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Southland Conference Preview: Does Stephen F. Austin sustain success without Underwood, Walkup?

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Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Southland Conference.

Things are going to look different in the Southland this season now that Stephen F. Austin has lost so many familiar faces. The three-time defending champion Lumberjacks lost head coach Brad Underwood to Oklahoma State and two-time Southland Player of the Year Thomas Walkup exhausted his eligibility as Stephen F. Austin tries to stay atop the conference with some new faces.

New head coach Kyle Keller is now in charge at Stephen F. Austin after a successful stint as an assistant coach with Texas A&M. Keller likely won’t match Underwood’s insane 53-1 Southland record with the Lumberjacks but he has plenty of talent and winning culture in place. The Lumberjacks have won a NCAA tournament game in two of the last three seasons as they return junior Ty Charles and sophomore T.J. Holyfield. Newcomers could be the key to the season or Stephen F. Austin as Keller brought in some talented transfers and junior college prospects.

Sam Houston State is once again knocking on the door as they return the top five scorers from last season. Senior forward Aurimas Majauskas and senior guard Dakarai Henderson both averaged 14.2 points per game last season as both players were All-Southland second-team selections. The return of talented point guard Paul Baxter, who missed last season with injury, could give the Bearkats six capable starters.

Coming off of a CBI appearance, Houston Baptist returns a lot of upperclass talent as they’re led by senior forward Colter Lasher. If center Josh Ibarra can return from injury and graduate transfer Atif Russell makes an impact from Pepperdine then the Huskies could be one of the Southland’s deeper teams. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi returns Player of the Year candidate Rashawn Thomas as forward as the senior will need help from a lot of new pieces. Seven seniors are gone from last season, but the Islanders are hoping guards Joe Kilgore and Ehab Amin can step up.

McNeese State has to improve its defense and rebounding but the Cowboys return a potent offense. Five of the top six scorers are back including senior guard Jamaya Burr and sophomores Jarren Greenwood and James Harvey and McNeese State should be one of the better perimeter shooting teams in the Southland. A young team who could be one to watch, Abilene Christian returns super sophomore guard Jaylen Franklin to lead the charge. The Wildcats only have one senior and need sophomores like Hayden Howell and Jaren Lewis to step up.

Things should be intriguing at Northwestern State as high-scoring guard Zeek Woodley is back but star senior point guard Jalan West is out once again with a torn ACL. Woodley is good for over 20 points a game but he’ll need more help this season. Senior guard Sabri Thompson was strong during a preseason trip to Canada. Head coach Jay Ladner returns seven of the top nine scorers for Southeastern Louisiana as the Lions should have plenty of scoring. Guard Joshua Filmore logged plenty of minutes last season while Southern Miss transfer Davon Hayes could provide another rotation piece.

Incarnate Word got hit hard by transfers this offseason as Jontell Walker and Derail Green left for other programs. Junior guard Shawn Johnson showed some promise late in the season and should be asked to lead. New Orleans returns three double-figure scorers in guard Christavious Gill, forward Erik Thomas and guard Nate Frye. The Privateers can make a jump if they  improve their perimeter shooting and get five new players involved.

After being banned from the postseason for a low APR, Central Arkansas is hoping for a better season. Junior Jordan Howard can pour in points and Derreck Brooks is a quality second piece. The Bears have to improve defensively after an abysmal 2015-16. Lamar is hoping that head coach Tic Price can get them back on track as leading scorer Nick Garth is back. The Cardinals will rely a lot on new pieces this season as they hit the junior college ranks hard for college-ready players. New coach Richie Riley takes over at Nicholls State as he signed five players this spring. Senior guard Ja’Dante Fry is back along with senior center Liam Thomas, the Southland’s leader in blocks last season.

MORE: 2016-17 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Rashawn Thomas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

The reigning Southland Defensive Player of the Year was also top five in the league in scoring and rebounding a year ago as the 6-foot-8 senior averaged 16.6 points and a conference-leading 8.1 rebounds per game. Thomas also shot 55 percent from the floor and averaged 2.3 blocks per game as he’s one of the best all-around mid-major players in the country. On a team replacing a lot of experienced players, Thomas could put up huge numbers for the Islanders.


  • Zeek Woodley, Northwestern State: Putting up 22.2 points per game the last two seasons, the 6-foot-2 senior has a serious chance at 2,000 career points.
  • Jaylen Franklin, Abilene Christian: The 6-foot-2 guard is reigning Southland Freshman of the Year after averaging 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds in his first season.
  • Jordan Howard, Central Arkansas: A bright spot for Central Arkansas, the 5-foot-11 junior put up 20.2 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.
  • Aurimas Majauskas, Sam Houston State: The 6-foot-7 senior shot 54 percent from the floor while averaging 14.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season.



