(Stephen F. Austin's Thomas Walkup/Getty Images)

Southland Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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source: Getty Images
(Stephen F. Austin’s Thomas Walkup/Getty Images)

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The Southland may be a one-bid league, but they have one of the best mid-major teams in the country in Stephen F. Austin and plenty of star power throughout the league. The Lumberjacks will look to make the Big Dance for the second consecutive season, as they’ve only dropped one Southland game in the last two seasons while they had a 19-game winning streak at one point during the year. But Brad Underwood’s team will be challenged by a balanced and talented Sam Houston State team and a No. 3 seed in Texas A&M Corpus-Christi that beat both the Lumberjacks and Bearkats this season. And you can’t forget about No. 4 seed Northwestern State, who has one of the nation’s best set-up guys in Jalan West (tied for national lead with 7.5 apg) and the nation’s second-leading scorer in sophomore Zeek Woodley (22.4 ppg)

The Bracket


When: March 11-14

Where: Leonard E. Merrell Center, Katy, Texas

Final: Saturday, March 14, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Stephen F. Austin

After going unbeaten in the Southland last season, Stephen F. Austin is once again a strong contender to take the auto bid for the conference. The Lumberjacks took home the Southland regular-season crown for the third consecutive season and they only have one conference loss in the last two years.

And if they lose?: Sam Houston State

The Bearkats went 15-3 in league play and only lost to Texas A&M Corpus-Christi outside of being swept by Stephen F. Austin. Southland Defensive Player of the Year Michael Holyfield is a force inside and he leads a balanced team that has a remarkable seven scorers averaging between 7.6 and 10.9 points per game this season.


  • Texas A&M Corpus-Christi – Led by talented point guard John Jordan, the No. 3 seed in the Southland Tournament is the only team in the league to beat Stephen F. Austin in the last two years.
  • Northwestern State – The Demons have the league’s best one-two punch in point guard Jalan West, who is tied for first in the NCAA in assists per game, and sophomore guard Zeek Woodley, who was second in the nation in scoring at 22.4 points per game.

Player of the Year: Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin

Assuming more of a leadership role in his junior season, Walkup became the leading scorer (15.5 ppg) and rebounder (6.5 rpg) at Stephen F. Austin while also leading the team in field-goal percentage (56 percent). Walkup has now been apart of three Southland regular-season titles in his three years with the program.

Coach of the Year: Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

The second-year head coach of the Lumberjacks had another remarkable season, as he has Stephen F. Austin in position to potentially be in another NCAA Tournament. Underwood also has the most wins of any second-year coach in NCAA history, as his 59 wins in two seasons surpassed North Carolina’s Bill Guthridge.

All-Southland Team:

  • Walkup
  • Jalan West, Northwestern State – Tied for the national lead for assists per game (7.5 apg), the junior point guard was also third in the Southland in scoring (19.2 ppg) and steals (2.2 spg) and pulled down 4.1 rebounds per game.
  • Desharick Guidry, McNeese State -Sixth in the nation in rebounding at 11.2 boards per contest, the senior also averaged 17.4 points per game.
  • Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word – The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.5 steals a game for the Cardinals. Livingston’s low point total in a game this season was 11.
  • Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin – Walkup’s main running mate had ridiculous shooting splits (53% FG, 47% 3PT, 82% FT) and the senior forward averaged 14.2 points, 5.7 rebounds per game.

CBT PREDICTION: Stephen F. Austin over Sam Houston State

Conference USA Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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UTEP had quite a bit of hype entering the season, thanks in large part to potential first round pick Vince Hunter. Old Dominion was the trendy pick to win the league early in the year, thanks to a win over VCU and the play of star guard Trey Freeman. But at the end of the day, Louisiana Tech, who entered the season as the league favorite, left as the league champion.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

The Bracket


When: March 11-14

Where: Legacy Arena, Birmingham, Al.

Final: March 14, 2:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs are still the conference’s resident powerhouse, as Mike White as built the Louisiana Tech program into one of the most entertaining teams in the country. They have a trio of really good guards that will make them difficult to matchup with, and their defense can be overwhelming at times.

And if they lose?: Old Dominion

The Monarchs flirted with the NCAA tournament bubble for a while, even finding themselves ranked in the top 25 after a win over VCU, but they came back to earth during Conference USA play. ODU finished tied for second in the conference, but with Trey Freeman running the show, they’re good enough to get to the NCAA tournament.


  • UTEP: The Miners won seven of their last nine games on the season, are coached by former NBA head man Tim Floyd and have a future pro on their roster in Vince Hunter.
  • Western Kentucky: Twice in the last three years, the Hilltoppers have made runs to an automatic bid. And while that was while they were a member of the Sun Belt, having stars T.J. Price and George Fant on the roster certainly doesn’t hurt.

