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SCS.com
LOW-MAJORS, PART II
October 19, 2005

SCS.com Hoops Preview '05 Home

Within this preview:
MEAC | Northeast | Ohio Valley | Patriot | Southland | SWAC

MEAC CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com Last season, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference was an extremely balanced league that came down to the final week, before Delaware State edged out Coppin State and Hampton for the title. Delaware State then went on to defeat Hampton in an exciting conference tournament final. In the NCAA Tournament, Delaware St. gave Duke a decent game and fared better than most teams before losing by 11. Overall, seven teams finished with 10 wins or more in conference play. However, only 3 finished above .500 throughout the entire season. As usual, nearly every team has a shot at winning the conference in a league that is always filled with parody. South Carolina State were supposed to be the cream of the crop last season, but they never really got rolling and finished in fourth place. This year, they should live up to expectations. Thurman Zimmerman, possibly the best player in the league, returns to anchor the frontcourt. A solid guard trio also returns in Brian Mason, Brandon Tripp, and Derrick Davis. Chris Lee will join Zimmerman down low. Delaware State returns one of the best players in the league in forward Jahsha Bluntt. Two decent guards, Darren Shine and Tracey Worley, join him on the perimeter. If forwards Aaron Fleetwood and Troy Roundtree can develop into a low-post option, the Hornets could repeat as the MEAC champs. Regular season and posteason runner up Hampton has a legit inside force in Bruce Brown, the best center in the MEAC. He can carry the Pirates throughout the season. On the perimeter, guards Jeff Granger, Junior Pehoua and Rashad West provide balance. George Washington transfer Jaz Cowan will have to take some of the pressure off Brown inside. Norfolk State is a very balanced group, with no go-to-guy that gets all the attention. They have one of the best trios in the league in guard Tony Murphy, and post players Karandick Ogunride and Calvin Brown. Those three are solid each night out, but Brian Faulcon and Al'Davon Thomas are going to have to step up at the point. Coppin State has an all-conference forward in Darryl Proctor. Robert Pressey needs to improve his production if he is going to start next to Proctor. Guards Darryl Roberts and West Otis comprise a decent backcourt. The Eagles can make a run at the league title if a couple of scoring options develop throughout the season.

Florida A&M is an underrated team within the conference. The problem is that they are ineligible for postseason play this season; the Rattlers should still play hard though. Tony Tate may be the best guard in the league, while Darius Glover, Jonathan Kelly, and Glen Elliot give FAMU one of the best frontlines in the conference. If they were eligible for a bid, these team would be one to watch out for. Bethune Cookman has an excellent inside-outside combination in guard Antonio Webb and forward Michael Williams. Guards Anis Taylor and Kory Crumbley are solid role players, while Cleveland Williams is poised for a big season in the frontcourt. Howard returns five starters, including the best backcourt in the league. 5-6 Luis Ford is one of the best all-around guards in the league; Will Gant is an excellent scorer; and Reggie Bates is a decent producer. Up front, Cliffone Ault gives the Bison a very good third option, while Darryl Hudson is another good scorer. None of those players are taller than 6-4, though. If interior defense and rebounding aren't a problem, look out for this team. That's a big "if", however. North Carolina A&T was expecting to return the conference's leading scorer in guard Sean Booker, but had academic problems and will redshirt. If the Aggies are going to improve from their 6-24 record of a year ago, they will need help. A solid forward trio in Greg Roberts, Demetrius Guions, and Jason Willis is a good place to start. None of them are go-to-guys though. It is going to be another long season in Greensboro. Morgan State lose three starters, who also happened to be the three leading scorers for the Bears. Ronald Timus and Karanvir Ajula are going to be top scoring options, while Timothy Mathis, Joesph McLean, and Timothy Berkley will go from bench players to starters this season. Maryland-Eastern Shore returns one of the MEAC' best low-post options in Tim Parham, a double-double threat every night out. Guards Ryan Leak is going to have to have a huge year if the Hawks are going to win a lot more than the 2 games of a year ago.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) South Carolina State
(2) Delaware State
(3) Hampton
(4) Norfolk State
(5) Coppin State
(6) Florida A&M
(7) Bethune-Cookman
(8) Howard
(9) North Carolina A&T
(10) Morgan State
(11) Maryland-Eastern Shore

