The SWAC tournament will include all ten teams, a somewhat surprising occurrence given the fact that four programs are ineligible for postseason play. While Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State and Grambling State may not be favorites to win the event, the same can’t be said of regular season champion Southern. The Jaguars won the regular season title by three games, and that will have to suffice as the reigning tournament champs can’t play in the NCAA tournament. Last season it was Texas Southern that won the league but couldn’t participate in postseason play, and now that they’re eligible Mike Davis’ team may be the favorite to win the auto bid.
When: March 11 – 15
Where: Houston, Texas (Toyota Center)
Final: March 15, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Favorite: Southern (to win the event; ineligible for the NCAA tournament)
The Jaguars have been the SWAC’s best team all season long, and defense is a big reason why. In addition to leading the conference in defensive efficiency by a wide margin, Southern led the SWAC in field goal percentage defense (36.1%), three-point percentage defense (27.8%) and blocked shots (5.6 per game). Godfrey and Miller are the offensive leaders for a team that also finished second in field goal and three-point percentage. Solid offensively, it’s the spectacular defense that makes Southern the favorite in Houston.
And if they lose?: Texas Southern
Simply put, the Tigers have the SWAC’s best player in Aaric Murray. Murray’s averaging 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game against SWAC opponents, and you likely remember the 48 points he dropped on Temple in a non-conference game back in December. Senior wing D’Aris Scarver (14.5 ppg) and junior forward Jose Rodriguez (11.5 ppg) are solid supplementary pieces for the SWAC’s highest-scoring offense, and the Tigers are also the conference’s most efficient offense.
- Alabama State: The Hornets have the SWAC’s best distributor in Jamel Waters (6.2 apg), and the Hornets lead the SWAC in turnover margin.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff: The Golden Lions have won nine of their last 11 games, with one of the victories being a 64-58 win at Southern on February 15.
Studs: (three or four best players)
- Aaric Murray, Texas Southern: Leads the SWAC in scoring and ranks third in rebounding, which has been quite the turnaround for the much-traveled big man.
- Calvin Godfrey, Southern: Godfrey ranks in the top ten in scoring (10th), rebounding (2nd), field goal percentage (1st) and blocked shots (3rd).
- Jamel Waters, Alabama State: Not only does Waters lead the SWAC in assists, he also leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and is third in steals.
CBT Prediction: Texas Southern gets the automatic bid.