In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part seven)

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Seven: MARKETING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.
  • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
  • Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State – Miles starts his third year in Long Beach following a seven-year stretch at Boise State where he was the primary media relations contact for the basketball team.
  • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.
  • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.

Last time out we introduced you to the marketing side of mid-major basketball programs and its range of athletic budgets from the one-man Sports Information Department on up. This week, we’ll take a look at another big difference between mid-major programs: the size of the markets in which they play. When these schools compete in small college towns, they can be the talk of the town when things are going well, but for those schools in bigger markets, they are in danger of being overshadowed and potentially lost in the crowd no matter how well they’re playing at the moment.

With So Many Entertainment Options in Big Cities Like LA, Finding Fans Can Be Tough

Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: I definitely think it is an advantage (to be in a smaller market), here in the state of Arkansas. I’m originally from Texas, the Houston area, and two schools in that area are in our conference: Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern. They have at times been lost in the shuffle of everything else that is going on, because you’ve got professional sports franchises and other colleges in the city of Houston and high school football and they have sometimes voiced concerns with the amount of coverage they have gotten. There is just so much going on in the city from a sports perspective. At times, it’s just hard for those programs to get ample amount of coverage because there is just so much going on. You’ve got a lot of competition for coverage among those other entities, where in Little Rock its UAPB, its UALR and then that’s really it in the Little Rock area. You’ve got the Arkansas Razorbacks, but there aren’t any professional sports in the state, so there is probably more ability for the news outlets to cover local colleges.

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: It can go both ways playing in a small community. Our fans are very much diehard fans. We’ve got very hardcore fans, which is great if you’re winning, and if you’re losing, they let you know about it. It can work both ways, but I’d much rather be in this situation. Let’s say you’re a mid-major program in a big city, it’s tough, because you can easily get swallowed up from a media standpoint and a PR standpoint. In the newspaper, you might be on the sixth or seventh page, if at all, whereas when we do something good or bad, it’s going to be the lead story in our paper. No question, if we play tonight the lead story in the paper tomorrow is going to be about ETSU basketball. If you’re a mid-major in a big city, you probably have to flip to the back pages to see anything about your program. That would be something you fight. So I like the situation we’re in, but if you’re not winning, then it can obviously work the other way.

Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland: When you look at Gonzaga, as far as the city of Spokane, they are the biggest show in Spokane, by far. Portland is not the case, we’ve got the Blazers, we’ve got Portland State, we’ve got minor league baseball, we’ve got more nightlife, we’ve got more going on, which is good. But from a standpoint of getting corporate sponsorship and getting fans, if you’re a company in Spokane and you want to wine and dine your clients, you take them to a Bulldogs game, because there’s nowhere else to take them.

Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: We’re not a small market, so I actually think it is a little more challenging for a smaller school in a large market, as compared to some of our league opponents who are in smaller markets where there’s not as much competition for entertainment. I don’t necessarily think that we directly compete with the Kansas City Chiefs for fans. I think that we as a mid-major school compete with that dinner-and-a-movie crowd, that’s a little more comparable to what our price point is. But we do have to compete. There are so many entertainment options in Kansas City, from the art to the theater to the ballet to the movies to concerts at the Sprint center to football games to Royals games to Wizards games. There are so many options of things for people in KC to do, so we have to come up with creative ways to keep UMKC basketball at the top of their minds.

Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State: We’re obviously competing against UCLA, USC, everybody else in our league, the Lakers, the Dodgers… there’s so much to do here. Getting attention in a place like this is a lot harder here than it was at Boise State in terms of local media and stuff like that, but I would say it is probably an advantage in some areas too. You’re more apt to see North Carolina come and play us, or play UCSB like they did a couple of years ago than to see them visit, say some mid-major in a smaller market.

Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron: I would say we compete for the professional sports fan in Cleveland, no question about that. That might change a little bit with what has happened with the Cavs and LeBron and all that this summer but certainly the last five or six years, that has been something that we definitely fight. It is not something where football overshadows basketball or basketball overshadows football within our department, I don’t know that we have that issue, but maybe fighting some of those outside things for what people are spending their entertainment dollars on. Even with Ohio State, we’re just two hours north of Columbus, but most of the state is into Ohio State and Ohio State football, so that’s something that we fight as well. I’m not saying someone is not going to come to an Akron game because they are necessarily going to an Ohio State game, but maybe they’re going to stay at home and watch the Ohio State game on TV or go to a sports bar, or something along those lines. So that’s something that we fight and that something we take into consideration a lot of times in terms of how you are going to schedule a game or how we are going to market a game.

Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty: There is no question that we compete with Virginia and Virginia Tech, as our town sits right in the middle between the two. Our philosophy has been for a long time, we’re not going to steal Tech fans or steal UVA fans, that would be a fruitless effort. But those fans don’t always have games at Tech or UVa on the nights that we are playing, whether that be football or basketball. We here are their hometown team and we reach out to them, that’s part of what I would say are our non-traditional fans, that we’ve really begun to grow our fan base with the success we’ve had. Those people are big sports fans and they come watch us. Does that mean they’re giving up wearing maroon and orange for Tech or blue and orange for UVA? No, it doesn’t mean that. But they become fans of ours. Ultimately, we’d love to think that some of them would become primarily Liberty fans, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to put on a good show and maybe they’ll come to our games on a night when their team isn’t playing.

Putting on a good show is often a goal for these mid-majors, not only getting their fans to come to the games, but making sure they have a good time so that they are more likely to come back. And one of the big things is to create a game atmosphere that is not only fun for the fans and the student base, but also an environment that could aid the basketball team. The first step is getting the fans there.

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Making Sense of the Mountain West/WAC Debacle

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and an occasional contributor.

When last we left the BYU-instigated MWC/WAC soap opera, the Cougars’ plans to escape the MWC in favor of football independence and a WAC home for all other sports had been thwarted by Fresno State and Nevada’s decisions to leave the WAC for the MWC, leaving the six remaining WAC schools twisting in the wind and BYU, although still a desirable quanitity, undecided as to where it would wind up. In the days since, some of the details of the MWC-induced defections have surfaced, some new rumors have arisen and the futures of the WAC and BYU remain undecided. And so, a recap of the events and whispers of the last few days:

Our Money is on Thompson (left) In This One (Idaho Statesman)