Player of the Year: Trey Freeman, Old Dominion

One of Louisiana Tech’s trio of great guards will probably end up winning the actual award, but for my money, Freeman was the best — and most valuable — player in the conference this season.

Coach of the Year: Mike White, Louisiana Tech

Quite often, the award for Coach of the Year goes to the guy whose team outlived expectations. The Bulldogs were picked to win the league, and they did. By two full games despite the fact that Conference USA was balanced and competitive. That’s impressive.

All-Conference USA Team:

  • Freeman
  • Vince Hunter, UTEP – Hunter averaged 15.2 points, 9.3 boards and 1.0 blocks, all of which were top ten in the conference. He’s the league’s best pro prospect.
  • T.J. Price, Western Kentucky – Price is capable of huge games, and when he’s playing well, the Hilltoppers can beat anyone in the conference.
  • Speedy Smith, Louisiana Tech – Smith averaged less than six points, but he is one of the best passers in America and helped spur on their defense.
  • Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech – Hamilton was the best player on the league’s best team, yet he didn’t lead the team in a single statistical category.

CBT PREDICTION: Louisiana Tech knocks off Old Dominion in the finals.

MAC Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Buffalo's Justin Moss (AP)
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source: AP
Buffalo’s Justin Moss (AP)

 READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

All 12 of the MAC’s members lost at least six conference games during the conference’s 18-game league schedule. So, in other words, this is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable conference tournaments of 2015. The top four seeds in the field — Central Michigan, Buffalo, Kent State and Toledo were all within a game of each other in the standings this season.

The Bracket


When: March 9-14

Where: Campus sites for first round, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for the rest

Final: Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Buffalo

Winners of six consecutive games entering the MAC Tournament, the Bulls have a potent duo in forward Justin Moss and guard Shannon Evans and Bobby Hurley’s team appears to be peaking at the right time. It also helps that Buffalo doesn’t have to play until the tournament’s semifinals and they swept potential semifinal opponent Kent State during the regular season.

And if they lose?: Central Michigan

While the Chippewas aren’t as hot as Buffalo, they are the No. 1 seed in the tournament and also get the advantage of not playing until the semifinals. Central Michigan also owns a pair of season sweeps over the Bulls and Toledo during the season, the two teams they could face in the MAC Tournament if the bracket holds to form.


  • Kent State  – If any team in the field is used to playing — and winning — in close games, it might be the Golden Flashes. Kent State had 12 games decided by five points or less this season and went 8-4 in those games.
  • Toledo – Looking to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought, the Rockets won 27 games last season and were the preseason favorites to win the league. They still have a chance to make a run here in a wide-open field.

Player of the Year: Buffalo junior forward Justin Moss

Entering 2014-15, the Bulls had the unenviable task of replacing senior forward Javon McCrea, the MAC’s reigning Conference Player of the Year. Enter Moss, who led the league in scoring (18.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg) this season in an increased role after only playing a little over nine minutes per game last season. Remarkably consistent, Moss scored in double figures in all but three games during the regular season.

Coach of the Year: Central Michigan’s Keno Davis

The Chippewas were a MAC afterthought entering the season, as they were picked to finish fifth in the West Division in the preseason coaches’ poll. Central Michigan defied preseason expectations by finishing as the No. 1 overall seed in the conference tournament. With the league’s top offense and a much-improved defense — from last season’s last-place defense — Central Michigan went from 10-21 to 22-7 in one season.

All-MAC Team:

  • Moss
  • Julius Brown, Toledo – Efficiency was a key for the senior as Brown improved his field-goal shooting (46% FG, 41% 3PT) while also being tied for second in scoring (16.4 ppg) and fifth in assists (4.3 apg)
  • Maurice Daly Ndour, Ohio – The imposing 6-foot-9 senior was fourth in the MAC in scoring (15.6 ppg), second in rebounding (8.2 rpg) and second in blocks (2.2 bpg).
  • Chris Fowler, Central Michigan – Leading the MAC in assists (6 apg) was the junior point guard of the Chippewas. Fowler was also seventh in the league in scoring (15.3 ppg) and fifth in steals (1.5 spg).
  • Richaun Holmes, Bowling Green – The senior led the league in blocks (2.7 bpg) while also finishing second in field-goal percentage (55 percent). Holmes also averaged 14.7 points per game and was fourth in the MAC in rebounding (8 rpg).

CBT PREDICTION: Buffalo over Toledo