Sam Houston State Bearkats

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Bracketology: Kentucky returns to top line

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Kentucky began its bracket journey last October as the projected No. 1 seed in the South Region.  As March nears, the Wildcats return to the top line, holding the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.  For context, UK has lost just twice since the start of 2019, by a combined four points.

Duke continues as the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia and Gonzaga.  Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan State and Michigan remain in the top-seed discussion.  All eight have a lot at stake these next three weeks.

The cutline is equally compelling.  Will some early contenders make late runs to regain a look?  Will teams like Texas, Minnesota, and Ohio State hold on?  Will this be the year we see an at-large bid or two granted to deserving mid-majors?  The Madness is about to begin.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 25, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Alabama
MIDWEST REGION UCF vs. Utah State
EAST REGION ST. FRANCIS (PA) vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION PRAIRIE VIEW vs. RIDER

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                           
Columbia Columbus
1) DUKE 1) Virginia
16) ST. FRANCIS / NORFOLK ST 16) SAM HOUSTON ST
8) Ole Miss 8) St. John’s
9) Oklahoma 9) TCU
Salt Lake City San Jose
5) Iowa 5) Maryland
12) Temple / Alabama 12) BELMONT
4) Kansas 4) KANSAS STATE
13) OLD DOMINION 13) VERMONT
Jacksonville Hartford
6) Louisville 6) Virginia Tech
11) Arizona State 11) Texas
3) LSU 3) Purdue
14) YALE 14) TEXAS STATE
Des Moines Columbia
7) BUFFALO 7) Villanova
10) VCU 10) Ohio State
2) Michigan 2) Tennessee
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) WRIGHT STATE
MIDWEST – Kansas City WEST – Anaheim
Columbus Salt Lake City
1) KENTUCKY 1) GONZAGA
16) BUCKNELL 16) PR VIEW / RIDER
8) Baylor 8) WOFFORD
9) Syracuse 9) Auburn
San Jose Tulsa
5) Florida State 5) NEVADA
12) UCF / Utah State 12) LIPSCOMB
4) Wisconsin 4) Texas Tech
13) UC-IRVINE 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Hartford Tulsa
6) Iowa State 6) Mississippi State
11) Minnesota 11) Seton Hall
3) MARQUETTE 3) HOUSTON
14) HOFSTRA 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Jacksonville Des Moines
7) Cincinnati 7) WASHINGTON
10) Florida 10) NC State
2) North Carolina 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) RADFORD 15) MONTANA

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Texas Temple Butler Dayton
Minnesota Alabama Clemson UNC-Greensboro
Arizona State UCF Georgetown Davidson
Seton Hall Utah State Furman Murray State

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia, Gonzaga, and Kentucky

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse, NC State

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): KANSAS STATE, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas

SEC (8): KENTUCKY, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Alabama

Big East (4): MARQUETTE, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple, UCF

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Sam Houston State (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

Reed’s 26 points help No. 19 Clemson beat Sam Houston State

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell knows he has something many other programs don’t — a highly experienced backcourt to call on when things get tight.

Marcquise Reed had a season-high 26 points and point guard Shelton Mitchell 13 as the 19th-ranked Tigers used a second-half surge to put away pesky Sam Houston State 74-59 on Wednesday night.

“I better enjoy this, because I don’t think I’m going to have it next year,” Brownell said. “Those guys once again played well down the stretch.”

Particularly during a 16-3 run midway through the second half as they combined for 11 points while Clemson took control. The Tigers opened 3-0 for the second straight season and for just the fifth time in coach Brad Brownell’s nine years.

For a good while, though, it seemed the Bearkats of the Southland Conference were more than up to the challenge of handling an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.

RJ Smith’s 3-pointer early in the second half put Sam Houston State ahead 38-37 before Clemson’s back-breaking run.

Reed scored seven straight points to start the run while Mitchell added a pair of baskets, one off a steal where he dribbled into an official before getting clear for the layup and a 53-41 lead.

“I told him that was bad defense,” Brownell joked about Mitchell.

The Bearkats (2-2) could not respond as Clemson eventually grew the margin to 16 points down the stretch.

Both Reed and Mitchell explored their NBA options last spring before choosing a final college year. They’re each committed, Reed said, to an even bigger season than last year when the 25-win Tigers advanced to the Sweet 16.