  1. Thursday morning, WAC commissioner Karl Benson gave his first public comments on the Fresno State and Nevada decisions to leave the conference, and he promptly blasted them, saying that their decisions were “selfish acts” that left the conference’s future very much in doubt. He also clarified that Nevada president Milt Glick did not, in fact, sign the agreement that would have levied a $5 million penalty on the institution for leaving the conference, but did give a verbal agreement to the proposition, and Benson expects that the verbal agreement will be binding. Fresno State’s president John Welty, along with the presidents of the other six WAC institutions, signed the agreement. According to Benson, the two institutions will have to pay up within 60 days. Furthermore, because both schools missed the July 1 deadline for filing to leave the WAC, they will be expected to play the next two seasons in the conference before heading to the Mountain West.
  2. It also came out on Thursday that Utah State had also been invited to join the MWC, but had turned it down, partially due to the $5 million buyout and in part because they wanted to be in the same conference as BYU. Since then, it has been reported that Utah State is again in negotiations with the MWC about possible membership, and since Nevada and Fresno State have already left the WAC, the $5 million buyout penalty is no longer in effect. If Utah State winds up leaving the WAC, it will likely be the final nail in the coffin, as the WAC needs six members who have been together for five continuous years in order to retain its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If USU leaves, the WAC would be down to five teams, and it would be the next little domino that would push the remaining WAC schools to plan a different future.
  3. While Utah State looks to take care of itself, Hawai’i is contemplating its own future sans the WAC, and that future may include independence, football-wise. Given the difficult travel logistics in scheduling Hawai’i, they may be better off scheduling a combination of road guarantee-games, a handful of home-and-home series and several games at the ends of seasons welcoming BCS squads as sort of a pre-Bowl bowl game. For other sports, including basketball, Hawai’i is considering perhaps joining a conference like the WCC, although the attractiveness of adding such a geographic outlier to any smaller conference is very much in question.
  4. If, by some stroke of luck, the WAC is able to keep all six of its remaining institutions on board (and about the only reasonable selling point they have now is that they could split the $10 million that may be owed by Fresno State and Nevada among the remaining teams), the WAC is still looking at taking a huge step backwards. With very few desirable FBS football schools in the west as potential targets for the conference, among the schools being discussed as possible additions to the conference are names like Cal Poly, UC Davis, Sacramento State, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, none of whom have been major factors in Division I men’s basketball.
  5. The biggest outstanding question in all of this mess is at BYU: after triggering this landslide, where exactly do they wind up? Commissioner Benson remains hopeful that BYU will still be coming to the WAC, but at this point that is little more than wishful thinking – there is absolutely no reason for BYU to take its non-football sports to that mess anymore. If football independence is still on the table, the only way that will happen is if BYU agrees to join the WCC for its non-football sports, however BYU has very little in common with the schools in that conference. While all of those WCC schools are religious schools, they are all also very small schools, but BYU has an enrollment of more than 30,000 students. In the end, while nothing is set in stone yet, MWC officials have become more and more confident over the past few days that BYU will wind up back in the MWC, at least until it comes up with a better plan a few years down the road.
  6. One interesting rumor that has been bandied about the past couple of days has been a potential MWC/Conference USA agreement to join forces in some as yet undetermined way. Among the possibilities discussed have been a full merger of the two leagues (23 teams), a combination of the most-desirable teams into something like a 20-team league, an alliance between the two leagues resulting in a championship game between the two conferences with the winner of that game earning a BCS bid, or simply a scheduling alliance between the two conferences. At this point, all of this is conjecture, but there was a “strategic” meeting between officials from both conferences on Thursday, although MWC commissioner Craig Thompson claimed that it was a previously planned meeting that had nothing to do with the events of the previous days.  This claim that should be taken with a grain of salt, given that Thompson also suggested this week that the invitations of Fresno State and Nevada to join the MWC had nothing to do with the rumors of BYU’s plans to leave for the WAC.

So, while there is plenty still to be sorted out here, we presently stand with a Mountain West Conference that looks like this (or at least will look like this in 2012): Air Force, Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV and Wyoming, with the possibility that the addition of Utah State (bringing the conference to 12 teams) will create a very strong basketball conference of relatively like-minded institutions all reasonably well geographically suited to one another. The fact that the football side of the conference looks solid as well is just an ancillary bonus (at least to this basketball-minded blog). However, even if BYU slinks back to the MWC for a few additional years, they are still very much the squeaky wheel here, unsatisfied with their current crowd. While having their own dedicated cable network, The MTN, is a plus for the conference, there is still the feeling that relying solely on that channel, plus a handful of games on CBS College Sports Network and Versus, the conference is leaving money on the table. However, that television contract is going nowhere soon, as it runs through the 2015-16 season. At some point, BYU is going to find a more suitable partner for its plans, and when that happens, the MWC will be saying goodbye to BYU all over again, this time for good.

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Southland Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

FINAL STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Stephen F. Austin 21-8, 11-5 (pre-season pick #1) First-round opponent – UT-Arlington
  2. SE Louisiana 18-11, 10-6 (pre-season pick #3) First-round opponent – Texas State
  3. Nicholls State 11-18, 7-9 (pre-season pick #2) First-round opponent – Sam Houston State
  4. Northwestern State 10-9, 5-11 (pre-season pick #4) Did not qualify for tournament
  5. McNeese State 10-20, 5-11 (pre-season pick #5) Did not qualify for tournament
  6. Central Arkansas 9-21, 3-13 (pre-season pick #6) Did not qualify for tournament

WEST

  1. Sam Houston State 22-7, 14-2 (pre-season pick #1) First-round opponent – Nicholls State
  2. Texas A&M-CC 15-14, 10-6 (pre-seasoan pick #2) First-round opponent – UTSA
  3. UT-San Antonio 19-10, 9-7 (pre-season pick #3) First-round opponent – A&M-CC
  4. Texas State 15-15, 9-7 (pre-season pick #6) First-round opponent – SE Louisiana
  5. Texas-Arlington 16-13, 8-8 (pre-season pick #4) First-round opponent – SFA
  6. 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.

