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SWAC Conference Preview
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
October 17, 2006
SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE


-1. JACKSON STATE. The Tigers are lead by senior guard Trev Johnson, who is one of the best players in the conference. He averaged 23.5ppg as a junior last season. They have two other starters returning in Julius Young (forward) and Charles White (guard). Jeremy Caldwell will likely be starting at center this year. He averaged 4.5 rpg coming off the bench last season and needs to step it up this year to give the Tigers an inside presence.

-2. ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF. Just a few years ago the Golden Lions were one of the worst teams in all of div1 college basketball. They won just five games two years ago and just one game the year before that. However, this is a team that has made some great improvements. They won eleven games last season, but what is most impressive is that they finished strong by winning six of their last nine. They return three starters from last yearís team, including forward William Byrd, who averaged over 11 points and 6 rebounds per game. Forward Jarvis Gunter also returns, who averaged about six boards a game last season as well. Look for this team to continue to improve this season.

-3. ALCORN STATE. The Braves won just eight games last year, which isnít all that impressive, and finished in a three way tie for seventh place in the league. However, itís hard to ignore some of the talent they have coming back. Senior guard Delvin Thompson averaged over 17 ppg last year and center Juan Wyatt averaged 9.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg. Clifton Douglass also returns at guard, who averaged over 11.4 ppg last season as well. They didnít have a lot of guys that got to the glass last year other than Thompson, but if they can improve upon that this year they should finish much higher than 7th.

-4. ALABAMA STATE. The Hornets have seven new players this year, including three junior college transfers. Therefore there is a lot more that is unknown about them at this point. They also return three starters in Andrew Hayles (guard), Richard Lott (forward) and Dustin Richmond (guard). This team struggled from the floor last season shooting just over 40% total and just over 30% from beyond the arc. They will need to improve upon that if they want to challenge for the league title this year.

-5. SOUTHERN. The Jaguars ran away with the league title last year finishing four games ahead of Grambling and Alabama A&M who tied for second. They won all of their conference tournament games rather handily and actually gave Duke a little more than they bargained for in their first round NCAA Tournament game. However, they lost a lot of contributors from last yearís team to graduation. Deforrest Riley-Smith plays both guard and forward and he is someone the Jaguars will need to turn to for leadership this season. This is traditionally one of the most successful teams in the league, but after losing four starters from last yearís team it could be a rebuilding year for the Jaguars.

-6. ALABAMA A&M. The Bulldogs finished strong last season by winning five in a row before losing in the conference tournament to Arkansas Pine Bluff. They return Michael Ford, who plays both guard and forward and is one of the better players in the conference, but they lost three starters and could have trouble underneath this season.

-7. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE. The Delta Devils ended last season by losing nine of their last twelve games. They return three starters and have an advantage over some teams when it comes to experience, but everyone will need to step it up if they are going to have a big year this year. Guard Stanford Speech will need to step up as a leader. He averaged over 10 ppg last year and will be a major key to their guard play. Tychicus Snow will likely also be starting at guard. He averaged 8 ppg and 2.6 apg off the bench last year.

-8. TEXAS SOUTHERN. The Tigers return four starters from last yearís team, but seeing as how they finished 9th that may not be such a good thing. Senior Christopher Moore will be a big presence for them underneath. He averaged over 12 points and 7 rebounds a game last season. Courtenay Brown returns at guard, but other than that they appear to be inexperienced on the perimeter. The Tigers averaged almost 19 turnovers a game last year. That will really hurt them this year if they cannot improve upon that.

-9. GRAMBLING. This could be a rough year for the Tigers. They tied for second in the league last year, but lost a lot of their scoring and have just two starters returning. Andre Ratliff (guard) and Anthony Williams (forward) both averaged in double figures last year, but other than those two they appear to be lacking in experience. They are also lacking in size. Freshman George Ahpelel stands at 6-8, but experience is another factor there and they could really struggle underneath.

-10. PRARIE VIEW A&M. The Panthers won just 3 games last season and finished 334th overall in the RPI, which was worse than anyone. They return just one starter from last yearís team, which is probably a good thing, but there isnít a whole lot to indicate that they will improve all that much this year. They do have five junior college players transferring in, which could breathe some life into them, but other than that it could be a very long year.



RANDOM ORDER OF FINISH

-For those that missed my first blog entry, each conference preview will also include a random order of finish. It sounds just like what it is. Teams are drawn at random and placed in order. The purpose for this is to demonstrate that at the end of the season, generally every single major and minor media preseason preview (including my own) isnít all that more accurate than simply randomly picking the teams.

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


-Please feel free to send me feedback, whether itís good or bad. Some conferences are harder to research and write about than other conferences, so every comment and critique helps so long as itís constructive.

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