Reed said he and Mitchell know they’re the ones who must set the tone with Clemson’s younger players.

“We’ve been in a lot of these situations and scenarios before,” Reed said. “So it’s easy to spread it to the young guys.”

Aamir Simms had 12 points and eight rebounds for Clemson.

It was Reed’s second 20-point game of the season.

Kai Mitchell led Sam Houston State with 14 points and Josh Delaney added 11.

Clemson looked ready to blow things open early as it made its first six shots and led 15-7 five minutes in. But the Tigers went cold the rest of the half, and Sam Houston State took advantage.

Clemson made just five of its final 18 shots of the opening half and the Bearkats took the lead, 30-29 on Albert Almanza’s four-point play with 43.8 seconds left when he got fouled by Elijah Thomas.

But Clemson’s Mitchell answered with a long 3 20 seconds later to send the Tigers into the break up 32-30.

THE BIG PICTURE

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats have lost two in a row on the road. They showed an ability to hang with bigger Clemson for much of the game, but could not handle the Tigers’ experience in the backcourt with three-year starters in Reed and Mitchell.

Clemson: The Tigers struggled to shoot consistently. Their defense, though, held up throughout the game as they limited Sam Houston State to less than 35 percent shooting with six steals and five blocks.

TOUGH TIME FOR THOMAS

Thomas has played through a difficult stretch. He was hurting from an ankle injury in the Tigers’ first two games and played against Sam Houston State despite being sick with the flu. Thomas had a 101-degree temperature Monday. He played 25 minutes Wednesday night with three points, five rebounds and two blocks.

ROAD WOES

Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten has not liked what he’s seen down the stretch in his team’s first two road games. The Bearkats had the lead in the second half at Louisiana Tech and at Clemson, yet lost both games.

“There’s been a moment where we had chance to seize, I’m not going to say the game, but the lead. We’re not ready for that yet,” he said.

UP NEXT

Sam Houston State concludes its two-game swing at Power Five programs by going to Georgia on Friday night.

Clemson plays Akron on Monday to start the Cayman Islands Classic.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

No. 9 Baylor stays unbeaten with easy win over Sam Houston

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WACO, Texas (AP) After posting three straight comebacks to win the Battle 4 Atlantis championship last week in the Bahamas, No. 9 Baylor came home hoping to avoid an emotional letdown.

Thanks to a smothering defense, the Bears had nothing to worry about Wednesday night.

Reserve King McClure scored 14 points and Baylor remained unbeaten with a 79-45 victory over Sam Houston State.

“This is one of those games everybody thought would be a trap game,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Coaches get worried about every game, but I was really concerned from the standpoint that several teams that came back off the islands yesterday Michigan State lost, St. John’s lost, VCU was down 16-0 to Princeton, so you’re always worried about that hangover.”

Baylor shot 46.4 percent from the field, including 13 for 31 from 3-point range. On the other end, Sam Houston State missed its first 13 shots while Baylor opened the game on a 10-0 run. The Bears (7-0) limited the Bearkats to 28.6 percent shooting, blocked 11 shots and altered countless others.

McClure struggled early in the season with his shot, but that changed with a 15-point second half against Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.

“After the Louisville game I feel like I gained my confidence back,” McClure said. “Once I saw the ball go through the basket one time, I just continued to see it. I just put my head down and continued to grind it out.”

Al Freeman had 13 points for the Bears, and Ishmail Wainright added 12. Their big front line players, Jo Lual-Acuil and Johnathan Motley, dominated the boards with 14 rebounds apiece.

“I could sit up here and talk about our team tonight, but that wouldn’t be fair to Baylor,” Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten said. “I think Coach (Drew) has a really good team. It seems it could be one of the best teams he’s ever had because he has a bunch of good kids that like playing together. They share the ball and they seem to play harder defensively than they ever have in the past.”

Sam Houston State (4-3) came in averaging 81.7 points per game, but never got into a rhythm. Aurimas Majauskas led the Bearkats with 13 points.

“I’m totally disappointed in our team,” Hooten said. “We’re way better than that. We’re picked to win our league, and I know we’ve played a brutal schedule but we just weren’t very good tonight.”

