Southern Jaguars

Baylor's Johnathan Motley goes up for a shot after getting past Southern's Jared Sam (12) and Shawn Prudhomme, rear, in in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

No. 4 Baylor beats Southern U. 89-59

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WACO, Texas (AP) With its work in the classroom finished for the semester, No. 4 Baylor was ready to focus on basketball Wednesday night.

The Bears had taken an 11-day break for final exams, but they didn’t show any rust with five players scoring in double figures, led by Johnathan Motley’s 20 points and 10 rebounds, in an 89-59 victory over Southern.

“Coming off finals, you’re always worried, Is the team going to be focused? Are they going to have their legs? Are they going to come out and not be ready to go?” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “And we got out to a great start and got separation early. And then, did a good job of maintaining that.”

The Bears (9-0) hadn’t played since a 76-61 win over then-No. 7 Xavier on Dec. 3, but opened on an 11-0 run and scored 15 of the game’s first 18 points. They turned 11 first-half Southern turnovers into 20 points on the other end.

Jared Sam and Shawn Prudhomme scored 24 points each to lead Southern (4-6). They combined to shoot 18 for 27 from the field, but the rest of the Jaguars combined to make five field goals.

“We finally got Shawn and Jared going, but that was mostly in the second half,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “In the first half we had no rhythm. In the second half, we cut it to 19 and we missed a couple layups. That was our last true run at that point.”

Ishmail Wainright helped Baylor with 14 points and five steals, Al Freeman put in 14 points and Jo Lual-Acuil and King McClure went for 10 apiece. Manu Lecomte and Jake Lindsay both had eight assists for Baylor.

“Early in the second half, we tried to make some spectacular plays instead of making the easy plays,” Drew said. “And we want to make sure we’re operating more efficiently, but I think the guys just wanted to excite the crowd a little bit. The big thing is we were pretty consistent the entire night defensively, holding them to 59 points. And 22 assists on 36 made field goals was very impressive.”

BIG PICTURE

Southern: Prudhomme and Sam came up big for the Jaguars against their toughest opponent to date. If they can find others to help them out, they should be a team to reckon with during SWAC play.

Baylor: The Bears have shown a mix of size and athleticism during their perfect start, and both of those were bolstered Wednesday with the addition of Nuni Omot, a 6-foot-9 swingman. Omot missed the first eight games because of an issue with his credits transferring, but scored eight points in his debut.

“(Omot brings) length, incredible athleticism, the ability to stretch the floor because he shoots the ball so well at 6-9,” Motley said. “He’s just an awesome athlete. He’ll add more athleticism than we already have. He’ll add length to our defensive lineup. It will be good when he puts it all together.”

UP NEXT

Southern will stay on the road for two more games against UAB on Sunday and Nebraska on Tuesday before returning home to close nonconference play against Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 28.

Baylor finishes its nonconference slate with a neutral-site game at Fort Hood against Jackson State on Saturday before home games against NAIA John Brown on Sunday and Texas Southern on Dec. 21.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

SWAC Preview: Can Texas Southern return to the dance?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Last season, Texas Southern reached the NCAA tournament for the second-straight season under head coach Mike Davis. The Tigers will be in position to three-peat, but Southern, which last reached the tournament in 2013, and Alabama State look to end the trend.

Texas Southern will begin a quest for a third straight conference title without 2014 SWAC Player of the Year Madarious Gibbs. But the Tigers return two all-SWAC caliber seniors in Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley. Both finished the season strong, with Thomas averaging 14.8 points in postseason play and Riley posting 18 points and 10 boards in a 62-58 win over Southern in the SWAC Tournament championship game. David Blanks and Tonnie Collier are two key holdovers for the Tigers, but don’t forget about Jose Rodriguez, the 6-foot-7 forward who missed last season due to injury. He averaged 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in 2013-14.

Southern brings back one of conference’s best perimeters with Adrian Rodgers, the team’s leading scorer, and junior Trelun Banks and Christopher Hyder, who averaged 3.9 assists per game. The other returning starter for the Jaguars is 6-foot-9 sophomore Jarred Sam. Sam will have to hold down the inside for the Jaguars as the only returning big man who played significant minutes. Southern had one of the better defensive teams in the SWAC last season, and that could remain the same this year. But Southern will have to put an emphasis on rebounding with a thin frontline.

Wedged in the middle of Southern and Texas Southern the past two seasons has been Alabama State. In both campaigns, the Hornets have failed to make it past the SWAC semifinals. Jamel Waters is set to change that in 2015-16. Alabama State graduated two double-digit scorers, but look for Bobby Brown and Steve Rogers, two players capable of knocking down threes, should see benefit from playing alongside Waters.

