Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange
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AROUND THE LEAGUE

CENTRAL ARKANSAS

--Central Arkansas ended the season with an 8-21 record and was 3-13 in Southland Conference play in the second year under head coach Corliss Williamson. That is a three-game improvement overall from last year and two more wins than the 1-15 SLC mark the Bears had in 2011.

--Senior G Mark Rutledge played his final college game March 3 in a loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He had 12 points, five rebounds and three assists in the game.

"Mark played with his heart tonight," Williamson said, "and that's the way he's played throughout his career here at UCA. We're certainly going to miss him a lot. His spirit in the locker room, on the practice floor, his whole demeanor. He's certainly laid a foundation for the ones that come after him with his work ethic."

--Sophomore G LaQuentin Miles, a Southeast Missouri transfer, led the Southland Conference with 18.0 points per game in nonconference action, but his season average dipped to 14.9 overall after going through the grind of league play.

He was honored after the season as an all-conference third-team selection.

LAMAR

--Before they rattled off three consecutive wins in Katy, Texas, to win the Southland Conference tournament, the Cardinals learned that their three guards -- Mike James, Anthony Miles and Devon Lamb -- had been selected to the all-conference team.

James, whose 17.2 points per game ranked third in the SLC, was a first-team selection. Miles, 14.5 points per game were second in the league, and Lamb, whose 10 double-doubles were second in the league, were each second-team selections.

--First-year head coach Pat Knight is the third coach in Lamar history to take the Cardinals to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. The previous two were Billy Tubbs, who took the Cardinals to the tourney in his first two seasons (1979 and 1980), and Mike Deane, who led the team in 1999-2000, the program's last NCAA Tournament season before this year.

Knight and father Bobby Knight also become the 12th father/son duo to have both coached in the NCAA Tournament.

--The Cardinals were 11-6 this season in nonconference games entering the NCAA Tournament.

--The team was ranked first or second in the league in rebounding margin, scoring margin, free-throw percentage, steals, turnover margin and blocked shots as of March 11.

MCNEESE STATE

--The Cowboys lost in the Southland Conference tournament title game for the second straight season on March 10 in Katy, Texas. And for the second straight year, it wasn't much of a game.

This year's final was a 70-49 blowout loss to Lamar. A year ago, UT-San Antonio beat the Cowboys 82-64.

--Senior Fs Daniel Richard and Rudy Turner both sat out the SLC tournament final with unspecified medical reasons.

Both, according to coach Dave Simmons, were likely going to be able to play in the CollegeInsider.com tournament matchup against Toledo.

The CIT invite means the Cowboys are playing in the postseason for the second consecutive season, a rarity for a Southland Conference team that hasn't won the league's tournament title.

--The Cowboys' March 10 loss to Lamar dropped the team's record to 17-15 overall. Despite being one of three teams invited from the league to participate in the postseason, McNeese State didn't exactly rank very high in many statistical categories this season.

In fact, of the 21 team statistical categories the Southland Conference regularly updates on the league Web site, the Cowboys ranked in the top three of only one: defensive field-goal percentage (31.9 percent).

NICHOLLS STATE

--A quote coach J.P. Piper gave the Daily Comet after his team was bounced from the first round of the Southland Conference tournament on March 7 probably tells you all you need to know about the season his program just endured.

"I think Krista Bayers, our trainer, is going to be the MVP at our athletic banquet," Piper told the Daily Comet. "I think I talked to her more than my staff."

The Colonels suffered through an injury-plagued season that left them with pretty much only freshmen and sophomores on the court most of the time down the stretch, but still the team ended the year 10-20 overall and 6-10 in conference play, good enough to sneak into the eighth and final spot in the SLC tournament.

--F Trevon Lewis was named Southland Conference Freshman of the Year. He averaged 13.1 points per game this season (tops among freshmen in the league). His 55.4 percent shooting from the floor in league games ranked No. 4 in the conference.

Lewis is the fourth Nicholls State player to earn Freshman of the Year honors, the last being Fred Hunter in 2009.

--The Colonels may actually not be losing any players this offseason. The only two seniors on the roster -- Gs Fred Hunter and Ben Martin -- may both be eligible for medical redshirts. Martin played in four games before his season was ended with a leg injury. Hunter, last year's No. 2 scorer on the team at 15.8 points per game, never played a game after a November knee injury.

