In recent years, the SWAC has been the joke of Division I college basketball, but the current state of the conference is no laughing matter. APR (Academic Progress Rate) problems eliminated three of the conference’s ten 10 teams from participating in the post season, including regular season champion Texas Southern. And then there’s Grambling State, who lost all 27 of their regular season contests by at least 10 points. Luckily for the conference, this will all be over very soon.
No. 1 Southern (21-9, 15-3)
For much of the season, it seemed a no-brainer that Southern would be the SWAC’s premier team. SU had a solid non-conference season, scoring wins over South Dakota and Texas A&M. The Jaguars breezed through their first eight conference games undefeated, but a late-season loss to Texas Southern ended up costing them the regular season title. Despite that, Southern will receive the top-seed in the tournament by virtue of TSU’s post-season ineligibility.
Coach: Roman Banks
Starters: Derick Beltran, Javan Mitchell, Jameel Grace, Brandon Moore, Cameron Monroe
Best Player: JUCO transfer Malcolm Miller led the team in scoring at 16 ppg, while shooting 52 percent from the field and nearly 46 percent from three-point land, without starting a game.
No. 2. Jackson State (10-17, 9-9)
On Jan. 19, Jackson State’s overall record stood at 1-14, including losses in all six of its first conference games. The Tigers rebounded to win nine of their last 12 games, claiming sole possession of fourth place, but moving up to second as TSU and UAPB sit out the tournament. JSU will face Alabama State in Tuesday’s opening round game. JSU beat ASU 70-65 on Feb. 28, tying the regular season series at one game each.
Coach: Tevester Anderson
Starters: Kelsey Howard, Christian Williams, Jonathan Lewis, Phillip Williams, Willie Readus
Best Player: Sophomore guard Kelsey Howard led JSU with 14 points per game while shooting 40 percent from the three-point line.
No. 3 Alcorn State (10-23, 8-10)
After starting out 4-1 in conference play, Alcorn State stumbled across the finish line, losing six of its final seven games. The good news for Alcorn is it will play a Prairie View team it swept in the regular season, including an 81-75 victory on Feb. 28.
Coach: Luther Riley
Starters: Marquiz Baker, LeAntwan Luckett, Anthony Nieves, Ian Francis, Michael Starks
Best Player: Nieves finished third in scoring for the Braves, averaging a higher percentage from the three-point line (.390 percent) than from the field overall (.389 percent).
No. 4 Prairie View A&M (13-18, 8-10)
Picked to finish first in the conference prior to the start of the season, Prairie View looked to be one of its stronger teams early on. PVAM won five of its thirteen 13 non-conference games, and played well against TCU, UAB and Houston in losses. But the Panthers struggled to find consistency against conference rivals and finished with a disappointing 8-10 conference record. PVAM will play Alcorn State in the opening round. Playing against a watered-down field, don’t be surprised if PVAM makes a run at the conference title.
Coach: Byron Rimm II
Starters: Jourdan DeMuynck, Carl Blair, Jules Montgomery, Ryan Gesiakowski, Josh Eleby
Best Player: DeMuynck led the team in scoring with 15 points per game and just under 7 rebounds per contest.
No. 5 Alabama State (10-21, 8-10)
Predicted to finish six in the preseason, Alabama State turned out to be who we thought they were by doing just that. ASU lost four of their final six regular season games, finding themselves one of three teams with an 8-10 record. A one-and-done tournament seems the most likely scenario.
Coach: Lewis Jackson
Starters: Joshua Freelove, Phillip Crawford, Jamel Waters, Shawntez Patterson, Luther Page
Best Player: When healthy, Crawford is a threat for a double-double every game.
No. 6 Alabama A&M (10-19, 6-12)
Other than a rare win versues an SEC opponent, Mississippi State, there wasn’t much to cheer about at Alabama A&M. The good news is that their first round opponent is Grambling State, the worst team in Division I basketball. The bad news is that their next opponent would be Southern, a team that beat them by a combined 30 points in their two regular season meetings.
Coach: Willie Hayes
Starters: Justan Banks, Jeremy Crutcher, Green Hill, Demarquelle Tabb, Brandon Ellis
Best Player: Forward Demarquelle Tabb is a force down low, averaging a team-high 14 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
No. 7 Grambling State (0-27, 0-18)
Grambling is one game away from a historic season, but for all the wrong reasons. The Tigers have struggled with APR issues for the past few years, and this season’s squad, reportedly, features seven walk-ons from the school’s intramural squad. This team would probably have trouble winning a Division II conference title with that type of roster.
Coach: Joseph Price
Starters: Will Hornsby, Carl Cobbins, Terry Rose, Demetri Wheeler, Peter Roberson
Best Player: Travis Rose leads Grambling in scoring at 13 points per game.