Under the Radar Game of the Day – Saturday, January 30: Stephen F Austin at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Under the Radar Game of the Day: Stephen F Austin at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 3:00 PM Eastern, espn3

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Entering play today, only three conferences remain with more than one team still undefeated in league play.  One of those conferences, the Ivy League, has only seen each team play 2-3 games so far, so it is not surprising that Princeton, Columbia and Yale are all undefeated (Princeton and Yale do meet tonight).  The second of those conferences, the Big West, features a pair of teams, UC-Irvine and Hawai’i, sitting at 6-0 and 5-0 respectively.  The third conference amazingly has three teams that are each 7-0 for a combined 21-0 against the rest of their conference competition.  The conference is the Southland, and the teams are Houston Baptist, Stephen F Austin and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  Houston Baptist will have a tough home test today against Sam Houston State, but the UTR Game of the Day is the battle between the later two of the three teams as the Lumberjacks of Stephen F Austin will be heading down to Corpus Christi to take on the Islanders.

Stephen F Austin enters play today with a record of 14-5 overall.  Their KenPom rating of 98  is the best amongst Southland teams.  Unfortunately, they struggled in non-conference play, failing to capture a signature win while losing games to Northern Iowa and Tulane.  The ‘jacks also did something that we tend to frown upon here at HOOPS HD by scheduling the maximum number of non-D1 games (4).  That being said, they have not lost since Southland play began and if they keep winning, a top two seed in the SLC tournament (which comes with a bye into the semifinals) could be in store — and then they would merely need to win two games to be back in the Big Dance.  The Lumberjacks are led by senior Thomas Walkup.  Walkup is having another excellent season, including just coming off a 22 point effort in a win over Lamar.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is presently an impressive 16-3 on the season, and although KenPom has them rated below SFA, the Islanders RPI of 130 is the best in the Southland (SFA is at 172).  The Islanders only three losses on the season came at Texas, at Texas A&M and at Wisconsin, none of which are bad by any means.  Unfortunately, none of their wins were against teams of note (the best one probably having come at Elon), which leaves this team’s only realistic shot at an NCAA bid coming by winning the SLC tournament.  That being said, a win today gives the Islanders an inside track on one of the top 2 seeds in the conference tournament.  Corpus Christi is led by Rashawn Thomas, who is coming off of his sixth double-double of the season last time out against Southeastern Louisiana.

One final note about the Southland:  In these days of unbalanced conference schedules, which the SLC and its 13 members have, a quirk in the scheduling has given us a bit of a gift this year.  The top three teams (Houston Baptist, SFA and Texas A&M-CC) will all play each other twice, home-and-home, during the regular season.  Further, the fourth best team in the league, Sam Houston State, will also play all three teams twice this season.  Thanks to that, the two teams that do win the top seeds in the conference tournament this year will certainly have earned their spots.

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