A&M-Corpus and Nicholls State are on tap next for the Demons.

WEST

UTSA – Still the class of the conference thus far. The Roadrunners beat two schools from Louisiana (McNeese and Nicholls) to begin at 2-0. UTSA is off to its best start since the 2001-20002 season. UTSA faces UTA in Arlington, then hosts A&M-Corpus.

TA&M-CC – Depsite being 5-8 heading in SLC play, the Roadrunners won against Central Arkansas and Texas State to open up 2-0. Kevin Palmer hit 11 of 12 free throws in the game and scored eights points down the stretch to give Corpus the win. The Roadrunners have a legitimate chance go 4-0 as they play Northwestern State and Lamar.

SHSU – Played only one SLC game, but came away with a big win over arch-rival SFA in Huntsville. Held the Lumberjacks to 12% shooting from beyond the arc, while SLC Player of the Week Gilbert Clavell scored 21 points to go with 12 rebounds. The Bearkats hit the road against 2-0 SELA, then host Texas State.

LAMAR – Managed to go 1-1 as it started conference play losing to SELA, then downed UTA. All things point to another 1-1 mark as the Cardinals face McNeese and A&M-Corpus in the coming week. Lamar got bad news this week when it was learned that senior forward Ashton Hall would require season-ending knee surgery.

TEXAS STATE —  Surprised some with a four-point victory on the road against UTA. The Bobcats then lost at home to A&M Corpus. TSU faces Central Arkansas at home and travels to SHSU.

UT-ARLINGTON – A disappointing 0-2 mark left the Mavericks in the cellar in the SLC West. UTA fell at home to Texas State and on the road to Lamar. Senior Marquez Haynes continues to be the only real scoring threat for the Mavs as he averaged 21.5 PPG in the losses. Senior forward Tommy Moffitt has missed eight games with a broken foot and will be out another three to four weeks.

BOXSCORE BREAKDOWN

SELA torched the nets at a 61% clip from the field and 56% from 3-point land in the win over Lamar.

Northwestern State shot a miserable 31% from the field in a loss to SELA, and point guard Mike McConathy continued to have problems putting the ball in the hole. McConathy was 1-10 against the Lions and is shooting only 29% for the year.

In the win over Central Arkansas, the Lumberjacks outrebounded the Bears 28-16 to offset a distinct free throw advantage by Central Arkansas, who shot ten more shots from the charity stripe.

Nicholls State had three players score 20 or more points in the victory over Northwestern State. Kellan Carter and Anatoly Bose played all 40 mintues, while Chris Iles logged 35 mintues.

A&M-Corpus Christi made 19 of 23 free throws, while Central Arkansas hit only three of 11 as the Islanders made away with the win.

The number 14 was lucky for UTSA against Nicholls State. Devin Gibson, Omar Johnson and Morris Smith IV all pitched in 14 points, while Terry Fields netted 13 in a 64-59 victory.

Junior Josten Crow was a big reason Sam Houston State beat SFA on Jan. 9.  At just 6’4, Crow scored 14 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Crow also dished out six assists and had three steals.

Lamar’s Donley Minor scored a career-high 16 points to help Lamar past UTA. Minor’s scoring average this year was 3.1 PPG before he went off for 16.

Junior Anatoly Bose picked up his seventh straight 20 point game as he scored 24 points in a loss to UTSA.

As conference play begins and defenses start to stiffen, individual scoring may plummet. Fred Hunter (Nicholls State) and Marquez Haynes (UTA) each scored 25 points in their respective games and had the high-point total during the first week of action.

Texas State and Texas-Arlington combined to shoot a dismal 23% (8-34) from 3-point land in Texas State’s win on Jan. 9.

In Southland Conference play, TAM-CC’s Kevin Palmer is on fire – from the free-throw line. The senior from Baltimore has made 23 of 27 shots (85%) from the charity stripe.

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After the Buzzer: Sunday Doldrums

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2009

atb

Story of the Day. Are the Heels Overrated? Only at places like UNC would we be asking questions like this, but after UNC sleptwalked through a tougher-than-it-shoulda-been home win 88-77 against Valparaiso today, it begs the question — are they overrated?  Most of the top teams have been busy annihilating their opponents, but other than against North Carolina Central, UNC has allowed vastly inferior teams like FIU and Valpo to hang around much longer than they should.  One quote from point guard Larry Drew II really seemed to hit home with us: when asked about pre-game intensity, Drew said, “honestly, I thought everything was all good, but Coach kind of told us before the game, ‘It seems like you lacked a little intensity out there for the shootaround.'”  As the point guard and unofficial team leader, Drew should be able to read his team better than that, and it really makes us wonder whether he has the chops to become the leader this team ultimately needs.  Carolina was never seriously threatened with a loss, but the Heels allowed 7-10 shooting from deep in the second half, and Brandon Wood (30 pts with six threes) lit their perimeter defense up.  It seems that we’re not the only ones who realize that things in Carolina Nation aren’t quite up to snuff yet (and honestly, after losing what they lost, why would they be???), but this weekend’s twin tilts against Ohio State and either Syracuse or California will give us a better sense as to the answer to the above question.

