Southland Conference

Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin regain the throne?

Leave a comment

Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Southland.

The Southland finally saw Stephen F. Austin‘s dominant run end last season as New Orleans claimed the regular season title and NCAA tournament autobid. Although the Lumberjacks finished in second place in head coach Kyle Keller’s first season, expectations are in place for another potential conference title in 2017-18. Stephen F. Austin returns eight of their top nine producers from last season including Player of the Year candidate T.J. Holyfield on the interior. If Stephen F. Austin’s offense can get a boost then they could be in for another dangerous season.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has to replace the scoring punch of forward Rashawn Thomas but do-it-all senior Ehab Amin is back to lead the charge. Amin led the nation in steals last season while filling up the box score in many other ways as he’s flanked by guards Kareem South and Joseph Kilgore. Lamar made a leap last season as they won 19 games and made a CIT appearance. Senior forward Colton Weisbrod is a throwback undersized frontcourt presence while the backcourt of point guard Joey Frenchwood and shooter Nick Garth is among the league’s stronger returning duos.

Returning most of last season’s contributors, Abilene Christian is hoping to make a major leap up the Southland standings. Sophomore big man Jalone Friday is a promising player to build around while junior guards Jaren Lewis and Jaylen Franklin both put up double-figures in the scoring column last season. Incarnate Word is going to put up points but the Cardinals will need to figure things out on the defensive end. Jalin Hart, Simi Socks and Shawn Johnson are all returning upperclassmen who averaged at least 14 points per game each last season.

Southeastern Louisiana has a chance to make noise as junior point guard Marlain Veal and junior forward Moses Greenwood are a solid 1-2 punch. With a deep bench returning, the Lions have a lot of upperclass experience and could be a surprise team. The return of Jalan West for a seventh season is a major story for Northwestern State. The former Player of the Year candidate has to stay healthy but he’s joined by junior big man Ishmael Lane and senior guard Devonte Hall to form a solid nucleus.

Losing four starters will be tough for Sam Houston State but junior point guard John Dewey III is back to lead the team’s offense. Senior big man Chris Galbreath has a chance to be a breakout player. Central Arkansas has the Southland’s returning leading scorer in senior guard Jordan Howard but the Bears have to make major strides on the defensive end and controlling turnovers.

New Orleans has a lot of new pieces after last year’s run to the Big Dance as the Privateers need to replace three starters. Senior forward Travin Thibodeaux and senior big man Makur Puou are back along with a lot of question marks. After a CIT appearance, Houston Baptist loses five seniors and multiple transfers but senior center Josh Ibarra is an all-league threat.  

Nicholls lost seven seniors and needs to rebuild as senior point guard Jahvaughn Powell has a chance to have a big year. McNeese finished in last place a season ago but most of that group is back. Sophomore guard Kalob Ledoux has a chance to be one of the league’s better guards.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ehab Amin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

College basketball’s leader with 124 total steals last season (3.4 per game), this 6-foot-4 senior guard can also put up numbers all over the stat sheet. The Egyptian averaged 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last season while shooting 46 percent from the floor. If Amin improves his 28 percent three-point shooting then he could be in for a monster season.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON SOUTHLAND TEAM

  • Colton Weisbrod, Lamar: Undersized at 6-foot-5 but great in the paint, this senior averaged 15.1 points and 8.1 boards per contest. Weisbrod shot 52 percent from the floor but only 16 percent from three-point range.
  • T.J. Holyfield, Stephen F. Austin: Versatile junior forward averaged 11.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor.
  • Jordan Howard, Central Arkansas: The senior has a chance to reach 2,000 career points after dropping 19.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season. Howard could stand to improve his shooting efficiency.
  • Jalone Friday, Abilene Christian: Intriguing sophomore big man had tremendous splits (52% FG, 45% 3PT, 82% FT) and put up 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game last season in only 21.7 minutes per contest.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SouthlandSports

PREDICTED FINISH

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

Northwestern State loses star PG West to torn ACL

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Few tandems in college basketball last season were as productive as Northwestern State guards Jalan West and Zeek Woodley, and with both players returning Mike McConathy’s Demons were seen as the biggest threat to two-time defending champion Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference. Tuesday afternoon the program announced news that will undoubtedly impact it’s pursuit of an NCAA tournament berth, with a torn ACL ending West’s season after just one game.

West suffered the injury in the final minute of Northwestern State’s season opening loss at Ole Miss Friday night, and the school will apply for a medical redshirt that would open the door for a return in 2016-17 as a fifth-year senior.

