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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.

Former Alcorn State head coach Davey L. Whitney Sr. dies at 85

Alcorn State University
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Before Coppin State in 1997 and Hampton in 2001, there was the 1980 Alcorn State Braves. That team became the first from an HBCU to win a game in the Division I NCAA tournament. Sunday it was announced by the school that the man who led that team, Davey “The Wiz” Whitney, passed away at 85 at his home in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Whitney led the Braves from 1969-89 and from 1996-2003, winning 566 games and 12 SWAC title during those years. Prior to taking over at Alcorn State, he was the head coach at Texas Southern from 1964-69. In that 1980 NCAA tournament appearance, Alcorn State beat South Alabama in the first round before falling to one-seed LSU in the second round.

Whitney was at the helm for all six of the program’s NCAA tournament appearances, the last of which coming in 2002. Whitney’s best player during his time at Alcorn State was forward Larry Smith, the leading scorer on that 1980 team, and he played 13 seasons in the NBA from 1981-93.

Elected into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010, Whitney received the school’s Athletic Heritage Award in 2013 and the school’s basketball arena is named in his honor as well.

Alcorn State announces hiring of Montez Robinson as head coach

Bethune-Cookman Athletics
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The final vacancy on the college basketball head coaching carousel has been filled.

Sunday evening Alcorn State announced the hiring of Montez Robinson as head coach according to News Channel 12 in Jackson, Mississippi. Robinson replaces Luther Riley, whose contract was not renewed at the end of the 2014-15 season, and he spent the last four seasons on the coaching staff at Bethune-Cookman.

Prior to that spent six seasons at Kennesaw State as the Owls made their transition from Division II to Division I.

“It’s extremely exciting to become the head men’s basketball coach at Alcorn State University where knowledge and character is the emphasis both on the court and in the classroom,” Robinson said in a release. “Alcorn has an impressive vision for the basketball program and I am looking forward to building a foundation of success. I cannot wait to start working with current players and incoming freshmen.”

Alcorn State’s top four scorers from last season have eligibility remaining, including guard LeAntwan Luckett who would be a senior next season. Of course with coaching changes the roster can be a bit of a fluid situation, so Robinson will have some work to do in that regard.

Alcorn State finished the 2014-15 season with a 6-26 record, going 4-14 in SWAC play.