Upset of the Day. UT-San Antonio 62, Iowa 50. It’s not often that a Southland team wins a game on a Big Ten team’s home floor, so even though it’s abundantly clear that Iowa is down (way down), this is still the choice.  UTSA used a 17-3 run to open the second half and their experience was able to hold off the much younger Hawkeyes down the stretch as they repeatedly made mini-runs.  Despite outrebounding the Roadrunners by twelve boards, Iowa had trouble finding the basket to the tune of 34% from the field and 19% from deep.  Not to sterotype or anything, but we thought this was Iowa, you know, where kids can shoot the ball.  Morris Smith, IV, led the way for UTSA with 16/4, but it was a balanced attack that did the trick for this team, as five of the seven players who saw playing time scored in double figures.  This is the second win over a BCS conference team this weekend for a Southland team, as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi nailed Oregon State on Friday night.

RTC Live. Tulsa 81, FIU 49.  This game was an impressive win for Tulsa, and Jerome Jordan is one of the most impressive big men I have ever seen in person, Simply a dominating presence on both ends of the court — 12 points on 7 shots and 6 blocks in 24 minutes. I would be shocked if he was not a first round pick, or even a lottery pick. Tulsa is hungry, disciplined, well-coached, and a force to be reckoned with in Conference USA. This is their year to capture the Conference title. FIU, in contrast, was abysmal, shooting 21% from the field and 15% from beyond the arc. Only Marvin Roberts had double figure points with 18, and that came off  of 4-16 shooting. They were undersized and not very physical on either end of the floor. At one point during the game, Isiah Thomas was upset and said loud enough for press row to hear that Tulsa had “no class” for continuing to play its stars, but afterwards in the media interview room, he backed off those comments.  Regardless, he has a lot of work to do before this team is even respectable, but I expect him to make this team much better in the coming years with his experience and incoming recruits (h/t RTC correspondent Eli Linton).

Other Games of National Interest.

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After the Buzzer: Threedonkulous…

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2009

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Well, if there’s over 100 games in one night, you’re going to have some interesting storylines through sheer volume, and sure enough, we had a little bit of everything this evening.

Story of the NightArkansas 130, Alcorn State 68Rotnei Clarke reached ‘the zone’ that most of us only dream about tonight in Arkansas’ home opener, as the 6’0 sophomore guard with a career average of 12.1 PPG blew the roof off of Bud Walton Arena for an insane school-record 51 points including THIRTEEN three-pointers in seventeen attempts.  Clarke’s ‘lucky 13′ on Friday the 13th breaks the SEC record for long-range bombs held by former Hawg Al Dillard, who would notoriously pull up from just inside the hash mark during his two years in Fayetteville in the mid-90s (Dillard also had 22 attempts in his record performance).  When you get in this kind of a zone (15-21 FG, 13-17 3FG, 8-9 FT), former gunner-cum-coach John Pelphrey knows that the only thing to do is keep firing, and Clarke was happy to oblige.  At halftime, the score was Clarke 31, Alcorn 26 as the Hawgs ran out to a ridiculous 45-pt lead, and even though he ‘cooled off’ in the second stanza with only four threes and 20 points, Clarke had to know that he was experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime type of night.  Jemal Farmer, a 6’5 junior guard/forward, also had a great night, going for 28/12/6 assts for the Hawgs.  This was a particularly pleasant way for Arkansas to start off its season, as the summer months were not kind to Pelphrey’s team with various off-court incidents and suspensions plaguing the program throughout.  Five players, including starters Courtney Fortson and Stefan Welsh, were suspended for tonight’s game.  Keep an eye on this Arkansas team this year, as they have enough talent to compete in the SEC West if they can all keep their heads on straight.