  1. Stephen F. Austin
  2. Sam Houston State
  3. Houston Baptist
  4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
  5. McNeese State
  6. Abilene Christian
  7. Northwestern State
  8. Southeastern Louisiana
  9. Incarnate Word
  10. New Orleans
  11. Central Arkansas
  12. Lamar
  13. Nicholls State

West Virginia lands Class of 2017 forward

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West Virginia added its fourth commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday as forward Teddy Allen committed.

The 6-foot-6 Allen is a native of Nebraska who is under-the-radar nationally and he had some solid games during the July live evaluation period. A talented scorer who isn’t a great athlete, Allen is tough and skilled and he’s the type of player who should fit in well at West Virginia because he’ll contribute in all facets of the game.

In the Class of 2017, West Virginia also has commitments from four-star forward Derek Culver, three-star forward D’Angelo Hunter and three-star guard Brandon Knapper. This group is a solid haul for head coach Bob Huggins as they should fit his style of play and give the Mountaineers plenty of talent to build around for the future.

Report: NCAA makes Syracuse vacate Big East title, multiple seasons worth of wins

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Syracuse’s 101 vacated wins from the NCAA’s ruling last year will be spread across multiple years and include a Big East title and two full seasons, according to a report from

The Orange will have 23 wins cleared from 2005-06, which includes Syracuse’s memorable Big East tournament title run with Gerry McNamara as well as 2011-12 — which was a 34-3 season with Fab Melo. New records will be reflected as 0-12 for the 2005-06 season and 0-3 for 2011-12.

Melo was out for five games during the 2011-12 season with eligibility issues.

Syracuse is will also vacate 15 wins from its 27-7 2004-05 season — for a new record of 12-7 — and 22 wins during a 24-11 2006-07 season for a new record of 2-11. As the story noted, it is unclear if Syracuse must vacate its 2005 Big East title.

The final season Syracuse will lose seven wins from 2010-11’s 27-8 campaign. That season will now be 20-8 in the record books.

It is unclear which particular wins that Syracuse has to vacate, if any, as it might just be updated as new season records with no changes to specific games.

The vacated wins will also changed Jim Boeheim’s status in the record books as he enters the 2016-17 with 884 wins.

Florida loses important four-star commitment

GAINESVILLE, FL - JANUARY 19: Head coach Mike White of the Florida Gators gestures during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on January 19, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Florida lost an important commitment on Monday as four-star guard Shai Alexander decommitted from the Gators, according to multiple reports.

The 6-foot-4 point guard is opening things up but still keeping Florida in the picture, according to’s Brian Snow and Alexander’s decommitment is a major blow for the Gators. Regarded as the No. 53 overall prospect in the national Class of 2017, Alexander was the highest-ranked Florida commitment since Devin Robinson in the Class of 2014 — and the best in Mike White’s Florida career.

Alexander opening things up is going to be interesting since so many teams are looking for ball handlers who can make plays. Florida is obviously going to want Alexander to be part of its recruiting class but other big programs could get in the picture with so many other guards already being off the board.

Oregon pulls in commitment from four-star Class of 2017 wing Abu Kigab

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Oregon kept its busy recruiting week going on Friday as the Ducks were able to get a commitment from four-star wing Abu Kigab.

A 6-foot-7 Canadian who is able to play multiple spots on the floor, Kigab comes in as the No. 124 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2017 national recruiting rankings. Kigab’s versatility makes him a unique prospect since he can switch onto multiple defenders while also being a tough assignment on offense. Kigab is going to have to improve his perimeter shooting, but he’s good in the open floor as he’s a solid finisher in transition.

The commitment of Kigab gives the Ducks two four-star commitments for the week as four-star Class of 2017 guard V.J. Bailey pledged to Oregon earlier in the week. The Ducks have added two very high-level athletes so far in this class and both fit head coach Dana Altman’s system very well.

UCLA lands four-star Class of 2017 forward Cody Riley

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UCLA continues to stockpile local talented players as the Bruins landed a commitment from four-star power forward Cody Riley on Friday.

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Riley is considered the No. 34 overall prospect on Rivals in the national Class of 2017 as he’s a productive combo forward who can score or rebound. Bursting on the national recruiting scene early in his high school career, Riley is an undersized four, but he’s a skilled passer who hits the glass hard and can score on putbacks around the basket. Riley should give the Bruins a capable rebounder and frontcourt piece.

Riley joins five-star guard Jaylen Hands, four-star forward Jalen Hill and three-star guard LiAngelo Ball in UCLA’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts. The Bruins under Steve Alford have done a great job of keeping California talent home as all four of those players hail from the Golden State.