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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Morning Five: 12.01.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

morning5

  1. We’ll have more on this later today, but the AP received the records of the NCAA’s response to Memphis as a result of the Derrick Rose SAT Scandal.  In a succinct statement, it comes down to the fact that the NCAA believes that schools must fear punishment for using sketchy players, and if they don’t, they’ll act with impunity in recruiting those guys.  It’s a very interesting argument, but not one that everyone is buying…  more later.
  2. Very tough news for Villanova, as they will likely lose freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou for the entire season due to a viral infection that is not life-threatening.  This puts even more pressure on Antonio Pena to contribute from the inside.  There were already serious concerns as to how VU would replace Dante Cunningham in the post, and now we’re not sure that the Wildcats can even come close to doing that.  Jay Wright may want to consider the four-guard lineup again.
  3. Seth Davis gives us his weekly Hoop Thoughts — make sure you check out page two for the best of the article.
  4. Mike DeCourcy riffs on the UNC-MSU game tonight, the irrelevance of polls (thankfully this isn’t football), and Alabama’s JaMychael Green (whom we’ve been hyping for a while now).
  5. Occasionally, we’ll find an amusing (often, non-PC) tweet from one of the coaches, players or media folks we’re tracking and we’ll put it up here for your enjoyment as well.  Today’s entry is from UT-Arlington’s Marquez Haynes.  Guess he was hungry?

quezhaynes tweet

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Closing Out Midnight Madness…

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2009

BOOMLast night was the celebration, but it’s back to the blood, sweat and tears of two-a-days for the roughly 5000 Division I players around the country today as coaches begin whipping their teams into shape for season openers in less than a month.  RTC’s John Stevens dynamited last night’s disappointing ESPNU coverage, ultimately finding that the various tweets and message board updates from fans, coaches, players and media around the country were entirely more interesting than Steve Lavin sitting in an empty locker room waiting for a volleyball game to end.  So to wrap up our Midnight Madness coverage, let’s take another look at some of the sights and sounds from last night’s events around the nation.

First, some of the bigger events of last night…

Duke’s Midnight Madness took an odd turn last evening.  From The Onion:

DURHAM, NC—Freshman Nate Washburn, 17, was mutilated in front of 12,000 students, players, and coaches at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday during the school’s traditional “Midnight Madness Sacrifice A Freshman Ceremony.” Prior to their first official practice, six hooded members of the Duke basketball team, lightly chanting the school’s fight song, led a blindfolded Washburn to center court, where he was greeted by head coach Mike Krzyzewski…

Ok, that’s a joke.  But the following video wasn’t.  They actually showed this at last night’s Countdown to Craziness in Cameron (this is the kind of stuff ESPNU should have been showing!), and the Titanic scene is absolutely going to give us nightmares for the entire rest of Nolan Smith’s career.  Seriously.  Check it out at the 1:55 minute mark (but the whole thing is worth watching).

And you may have heard that some tomfoolery got into those silly students at Georgetown last night.  Well, one specifically.  A freshman named Alex Thiele was arrested on suspicion of lifting a loaded handgun from a Park Police officer and then firing the damn thing in a bathroom in one of the dorms on campus.  What – it wouldn’t flush?  This is just bizarre.

Moving on, here’s Tom Izzo driving into the sold-out (first time ever) Breslin Center at Michigan State in a Formula 1 race car.  The tie-in, of course, is that Indianapolis is the site of the 2010 Final Four.

Here’s some of the freshman dance skit at Kansas’ Late Night in the Phog last evening.  Gary Parrish was there for this one.

You knew Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness was going to be on the other side of insane  last night, and it was.  Here’s John Calipari’s opening speech, which is being compared favorably with Obama’s gift of oratory by some (though not all).

Here’s Bob Huggins entering West Virginia’s Midnight Madness last night.  WVU is getting a lot of early season hype as a darkhorse F4 candidate.

Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Deep South

Posted by zhayes9 on September 29th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Atlantic South) are located here.

It’s time for the fourth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico known as the Deep South region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Deep South Region (FL, AL, MS, LA, TX)

south_impact

Ed. Note: our assumption is that Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney will not be eligible to play this season.