BIG PICTURE

Sam Houston State: There weren’t many positives to take from this game. The Bearkats were selected as the Southland Conference favorite in the preseason, thanks to an experienced roster. But they were overwhelmed by Baylor’s size on the inside and shooting on the perimeter.

Baylor: This had every opportunity to be a sandwich game for the Bears. They defeated two ranked teams in No. 24 Michigan State and No. 10 Louisville to win the Battle 4 Atlantis last week and will host No. 7 Xavier on Saturday. They avoided that trap with a defense that contested nearly every shot without fouling. Sam Houston State had one free throw attempt.

UP NEXT

Sam Houston State returns home for four of its next five games, starting with LSU-Shreveport on Saturday. The Bearkats have one more road test against a Power Five team before opening conference play. That comes Dec. 22 against Arkansas.

Baylor has knocked off three ranked teams and gets another shot Saturday, when it welcomes No. 7 Xavier. That figures to be the last difficult hurdle between the Bears and an undefeated nonconference run.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Baylor has had a meteoric rise from not receiving a vote in the preseason to No. 9 this week. With losses from teams in front of the Bears already, combined with hosting No. 7 Xavier on Saturday, they have a chance to move even higher in the Top Ten.

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

2014-15 Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin go unbeaten again?

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source: Getty Images
Jacob Parker (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

Stephen F. Austin has a lot to live up to if they hope to achieve similar success in 2014-15. The 2013-14 iteration of the Lumberjacks went 32-3, 20-0 in the Southland, won 29 straight games and beat VCU in the Round of 64 before falling to UCLA.

That’s quite an accomplishment for first-year head coach Brad Underwood, a former assistant of Frank Martin, who had tremendous balance and perimeter shooting last season. Although Stephen F. Austin loses leading scorer Desmond Haymon and another double-figure scorer in Deshaunt Walker, they do return Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker, as well as Southland Tournament MVP Thomas Walkup and point guard Trey Pinckney.

The trio of returning starters is more than enough with others filling the departed players’ shoes to once again win the Southland Conference Title, as the Lumberjacks were one of the country’s best non-power conference teams last season.

Underwood’s team is the heavy favorite and he received an eight-year deal after last season.

The early runner-up candidate behind Stephen F. Austin is Sam Houston State, who returns seven contributors from last season including Southland Newcomer of the Year and 6-foot-4 senior Jabari Peters. Peters started all 35 games last season, along with three other returning starters: 6-foot-0 guard Kaheem Ransom, 6-foot-1 junior Paul Baxter and 6-foot-11 center Michael Holyfield.

This is a deep and experienced team. The Bearkats lost in the Southland title game last season and finished 24-11 (13-5).

Northwestern State is situated next as junior point guard Jalen West averaged 19.4 points and 6.4 assists last season for an offense that averaged 86.6 points per game, good enough for second in the nation. The Demons also return Southland Freshman of the Year, 6-foot-2 guard Zeek Woodley and 6-foot-9 center Marvin Frazier.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi returns after a 14-4 conference mark and all-league candidate John Jordan is back at point guard. The Islanders could compete in the Southland as 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Rashawn Thomas also returns. McNeese State and Incarnate Word both have all-conference caliber players in senior guards Kevin Hardy and Denzel Livingston. Both of those players are capable of making plays all over the floor and each averaged over two steals a game last season.

It’s worth noting that Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are playing full 18-game Southland schedules this season for the first time, but both remain ineligible for the NCAA Tournament after transitioning from Division II. Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist and Lamar are all banned from the postseason due to low APR scores.

Of the 13 teams in the Southland, only eight may play in the postseason in 2014-15.

REALIGNMENT

  • In: None
  • Out: Oral Roberts

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin

The reigning Southland Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 Parker is one of three returning starters for a team that reached the Round of 32 in 2014. The senior averaged 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season while shooting 53 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and 79 percent from the free-throw line. Efficient and productive from all over the floor, Parker will be the key for Stephen F. Austin to maintain last year’s success after the Lumberjacks lost some valuable seniors.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOUTHLAND TEAM:

  • Kevin Hardy, McNeese State: Do-it-all 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2 steals per game last season.
  • John Jordan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: A dynamic, play-making senior guard, the 5-foot-10 Jordan averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior.
  • Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word: The 6-foot-4 senior combo guard averaged 20.3 points per game and a Southland-leading 2.5 steals per game as he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the last 11 games in 2013-14.
  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The 5-foot-10 junior point guard averaged 19.4 points and a Southland-best 6.4 assists per game last season and could de-throne Parker for Player of the Year honors.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SFA_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

