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SWAC Notebook

December 4, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Southwestern Athletic Conference Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

I began the season by taking pot-shots at the SWAC Conference, and I feel horrible about it. I have nothing against the conference other then its lack of creativity when choosing mascots for its teams. In fact, I’ve been proven wrong by the recent success of Mississippi Valley State’s winning record. Who would have thought that pre-season conference MVP Attarius Norwood would lead his team to three victories after their initial loss to Atlantic 10’s Richmond? I certainly wouldn’t have.

In fact, I had Mississippi Valley State finishing fourth in the conference. I should have realized that being named the Delta Devils puts them at a distinct advantage over other teams because they can differentiate between the players on the court, whereas the Tigers of Texas Southern and Jackson State become easily confused when playing each other, often finding themselves asking, ‘Why are their ten Tigers on the court?’ Attarius has taken his 14 points and 7 rebounds and translated it into wins over Mount St. Mary’s, Jacksonville State and Division II challenger Delta State, who will be looking for revenge on Dec. 11 (don’t forget to mark your calendar).

As for the other teams, they have four wins amongst each other. Two Division II teams couldn’t crack the shells of Texas Southern and Southern University, while Jackson State beat up on South Alabama and Alabama A&M outlasted Eastern Kentucky. Here is a look at how each team is faring.

Mississippi Valley State (3-1)

72-71 W Mount St. Mary’s
84-59 W Jacksonville State
64-61 W Delta State

All three of these games were at home for the Delta Devils, which doesn’t say much for the team having only won by one against Mount St. Mary’s and three against Division II Delta State. Attarius Norwood is living up to the hype, while Edward Mack and Hosea Butler are adding just enough punch to squeak out some wins. Their top three scorers are all averaging around 35% shooting, which won’t get it done come division play, where big men will force most shots outside. I would like to correct some mistakes in my conference preview article. Adrian Harper and Michael Archie are both not playing for the Delta Devils anymore, and Hosea Butler and Edward Mack are getting the bulk of time at guard while Soloman Forbes is playing mostly the three. I also would like to thank Yahoo Sports for providing the information that the Mississippi Valley State website couldn’t provide (I will not let this go until the folks over at MVS get things right).

Alabama A&M (1-2)

100-65 L at Texas A&M
75-61 W Eastern Kentucky

The blow out at Texas A&M showed that Alabama A&M isn’t going to challenge any Big 12 teams, but they can handle the worst of the Ohio Valley Conference no problem. Okay, that’s not fair…Eastern Illinois is 0-3 while Eastern Kentucky is 1-3. These smaller conferences are sure lucky that they get to play Division II teams, otherwise they might never win out of conference games. Two guards are leading this team in the early season. Ricky Ricketts and Obie Trotter are both averaging around 11 points a game. However, like the Delta Devils, these two are both shooting around 35%. This is not going to translate well in conference play, where the competition should be fiercer. The good thing is that there are four guys who are averaging at least ten points a game, which shows that this is probably one of the more well-rounded teams in the conference. This does bode well for conference play. I should have ranked these guys higher then 9th.

Jackson State (10-2)

77-63 L at Louisiana Tech
71-63 L at Jacksonville State

This team has had problems in the latter halves of games. Come to think of it, Alabama A&M also had problems in the latter halves of games. Perhaps this is simply a symptom of losing, or perhaps it something unique to the conference. Either way, after winning its first game against South Alabama having only shot 9 three pointers and shooting 51% from the field, the Tigers thought they should chuck up 22 threes the very next game. True, they shot 36% from the arc, but that’s also what they shot from the field. Their leading scorer K.C. Cavette had 3 points that game after scoring 25 the first game. The third game was no better, this time feeling they should shoot less threes; only 19 were thrown up. The six that were made helped the squad shoot 41% from the field. K.C. Cavette got back on track with 17, making 2 of 4 threes, but nobody got more then 6 rebounds.

Southern University (1-2)

78-72 L at Tulane
67-44 W at West Alabama

Southern University has played a respectable schedule, even though its only win came against Division II West Alabama. Conference USA’s Tulane and SEC’s LSU were its other two opponents, losing by 6 and 11 respectively. The minutes have been pretty well spread out on this team, with seven guys getting 20 minutes or more. Three Juniors are amongst the top four scorers, and the wealth of minutes allows for them to grow and be better players down the road. Trayvean Scott is leading the team in assists, and provides the solid Senior leadership that is necessary to challenge teams like LSU and Tulane. Look for some more wins from this squad, which has already played the toughest part of its schedule.