  • Aubrey Coleman – Sr, G – Houston. Young Mr. Coleman was a controversial pick for our panel, to say the least.  There’s no denying his talent, but the 6’4 rock of a player went national (and viral) last season for his footplant on Chase Budinger’s face during a game at Arizona.  Seriously, that thing made what Christian Laettner did to Aminu Timberlake in 1992 look like playtime in the sandbox.  Coleman served his one-game suspension for the ugly incident, and proceeded to take out any residual anger he might have on the rest of Conference USA to the tune of twelve double-doubles and becoming the only player to finish in the top five in both CUSA scoring and rebounding.  Yeah, rebounding.  At 6’4.  Playing guard.  If that doesn’t give you a clue as to Coleman’s toughness (despite his cowardly act against Budinger), we don’t know what will.  Despite his position, Coleman makes it a common practice to regularly venture into the lane for frequent trips to the foul line on offense and for rebounds on defense (ranks #294 in def reb%).  He also ranked in the top 25 nationally in steals, and we should point out that only three guards in the entire country pulled down more boards per game than Coleman.  About the only part of Coleman’s game that isn’t quite honed is his outside shot (21% on threes), but he doesn’t take many, which shows recognition of his strengths and weaknesses.  With two star players (including Kelvin Lewis) returning for their senior seasons in Houston, it’s safe to say that Tom Penders is sitting on an explosive duo who could lead UH to a successful slate in a wide-open CUSA and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly twenty years.
  • Damion James – Sr, F – Texas. Just three days prior to the declaration deadline for the 2009 NBA Draft, Damion James told Texas head coach Rick Barnes that he’d be returning for a final season in Austin, a decision that drastically alters the expectations of a Longhorns team that underachieved a campaign ago. Texas should be a top-five team in 2009-10 due to an influx of talent from all angles: from returnees like Dexter Pittman, to transfers like Jai Lucas, stud freshmen like Avery Bradley and, most importantly, a senior season from Damion James. James has just about as much pure athletic talent as any forward in the nation featuring an NBA-ready body, constant activity on the glass and an ability to run the floor like few other 6’7 forwards. The issue with James has always been complacency and wavering effort. Often James will hang around the perimeter, settle for outside shots, disappear when his team needs him the most or settle for being a secondary figure when a player with the ability of James should always be The Man. When James is motivated, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player in the Big 12 that can contain him. James finished on the All-Big 12 Second Team his junior season after finishing with 15.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg a year following a sophomore campaign in which James averaged a double-double. James ranked fourth in the Big 12 in rebounding, tenth in the conference in scoring and totaled double-figures on 31 occasions in 2008-09. A player the caliber of James should be right there with Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins at the top of potential Big 12 POY candidates for the upcoming season. He should be a first round pick and he should average another double-double. One of the reasons I have Texas pegged #2 in the nation preseason is because I trust James to provide that consistent effort for Rick Barnes in search of a very realistic Final Four.
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2008-09 Season Primers: #20 – Southland

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2008

There is no RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference, but we’re still taking applications.

 

Predicted Order of Finish:

 

East

  1. Stephen F. Austin  (18-9, 12-4)
  2. Northwestern St.   (18-13, 10-6)
  3. SE Louisiana    (14-15, 9-7)
  4. McNeese St.    (12-17, 8-8)
  5. Central Arkansas  (10-19, 4-12)
  6. Nicholls St.   (8-21, 4-12)

West

  1. UT-Arlington  (19-10, 11-5)
  2. Lamar   (16-13, 11-5)
  3. UT-San Antonio   (15-13, 10-6)
  4. Sam Houston St.  (13-16, 7-9)
  5. Texas A&M-CC  (9-21, 5-11)
  6. Texas St.  (9-20, 4-12)

 

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  The Southland Conference is an overlooked conference in an area of the country that doesn’t exactly embrace college basketball.  While the league has traditionally been cannon fodder for first-round high seeds in the NCAA Tournament, there are indications that may be changing.  Last year’s champion, Northwestern St., was a Cinderella entrant who got bombed by #1 Memphis, but in the period from 2005-07, the Southland champion was competitive with #2 seeds Oklahoma and Wisconsin, and of course everyone remembers the #14 NW St. upset victory over #3 Iowa in 2006.  In the early 2000s, the league was consistently rated among the bottom half-dozen conferences on an annual basis, but in the current environment with a solid few programs leading the way, the conference is now regularly in the 20-25 range.  It’s moving on up!

