SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-Prior to last season, the conference tournament had been played at the campus sites of the higher (better) seeded teams. Last year it was moved to a neutral location, and that will be the case again this year. For a league that typically only sends one team to the NCAAs, I like the idea of playing it at the campus sites a little better. I think they should do something to reward the regular season champion other than just giving them a #1 seed for a tournament thats being played at a predetermined site. I can see doing that for the major conferences who send multiple teams, but not for the non-major conferences. Playing it at the campus sites adds value and excitement to the regular season as well. SOUTHLAND TEAMS
-TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI. TAMUCC won the conference championship in their first year as a member last year. Theyve only been playing basketball for about eight seasons total, so theyve come a long way in a short period of time. They lost head coach Ronny Arrow who took the job at South Alabama (which sounds more like a lateral mover than anything else), but they replace him with Perry Clark, who has had success both at Tulane and Miami, FL. They put quite a scare into Wisconsin during the NCAA Tournament last year, but unfortunately four of the better players from that team have graduated. Chris Daniels
, who is a dominant force inside in terms of scoring (15.3ppg last season) and rebounding (6.7rpg) is back, and the Islanders are going to rely heavily on him. It will be very difficult for them to repeat as champions and other players will have to step up if it is going to happen.
-NORTHWESTERN STATE struggled last season after their surprise run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament the previous year, but really caught fire late and came very close to upsetting TAMUCC in the championship game. After losing three straight games by two points or less, they won four of their next five before losing 81-78 in the championship game. Three starters are back, but this is a team that likes to play ten deep, so experience wont be an issue. Forward Trey Gilder actually averaged over 12ppg off the bench last year. They dont appear to be getting a lot of love from the masses, but to me they look like they could be one of the better teams in the conference, and will likely end up toward the top of the standings.
-TEXAS ARLINGTON is a team to watch for this year. They got off to a pathetic start last year, but really turned it on in the latter half of conference play. They went 7-3 in their final ten games before losing to McNeese State by just one point in the conference tournament. Four starters are back, and all average over 8ppg, which is a testament to how well balanced this team is. Point guard Roger Guidnard was a big contributor as a freshman last year, and should be a major role to their success this year.
-LAMAR had a talented team last year, but was somewhat of a disappointment in the sense that they lost more games than they won. Still, they seemed to be poised to have a big season this year, but they lost 71 center James Davis
, who left school to play professionally overseas. The other four starters are back and they do have guys that can come off the bench, but they need to play more consistently this year if they want to contend for the league title. They are very athletic, but struggled when it came to their shooting game and thats something else that needs to improve.
-Four starters are back for MCNEESE STATE, who won six of their last seven before losing to league champions TAMUCC in the semifinals. Forward Jarvis Bradley is one of the best in the league at his position, and is a terrific scorer and rebounder. With so much experience coming back on a team that was playing very well down the stretch, they will likely be a force in the league this year. If they have a weakness, its their shooting game. They were 11th in the league in field goal percentage last year, and that definitely needs to improve.
-SAM HOUSTON STATE looked like they were getting ready to wrap up the regular season title last year, which would have guaranteed them at least a spot in the NIT. However, they lost their final game of the regular season to TAMUCC 85-68. Things went from bad to worse when they were upset by Lamar in their first conference tournament game, which ended their hopes of a postseason tournament. Three starters are gone from that team so it is going to be difficult for them to replicate that sort of success. They did get quite a bit of help off the bench last year, and if those players can step it up it will really help their chances.
-STEPHEN F AUSTIN got off to a respectable start last year, but finished the year by going 2-8 in their final ten games. The future looks bright for the Lumberjacks, though. Ten new players will be on the team this year, including four new freshmen and four transfer players. The class is reportedly one of the more talented that theyve had, and if they can blend that in with some of the experience they have coming back they could be a dangerous team. This is a team that loves shooting the ball from the outside, but they are rather one-dimensional, which is sort of a weakness.
-NICHOLLS STATE was very depleted last season and had to play the latter part of the season with just ten players. There were nights they only dressed seven players. This team shot the ball well last season, but struggled on the defensive end. With so few players, thats understandable because much of that probably had to do with fatigue. They were playing their best hoops down the stretch. Five of their eight wins came after February 8th. With four starters back and more depth to rely on, there is reason to believe theyll fair much better this season.
-CENTRAL ARKANSAS was 10-20 in their first season as a div1 program last year, which isnt bad at all for a team thats going through the transition phase. With three starters coming back, and six of their top eight players, they could improve on that even more this season.
-SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA is a team that is rebuilding. They have just one starter back from a team that lost six of their last seven games. They also have four newcomers, so its hard to say for sure how good or bad theyll be, but it doesnt look like theyll be finishing near the top this year.
-TEXAS SAN ANTONIO was just 7-22 last season, and only four of those wins came against div1 teams. They really struggled on offense and turned the ball over quite a bit. Four starters are back and teams generally get better with experience, but they need to improve in a lot of areas if they want to compete in this league. They should be better, but theyre still more likely to finish at the bottom than at the top.
-TEXAS STATE won nine games last year, but won just three the year before, so things are slowly improving for them. Four starters are back, including junior guard Brandon Bush, who can play with just about anyone in the conference. This team is strong at the guard position and that should be an asset to them this year. It isnt likely that theyll contend for the league title, but I do expect their improvement to continue.