With a 12-point loss to Alcorn State Saturday, Grambling State finished the regular season with a winless 0-27 record, including 0-18 in the SWAC.
This comes two seasons after playing in the conference tournament’s title game, now a program that has gone through four coaches in five years and is sitting at the bottom of nearly every statistical category in the country. The Tigers are last (347th) in points per game, 313th in rebounding, 314th in assists, and 346th in field goal percentage.
Grambling’s closest loss was a 10-point defeat at the hands of Prairie View A&M on Feb. 9. The Tigers never lost a game by less than double digits, lost by 40 points four times, and lost once by 50 to Auburn.
But there is still a chance, if you can believe it, to go dancing.
Grambling still qualifies for the SWAC tournament and will take on Alabama A&M on March 13 in its first game on a quest for an automatic bid. But bad news is that the Tigers just lost to A&M, 74-47, on Thursday, a game in which they shot 33 percent from the floor. They also lost to A&M by 25 points on Jan. 2.
This is a team and a program in transition. Last season, Towson finished 1-31, but has stormed back this season to win 18 games and tie for second place in the CAA this season. The turnaround at Grambling likely won’t be that quick, but it also is not impossible with time.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.