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Tony Tate - Senior, Florida A&M
F - Daryl Proctor - Sophomore, Coppin State
F - Jahsha Bluntt - Junior, Delaware State
F - Thurman Zimmerman - Senior, South Carolina State
C - Bruce Brown - Senior, Hampton
Player of the Year: Thurman Zimmerman, South Carolina State

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: South Carolina State
NIT: None

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson were fighting for the regular season title to the very end, and Monmouth won it outright on the last day. There were four other teams with double figure wins in conference play. In the conference tournament, FDU defeated surprise finalist Wagner to win the automatic bid. They then gave Illinois a tough game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and were only trailing by one at halftime. However, as expected, they lost. Look for FDU to lead a pack of clear-cut contenders. Fairleigh Dickinson is the returning conference champion, and should be able to repeat this season, even without Tamien Trent. The NEC Preseason Player of the Year, Gordon Klaiber, is going to have a huge season for the Knights. Andrea Crosariol joins him in the frontcourt. He could be poised for a breakout season given his talent. On the perimeter, Chad Timberlake returns. The All-NEC guard is a good scorer and makes for a great inside-outside combo with Klaiber. Swingman Andre Harris should improve his numbers with more playing time. Bernell Murray needs to step in at the point. Wagner leads a pack of certified contenders chasing FDU. The superb backcourt of All-conference candidate Mark Porter and Defensive Player of the Year DeEarnest McLemore will be tough for most teams to stop. Jamal Smith and and Joe Mundweiler provide excellent depth on the perimeter. In the frontcourt, forwards Durell Vinson, Matt Vitale, and James Ulrich return. They are all solid players, and Vitale and Vinson are good scorers. Jamal Webb is another decent swingman. If they find some post depth, the Seahawks are going to be very difficult to compete with. Monmouth doesn't have any true standouts, but they have several consistent contributors. Tyle Azzarelli and Chris Kenny comprise an above average backcourt for the conference. Forwards Marques Alston and Dejan Delic will provide good all-around play up front. Two newcomers are expected to have immediate impacts. Freshman Tyson Johnson and Division III transfer John Bunch will be added to the frontcourt mix, and should see playing time right away. Long Island University returns all five starters and solid depth. All-Conference guard James Williams is the star of the group. He is an excellent scorer, and when combined with Randy Jones, is part of the best backcourt tandem in the league. Evan Meekins is a very good guard off the bench. Five forwards return that all averaged between 4.6 points and 7.9 points per game. Esa Maki-Tulokas and Aubin Scott are the best of the bunch, and are the three starters, along with Kellen Allen. Paulius Morkeliunas and Eugene Kotorabi are solid frontcourt players off the pine.

Central Connecticut State returns a very good offensive trio, consisting of potential All-Conference guard DeMario Anderson and forward Obie Nwadike, as well as guard Lenny Jefferson. Tristan Blackwood, Javier Mokica, and Justin Chiera are three other decent perimeter players for the Blue Devils. Jason Hickenbottom will step into the vacant forward slot in the starting lineup. Size could be a problem, however. St. Francis (NY) has a trio of guards that all averaged 11.4 points per game, but only one was a starter. Allan Sheppard may be an all-conference candidate this season, while Tristan Smith is going to be one of the best point guards in the league. Christian Brown is another very good scorer on the wing. Ruandy Melo could start at the point as well, while Nick Jones and Sean Dantzler are solid role players on the perimeter. Up front, the Terriers could be lacking. Devon Neckles and James St. Robert are the returning starters, but neither is extremely productive. Lex James should provide some sort of big body down low. Mount St. Mary's has one of the better guards in the conference in Landy Thompson, as well as another above-average guard in Mychal Kearse. Charles Cook and Kiel Butler form a solid forward tandem. Another option in the frontcourt would be ideal to add to that very good quartet. Robert Morris lost their top two scorers, but return a decent amount of talent to make some noise within the conference. The backcourt of Derek Coleman and Tony Lee are coming back to lead the way. JC transfer Steve Lancaster is an excellent shooter. East Tennessee State transfer A.J. Jackson should hold down the fort inside. Quinnipiac returns three starters who form an excellent trio, as well as a transfer that should be one of the best scorers in the league. Guard Craig Benson, forward Kevin Jolley, and center Karl Anderson form one of the best troikas in the NEC. John Winchester, a transfer from Tennessee, should add scoring from the perimeter. St. Francis (PA) is home to a very good pair of 5-10 guards. Rahsaan Benton is an excellent scorer, while Garrett Farha led the conference in assists and three-point field goal percentage. They have no proven players in the frontcourt, however. Sacred Heart has one of the best players in the conference in forward Joey Henley, in addition to four other starters and two reserves that averaged over seven points per game. Jarrid Frye, Drew Shubik, and Mike Parker round out the starting perimeter, while Luke Granato provides depth. Center Kibwe Trim joins Henley in the frontcourt, and Ryon Howard comes off the bench. Boston College Tavio Hobson should find a role to play.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Fairleigh Dickinson
(2) Wagner
(3) Long Island University
(4) Monmouth
(5) Central Connecticut State
(6) St. Francis (NY)
(7) Mount St. Mary's
(8) Robert Morris
(9) Quinnipiac
(10) St. Francis (PA)
(11) Sacred Heart