Texas Southern (1-2)

77-63 L at Southern Mississippi
74-55 W Texas College

After an opening loss to a Baylor team eager to get wins over lesser opponents so as to not look so terrible in the end, Texas Southern didn’t challenge Southern Mississippi the entire game. They were out-rebounded 43-28, they shot 56% from the line, and they 17 turnovers compared to 7 assists – that’s right, 7! However, like Southern University before them, they took out their frustrations on a Division II school. Texas College was no match for the Tigers. So far, Lionel Willis has been a consistent scorer, but is only averaging 6.5 rebounds per game. They have to improve on rebounding if they want to be a contender.

Alabama State (0-3)

67-57 L at Birmingham Southern
66-49 L at South Alabama

The first of five winless teams did it with only one player averaging double digit points per game. Their leading rebounder, Xavier Oliver, is averaging 5 boards per game. Their leading assists man, Malcolm Campbell, is averaging 3 per game. I don’t really have much more to say about this team. Campbell is also their leading scorer, which makes him a decent player on a bad team. He will probably start scoring more points, but not until conference play starts. I stick by my prediction.

Grambling State (0-3)

64-46 L at Arkansas
105-56 L Auburn

As if losing by 47 in their first game against Georgetown wasn’t enough, the Tigers decided to lose by 49 to Auburn a week and a day later. With Marquette and Saint Louis left on the schedule, it doesn’t look to get any easier for Grambling State, I mean, even Texas College is looking forward to their game against the Tigers. The two leading scorers for the Tigers are averaging 26% from the field. T-w-e-n-t-y s-i-x p-e-r-c-e-n-t., not a tick above or below. They only scored 36 points against Georgetown, and they are averaging 46 points a game. In their first two games, they only had one player in double figures each game, Brion Rush with 14 in game one, and Paul Haynes with 24 in game two. Rush did it by taking two more shots then he had points and Haynes needed 21 shots to get to 24. Work is needed.

Prairie View A&M (0-3)

77-57 L at Duquesne
88-79 L at Texas A&M

I feel bad for the Panthers who have had to play three games on the road to begin the season. They had such an outstanding year last year that I was hoping to see them have some early success. However, they are not yet on the same platform as the Pac-10, Big 12 or Atlantic 10, where each of their first three opponents came from. Oregon State, Duquesne and Texas A&M each had their way with the Panthers, but all was not lost. Roderick Riley, Kevin Cooper and Tyrone Nelson all are playing good basketball. Plus, they collectively shooting above 40%, something that is rare in this conference at this point in time. What is more amazing is that they are doing it against quality opponents rather then Division II teams and lower conference opponents. Riley is throwing up 13 points per game and 9 rebounds per game, both very respectable. Look for those numbers to grow as the season progresses and Prairie View A&M plays the likes of Grambling State, Alabama State and AR Pine Bluff. They have a big game against Oklahoma next Saturday Dec. 13, and if they win, I will finally have something positive to write about. I like this team though. They are my pick.

Alcorn State (0-4)

80-63 L Stephen F. Austin
84-49 L AR Little Rock

Little to say here. The two guards, DeAndre Jones and Brian Jackson, are the only story. They are both over ten a game, but the team hasn’t gotten any closer then 12 points in the end. Their competition hasn’t been all that outstanding, so I’m not upset that I put them near the bottom of the conference.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-4)

80-50 L at Tulane
94-24 L at Oklahoma

It doesn’t get much sadder for AR Pine Bluff. After losing by 30 points to Tulane, they get handed about as bad an ego killing loss as possible by Oklahoma. Seventy points is what they were looking at in the end, and not even if they were dating the Swedish Bikini team could they recover from this beating with a happy heart. They only scored 24 points. I thought that the 26% put up by Grambling State was bad, but ARPB shot 25% against the Sooners. It was the largest margin of victory for Oklahoma in the Kelvin Sampson era, and AR Pine Bluff applauded them after the game. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought it was applause. I am being told that their coach was so mad that he made them run passing drills, but they kept missing the ball, thus, ending up clapping their hands instead. I would seriously like to revisit the option of moving a team from Division I to Division III if it cannot complete legitimately with even the worst of Division I teams. Let AR Pine Bluff set the precedents for forcing a league to make this decision.


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