(photo credit: Michael Woods)

(photo credit: Michael Woods)

Upset of the Night. Rider 88, #19 Mississippi State 74.  It didn’t take long for the SEC to show that it’s quite possibly overrated again, as  SEC West favorite MSU got thoroughly outplayed at home on the night when it raised its banner for its 2009 SEC title.  So… when will Renardo Sidney be eligible again?  Rider, a darkhorse to win the MAAC this year and featuring one of the best mid-major players in America in 6’6 forward Ryan Thompson, used a balanced attack and very efficient offense (10-16 from three) to stick with the home team and take over the game in the second half.  Mike Ringgold and Novar Gadson combined for 42/17 despite having to deal with the nation’s pre-eminent defensive player in the paint, Jarvis Varnado (22/14/7 blks).  But it appears that lackluster play by MSU might be attributable to more than an off night.  One of the more interesting quotes you’ll ever read from a college player came from MSU junior Kodi Augustus, who threw his coach Rick Stansbury under the bus in post-game commentary: “I talked to my dad,” Augustus said. “He said we got outcoached. I don’t know. But I looked at it, I only played 15 minutes the whole game. Yeah, I’m [upset], but like I said, I can’t do nothing about it. I played all those minutes the exhibition games and then you come and play me 15 minutes? Wow!”  Wow, indeed, and it seems that a team who was one of the best defensive squads in America last season has major issues with egos and team chemistry right now, and this is BEFORE John Riek and Renardo Sidney have even suited up!

RTC Live RecapWake Forest 76, Oral Roberts 56. We were in Winston-Salem tonight for RTC Live, and although the game wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, we learned a few things about each team.  Behind 19 points and 9 rebounds from Kevin Ford, ORU made things interesting by pulling within ten late in the 2nd half. That’s when Wake sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu scored 11 straight points, giving him a total of 25 points and 13 rebounds. Wake looked good inside, outrebounding ORU 51 to 25 including a whopping 20 offensive rebounds. Conversely, the Demon Deacons looked rough on the perimeter, shooting only 29.4% from behind the arc and committing 18 turnovers to only 14 assists (the TO-plagued Ish Smith will start the year with a 4:5 A/TO ratio). Wake fans should be happy that Aminu looks like a lottery pick after the season opener, and freshmen CJ Harris and Ari Stewart looked cool and composed, but the outside shooting and turnover problems that doomed last year’s Wake Forest team to an early exit in the NCAA Tournament still persist.

Let’s Talk Freshmen.  So many good new players, so little November television coverage.  How’d the top freshmen do in their first games tonight?

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Fast Breaks 07.31.08

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2008

As July leads into August, here are some tasty bits of knowledge for the summer heat…

  • Richmond’s top player Dan Geriot is expected to miss the 08-09 season with a knee injury.  Auburn’s best player, Josh Dollard, was simply kicked off the team for not getting his sh!t together.
  • Guess we know how Texas A&M-Corpus Christi made the Tourney two years ago. 
  • Thuggins, summertime, scofflaws.  Any questions?
  • It appears as if Illinois’ Jamar Smith violated the terms of his probation by drinking alcohol; he’ll learn his fate at a Sept. 17 hearing.  In other news, a 21-year old ball player recently had sex with a woman. 
  • Memphis could be in some hot water over an improper phone call made by the FedEx CEO to one of his employees (who also happens to be the mother of the #2 rated PG in the class of 2009, Abdul Gaddy). 
  • Baylor????  No, really, Baylor????
  • Gregg Doyel says he’ll bury the hatchet with Coach K if he brings home the gold medal next month.  The most interesting part of this piece is the story about Coach K torpedoing Doyel’s book deal in 1999.   
  • Yes, UK Fans are insane.  We mean that in a good way, of course.
  • Andy Katz takes a look at the Wake Forest program one year after the untimely death of head coach Skip Prosser.
  • We thought this article by Dana O’Neil about coaches working themselves too hard in light of Prosser’s heart attack was going to suck, but we really enjoyed it.  Coaches whine and complain about the summer circuit, but they really love it (poor headline, ESPN). 
  • Jeff Goodman breaks down his top ten prospects from the summer camps in Vegas.
  • Gary Parrish gives an interesting insight into how programs game the summer recruiting circuit by not hiring assistant coaches until after they’ve developed good relationships with top prospects (sidenote: why did Arizona fire Miles Simon – that guy won them a championship!).  He follow that up with another article on how coaches get creative but ethically suspect in getting recruits onto campus in a legal manner.
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Conference Primers: #26 – Southland

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

East

  1. Lamar (18-11) (11-5)
  2. Northwestern St. (19-11) (11-5)
  3. McNeese St. (14-15) (8-8)
  4. Nicholls St. (10-19) (7-9)
  5. Southeast Louisiana (9-19) (5-11)
  6. Central Arkansas (7-20) (4-12)

West

  1. Sam Houston St. (20-9) (12-4)
  2. Texas – Arlington (19-9) (11-5)
  3. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi (14-13) (10-6)
  4. Stephen F. Austin (14-15) (8-8)
  5. Texas St. (8-20) (6-10)
  6. Texas – San Antonio (7-23) (3-13)

Southland Logo

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.

Karl Malone draft suit

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)!

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