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

2014 Southland Conference Tournament Preview: Can anyone stop Stephen F. Austin?

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When Texas-Arlington, Texas-San Antonio, and Texas State left the Southland Conference prior to the 2013 season, the remaining teams breathed a collective sigh of relief. Before the trio departed (and the conference added Oral Roberts), the tournament allowed only the league’s top eight to compete, a bracket that forced each squad to play on the tourney’s first day and (unintentionally) encouraged upsets. During the past three Southland tournaments, the top seed has never won the NCAA’s autobid, but thanks to a new format, Stephen F. Austin (along with Texas A&M Corpus-Christi,) gets to bypass the first two rounds, potentially ensuring an NCAA appearance for the Southland’s most deserving team.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

When: March 12-15, 2014
Where: Leonard E. Merrell Center, Katy, Texas
Final: March 15, 7:30 (ESPN2)

Favorite: Stephen F. Austin

It is unclear why Stephen F. Austin hasn’t received more national press (though CBT’s Scott Phillips did outline several reasons for the Lumberjacks’ success this season). The team hasn’t lost a conference game since February 16, 2013, and what is remarkable about SFA is their dominance with a new coach at the helm. Brad Underwood is a branch on Frank Martin’s coaching tree, and so while the team fouls at a ridiculous rate (their defensive foul rate, 53.1 percent, ranks among the worst in DI, typical of a Martin-influenced coaching philosophy), SFA also the Southland’s most efficient offense (1.18) and completely lock down opponents (.95).

And if they lose?: Northwestern State

Mike McConathy’s squad has the most momentum entering postseason play: since mid-January, the Demons have won eleven of their last thirteen games. And while they have lost six Southland contests, four were by a combined nine points. Northwestern State’s offense is propelled by its backcourt; Zikiteran Woodley and Jalan West have won the Southland’s past two freshman of the year awards and both are proficient scoring within the arc (a combined 58 percent). The Demons are also the nation’s fastest team, using 76 possessions per game, running about fourteen seconds off the shot clock before a field goal attempt.

Sleepers

  • Texas A&M Corpus Christi: The second-seeded Islanders are defined by their defense, particularly from beyond the arc and in transition. While opponents don’t take many threes, TAMU-CC is effective chasing shooters from the line and preventing open looks, and have perfected their transition defense, allowing opponents to post an effective field goal percentage of 49.1 percent (39th best in DI, per Hoop-Math.com). This defensive fortitude also extends to the halfcourt, as the squad also has the conference’s second stingiest non-transition eFG percentage.
  • Oral Roberts: The Southland’s wildcard for a tournament title, Oral Roberts is arguably the league’s unluckiest team. Not only did the Golden Eagles drop six games to Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Northwestern State, but each of the six losses were by single digits.
  • Sam Houston StateMichael Holyfield, the Bearkat’ junior center, is one of the conference’s most improved players, and it is inconceivable that the big didn’t earn a single Southland honor (especially an all-defensive team nod). Holyfield has seen a significant bump in minutes from his sophomore year, and has used the extra playing time to boost his rebounding percentages, grabbing nearly 19 percent of Sam Houston State’s misses (the nation’s eighth best rate this season) and 27 percent of opponents’ attempts (the seventeenth best rate). Combined with his block rate of almost ten percent, Holyfield can defensively control a game.

Studs

  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The 5-foot-10 West excels at penetrating opposing defenses and wreaking offensive havoc. After a year spent probing, but not converting, within the arc, West upped his percentage of two-point (not at the rim) attempts and is efficiency connecting on those looks (45 percent).
  • Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin: The Southland’s player of the year, only one other DI player uses a higher rate of his team’s possessions and is most offensively efficient than the forward (TJ Bray of Princeton).
  • Shawn Glover, Oral Roberts: The squad’s offense runs through the senior. A high usage shooter, Glover’s game is predominantly in the paint, and he has attempted a whopping 445 twos this season (making half of those shots).

CBT Prediction: Stephen F. Austin earns the conference’s automatic bid.