From now until the college basketball season starts, I will be taking a look at every conference in the country.
Last year the SWAC made the dubious decision to invite ridicule by allowing teams ineligible for the NCAA tournament (due to APR) to compete in the conference tournament. Fortunately for them (though perhaps not for those of us who like ridiculousness) an eligible team, Texas Southern, snagged the conference’s autobid before losing in one of the play-in games to Cal Poly.
At this point, the SWAC is the purgatory of college basketball. It is the worst conference in the country by quite a fair margin, and winning the conference tournament won’t even get you into the NCAA tournament Proper, but rather into one of the play-in games (dooming four 16 seeds to those games is one of the worst things to happen to the NCAA tournament, but that’s for another day).
Last year, the SWAC had something it hadn’t had for quite awhile: a legitimate basketball player. Texas Southern’s Aaric Murray transferred from West Virginia (after transferring from LaSalle) and dominated the league, scoring 21.6 points per game and grabbing almost 8 rebounds per game.
Southern, who won the league’s regular season championship, loses five Seniors, but returns its two best players and should have a good chance at competing for the autobid.
A decent sleeper pick, if you can call a club that finished 299th in offense and 261st in defense a sleeper, is Alabama State. The Hornets excelled on the offensive glass and in the turnover battle, and they return everyone from last year’s team, including point guard Jamel Waters, who had a 35.4% assist rate (18th nationally) and just a 16% turnover rate.
The SWAC will again struggle, and will be doomed to the play-in game, but like always there should be several teams fighting for that autobid.
Projected Order of Finish:
1. Alabama State
2. Arkansas Pine-Bluff
3. Texas Southern
5. Alcorn State
6. Prairie View
7. Mississippi Valley State
8. Jackson State
9. Alabama A&M
Preseason All-Conference team:
Calvin Godfrey, Southern
Jamel Waters, Alabama State
Tevin Hammond, Arkansas Pine Bluff
LeAntwan Luckett, Alcorn State
Maurice Strong, Alabama State