College Basketball Preview: SWAC

The SWAC is always one of the worst, if not the worst, conference in college basketball. The last time it produced a team that was not a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament was way back in 1999—when Alcorn State was a mighty No. 15 seed. The last time the SWAC champion was better than a No. 15 seed was in 1993, and the result was much better that time. Southern was a No. 13 seed and actually defeated Georgia Tech to advance to the Round of 32.

This year, the SWAC has one talented team that could break the trend in Texas Southern, but fighting out of the six worst conference champions in the NCAA tournament is no easy feat for this conference’s champion.

 

The Favorite

1. Texas Southern

Texas Southern already had the pieces to win the SWAC with Ray Penn, Madarious Gibbs, Lawrence Johnson-Danner, and Aaron Clayborn returning, but the addition of West Virginia transfer Aaric Murray makes the Tigers the clear-cut favorite. Murray averaged 8.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks for West Virginia last season, and during his prior stint at La Salle he averaged 15.2 points, 7.7 boards, and 2.3 blocks. Once he steps on the floor, he will be the best player in the SWAC.

Photo: USA TODAY Sports
Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Clayborn and junior college transfer Jose Rodriguez will support Murray in the frontcourt. Clayborn posted 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season, and Rodriguez averaged 17.5 points and 6.6 boards while shooting 43.9% on three-pointers at Gulf Coast State College.

In the backcourt, Penn, Gibbs, and Johnson-Danner return. Penn led the SWAC in assists last season with 5.7 per game, and he is also Texas Southern’s top returning scorer with 12.2 points per game. Gibbs averaged 6.5 points and 2.9 dimes, and Johnson-Danner recorded 8.5 points while shooting 38.6% on three-pointers.

The Tigers will add junior college transfer Tyree Bynum, who averaged 10.9 points, 2.2 assists, and 1.2 steals, to the backcourt.

The Contenders

2. Southern

Southern won the SWAC last season and gave No. 1 seed Gonzaga a very good fight in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Jaguars return starting center Javan Mitchell and wing Malcolm Miller along with Christopher Hyder, Yondarius Johnson, and Cameron Monroe.

Mitchell averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds while Miller is the Jaguars’ top returning scorer and rebounder with 15.5 points and 5.9 boards, earning him SWAC Newcomer of the Year and First Team honors.

Hyder served as the backup point guard, and he will have to move into a starter’s role this season. In 19.4 minutes per game, the 5’10” sophomore averaged 1.9 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.4 steals.

 

3. Prairie View A&M

Prairie View A&M fell one point short against Southern in the SWAC championship game, but the Panthers have the pieces to once again challenge for the conference title.

Returning in the frontcourt are seniors Jules Montgomery and Demondre Chapman. These veterans combined for 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game last season.

In the backcourt, the Panthers return Louis Munks (9.6 ppg) and Montrael Scott (5.1 ppg). They will also add junior college transfers John Brisco and Treshawn Hagood. Brisco averaged 14.9 points and 5.3 rebounds and will start at point guard, and Hagood posted 13.9 points and 4.5 steals per game.

 

4. Alabama A&M

Alabama A&M struggled with a 6-12 record in conference play last season, but the Bulldogs will be improved with four of their top five scorers returning.

All-league forward Demarquelle Tabb will lead the way after averaging 14 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.3 steals. Last season, he posted 14 double-doubles. The Bulldogs also return forwards Justan Banks (5.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 61.0 FG%) and Jose Long (2.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and add junior college transfer Ladarius Tabb, who averaged 16.1 points and six boards at Shelton State Community College.

At guard, the Bulldogs return Jeremy Crutcher and Brandon Ellis. Crutcher averaged 12 points and 4.9 assists while Ellis added 10.7 points per game.

The Rest

5. Mississippi Valley State

Mississippi Valley State returns four key players from last season and four junior college transfers who should have an impact in the SWAC.

All four transfers will have to mesh into the Delta Devils’ backcourt. Anthony McDonald is the most impressive of the group with 22.3 points and 3.7 assists at Mississippi Delta Community College. DeAngelo Priar averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds at Holmes Community College, Jeffrey Simmons posted nine points and five assists per game, and Thaddeus Fauntleroy averaged 6.6 points and 3.7 dimes.

They will join returning guards Darryl Marshall (7.9 ppg, 2.8 apg) and Cameron Dobbs (4.0 ppg), while Ervin Thomas (4.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Julius Francis (4.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg) take care of business in the frontcourt.

 

6. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Arkansas-Pine Bluff is once again ineligible for postseason play due to poor Academic Progress Rate. The Golden Lions finished 15-3 and could once again finish in the top half of the conference.

The Golden Lions return a pair of talented forwards in DeVon Haynes and Daniel Broughton. Haynes averaged 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds while Broughton contributed 7.2 points and 4.2 boards.

In the backcourt, they return Tevin Hammond and Marcel Mosley. Hammond started at point guard and averaged 7.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.3 steals, and Mosley averaged 5.6 points. Although he shot only 34 three-pointers during the entire season, he made a respectable 35.3% of them.

 

7. Alabama State

Alabama State has almost a completely new roster with only three players returning. Back on the roster are sophomores Jamel Waters and Bobby Brown and junior Luther Page. Waters showed promise as a future point guard during his freshman season with 5.5 points, 3.1 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.

The Hornets have a slew of newcomers, including five freshman and five transfers. Three of the transfers, Demarcus Robinson, Maurice Strong, and Robert Ojeah, could start. Robinson averaged 16 points at Snead State Community College while Strong averaged 14.6 points and 10 rebounds at Aiken Tech. Ojeah also played at Aiken Tech but was less productive with 4.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

 

8. Jackson State

Jackson State has a talented backcourt this season with Jeff Stubbs and Arkansas transfer Julysses Nobles. Stubbs is the Tigers’ top returning scorer with 8.3 points per game, and Nobles will be one of the better players in the SWAC. In 2011-12 he posted 8.7 points and 3.1 assists for the Razorbacks in the SEC.

 

9. Alcorn State

Alcorn State returns three of its top four scorers: LeAntwan Luckett, Anthony Evans, and Devonte Hampton.

Luckett, a 6’4″ forward, is the team’s best returner with 13.4 points, four rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game and had as many as 27 points in a single game.

Evans and Hampton will start alongside each other in the backcourt. Each averaged 5.4 points last season.

 

10. Grambling State

These are not good times for Grambling athletics. The Tigers completed a winless, 0-28 season while finishing dead-last in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and somehow things could be just as bad in 2013-14.

Although the Tigers return leading scorer Terry Rose, who averaged 14.1 points and shot 39.6% from beyond the arc, all the other returning players are pretty mediocre. Guards David Copeland and Will Hornsby combined for 5.4 assists per game, but they also turned the ball over 5.1 times per contest.

 

SWAC Player of the Year

Aaric Murray, Texas Southern

SWAC Defensive Player of the Year

Jules Montgomery, Prairie View A&M

SWAC Freshman of the Year

Rahkeem Lehaman, Alcorn State

SWAC All-Conference Team

Ray Penn, Texas Southern

Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M

Malcolm Miller, Southern

DaVon Haynes, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Aaric Murray, Texas Southern

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.

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