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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Checking in on the… SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2009

JC of HBCU Sports Blog is the RTC correspondent for the SWAC and MEAC Conferences.

In all of the hubbub surrounding the MEAC big win last week via Morgan State University, somewhere lost in the Bible Belt was the beginning of conference play for the SWAC. Conference play signals the end of merciless beatings on the road at the hands of power conference teams, and a chance for southwestern trash talkers to get their pipes warmed up for March.

Let’s take a look at some of the action from the week that was in the SWAC.

THIS WEEK – With conference play in full swing, three teams – Alabama State, Jackson State and Prairie View A&M are beginning to distance themselves from the rest of the SWAC competition. The Hornets and the Panthers are 3-0 so far, and the Tigers are 2-1. Both the Hornets (Alabama State) and the Panthers (Prairie View) have won at least five of their last ten.

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Checking in on the… SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2008


JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the SWAC and MEAC conferences.

In case you hadn’t heard, the SWAC is probably the worst Division I conference in America. March Madness usually equates to regional sadness for their conference champion, as a season of hard work, long bus trips and endless hours of practice culminates with the 64th overall seed in the national tournament.

But don’t let that stop you from keeping up with SWAC and its member schools. After all, you’ll impress your friends come March when you give them five keys North Carolina better watch out for in their opening-round tournament game.


The SWAC is a combined 1-19 thus far. The sole win was a Prairie View A&M victory over Champion Baptist College, a powerhouse independent who earned third place in the 2007 Association of Christian College Athletics championship. As for notable power conference opponents who rolled over SWAC competition and cut the check, UCLA, Arizona State, Oklahoma, LSU and Colorado are just a few.


  • Seven out of the ten SWAC teams are averaging more than four made three-pointers per game. If that trend continues, you can look for the SWAC to be more than a cakewalk in the national tournament.
  • Seven teams are also defending the perimeter well, allowing less than 40 percent from the arc. They may give up a lot in the paint, but SWAC teams are proving athletic and energetic at the guard and small forward positions.


  • Jackson State as a team is averaging better than 81 percent from the free throw line. The next best charity stripe team percentage is 65 percent. Ouch.
  • Two teams in the SWAC have played at least four games so far. Prairie View’s average margin of defeat is a single point, while 2007 SWAC champion Mississippi Valley State is losing by an average of 29 points per game. Talk about disparity.


Here are a few of the upcoming key match-ups for SWAC teams. And by key match-ups, we mean guaranteed games that will seem degrading at the final buzzer, but will go along way in  preparation for regular season competition.

  • Jackson State @ Texas A&M – Friday, Nov. 21 – It’s likely you haven’t heard of Grant Maxey, but if you want to see a potential 2010 free agent steal, this is the guy you want to watch. Tough in the paint, reliable on the perimeter, and a solid defender, Maxey is likely a Player of the Year candidate in the SWAC. In his opening game against LSU, he tallied 13 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes of work. More impressively, he only collected two fouls on the night.
  • Alabama A&M @ Alabama – Tuesday, Dec. 2 – Bulldog freshman forward Casey Cantey is one to watch in this game. On a roster with heavy production from its guards, the Demopolis, AL, native finished his debut with 11 points and eight rebounds. At 6’5″, he can likely be the Bulldogs most versatile defender and a great second scoring option to junior guard Trant Simpson, who scored 23 in the season opener against Oakwood College.
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