Jackson State and Alabama A&M should round out the top-5 in the conference. Alabama A&M returns all five starters Ladarius Tabb, the first team snub from a season ago, and Nick West, the SWAC’s top rebounder. Jackson State also has its starting five back, including Raeford Worsham, who was limited last year after transferring in. Arkansas Pine Bluff, no longer facing an APR ban, can’t be overlooked either with three returning starters.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “I’d say Southern because they turn five of their top six guys. And they finished third in the league.”
  • Sleeper: “I think the team that’s the sleeper is Jackson State with eight of their top guys back.”
  • Star to watch: “It would probably be Adrian Rodgers from Southern or Chris Thomas from Texas Southern. They are natural perimeter guys. They can both put the ball on the floor. They both can get a basket.”

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ladarius Tabb, Alabama A&M

A season after being named SWAC Newcomer of the Year, the 6-foot-5 guard should be the favorite for SWAC Player of the Year honors. Tabb led the conference in scoring and was second in rebounding (behind teammate Nick West), averaging 20 points in 19 games against SWAC opponents and recording 11 double-doubles during the course of the 2014-15 season.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON SWAC TEAM:

  • Adrian Rodgers, Southern: The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 13.1 points and 4.2 boards per game; one of four starters back for the Tigers.
  • Jamel Waters, Alabama State: With the loss of three starters, expect the 5-foot-9 guard to see a bump in scoring. Led the team last year at 14.0 points per game, dished out 5.2 assists, second-best in the league.
  • Nick West, Alabama A&M: The 6-foot-10 big man recorded seven double-doubles as a junior, finishing first in the league in rebounding at 7.9 boards per game.
  • Raeford Worsham, Jackson State: The Arkansas State transfer scored in double figures in 15 out of 20 games he appeared in, recording four double-doubles in conference play.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @theSWAC

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Southern
2. Texas Southern
3. Alabama State
4. Jackson State
5. Alabama A&M
6. Arkansas Pine Bluff
7. Alcorn State
8. Prairie View A&M
9. Mississippi Valley State
10. Grambling State

Southern cleared by NCAA to return to postseason play

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In the last two seasons the Southern men’s basketball program has managed to go 28-8 in SWAC play, winning the regular season title outright in 2013-14 and finishing third last season. But the Jaguars were unable to make that productivity pay off in the form of an NCAA tournament berth, as Academic Progress Rate (APR) issues led to them being banned from postseason play.

In fact, that was the case for all of Southern’s athletic programs due to what the NCAA defined as “inadequate and inaccurate reporting of student-athletes’ Academic Progress Rates.”

On Friday the school received some much-needed good news, as the NCAA has lifted the ban according to the New Orleans Advocate. As a result, Southern will be eligible for postseason play during the 2015-16 academic year. This should help head coach Roman Banks, who is also the school’s interim athletic director, as he looks to not only keep Southern in the mix atop the SWAC but also earn the men’s basketball team’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2013.

Southern officials responded to a series of requests by the NCAA to supply usable data for the years in question. The Jaguars also revamped their record-gathering and record-keeping system to avoid future issues.

Banks said the university is still under “the APR microscope,” but the hardest work has been completed.

“I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all roses,” Banks said. “We’ve got to continue to work hard. Each individual sport still has to reach the APR standards. But it’s a more level playing field now.”

As Banks noted the programs still have work to do in order to ensure that they don’t run into this kind of trouble in the future. But at the very least, Friday’s ruling removes a negative that other programs going after the same athletes can use on the recruiting trail. Southern returns three of its top four scorers from last season’s team, including guards Adrian Lynch and Tre’lun Banks.

The APR initiatives hav had the greatest impact on the SWAC, which in each of the last two years has had multiple basketball programs banned from postseason play. Alabama State, like Southern, was ineligible for the NCAA tournament in 2014-15 but both were allowed to play in the SWAC tournament.

2014-15 SWAC Preview: Alabama State, Texas Southern lead the way

Texas Southern coach Mike Davis (Getty Images)
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Texas Southern coach Mike Davis (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

To say the least, the 2013-14 season was a difficult one for the SWAC. While the league had a clear regular season champion in Southern, the Jaguars were ineligible for postseason play thanks to low APR scores. That would be the case for three other SWAC programs as well, with those teams allowed to participate in the conference tournament. Ultimately Mike Davis’ Texas Southern Tigers, who were picked by some to win the regular season title, earned the NCAA tournament bid with well-traveled big man Aaric Murray leading the way.

Leading scorers Murray and D’Aris Scarver have moved on, which means that Davis has some significant holes to fill in order to lead Texas Southern back to the NCAA tournament. Davis welcomes back senior forward Jose Rodriguez while reloading with transfers. Nick Shepard (Long Beach State) and Nevin Johnson (Creighton) are ready to go while point guard Deverell Biggs (Nebraska) will be eligible at end of the fall semester. Will the “second chance” route once again work for Texas Southern? If it does, the Tigers will have the talent needed to win the SWAC automatic bid.