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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by rtmsf on February 27th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings as of Feb. 26, 2010

EAST

  1. Stephen F. Austin 19-7 (9-4)
  2. SE Louisiana 15-11 (7-6)
  3. Northwestern State 10-16 (5-8)
  4. Nicholls State 9-17 (5-8)
  5. McNeese State 9-18 (4-9)
  6. Central Arkansas 8-19 (2-11)

WEST

  1. Sam Houston State 20-6 (12-1)
  2. Texas-Arlington 16-10 (8-5)
  3. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 14-13 (8-5)
  4. UT-San Antonio 17-9 (7-6)
  5. Texas State 12-15 (6-7)
  6. 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:

  1. Sam Houston State (12-1)
  2. Stephen F. Austin (9-4)
  3. UT-Arlington (8-5)
  4. A&M-Corpus Christi (8-5)
  5. UTSA (7-6)
  6. Southeastern Louisiana (7-6)
  7. Texas State (6-7)
  8. Northwestern State, Nicholls State or Lamar (5-8)

TEAM UPDATES

EAST

  • 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.

WEST

  • 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.
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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings as of Feb. 19, 2010

EAST

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

WEST

  1. Sam Houston State 19-5 (11-0)
  2. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 13-12 (7-4)
  3. Texas-Arlington 14-10 (6-5)
  4. Texas State 12-13 (6-5)
  5. UT-San Antonio 15-9 (5-6)
  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.

TEAM UPDATES

EAST

  • 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.

WEST

  • 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.

BOXSCORE BREAKDOWN

  • 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).
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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings as of Feb. 5, 2010

EAST

  1. Stephen F. Austin 16-5 (6-2)
  2. SE Louisiana 13-8 (5-3)
  3. McNeese State 8-13 (3-4)
  4. Nicholls State 7-14 (3-5)
  5. Northwestern State 7-13 (2-5)
  6. Central Arkansas 7-15 (1-7)

WEST

  1. Sam Houston State 15-5 (7-0)
  2. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 11-10 (5-2)
  3. Lamar 12-11 (4-4)
  4. Texas State 10-12 (4-4)
  5. Texas-Arlington 11-9 (3-4)
  6. 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.

TEAM UPDATES

EAST

  • 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.

WEST

  • 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.

BOXSCORE BREAKDOWN

  • 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.
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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings (as of Dec. 30, 2009)

EAST

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

WEST

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

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

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

GAMES

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

PLAYERS

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

TEAM BREAKDOWNS

EAST

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

WEST

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Saturday, Jan. 9

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

Wednesday, Jan. 13

  • Southeastern Louisiana at Northwestern State, 7 p.m.
  • Nicholls State at UTSA, 7 p.m.
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #18 – Southland

Posted by jstevrtc on October 19th, 2009

seasonpreview

Predicted Order of Finish:

East

  1.      Southeastern Louisiana (12-4)
  2.      Nicholls State (11-5)
  3.      Stephen F. Austin (10-6)
  4.      Northwestern State (7-9)
  5.      McNeese State (5-11)
  6.      Central Arkansas (4-12)

West

  1.      Sam Houston State (13-3)
  2.      Texas-San Antonio (11-5)
  3.      Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (10-6)
  4.      Texas-Arlington (9-7)
  5.      Lamar (7-9)
  6.      Texas State (6-10)

All-Conference Team:

  •    Marquez Haynes (G), Sr, Texas-Arlington
  •    Ashton Mitchell (G), Sr, Sam Houston State
  •    Anatoly Bose (F), Jr, Nicholls State
  •    Kevin Palmer (F), Sr, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
  •    Corey Allmond (G), Sr, Sam Houston State

6th Man. Devin Gibson (G), Jr, Texas-San Antonio

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.

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