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SWAC Conference Preview

November 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Southwestern Athletic Conference Preview

by Joaquin Mesa

Since moving from California and the luxury of watching Pac-10 basketball, I’ve gotten a chance to enjoy the Big Green at Dartmouth. Though they are not part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, I mention it because I’ve played pick-up ball with the women’s team here on campus. Why is this important? Well, I think I have a good sense now of the level of competition in the SWAC.

Now, you Jackson State fans calm down, I’m not demeaning your beloved Tigers, nor your Tigers Grambling State, nor your Tigers Texas Southern. I’m also not bashing the Panthers of Prairie View, or the Jaguars of Southern University or the Golden Lions of AR Pine Bluff. I’m basically calling all those of the feline persuasion unremarkable when compared to the Big Green women’s basketball team. I mean, you haven’t been jabbed in the gut until you’ve been faked out by a streaky female point guard at the 3-point line, then blown by. See, she had the free basket, but she decided to jab me in the gut anyway. Go figure.

This is the kind of tenacity that was lacking when the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season champion Prairie View A&M lost to Alcorn State, a team that was under five hundred. This is the tenacity that was lacking when conference champion Texas Southern lost to NC Asheville in the Play-in game in the South Region. This is the kind of tenacity that will generally be lacking in most games this year involving these teams. I don’t mean to be so hard on the conference; it’s just that once you go green, you never look back.

All-Conference Team
Roderick Riley, C (Sr., Prairie View A&M)
Attarius Norwood, F ( So., Mississippi Valley State)
Jerrid Campbell, F-C (So., Southern University)
Brion Rush, G (So., Grambling State University)
Allen Lovett, G (Jr., Texas Southern)

This All-Conference team is very young, and it should be noted that senior leadership usually wins conferences, whether your team is good or not. Thus, this should be a testament to these players talent, not their successes. Attarius Norwood and Allen Lovett led their teams in scoring respectively as underclassmen. Campbell was a solid player at 10 points a game and 8 rebounds. Rush was .2 behind the scoring leader on the team, Paul Haynes, and he did this as a freshman. Haynes missed the list because of his 7.0 rebounding average. Any big man who isn’t putting up 10 rebounds a game in my book doesn’t get a nod, and since Campbell got 8 rebounds a game as a freshman, he is my pick at that position.

Conference MVP: Roderick Riley

Big men are always my favorites for MVP.

Freshman of the Year: Clyde Pride (Prairie View A&M)

Averaged 9.0 assists in high school, a place where ball-hogging is the norm.

Most Improved Player: Jerrid Campbell

His scoring will go way up.

Prairie View A&M (17-12, 1st – 14-4)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Kevin Cooper
G – Derek Flora
SF – William Tucker
F – Chris Garwood
C – Roderick Riley

After finishing the season strongly as the conference regular-season champions, the Panthers took an early exit from the conference tournament at the hands of Alcorn State, a team they had beaten a week earlier. First year coach Jerry Francis should be proud of his team, which was led by POY Gregory Burks. However, they have an uphill battle, with Burks, Malachi Thurston and Blannon Campbell all leaving. That leaves a very inexperienced backcourt of Cooper and Flora. However, Baylor transfer Tyrone Nelson looks to add to a frontcourt that will be dominant this year. Like I always say, big men win games.

Texas Southern (18-13, 4th – 11-7)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Shawn Walker
G – Allan Lovett
SF – Lionel Willis
F – Akil Butler
C – Jason Arbet

Texas Southern surprised everyone when they won the conference tournament. They return four starters from last season’s team, and it looks to be a very promising year for them. They are picked by the SWAC coaches as the projected top team in the conference. However, their big man, Arbet, is a freshman, and I don’t see him able to stop the older, bulkier big men in the conference. Their point guard is young too, replacing All-SWAC team member RaKim Hollis. Too many youngsters to make a run at the regular season title in my mind.

Grambling State (12-18, 6th – 9-9)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Ron Ellis
G – Brion Rush
SF – Maurice Seawright
F- Harold Lewis
C- Paul Haynes

Grambling State has a reputation of not living up to their potential. This year, with Michigan transfer Maurice Seawright, and returning FOY Brion Rush and All-SWAC team member Paul Haynes, the Tigers look to challenge for the conference title. However, they are going to go through most of the year with a small line-up after losing their top rebounder in center William McDonald. No matter how good your backcourt is, they will never win a game for you. This is why I have them as third in the conference this year.

