Due to extenuating circumstances, the SWAC Tournament has one of the most unique formats of any postseason conference tournament this year.
The regular season conference champion, Texas Southern, is ineligible for postseason play due to low APR scores. Add in the fact that the third place team, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is in the same situation, and second-place Southern has the opportunity to get to their third NCAA Tournament by winning just two games. They are the lone team in the tournament with a bye to the semifinals.
There may not be a team with an easier path to the NCAA Tournament than the Jaguars, at least on paper. Win two games, with all that’s standing in their way being seven teams with .500-or-worse records in conference only one of those teams with more that 10 overall wins.
Yes, you have to play the games. But when you have to play the games against teams you’re clearly better than, things look a bit easier.
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Where: Garland, Texas (Curtis Culwell Center)
When: March 13-16
Final: March 16, 4:30 p.m. EST (ESPN2)
It’s an easy pick when the other two contenders are ineligible. Coach Roman Banks should be commended for the work he’s done with this team, though. Before this year’s 21-9 overall record and 15-3 conference mark, the Jaguars themselves were ineligible for the postseason and floundering in the SWAC cellar two years ago.
And if they lose?: They’ll have no one to blame but themselves. Southern is the SWAC’s only 20-win team and only team with a winning record that’s eligible for the conference tournament. The Jaguars are first in the conference in scoring defense (57.4 points per game), scoring margin (+10.8) and are second in scoring offense behind Texas Southern (68.3). They’re also first or second in 11 other statistical categories in the SWAC. If they have one weakness, it’s offensive rebounding, where they’re last (8.9 per game) in the conference. But that’s probably because they’re second in the SWAC in overall field goal percentage and first in three-point field goal percentage.
Sleepers: I’ll go ahead and say it, no one is beating Southern. The two teams that could’ve done it are ineligible to do so. But if anyone can knock them off, it’ll be Alabama State, who has a coach in Lewis Jackson who has won two SWAC tournaments, the last in 2010.
Davon Usher, Mississippi Valley State – He leads the conference in scoring at 18.8 points per game.
Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M – He’s seventh in the conference in scoring (13.9 per game) and leads it in rebounding (9.5 per game).
Malcolm Miller, Southern – Leads all conference tournament-eligible players in scoring (16 per game) and is ninth in the league with 5.8 rebounds per game.
CBT Prediction: Southern. No way around it. As previously stated, the two best candidates to beat them are ineligible and they also make up two of the Jaguars’ three losses this season. Banks should really get more pub for the job he’s done this season.