Without West even more responsibility falls upon the shoulders of Woodley, who last season led the team with an average of 22.2 points per game. But in West the Demons lose a player who not only averaged 20.0 points per game but also led the nation with 7.7 assists per contest. That kind of player, one who can both get hot himself (he scored 24 of his 25 points Friday night in the second half) and set up others, isn’t easily replaceable.

Sophomore Devonte Hall, who accounted for two points, five rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes of action against Ole Miss, is one player who will need to step into that point guard role moving forward. As for the scoring, guards Malik Metoyer (freshman) and Sabri Thompson (junior) will see increased scoring opportunities with West sidelined.

Northwestern State staff wears special pants for ‘Suits and Sneakers’ game against McNeese State (PHOTO)

Leave a comment

Throughout this week coaching staffs have eschewed the usual dress shoes in favor of sneakers, with the “Suits and Sneakers” initiative being sponsored by Coaches vs. Cancer. But for some staffs, wearing sneakers with a suit is viewed as a fashion faux pas and they’ve decided to dress down some.

And then there’s Mike McConathy and his staff at Northwestern State. For the Demons’ game against McNeese State on Saturday, the staff wore some impressive pants that can be seen below. Northwestern State won the game in convincing fashion, 92-68, with one of the better perimeter tandems that doesn’t get a whole lot of national attention leading the way.

Jalan West finished the game with 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and fellow guard Zikiteran “Zeek” Woodley added 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting along with three blocks and two steals.

Houston Baptist dons throwback uniforms in Saturday’s win over New Orleans (PHOTO)

1 Comment

With this being the 50th season of college basketball at Houston Baptist, the school has planned various events throughout the season in order to celebrate their past. Saturday players from the 1960s and 1970s were honored, with the all-decade teams announced at the Huskies’ game against New Orleans.

You can’t celebrate the past without having throwback uniforms for the occasion, and Houston Baptist wore a uniform that was simply outstanding. A home white jersey top (with a dribbling husky) paired with blue, orange and white striped shorts? Sartorial excellence.

According to the basketball program the uniforms worn during the 1973-74 season were the inspiration for Saturday’s look.

The Huskies won 74-73 thanks to two Cody Stetler free throws with 14 seconds remaining, with Stetler preserving the lead with a blocked shot on the other end. There was also a costume contest for the fans, who were encouraged to wear their best 60s/70s clothes for the occasion.

Incarnate Word upsets Nebraska for its biggest win as a Division I member

2 Comments

After losing to in-state rival Creighton on Sunday night, Nebraska looked poised to get back on the right track with provisional Division I member Incarnate Word in town Wednesday. While the Cardinals, who are in the second year of their transition to the Division I level, entered the game with a 5-1 record just two of those games were played against Division I competition.

Ken Burmeister’s team posted a win over Princeton last month, and on Monday fell 81-65 at UTEP. But none of that mattered Wednesday night, as the Cardinals knocked off the Cornhuskers 74-73 with a Kyle Hittle jumper with 2.7 seconds remaining proving to be the difference.

Hittle finished the game with 18 points and was one of five UIW players to score in the game, with all five reaching double figures. As a team Incarnate Word shot just over 48 percent from the field for the game, and they managed to win despite the fact that leading scorer Denzel Livingston (19.6 ppg) shot just 3-for-11 from the field.

For Nebraska this loss, their second straight at home, makes Saturday’s game against Cincinnati even more important. Shavon Shields (19 points) rebounded from a disappointing game against Creighton and Terran Petteway added 18, but the Huskers need some supplementary scoring options to step forward before Big Ten play begins. Just one other player scored in double figures (Walter Pitchford- ten points), and the remaining players shot a combined 8-for-24 from the field.

That being said defense was a bigger issue on this night, with Incarnate Word shooting nearly 58 percent from the field in the second half.

While Nebraska will look to address the issues that led to their third defeat of the season, Incarnate Word will celebrate what is the program’s biggest win as a Division I member. And while the result is a good one for this year’s team, it’s also an important step forward as Burmeister’s program works towards competing for an NCAA tournament bid when it becomes eligible to do so in 2017-18.

#POSTERIZED: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s John Jordan takes flight (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Willis Wilson’s Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders picked up a solid road victory Sunday afternoon, as they beat defending Atlantic 10 champion Saint Louis 62-56. Junior guard John Jordan led the way offensively, scoring 13 points to go along with three assists and three steals. The 5-foot-10 Jordan also provided the highlight of the game, going baseline for the dunk over SLU’s Miles Reynolds.

According to the announces Jordan has a standing vertical of 38 inches, and with a running start he approaches 50 inches. Give Reynolds credit for attempting to make the proper help side rotation. But given how high Jordan jumped, he very well could have cleared Reynolds had the SLU guard made it directly in front of him.