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Landy Thompson - Senior, Mount St. Mary's
G - James Williams - Junior, Long Island University
G - Chad Timberlake - Senior, Fairleigh Dickinson
F - Gordon Klaiber - Senior, Fairleigh Dickinson
F - Joe Henley - Junior, Sacred Heart
Player of the Year: Gordon Klaiber, Fairleigh Dickinson

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Fairleigh Dickinson
NIT: None

OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com Last season in the wide-open Ohio Valley Conference, seven teams finished within three games of each other at the top of the standings. Tennessee Tech won it by one game over Eastern Kentucky and Murray State. In the conference tournament, Eastern Kentucky beat #5 seed Austin Peay to gain the automatic bid. They then gave Kentucky much more than the Wildcats anticipated from the OVC champs before bowing out. This season should be similar to last year's, with several teams expected to be in the running for the crown. Eastern Kentucky returns four starters from that NCAA Tournament team, including one of the best mid-major point guards in Matt Witt. He went for over 14 points and 6 assists every night. Joining him in the backcourt is defensive specialist Jason McLeish, who is also a decent scorer. Double-figure scorer Zach Ingles is on the other wing, giving the Colonels possibly the best perimeter in the league. One of the best post players in the OVC is also back. Alonzo Hird is a load to stop down low and is poised for a huge season. Darnell Dials should step in at the vacated power forward spot. Murray State has arguably the best player in the league in guard Trey Pearson. He is an excellent shooter that can do pretty much everything on the court. Four other starters also return. Point guard Keith Jenifer and part-time starter Darnell Hopkins are two very solid players in the backcourt. Up front, an abundance of players are back that made major contributions a year ago. Shawn Witherspoon and Justin Orr both started and produced well last season, but Issian Redding and Charles Johnson also played extremely well off the bench at the forward positions and will push for starting jobs. 6-10 Pearson Griffith will start at center. Tennessee Tech returns four starters, but loses the OVC Player of the Year in Willie Jenkins. They must find someone to replace him. However, they do return some quality players, starting with All-Conference candidate Derek Stribling. He can play a multitude of positions, ranging from the two to the power forward spot. The backcourt combination of Keyon Boyd and Milone Clark is excellent as it is, but the addition of East Carolina transfer Belton Rivers should bolster is even further. 6-2 Anthony Fisher is one of the league's top sixth men. Possible starters Isaiah Mills and Jonathan Jones as well as solid forward Amadi McKenzie join Stribling in the frontcourt. Tennessee State, like seemingly every other team in this league, returns a stud backcourt. All-Conference guard Bruce Price is the main performer from the perimeter, but Wayne Arnold is also a solid player. Reserve Reiley Ervin is a decent role player off the bench. Forwards Eric King and Kareem Grant return up front. Both averaged about 10 points per game. Oklahoma transfer Larry Turner is eligible after the fall semester, and should have a huge impact inside for the Tigers. Samford has one of the best forwards in the league back in J. Robert Merritt, a first-team All-OVC pick a year ago. Jerry Smith, Randall Gulina, and Joe Ross Merritt provide inside-outside balance for the Bulldogs. Ryan Woolsey is expected to start, while 6-4 freshman Jason Black is poised to make an immediate impact.