Mississippi Valley State (15-14, 2nd – 13-5)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Michael Archie
G – Soloman Forbes
SF – Adrian Harper
F – Attarius Norwood
C – Willie Neal

This team is a mystery, and even I had trouble finding information on this team. It was very frustrating. Thus, I base my ranking on the fact that this team had a great season last year, and a returning forward who is dominant in Attarius Norwood. He is also projected to be the POY for the conference. However, I must say that Mississippi Valley State is not prepared as a marketing organization and I would not want to be a communications major there.

Southern University (9-20, 8th – 5-13)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Jerimie Collier
G – Timothy Johnson
SF – Peter Cipriano
F – Jerrid Campbell
C – Domonic Prince

Part of the reason that smaller conferences don’t get much respect is because they run spotty operations. Southern University has what seems to be a good team, but most folks wouldn’t know because they don’t promote themselves or cater to the media, which would at least give me a heads up. Two newcomers make the Southern starting five in Domonic Prince and Jerimie Collier, but it’s the returning big men in Peter Cipriano and Jerrid Campbell that get people riled up. Much like Texas Southern, this team is very young.

Alabama State (14-15, 3rd – 11-7)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Malcolm Campbell
G – Cedric Mitchell
SF – Akeim Claiborne
F – Xavier Oliver
C – Derrick Russell

With three holdovers from last year’s squad, Alabama State is hoping to improve on its middle-of-the-pack quality. However, they have no true center, and that doesn’t bode well for their conference hopes. There are too many other good big men in the league for Alabama State to make its move to the upper-echelon. Look for guard Malcolm Campbell to have another big year, and to score a whole lot more points.

Alcorn State (14-19, 5th – 10-8)

Projected Starting Five:
G – DeAndre Jones
G – Brian Jackson
SF -Dion Callans
F – Miles Howard
C -Rhau-Chavis Landfair

This team lost its leading scorer, but returns some promising guards. Brian Jackson had 12 points per game last year, while Dion Callans is a big man who will run some point for the season. DeAndre Jones is only a sophomore, and looks to add a little punch to a strong backcourt. Rhau-Chavis Landfair is a 6-10 monster on the inside, but isn’t a scorer. They will challenge late in a lot of games, but will come up short.

Jackson State (10-18, 7th – 9-9)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Ishmael Joyce
G – K.C. Cavette
SF – Ernest Hassell
F – James Williams
C – Shane King

First year coach Tevester Anderson has made some headlines, with a good recruiting year and a very valuable website that I appreciate greatly. They will be playing a few freshmen though, and it will take a year for this coach to really make this team standout. Look for a few good games out of James Williams and Shane King though. King is a 7-2 monster.

Alabama A&M (8-19, 10th – 4-14)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Obie Trotter
G – Ricky Ricketts
SF – Michael Ford
F – Jarvis Smith
C – Chris Collins

This team lost three starters and its top three scorers. It won’t be contending for anything this year. This will be a rebuilding year for a team that is used to winning. There are many good young players on this squad, like Michael Ford, who won’t start at the beginning of the season, but might very well by the midpoint. I have him in the starting five because I think his name deserves more print. Most likely, it will be Terry Horton starting at small forward, and splitting time at the two guard. Either way, it will prove to be a long and trying season for this team.

Arkansas Pine Bluff (4-24, 9th – 4-14)

Projected Starting Five:
G – Lamarquis Blake
G – Melvin Bell
SF – Chris Parker
F – Justin Lloyd
C – Courtney Lee

I had one more team to go before I could berate the SWAC conference on the whole again, and I couldn’t get past how bad Arkansas Pine Bluff was going to be. They finished last in the conference last year, AND lost three of their top four scorers. Two of the players in the starting five I could care less about, completely – as people. The only had one player in double figures last year, and he was only at 10 points a game. I don’t know what to do now. Should I write about the possibility of getting a new coach, or the possibility of moving to Division III?

In Closing

I would really like it if one of the teams here could make it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Then, I would finally be able to see pig’s flying. The only thing exciting in this conference is when the top three teams play each other, and who knows exactly who that is going to be this year. The coaches and media are saying that Texas Southern is supposed to win the conference, but I’m not so sure that they have what it takes. Why? Because they are in the SWAC. What else needs be said?

     

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