SWAC Preview: Texas Southern is again the favorite

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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 Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Texas Southern was hit with losses to Marvin Jones (graduation), Zach Lofton (transfer) and Jalan McCloud (transfer), but Mike Davis’ team still has the look of a favorite in the SWAC. Five-foot-7 point guard Demontrae Jefferson is one of the keys. If he can build on a successful freshman season by increasing his efficiency, he’ll be an all-league guard.The Tigers will also have to find some shooting after shooting just 29.5 percent from 3-point range last year to reach a fourth NCAA tournament in five years.

Alcorn State looked poised to dethrone Texas State last year in the midst of an 11-game winning streak that stretched for more than five weeks last winter, but three losses by a combined 11 points to the Tigers ended up sinking the Braves’ NCAA tournament hopes. They do, however, appear ready to challenge again, thanks largely to the return of Reginal Johnson, the super-sub that averaged 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds last season. Alcorn State’s postseason aspirations will hinge largely on improving its offense – the Braves struggled mightily on that end last year with poor shooting and turnover issues buoyed by strong offensive rebounding. Clean that up even just a bit, and Alcorn State could win its first conference title since 2002.

Paris Collins averaged 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year and returns to Jackson State to help give the Tigers title hopes. The 6-foot-4 Collins is also a defensive dynamo who is among the country’s top steals producers. It’s the other end of the floor, though, that Jackson State will need to see improvement. The Tigers worse than 30 percent from 3-point range and a paltry 44 percent from 3-point range, one of the worst marks in the country. If the newcomers can help boost the offensive production, Jackson State could push toward the top of the league.

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

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Reginal Johnson, Alcorn State

He came off the bench for every single game last year, but Johnson still led the Braves in scoring at 15.6 points per game while also grabbing more than seven boards each night. The 6-foot-5 senior could improve his range, but he shot nearly 60 percent from 2-point range to keep his efficiency numbers high despite not having a deadeye 3-point shot, no small feat considering his high usage numbers, which only figure to increase this season.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON SWAC TEAM

  • Demontrae Jefferson, Texas Southern: He stands just 5-foot-7, but Jefferson looms large on the court, averaging nearly 15 points per game.
  • Paris Collins, Jackson State: Despite some low shooting percentages, Collins averaged 12.3 points last year for Jackson State.
  • Jared Sam, Southern: The 6-foot-10 center shot just under 60 percent from the floor last year, averaging 13.6 points while grabbing 7.4 rebounds per game.
  • Zachary Hamilton, Prairie View A&M: The senior was one of the most efficient players in the league last year, shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range and 84.5 percent from the free-throw line.

PREDICTED FINISH

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