Austin Peay may have the best inside-outside combination in the league in guard Maurice Hampton and center Zac Schlader. Hampton has the potential to have a huge, Player of the Year-like campaign, while Schlader is one of the better post players in the conference. Todd Babington, Derek Wright, and Fernandez Lockett all will see extensive playing time, with Babington and Lockett starting on the perimeter. Tomas Janusauskas should start next to Schlader. Southeast Missouri State lost nearly all of their key players, but reinforced the squad with several transfers, both D-I and JC. However, they also return the starting backcourt of Paul Paradoski and Terrick Willoughby. As far as the transfers that are going to produce immediately, Roy Booker looks like the best bet. He should be a go-to-guy on the perimeter. Inside, returnees Ketshner Guerrier and Waylon Francis will be molded with newcomers Andrais Thornton, Tyrell White, and John Chappell. Eastern Illinois returns an all-league lock in guard Josh Gomes, who is one of the best scorers in the conference. George Tandy and Bobby Catchings form a solid frontcourt duo, as Tandy was last season's Freshman of the Year, and Catchings is a versatile inside-outside scorer. Bill Duany and Jake Sinclair are decent perimeter options and could start. Morehead State has a potentially dynamite backcourt in senior Quinton Smith and redshirt junior Quenton Pryor. Smith is an all-around solid producer, while Pryor was injured all of last season. Cory Burns and JC transfer Shaun Williams should form an acceptable forward tandem, while a slew of other newcomers are expected to vie for time. Tennessee-Martin has an excellent swingman returning in Jared Newson, who will contend for league honors. Will Lewis and center Cleve Woodfork join him in a very good frontcourt. Woodfork is very underrated within the league. Jason Thompson is a good bench player down low. In the backcourt, Jeremy Kelly and Tolliver McLennon, neither of whom were on the team last season, will start. Aaron Ferrell and Justin Flatt will see lots of time on the perimeter, as well. Jacksonville State returns all five starters, including three double-figure scorers. Walker D. Russell is one of the best mid-major point guards that no one has heard of; he averaged over 14 points and 7 assists a year ago. B.J. Spencer and Anthony Wilson are both solid scoring wings. Dorien Brown should have a bigger year in the frontcourt, next to Carlos Lumpkin, who needs to improve his production.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Eastern Kentucky
(2) Murray State
(3) Tennessee Tech
(4) Tenneseee State
(5) Samford
(6) Austin Peay
(7) Southeast Missouri State
(8) Eastern Illinois
(9) Morehead State
(10) Tennessee-Martin
(11) Jacksonville State

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Matt Witt - Senior, Eastern Kentucky
G - Trey Pearson - Junior, Murray State
G - Josh Gomes - Senior, Eastern Illinois
F - Jared Newson - Senior, Tennessee-Martin
F - J. Robert Merritt - Senior, Samford
Player of the Year: Trey Pearson, Murray State

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Eastern Kentucky
NIT: Murray State

PATRIOT LEAGUE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com Holy Cross essentially ran away with the regular season title a season ago, winning it by three games over Bucknell. Only three teams finished with a winning record overall during the season. In the conference tournament, Bucknell took down the top-seeded Crusaders and won the automatic bid. The Bison went on to pull of the biggest upset of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, beating 3rd-seeded Kansas before losing in the second round to Wisconsin. Bucknell and Holy Cross are once again the top two teams. Their roles are reversed, however, and it shouldn't be as close this time around. Bucknell is everyone's favorite mid-major this season, after shocking the world and beating Kansas last season. However, everyone seems to forget that this is the same team that lost the regular season title by three games. Not to sound like I'm nitpicking, but the Bison have flaws. They also have many strengths, and they far outshine the weaknesses. Guard Kevin Bettencourt was tied for the team lead in scoring average, and combined with Charles Lee to give Bucknell a lethal wing combination. Lee is an excellent inside-outside player. Point guard Abe Badmus runs the show and keeps everyone happy. Inside, Chris McNaughton is one of the best players in the league. If he improves his rebounding, he will be one of the best mid-major post players. Darren Mastropaolo rounds out the starting lineup, while John Griffin and Donald Brown provide depth in the backcourt and frontcourt, respectively. Holy Cross loses three starters from the regular season champs, but they return a wing combination that rivals that of Bucknell's. Kevin Hamilton is a candidate for Player of the Year; he can do it all on the court--scoring, rebounding, passing, and defending. Keith Simmons is a very good scorer and should have even better numbers this season. Torey Thomas is an extremely capable point guard. There are many questions in the frontcourt, although Kevin Hyland looks like he could be the answer to some of them down low. Tim Clifford could start at center. Lehigh is another team that has a sensational backcourt. The Mountain Hawks' version includes All-League performer Joe Knight, who fills up the stat sheet in a variety of categories; and Jose Olivero, one of the best wing scorers in the league. Jason Mgebroff provides an inside presence to take some of the pressure off the outside guys. John Gourlay can also help inside. He is a 7-foot freshman that is expect to make an impact. Colgate returns three double-figure scorers. Alvin Reed could be an all-league player this season, while Jon Simon is a high-scoring wing. Kyle Roemer is another solid scorer from the wing; he is an excellent shooter. Brothers Kendall and Kyle Chones will bolster the frontcourt--neither played last season--and Kendall may start. Alex Woodhouse is a returning starter up front, while Marc Daniels is another body down low.