 

Predicted Champion.   Stephen F. Austin (#16 NCAA).   The ‘Jacks are jacked.  Coming off a 26-6 (13-3) 2007-08 campaign that led to an NIT appearance (SFA lost 80-60 to UMass), Danny Kasper’s squad returns four starters, including arguably the best two players in the league (Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley), from a withering defensive-minded unit that only allowed 56 ppg last year (on 39% FG shooting).  Last year’s team had NCAA written all over it, having won road contests at NCAA entrants Oklahoma and San Diego, until Northwestern St. upset SFA in the semis of the conference tournament - the ‘Jacks are loaded and will probably not be denied this time around.   

 

Others Considered. 

  • UT-Arlington.  As a #7 seed in last year’s conference tourney, UT-Arlington got hot at the right time and defeated three higher seeds en route to its first conference championship and NCAA appearance.  The Mavericks return two key starters, Rog’er Guignard and Brandon Long, but all eyes will be on BC transfer Marquez Haynes, a 6’3 guard who played starter’s minutes for the Eagles in 2006-07.  This team won’t be overlooked again.
  • Lamar.  Lamar should provide the biggest challenge for UT-Arlington in the West, as the Cardinals return significant experience in the form of nine returnees.  The key to Lamar’s success lies with PG Kenny Dawkins, last year’s Newcomer of the Year, who averaged 15/5 apg leading his team to a league-best 13-3 record.
  • Northwestern St.  We threw Mike McConathy’s team on here as a challenger simply because, no matter what personnel they lose from year to year, they always seem to find a way to remain competitive, having been to the last four conference title games (winning one).   The Demons’ style of play doesn’t depend on one or two players, so this year should be no different.   

RPI Boosters. 

  • Northwestern St. @ Indiana (11/15/08)
  • Stephen F. Austin @ Texas A&M  (11/18/08)
  • Northwestern St. @ LSU  (11/23/08)
  • Lamar @ Kentucky  (12/03/08)
  • Lamar @ Louisville  (12/08/08)
  • Texas Tech @ Lamar  (12/13/08)
  • Stephen F. Austin @ Arkansas (12/20/08)
  • UT-Arlington @ Baylor  (12/20/08)
  • Northwestern St. @ Oklahoma St.  (1/03/09)

Neat-O Stat.   The Southland, like many conferences is a twelve-team league with two divisions of six each (East and West).  Ok, no big deal, right?  Well, what’s strange about this setup is that the current alignment allows for Stephen F. Austin (East) and Lamar (West) to switch divisions every two seasons.  Since the current alignment began in 2006-07, this means this will be the first year of SFA in the East and Lamar in the West for a while.   The league made this arrangement for travel purposes, with seven Texas teams (v. five Louisiana/Arkansas teams), but can you imagine if the SEC did this – Florida and LSU switch sides every couple years?

65 Team Era.  The Southland is 4-24 (.143) in the era, but one of those wins was from the PiG in 2001, and two others are from Karl Malone’s #5 Louisiana Tech team back in 1985 (La Tech is no longer in the conference).  In other words, the league has had only one legit NCAA win since 1985, but oh, what a great one it was (see video below). 

Final Thoughts.  As mentioned above, the Southland appears to be a conference on the rise.  The big-conference team that gets pitted against SFA in the NCAAs this year (assuming they make it through the conference tourney unscathed) should really pay attention or they will get burned.  The conference has proven it can play with teams at the BCS level in a one-game scenario.  This was not always the case – from 1997-2004, the average margin of loss for a Southland team in the NCAA Tournament was 29 points.  Since then, it has been 12 (including a 1-pt win).  Who will be the next Iowa?

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