NORTHWESTERN STATE

--The Demons were hot in the first half of league play, but they stumbled down the stretch and finished the season with a 16-16 overall record and an 8-8 mark in Southland Conference play.

The Demons lost 76-69 in the first round of the SLC tournament to eventual tournament champion Lamar.

Northwestern State lose just two seniors, G Louis Ellis and C William Mosley, but they were the No. 2 and 3 scorers on the team.

--Mosley ended his storied Northwestern State career with 460 blocked shots, putting him at No. 5 all-time in NCAA history. He also went out in dramatic fashion with a career-best 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in the tournament loss, less than a week after his twin sons, not yet 1 year old, died in a Houston hospital due to medical complications they had since birth.

"He's been through a lot in five years with us, nothing that compares to the last few days," coach Mike McConathy said. "He's very genuine, very appreciative. They joke around and call him Will McConathy. He's the kind of kid I would want to be my son. I'd put him alongside Michael and Logan. He's that special."

--Junior G Shamir Davis was a third-team All-Southland Conference selection after leading the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game. He also had a team-high 100 assists.

SAM HOUSTON STATE

--The Bearkats went through the first half of the season seemingly in need of nametags. After an offseason roster overhaul, they essentially returned only two regular players from last year's team, meaning second-year coach Jason Hooten had a lot of new faces to coach up.

The team struggled through a 1-5 start to the season and a 6-10 nonconference mark but posted a respectable 7-9 mark in Southland Conference play. That was good enough to get the team into its 10th consecutive Southland Conference tournament, where the Bearkats lost 68-46 in the opening round to Stephen F. Austin.

C Antuan Bootle and F Marcus James were the only two seniors on this year's roster.

--The Bearkats were one of only two SLC teams (Southeastern Louisiana was the other) to have no player named all-conference (first team, second team, third team or honorable mention).

--Junior G Konner Tucker, a Wake Forest transfer, led the Bearkats in scoring this season with an average of 12.0 points per game.

SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA

--Southeastern Louisiana ended the season 12-17 overall and 5-11 in Southland Conference play, missing out on the league tournament for the first time in the past eight years.

The season took a turn for the worst when leading scorer Brandon Fortenberry, a senior point guard, broke his foot and was lost for the year after just seven games. It is possible Fortenberry will be granted a medical redshirt for the season. He, along with Mississippi State transfer C Elgin Bailey (8.9 points, 6.3 rebounds per game) and G DeShawn Patterson (school-record 175 career steals) all graduate.

--The Lions were one of only two SLC teams (Sam Houston State was the other) to have no player named all-conference (first team, second team, third team or honorable mention).

--With a Feb. 29 win over McNeese State and a March 3 win at Nicholls State, the Lions ended the season on a two-game winning streak for the first time since the 1992-93 season.

--Junior F Roosevelt Johnson came on strong down the stretch for the Lions, and he enters the offseason as the team's top gun. He had his eighth double-double of the season in the March 3 season finale at Nicholls State with 14 points and 12 rebounds. On the season, he averaged 11.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN

--The Lumberjacks' March 7 win over Sam Houston State in the first round of the Southland Conference tournament gave the program its fourth 20-win season in the past five years.

However, the team lost the next game against Lamar, ending the campaign with a 20-12 overall record.

While the Lumberjacks have only one senior on the roster, he's a good one. C Jereal Scott led the team in scoring (12.4 points per game) and also averaged 5.4 rebounds per game.

--Two Lumberjacks earned postseason all-conference honors this season. Junior G Antonio Bostic was named to first-team All-Southland Conference. Senior C Jereal Scott, a first-teamer after the 2010-11 season, was a second-team selection this season.

The pair give coach Danny Kaspar an even 20 all-conference players in his 12-year tenure running the program.

--Once again, Stephen F. Austin easily led the Southland Conference in scoring defense, allowing teams to score just 54.4 points per game this season.

Through statistics posted on the NCAA Web site on March 8, that was the third-best mark in the nation, with both teams ranked in front of the Lumberjacks -- Wisconsin and Virginia -- and the team ranked No. 4 -- Harvard -- all heading for the NCAA Tournament.

TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI

--The first season under head coach Willis Wilson was certainly not a thing of beauty, but it was one many around the program feel has left the team in good position for the future.

The Islanders, who had five freshmen on scholarship and two incoming junior-college transfers, finished the season 6-24 overall and 4-12 in Southland Conference play. The team started 1-13. After that, the Islanders were a much more respectable 5-11.

The lone departing senior is G/F Chris Hawkins-Mast, who was second on the team in scoring (12.7 points per game) and also averaged 6.1 rebounds per game.

--Junior G Terence Jones was named to the honorable mention All-Southland Conference team on March 6. The 6-foot-2 junior from Baltimore averaged 13.7 points per game, seventh best in the league.

He had a career-best 33 points in a Jan. 25 win over Texas State and had six games of 20 or more points.

His 874 career points leave him well within striking distance of becoming the program's ninth 1,000-point scorer as a senior in the 2012-13 season.

--The Islanders set program lows this year for wins (six) and fewest wins in Southland Conference play (four).

"I was disappointed with the way the season went," Wilson told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. "Not so much the first part, but with conference play. I told the guys six wins can get you into the conference tournament, seven wins will get you there, eight wins will get you there. We could have been a team that could easily have gone .500 in the league."

TEXAS-ARLINGTON

--The Mavericks, who started league play 15-0 before losing in their regular-season finale on March 3 to UT-San Antonio, lost 92-72 to McNeese State in the SLC tournament semifinals on March 8.

--After a 16-game winning streak between Dec. 21 and Feb. 15, the Mavs went just 4-3 between Feb. 18 and March 8 entering the NIT.

--UT-Arlington coach Scott Cross was selected the 2011-12 Southland Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Mavericks to a 15-1 record in the league's regular season.

--Senior G LaMarcus Reed was named to first-team All-Southland Conference on March 6. His 20.4 points per league game ranked No. 1 in the Southland in the regular season, and his 17.8 points per game overall ranked No. 2 behind McNeese State senior G Patrick Richard (18.1).

Senior F Bo Ingram (second team), junior F Kevin Butler (third team) and junior F Jordan Reves (honorable mention) all joined Reed on the all-conference lists. Butler, a TCU transfer, was also named the league's Newcomer of the Year.

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO

--The Roadrunners lost their final game in the Southland Conference 78-74 in overtime to McNeese State on March 7 in the opening round of the league tournament. The Roadrunners will join the Western Athletic Conference for the 2012-13 season.

UTSA, the 2010-11 NCAA Tournament participant from the SLC, started 7-1 in conference play this season before stumbling through a 3-6 month of February. UTSA finished 18-14 overall, 10-6 in SLC play.

The Roadrunners lose four seniors from this year's team: F/C Alex Vouyoukas, F Stephen Franklin, F Larry Wilkins and G Sei Paye. None ranked in the top four in scoring for the team.

--Sophomore F Jeromie Hill, the 2010-11 SLC Freshman of the Year, had a bit of a disappointing season in terms of overall statistics, but not in the eyes of the league's coaches. Hill was selected as a second-team All-Southland Conference player.

Junior G Melvin Johnson III was placed on the third team, and leading scorer Kannon Burrage (13.5 points per game) received honorable mention.

--The Roadrunners led the Southland Conference (quite easily) in free-throw percentage this season, shooting 74.3 percent from the charity stripe. No. 2 Lamar shot 72.1 percent from the free-throw line.

TEXAS STATE

--Texas State got hot at the end of February, winning five of six games between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25, but it wasn't enough to sneak into the No. 8 seed of the Southland Conference tournament. The Bobcats ended the season 13-17 overall and 5-11 in league play.

The team loses three seniors, G John Bowman, G Travis Jones and F Brooks Ybarra. The trio accounted for 26.0 points per game this season.

--C Matt Staff's 17 points and 11 rebounds in a Feb. 29 loss to Lamar represented the fourth double-double for the junior in the month of February. Texas State didn't make the postseason, and Staff ended the year averaging team highs in points (13.3 per game), rebounds (7.9) and blocked shots (1.4).

Staff was named third-team all-conference.

--Ybarra was an All-Southland Conference honorable mention player. He averaged 12.5 points during his senior season.

--The Bobcats will play the 2012-13 season in the Western Athletic Conference.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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