American has a first team All-Patriot guard in Andre Ingram, a very good shooter and scorer who can carry the Eagles. Freshman Derrick Mercer is an excellent defender and ball handler and is expected to start at point guard. Linas Lekavicius should see more open shots with the addition of Mercer. South Carolina transfer Paulius Joneliunas will become eligible in late December and should make a major impact once he comes to the Eagles. Navy should improve their record considerably from a year ago. Forward Matt Fannin could develop into an all-league type of player, while fellow frontcourt mate Carlton Baldwin is expected to make more of a splash in the paint. Freshman Adam Teague should make an impact up front. Corey Johnson is one of the better all-around guards in the league, and Greg Sprink and David Hooper are good scorers on the wing. Lafayette doesn't have anyone that would resemble a go-to-guy on offense, but they have a crew of players that are ready to contribute. Returning starters Marcus Harley, Bilal Abdullah, and Jamaal Hilliard all can score the ball. Harley is a very good point guard, Abdullah was one of the league's best freshman last season, and Hilliard is poised for a big year. Andrei Capusan should step into a starting role this season, as could one or two of the newcomers. Army has a decent team on paper, but it is the same paper that shows that the Black Knights won 3 games last season and 1 in the Patriot. Matt Bell is an underrated guard, and should be all-Patriot. Joining him in the backcourt is Cory Sinning, who is a versatile guard. Colin Harris, Corban Bates, and Grant Carter are three solid forwards, with Harris leading the way. Jimmy Sewell is a capable center.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Bucknell
(2) Holy Cross
(3) Lehigh
(4) Colgate
(5) American
(6) Navy
(7) Lafayette
(8) Army

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Kevin Hamilton - Senior, Holy Cross
G - Andre Ingram - Junior, American
G - Charles Lee - Senior, Bucknell
G - Joe Knight - Senior, Lehigh
C - Chris McNaughton - Junior, Bucknell
Player of the Year: Kevin Hamilton, Holy Cross

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Bucknell
NIT: Holy Cross

SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com The Southland Conference was wide-open a season ago. SE Louisiana and Northwestern State tied for the league title on the final day of the season, while Sam Houston State and Texas San-Antonio were both in it entering the final stretch. Those four teams were the ones with 10 wins or more, but three others finished .500 or better. In the conference tournament, Southeastern Louisiana defeated Northwestern State in a very low-scoring final. SE Louisiana went on to give Oklahoma State a tougher game than anticipated, but lost in the first round. Expect to see several of the same teams in the mix this season. Northwestern State returns all five starters and several key role players off the bench from the co-regular season champions. Jermaine Wallace is one of the best guards in the league, and was the lone double-digit scorer for the Demons. Tyronn Mitchell joins him in the backcourt; he is the Southland's leading returning assist man. Clifton Lee and Jermaine Spencer are two very solid forwards, while Byron Allen is a tough player to deal with in the low post. Keenan Jones is a good backup at the point, while wings Kerwin Forges and Colby Bargeman provide depth on the wings. Alfonse Dyer could start at center for most teams in the league. Lamar is home to the league's best offensive player in Alan Daniels. He could be the type of player that can carry them to an NCAA berth. Other than that, the extremely deep Cardinals have no definites in the starting lineup. One could probably pencil in point guard Jeremy Long, a very good passer. The rest of the backcourt includes Matthew Barrow, who sat out last season because of academics; Blake Whittle, a versatile 6-6 wing; and Brandon Chappell, who gives Long a breather at the point. Up front, 6-9 Nashid Beard and 6-10 Jason Grant return as starters, although the most productive frontcourt players came off the bench. 6-9 Thomas Fairley is a good scorer and an excellent rebounder, and 6-9 Josh Goodwin is both a solid scorer and rebounder. SE Louisiana lost three starters, but returns the Preseason Player of the Year, Ricky Woods. Woods is good in nearly every aspect of the game. Terry Bryant also returns as the point. Chris Lee will most likely join him in the backcourt, while newcomers Darien Green and Daryl Cohen will see time on the wing. Jonathan Walker will need to improve his production with his promotion to the starting lineup.

