NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-Jackson State won six out of conference games last year. The rest of the league was a combined 6-76.
-Several head coaches in this league have stated they are upset with the way the league typically schedules. Specifically, they dont like having to play ten or more road games against higher level programs knowing that they dont have much of a chance to win any of those games. It does get the schools a nice paycheck, but several coaches have stated they dont feel it does anything to improve their teams. Van Pettaway of Alabama A&M went as far to say that the school should drop to div2 if playing so many powerhouses on the road is such a necessity.
-The league does have a new commissioner in Duer Sharp. He has stated that he will work to come up with a scheduling policy that works best for everyone in the league. No such policy exists this season, however, and many of the teams will likely enter conference play with 10+ losses once again.
-The last time a SWAC team was seeded better than #16th was in 1999 when Alcorn State received a #15 seed. TEAMS
-TEXAS SOUTHERN has one of the best players in the SWAC in forward Jacques Jones. They also have three starters coming back. What they dont have is a head coach. Rodney Courtney was fired at the end of July, and according to their website they have yet to replace him. With practice starting in just a week, they may want to hire someone. Click here to check it out.
-JACKSON STATE finished second in the standings and won the tournament last year. They return three starters, as well as most of those who contributed coming off the bench, but they lose Trev Johnson, who was easily the best player in the conference a season ago. Replacing a guy that averaged 27ppg wont be easy, so even though they return most of their contributing players the one weapon that they did lose was huge. They also appear to be inexperienced at the guard position, which could cause them problems.
-ALABAMA A&M won just six div1 games a year ago, and ten overall. They were just 4-12 in the SWAC and were a horrible shooting team. They love to push the pace, but when a team shoots as badly as AAMU does it generally means they fall behind much quicker. AAMU does appear to have an experienced and effective backcourt in Trant Simpson and Cornelius Hester, both of whom averaged double figures last year. They also have center Mickell Gladness
, who blocked an incredible 6.3 shots per game last season. With all five starters back, experience could work in their favor and if they could improve their shooting they could find themselves at the top of the standings. All elements other than shooting appear to be in place.
-ALABAMA STATE was just 10-20 last season and finished an unimpressive 8th in the league while losing five of their last six games. Andrew Hayles is a standout player and their success will revolve heavily around him, but the jury is still out on his supporting cast. They also have several newcomers, including 70 center Grlenntys Kickingstallionisms. He was a force in high-school, and with a name like that he must have driven his first-grade teachers nuts. Despite being a newcomer he should play a significant role.
-SOUTHERN is a team that has traditionally been toward the top of the standings, and they could end up there once again this season with four starters coming back. They do need to improve in some areas, though. They were not a good shooting team last year, and were one of the worst teams in the country when it came to turnovers. Also, the one starter they are losing was probably their best player in Deforrest Riley-Smith.
-ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF hasnt been at the top of the standings recently, but they did finish the season rather strong last year, and nearly took down Jackson State in the conference tournament. William Byrd is back, who led the team in both scoring and rebounding last season. They also have some experience out on the point this year as well. This team won just one game in 2003-04, but has improved each season since then and could be in the mix for the conference title this year.
-GRAMBLING was tied for third in the league last year with a 10-8 record, and has four starters coming back. They didnt really finish the season all that impressively, though. Still, the fans have reason to be excited because they unveil a new arena this year, which seats 7,500 fans. The low point for this team last year had to be a 101-27 loss to Texas A&M. They do have some offensive talent, especially in guard Andre Ratliff and forward Anthony Williams, both of whom averaged over 14ppg. Williams also did a good job on the boards. This could be another team that does better in the league than what were used to seeing.
-MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE finished first in the conference standings last year, fell in the conference tournament and missed the NCAAs as a result. They topped the standings despite being unimpressive on the offensive end, but their leading scorer Stanford Speech is one of the two returnees. I dont see them repeating last years success, but they were sort of a surprise team last year, so one cant just rule them out.
-PRARIE VIEW A&M was awful shooting the basketball last year, and in order for them to compete for the league title they are going to have to do better than that. Even from the freethrow line the team was terrible, shooting just 56%. They did lose three starters, so hopefully those replacing them can shoot the ball more effectively.
-ALCORN STATE lost their two best players on a team that made some noise in the conference last year, but really wasnt at the top. They love to push the pace, but also shoot the ball poorly. A fast-paced offense creates a lot of shots, but when a team cant hit them its not a good thing. They do get after it on defense and that helps them in league play, but they cant match up in most OOC games.