Under the Radar Game of the Day: Stephen F Austin at Incarnate Word, 7:00 PM Eastern, ASN/free streaming at southland.org
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The Pursuit of Perfection. It may be the tagline for a car manufacturer, but it also could be a reality in the Southland conference this year. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks enter play tonight as the only D1 team this is undefeated against its conference, a perfect 15-0 after taking care of Houston Baptist 82-54 over the weekend. The ‘jacks have three games this week, all on the road, so they will certainly need to earn 18-0. The road trip begins in San Antonio tonight as they take on the Incarnate Word Cardinals, and will continue Thursday night at Northwestern State and Saturday at their top rival Sam Houston State. SFA has in fact only lost one conference game over the past three seasons (last year at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), making them the nation’s most dominant team against their own league. SFA is nowhere near at-large bid worthy, despite being 22-5 overall, as they are without a single top 100 victory. However, that will not matter if they keep winning and take the SSLC tourney title for the third straight season. The Lumberjacks are led by Thomas Walkup who had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in an earlier 84-46 home win over UIW. Also keep an eye on Demetrious Floyd who has had 20 or more points in a game 18 times already this season.
Even though SFA cruised in their home win over Incarnate Word earlier this season, this is by no means a guaranteed win for the Lumberjacks tonight. UIW is currently 15-11 overall and 10-5 in conference play, tied for third place in the standings. UIW is only in its third of four seasons transitioning up to the Division I level, and therefore ineligible for the Southland, NCAA and NIT tournaments. However, with a winning record they have a good chance to return to the CIT for the second straight season. In fact, if not for the successes of the Grand Canyon program that we have highlighted here all season, UIW would be the top transitional program in the country right now as they seek their second straight postseason invite. The Cardinals hold marquee wins over Nebraska last season and St. John’s this year, showing the head coach Ken Burmeister has done a great job getting this team ready for full D1 play two year from now. Keep an eye on Kyle Hittle for UIW as he scored 30 points last time out in a win over Lamar. If he and his teammates can find a way to slow down Walkup, Floyd and the rest of the Lumberjacks, they may just find a way to end SFA’s Pursuit of Perfection.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTED GAMES
-OKLAHOMA STATE AT IOWA STATE (Big Twelve). Iowa State should end up as a protected seed so long as they hold serve and avoid losses to non-tournament teams the rest of the way.
-SYRACUSE AT NORTH CAROLINA. UNC is pretty much on pace to get a protected seed, and Syracuse is pretty much locked in to the field, but could really give their resume and seed a boost if they’re able to pick up a big road win like this.
-CHATTANOOGA AT VMI (SoCon). I don’t think Chattanooga will make the NCAAs without the automatic bid, but they’ll probably at least get a look if they win out and lose late in the SoCon Tournament. This is also the final game of the SoCon season, though the matchups for the conference tournament have already been locked in. The only thing this game will decide is whether VMI wears their home or road jerseys when they take on Samford in the 8 vs 9 game.
-KANSAS AT TEXAS (Big Twelve). Kansas will likely be #1 when this game tips off, but this will not be a cakewalk. Texas just beat Oklahoma at home over the weekend, and they’ve been playing fantastically well. This was a competitive game the first time these two met, and it wouldn’t shock me if Texas pulled this one off.
-SURVIVAL BOARD GAMES: Lamar will be eliminated with a loss tonight at home to McNeese State. Nicholls State will be eliminated with a loss tonight at home to New Orleans plus wins by McNeese State (at Lamar) and Northwestern State (at Southeastern Louisiana).