Texas- Arlington has possibly the best inside-outside combo in the league in guard Jarrett Howell and Player of the Year candidate Steven Thomas. Thomas is the best post player in the league. Three other starters return in addition to the aforementioned two. Brady Dawkins and Stephen Floyd are nice complementary players in the backcourt, and Jermaine Griffin is solid in the frontcourt. Rodrick Epps is one of the league's best sixth men, and he could be ready for a breakout season, as could Larry Posey. Sam Houston State returns two starters from a year ago, including Chris Jordan, one of the top guards in the SLC. His backcourt partner, Brandon Streeter, also returns. Ryan Bright will move into the starting lineup at forward, and he could become one of the best players in the conference by the end of the year. Returnees Ryan Griffin and Kelvin Williams, and newcomers John Gardiner, Jonathan Woods and Reggie Rawlins will fight for minutes in the frontcourt alongside Bright. Texas-San Antonio returns only one starter, but he is a good one: Andre Owens. The 6-3 guard is a good scorer, rebounder, and passer. Point guard Kurt Attaway and post player Ray Selvage started at times a year ago, and should be ready for full-time this season. Roderick Rodgers could be in for a big year at forward. Stephen F. Austin returns three double-digit scorers from last year's starting lineup. Leading the way is 5-10 guard Marcus Clark and 6-2 guard Josh Porter, who comprise one of the best backcourts in the league. Clark could be a star. Forward Anthony Paez is the go-to-guy up front. 6-6 JC transfer Antuane Miller is a beast down low, while 6-2 freshman Keith Hardaway (Penny's cousin) is expected to make an impact on the perimeter. Texas State has a decent guard in Brad Brickens, who has been hampered by injuries throughout his career. Lance Burroughs joins him in the backcourt, and Chris Langhorne and Markee White are going to hold down the forward positions up front. JC transfers Jushay Rockett and Charles Dotson will contribute right away. McNeese State returns three starters from last season, as well as two key reserves. Troy Aaron and 5-9 point guard John Ford are the backcourt returnees, although Colorado State transfer Dwight Boatner is expected to start immediately. 6-2 guard Ryan Price had a decent season off the bench. Forwards J.T. Williams and Aldrynn Wardell were a good frontcourt tandem, and should be better this season. Louisiana-Monroe doesn't return anybody that averaged double figure points a season ago. Daryl Mason, leading scorer Cecil Hood, and RoShon Jacobs are three decently-sized guards that provide scoring and rebounding. Up front, Adrain Harper and Gary Robinson should be successful at the forwards; center Olivier Haranga could start; and newcomer Dalky Melendez could see some meaningful minutes. Nicholls State returns one starter, 6-6 guard Stefan Blaszczynski, who could be one of the best players in the conference this season. Adonis Gray is a solid guard, as is Cyril Djoukeng. Several newcomers are ready to take on important roles. Forwards James Dixon and Dominic Friend could start right away, as will center Mitch Boyce.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Northwestern State
(2) Lamar
(3) SE Louisiana
(4) Texas-Arlington
(5) Sam Houston State
(6) Texas- San Antonio
(7) Stephen F. Austin
(8) Texas State
(9) McNeese State
(10) Louisiana-Monroe
(11) Nicholls State

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Jermaine Wallace - Senior, Northwestern State
G - Marcus Clark - Senior, Stephen F. Austin
F - Ricky Woods - Senior, SE Louisiana
F - Alan Daniels - Senior, Lamar
C - Steven Thomas - Senior, Texas-Arlington
Player of the Year: Ricky Woods, SE Louisiana

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Northwestern State
NIT: None

