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SWAC Notebook

February 4, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Southwestern Athletic Conference Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

The Lead is Cut to None

Mississippi Valley State has been caught by Jackson State in conference play, and things are getting heated with the top two teams in the conference with two losses and Texas Southern, Southern University and Alabama A&M trailing just behind with four losses each. The battle for first was decided a week ago in a defensive battle between Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State, and the Delta Devils came out on top, barely. Mississippi Valley State had controlled their own destiny for much of the season, putting together the only winning non-conference record and positioning themselves atop the conference standings early in the season. However, two losses in the last two weeks gave others in the conference hope, especially with the Delta Devil’s recent loss to a struggling, young Grambling State team. The door is now left open for conference favorite Texas Southern to make the move that it needs in order to build momentum going into the conference tournament.

Pre-season Favorite for Last Proving Doubters Wrong

Arkansas Pine Bluff has shown the doubters who thought that they might win more then one or two games wrong, and the doubters are steaming hot about it. With Loyola (MD) win over Marist the other day, AR Pine Bluff now sports the nation’s worst record, not taking into consideration the amount of losses. They are battling for the distinction with Savannah State (1-22), Loyola Maryland (1-19) and North Carolina A&T (1-18). True, Savannah State has a large lead over the others in the loss column, but they will be playing Maryland Eastern Shore up next, and they only lost to them by one point in the last meeting. Chances are that Savannah State will not be part of this group for long, with Maryland Eastern Shore just two wins removed from this elite group themselves.

Player of the Year Standings

Attarius Norwood had many in the league offices talking at the beginning of the season, and his team is doing well enough to make a case for him, but there are too many good players other then Norwood who are putting together quality seasons that can’t be ignored. Brion Rush and Paul Haynes are leading Grambling State, both averaging around 18.5 points per game. Obie Trotter is averaging 17 points a game as well as 3.1 steals, 3.1 assists and 5 rebounds a game for Alabama A&M. Ishmael Joyce is putting together a good season at Jackson State, as is Deion Sanders at Southern University. My pick so far would be Trotter, who is playing well across the board.

Mississippi Valley State (7-2 conference, 13-6 overall)

50-41 W Jackson State
83-69 L at Grambling State

The Delta Devils are putting together a quality season, but it will all be for naught if they were to lose the conference tournament. Thus, they, like every other team, must get momentum going towards the end of the season. Their next four games are against middle of the road teams in the conference, and they must have a good showing so as to get good positioning. Attarius Norwood was the leader going into the season, but Solomon Forbes has stepped up as a legitimate scoring option. The big game will come on Saturday February 21st when the Delta Devils host Texas Southern.

Jackson State (7-2 conference, 9-9 overall)

50-41 L at Mississippi Valley State
66-48 W at AR Pine Bluff

There is nothing like playing the worst team in the nation to bring ones ego back to where it was after a loss. The battle for first was decided when Mississippi Valley State sweated out Jackson State, but Jackson State was brought back into a tie for first place when Mississippi Valley State stumbled against Grambling State. Now, Jackson State has to prove that it can beat the best teams in the conference. Two of their next four games are against top four teams on the conference. Their next game is against Alcorn State. Three different players, K.C. Cavette, Leonard Taylor and Ishmael Joyce, contributed to lead Jackson State to a high scoring win the last time out. Look for a much tighter game, with Ishmael Joyce leading the way.

Texas Southern (5-4 conference, 9-10)

69-51 L at Alabama State
69-64 L at Alabama A&M

Two tough road losses dropped Texas Southern from the elite of the conference quickly, but they are still one of the strongest teams in this league. Obie Trotter’s two free throws in the final minute sealed the Bulldogs win over the Tigers, and it was poor free-throw shooting that hurt the Tigers most. Now, they have a chance to beat up on Arkansas Pine Buff before they head to Grambling State, and more importantly, Jackson State. The resolve of this team will be tested in the next few weeks, so let’s all see if the conference favorite can pull it out.

Southern University (5-4 conference, 8-10 overall)

71-70 L Alabama State
84-73 W Alcorn State

The Jaguars couldn’t lose three home games in a row, so they put together a strong showing against Alcorn State. The Jaguars are in a midst of a tough stretch in their schedule, where they will play the top two teams in the next two weeks. If they can come away with at least one win against them, they might be able to build some momentum towards the end of the season.

Alabama A&M (5-4 conference, 7-10 overall)

78-68 W Prairie View A&M
69-64 W Texas Southern

The strong showing against Texas Southern has the Bulldogs high on life, and looking to improve their standing with games against AR Pine Bluff, and a much bigger game against Mississippi Valley State. Aside from the game against the Delta Devils, their schedule is light. It includes a game against Savannah State, another one loss team, who when combined with AR Pine Bluff makes for two assured wins in the next four games. They proved that they can win tight games in the final minutes, and that is the most important thing going into the conference tournament.

Alabama State (4-5 conference, 6-12 overall)

69-51 W Texas Southern
68-42 W Prairie View A&M

Alabama State is the first of the 5 loss teams that are looking to make an immediate move towards the top if they want to accomplish anything this season. They have the hardest road, with a huge game against Mississippi Valley State coming up on Saturday. They have a three game winning streak that gives them some momentum coming into the big game, winning their last two games by an average of 22 points. However, it won’t be enough make a move.

Grambling State (4-5 conference, 6-13 overall)

78-55 W at AR Pine Bluff
83-68 W at Mississippi Valley State

Grambling State has the best chance to challenge towards the end of the season. Their strong win over the top team in the conference gave them the momentum they needed to beat middle of the road teams like Southern University and Alcorn State. They also have two of the most complete players in the conference in Brion Rush and Paul Haynes. This team knows where its scoring is coming from, and they have a legitimate third option in senior guard Ron Ellis.

Alcorn State (4-5 conference, 5-13 overall)

84-73 L at Southern University
74-52 L at Texas Pan American

Three straight losses have hurt this team’s ego, not to mention killed their chances at challenging in conference play. They, like many teams, will be looking forward to the conference tournament, hoping for a chance to play in the play-in game. With their three losses coming by more than 10 points in each instance, it is hard for anyone to predict that this team will end on a winning note.

Prairie View A&M (3-6 conference, 3-15 overall)

78-68 L at Alabama A&M
68-42 L at Alabama State

Not much to say about this Prairie View A&M team, who has won their three games in conference play. So, I’ve decided to combine their weekly blurb with another really bad team…

Arkansas Pine Bluff (1-8 conference, 1-17 overall)

78-55 L Grambling State
66-48 L Jackson State

The worst team in the nation (along with Loyola-Maryland) is only two games behind Prairie View A&M. This is the most hotly contested battle in the nation. The big game is on Saturday February 21st, 2004. Mark your calendar and pick you favorite. Will it be the Golden Lions or the Panthers?


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