The Southwestern Athletic Conference has been dominated over the past few seasons by Mike Davis’ Texas Southern Tigers. Last season, his team won both the regular season and conference tournament championships before losing as a 16 seed to eventual national champion North Carolina in the Round of 64. This year, with only one starter returning, recapturing the league crown is by no means a lock. However, it is hard to pick against a program that has been this dominant in the conference, and we are not going to do so here.
Texas Southern will have some challengers, led by Alcorn State and Prairie View. Both teams return a pair of double-digit scorers and may have enough pieces to leap past Texas Southern if the Tigers are unable to rebuild quick enough. Unfortunately for the SWAC, a conference that we always love to discuss, the lack of a dominant team during the regular season may all but guarantee the automatic bid winner a trip to Dayton for the First Four.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Texas Southern – In his five seasons at Texas Southern, Mike Davis’ team has won either the regular season or conference tournament title (or both) every single year. This season may be his toughest yet, with only one starter back in Demontrae Jefferson. However, it is tough to pick against a team that has only lost 6 conference regular season games the last three years.
- Alcorn State – Senior forward Reginal Johnson did not make a single start last season, yet he led the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game and was second in rebounding with 7.1 per game. With him and senior guard A.J. Mosby back, the Braves should be a contender for the conference title.
- Prairie View A&M – Head coach Byron Smith guided the Panthers to ten SWAC wins in his first season and could improve on that number this time around with senior Zachary Hamilton, one of the league’s top players, back to lead his team. Between Hamilton and Troy Thompson, PVAMU will score a lot from the backcourt, but they need to find more help down low if they want a shot at capturing the league crown.
- Jackson State – The Tigers must find a way to replace three starters that combined to average over 35 points a game last season if they want to finish at or near the top of the conference standings. Senior guard Paris Collins may be able to pick up a good portion of that scoring load, and if he gets enough help around him from the newcomers, do not be surprised if Jackson State finishes even higher than this.
- Southern – Head coach Roman Banks is now the Athletic Director for Southern, placing former assistant Morris Scott in charge of running the men’s basketball team. The squad itself lost a pair of double-digit scorers from last season’s 15-18 team and may be hard-pressed to even equal that record this season.
- Alabama State – The Hornets should be improved on last season’s 8-23 mark behind the senior duo of Rodney Simeon and Terrance LeFlore. However, they need to get much better on the defensive end if the want to finish near the top of the standings.
- Alabama A&M* – The Bulldogs bring in long-time Mike Davis assistant Donnie Marsh as their new head coach. Although Marsh does not have many pieces to work with this season, sophomore guard De’Ederick Petty may be the perfect type of player for the new head coach to begin growing the program around. This year will not be great, but Marsh may be the perfect guy to get Alabama A&M’s program turned around.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff – The Golden Lions lost 25 games last season and only return two starters from that squad. The good news is that they return a fair number of bench players that saw some significant minutes. This season will not be a step back, but don’t expect much of a step forward either.
- Grambling State* – Under Shawn Walker the Tigers went from 2 wins in 2014-15 all the way up to 15 wins last season. Then, almost inexplicably, his contract was not renewed and Donte’ Jackson takes over this season. Jackson may have a tough time in his first season with two of the team’s top three scorers gone, although senior forward Averyl Ugba should put up some very strong numbers.
- Mississippi Valley State – The Delta Devils lost four starters, and notably their top four scorers, from a team that only won 7 games last season. This may be a very long year in Itta Bena.
* Alabama A&M and Grambling State are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to APR postseason bans.