SWAC CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com The Southwestern Athletic Conference, annually one of the worst leagues in the country, did not disappoint last season--if you were looking for the SWAC to be the worst conference in America. Six teams finished above .500 in the league, with one more finishing .500. However, only two teams finished above .500 overall--and those teams were a combined 3 games above .500. That's how it usually is in the SWAC: the winner of the automatic bid gets to play in the play-in game as a result of the atrocious RPI that this conference garners throughout the season. Last year, Alabama A&M blew out Alabama State in the conference championship, then got beaten handily by Oakland in the play-in game. The goal of the conference this season is to stay out of the dreaded play-in game. Can Alabama A&M do it? Or will another team step up with an impressive enough resume to get a normal first round game? Alabama A&M is the returning champion and has the talent to repeat. Obie Trotter is the best player in the league, both offensively and defensively. He is also an excellent passer and a very good rebounder for his size. He can control a game by himself. His backcourt mate, Marcus Jones, was the league's Freshman of the Year a season ago. All-SWAC performer Joe Martin returns in the frontcourt. He averaged nearly 14 points and 8 rebounds last year. Center Chris Collins also returns in the starting lineup. The lone vacant spot could go to freshman Michael Ford or returnee Kevin Smith. Grambling State has one of the best players in the conference returning in guard Brion Rush. He is a good shooter who can also blow by most defenders. Joining him on the perimeter are returning starter Andre Ratliff, who should improve his numbers this season, and Marcus Watson, who should provide depth. The frontcourt has a solid group of forwards, led by Jamar Lewis. John Dorsey and Martez Stevens will fight for a starting spot, as will Anthony Williams, who sat out last season with an injury. Mississippi Valley State has a very good inside-outside combo in guard Hosea Butler and Ronald Alexander. Butler contributes in all facets of the game, while Alexander might be the best big man in the league. He needs to increase his production, though. Three other starters return. Wings Sandford Speech and Solomon Forbes are good scorers, and give the Delta Devils even more options on offense. Forward Jesse Taylor is another good offensive player, and could be poised for a big season. Jeffrey Price will fight for a starting job in the frontcourt, while Kelvin McCoy provides depth in the backcourt.

Arkansas Pine-Bluff returns all five starters from a 7-21 ninth place team. Of course that is a mixed blessing. Guard Tamarius Brown is one of the SWAC's best perimeter players, while Larry Williams and Martese Coleman also join him in the backcourt. The Golden Lions' frontcourt duo is one of the best in the league. Jarvis Gunter and William Byrd combined to average 18 points and 14 rebounds a year ago. Texas Southern has one of the best guards in the league in Sean Walker, possibly the best scorer in the SWAC. Justin Miller could also develop into one of the premier point guards in the conference. He's an excellent penetrator. Jacques Jones is a solid player in the frontcourt, while Arkansas State transfer Chris Moore will team with him down low. Jackson State returns five guys that averaged between 8.3 and 8.7 points per game, leaving them with no go-to-guy, but several decent options on offense. Charles White and Dakari Wallace form a very good backcourt. Trey Johnson, a transfer from Alcorn State, is expected to make a big impact on the perimeter. Forwards Ernest Hassell and Hilton Tompkins are a sound forward duo, and should improve their scoring and rebounding numbers. Alcorn State has a very good guard in Delvin Thompson, who can carry the Braves. Forward Almaad Jackson is expected to have a breakout season in the frontcourt, while Juan Wyatt should also expand his role up front. Southern may have the best inside-outside combo in the league in guard Chris Alexander and forward Pete Cipriano. Both should be all-conference players. Alexander is a multi-talented perimeter player, while Cipriano is a double-double threat each night out. Swingman Alvin Mott is a good scorer and rebounder on the wing. Prairie View A&M has a decent group of returnees to help them in their quest to improve from 5-23. 6-3 guards Phillip Scott and Oscar Thompson were both double-figure scorers, while Jared Ellison, Marlon Davis, and Dominique Sharpe also are contributors on the perimeter. Frontcourt production is going to need to come from Anthony Oha and a host of newcomers. Alabama State could go from league runner-up to last place, although I am probably going to regret this pick. Alexander Oliver and George Savage form a decent returning backcourt, while Herbert Warren is a solid shooter. Richard Lott and Joel Bosh will need to have big years up front. Unless someone comes out of the woodwork to have a huge season, I can't see the Hornets winning many games.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

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

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Obie Trotter - Sr., Alabama A&M
G - Brion Rush - Sr., Grambling State
F - Joseph Martin - Sr., Alabama A&M
F - Pete Cipriano - Sr., Southern
C - Ronald Alexander - Sr., Mississippi Valley State
Player of the Year: Obie Trotter, Alabama A&M

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Alabama A&M
NIT: None

Photos Courtesy: bv.aol.com, fduknights.com, racerinsider.com, patriotleague.com, lionsports.net, southerndigest.com

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