Even with those additions, however, Texas Southern likely won’t be the favorite to win the SWAC. That label will be affixed to Alabama State, with head coach Lewis Jackson welcoming back his top five scorers, led by guards Jamel Waters (14.1 ppg, 6.1 apg) and DeMarcus Robinson (11.5 ppg). What makes this more amazing is the fact that the Hornets are one of two SWAC teams ineligible for postseason play (Southern’s the other), and for many programs that marks the start of a mass exodus. With that not being the case for Alabama State, they’re more can capable of earning the SWAC regular season title.

Beyond Alabama State and Texas Southern the picture gets a lot murkier. Alcorn State returns two of its top three scorers from last season, junior guard LeAntwan Luckett (16.0 ppg) and senior forward Octavius Brown (13.5, 6.5 rpg). Luther Riley’s Braves went 9-9 in SWAC play last season, and with five newcomers (three junior college transfers) in the fold the hope in Lorman, Mississippi, is that this group can mesh in time for conference play. And of the four teams to finish below .500 in conference play last season Prairie View A&M is the one best equipped to climb into the top four, with senior guards John Brisco (12.2 ppg) and Montrael Scott (14.9 ppg) leading the way.

Head coach Byron Rimm II added seven newcomers to the program this offseason, so those two seniors will be important not just from a production standpoint but also in regards to the establishing of solid on-court chemistry. Not much seems all that certain in the SWAC at this time, and with Southern losing its top three scorers — led by leading scorer and rebounder Calvin Godfrey, who transferred to Memphis — it remains to be seen what the defending champions can produce given the departures and their postseason ban.

Will it be a two-team race between the reigning tournament champion Texas Southern and an Alabama State team that managed to hold onto its players post-APR ban? It certainly looks that way in October.

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: LeAntwan Luckett, Alcorn State

Of the five players to earn first team All-SWAC honors last season, Luckett is the only one who returns. The 6-foot-4 wing accounted for 16.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season, and he’ll once again lead the way for an Alcorn State team that can improve its standing within the SWAC pecking order.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SWAC TEAM:

  • Jamel Waters, Alabama State: Waters averaged 14.1 points and a SWAC-best 6.1 assists per game in 2013-14.
  • Jose Rodriguez, Texas Southern: With Aaric Murray and D’Aris Scarver gone, look for Rodriguez (11.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) to step forward this year.
  • Montrael Scott, Prairie View A&M: Scott was the most improved player in the SWAC last season, raising his scoring by more than nine points per game (5.1 in 2012-13 to 14.9 last season).
  • Octavius Brown, Alcorn State: Brown, who averaged 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest last season, is one of the SWAC’s best returning front court players.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @theSWAC

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Alabama State
2. Texas Southern
3. Alcorn State
4. Prairie View A&M
5. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
6. Mississippi Valley State
7. Southern
8. Jackson State
9. Alabama A&M
10. Grambling State

Report: Memphis lands transfer, helps bolster their front line

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Josh Pastner has landed a commitment from Calvin Godfrey, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Southern that averaged 13.1 points and 8.8 boards last season.

The news was first reported by ESPN.com.

Godfrey’s career started at Iowa State, where he averaged 5.7 points and 5.4 boards as a freshman. But he was kicked off the Cyclone team after an arrest for marijuana possession and ended up at Howard College for a year. He was supposed to enroll at LSU for the 2012-2013 season, but he was not accepted into the university. He made it to Southern that November and after sitting out the year, he played 2013-2014 with the Jaguars.

Godfrey has one season of eligibility remaining and should be able to play right away thanks to Southern’s APR issues. He’ll likely come off the bench as Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin look like starters in the Tiger front court.

Southern working to avoid NCAA postseason ban over academic progress data

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With just a couple weeks remaining in the regular season, the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is in danger of having its regular season champion ineligible for postseason play for the second consecutive season.

Last week it was revealed that Southern, which currently leads the conference and reached the NCAA tournament a season ago, has been declared ineligible for postseason play after the Data Collection and Reporting Subcommittee of the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance found that unusable data was submitted by the school.

Southern was given a deadline to resubmit the proper data, and on Thursday it was reported that the school still has a “significant amount of work to do” in its quest to get the men’s and women’s basketball teams ruled eligible to compete in postseason play.

“The data were incomplete, inaccurate and the school could not produce documentation to verify the information it submitted,” continued Michelle Brutlag Hosick, the NCAA’s associate director of public and media relations. “A significant amount of work must be completed before NCAA postseason eligibility can be restored.

“The data review process is a collaborative one that requires a school to supply quality, accurate documentation that follows the school’s internal policies and procedures. Often, these requirements are not met initially, and deadlines and requests must be revised to allow the school additional time to fulfill the requests fully and accurately.”

The men’s team is 11-2 in conference play and currently leads the SWAC by two games in the loss column with five games remaining. As for the women’s team they’re tied with Texas Southern in the loss column, although the Lady Jaguars are 12-1 in SWAC play with the Lady Tigers having 11 SWAC wins.

In the men’s tournament last season Texas Southern was declared ineligible due to an unsatisfactory Academic Progress Rate, and Southern went on to earn the SWAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.