Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:50 pm

What-to-know tourney previews: SWAC

The SWAC. All so often its the forgotten conference, because normally it performs so miserably in the NCAA tournament. Its representative is guaranteed to be a 16 seed year in and year out.

This does feel like a year where the SWAC could have a team that's not only more than pesky, but interesting and likely to miss the First Four. Yes, the league is rated as the worst by every mainstream metric, but the team on top is decent, relatively speaking. Mississippi Valley State went 17-1 in the league and is one of the fastest teams in hoops, averaging 71 possessions per game. The team is coached by Sean Woods, who played on Kentucky's championship team in 1996. Woods could've taken other jobs via Pitino, but he chose to take the scenic, longer route, and now he's running a program with little fanfare and almost zero national attention. You should read his story

MSVU is defensive-minded, and they're not such a bad offensive-rebounding team, either. That's how they'll get their Ws in the conference tournament. In fact, that's how most SWAC teams tally up wins.

If the Delta Devils don't win, you'd be wise to pick Texas Southern as the team to upset them. Texas Southern has the league's best defense, holding opponents to exactly one point per possession. It's the No. 3 seed, behind Southern, who is a good interior team. But the takeaway is, if the SWAC wants the best representation of a team with a chance to make noise, Mississippi Valley State needs to break through the league bracket this season.

Mississippi Valley State's Terrence Joyner should lead the Delta Devils to their fifth NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)



Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday

Title game: Saturday, March 10, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)


  1. Quincy Roberts, Grambling
  2. Kelsey Howard, Jackson State
  3. Savalace Townsend, Texas Southern
  4. Quinton Doggett, Southern
  5. Terrence Joyner, Mississippi Valley State

Conference RPI: 32

KenPom.com rating: 33

Sagarin rating: 33

NCAA tournament locks: None

NCAA tournament bubble teams: None

Last NCAA tournament appearances

  • Alabama A&M: 2005. Lost in the play-in game to Oakland, 79-69.
  • Alabama State: 2011. Lost in the play-in game to Tennessee-San Antonio, 70-61.
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff: 2010. Beat Winthrop in the play-in game, lost to Duke in the first round, 73-44.
  • Jackson State: 2007. Lost to Florida in the first round, 112-69.
  • Grambling: 0 NCAA appearances. 
  • Mississippi Valley State: 2008. Lost to UCLA in the first round, 70-29. 
  • Prairie View: 1998. Lost to Kansas in the first round, 110-52.
  • Texas Southern: 2003. Lost in the play-in game to UNC-Asheville, 92-84, in overtime. 
-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 22, 2012 3:23 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 3:38 pm

MVSU rebounds from 1-11 start to dominate SWAC

By Jeff Borzello

Sean Woods has led MVSU to a 15-0 start in the SWAC after going 1-11 in the non-conference. (US Presswire)

When the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, Mississippi Valley State was 1-11 and had lost seven games in a row. The Delta Devils had not played a home game all season, center Jason Holmes had missed the entire season with a knee injury, and things weren’t looking great as the non-conference campaign came to a close.

Head coach Sean Woods wasn’t overly concerned, though.

“We’re a mature team, we have an upload of seniors,” Woods said over the phone Tuesday. “It was just the mentality.”

It turns out his confidence was spot on. The Delta Devils have won their last 15 games, clinching the outright SWAC regular-season title by beating Texas Southern on a last-second 3 by Paul Crosby on Monday night.

Not many teams trust their 6-foot-8, 250-pound center to knock down a game-winning 3, but that was designed.

“It’s a play we have,” Woods said. “Terrence Joyner was so hot; they were chasing the ball-handler coming off ball screens, leaving Paul open. We gave him one more chance to take a 3, and the guys executed it.”

Trust has been a big part of the historic season so far for Woods and MVSU. All but three players on the roster are juniors or seniors, so they have experience and have therefore been able to overcome the loss of Holmes and Falando Jones, who has missed the last eight games with an ACL injury.

“Guys have had to step up,” Woods said.

Woods, who played at Kentucky and hit the shot before "The Shot" in the Duke/Kentucky Christian Laettner game, had been there before with MVSU. In 2011, the Delta Devils went 1-12 in non-conference play before jumping out to a 6-1 record in the league and finishing in second place. Moreover, Holmes was injured that season as well.

Doing the same thing last year made the coaching staff optimistic about their chances this season.

“We returned a lot of guys that ended up in second place,” Woods said. “Even that team turned around, after losing Holmes. If the status quo remained, we would be OK.”

Mississippi Valley State can’t rest on its laurels, of course. While the Delta Devils want to finish the regular-season undefeated, all that matters is what happens during the four days in Garland, Texas at the SWAC tournament.

If MVSU doesn’t win the automatic bid, the unbelievable turnaround and winning streak will all be for naught. Woods is clearly aware of that.

“We’re the hunted now, not the hunter,” he said. “You have to stay consistent in doing what got you there. We’ve had it thus far, but we’ve got to make shots. We haven’t shot the ball as well as we normally do.”

Woods isn’t even thinking about the accomplishments of the season so far. He’s determined to get to the NCAA tournament.

When asked what felt better – staying undefeated or winning the regular-season title – he looked to the future.

“That’s a good question,” Woods said. “We still want to win games. We’re not done.”

Posted on: February 20, 2012 11:51 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 11:54 pm

Night Court: Napier saves UConn's season

By Jeff Borzello

Here’s everything you need to know about Monday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: Shabazz Napier saved Connecticut’s season. After it looked like the sophomore guard wouldn’t play at all, Napier contributed key minutes and then hit a pull-up 30-footer with 0.8 seconds left in overtime to give the Huskies a 73-70 win at Villanova. Connecticut got behind by 18 points in the first half, but fought back to tie it at halftime. Jeremy Lamb went for 32 points, constantly bailing out the Huskies down the stretch. If Connecticut makes the NCAA tournament, it might look at Napier’s shot as the one that put them there.

Win to brag about: Mississippi Valley State clinched the SWAC regular-season championship in the best way possible – on a 3-pointer with under a second left by 6-foot-8 big Paul Crosby. The shot gave the Delta Devils a 56-53 win over Texas Southern, and also improved them to 15-0 in conference play. Remember, this is a team that was 1-11 in the non-league. Quite the turnaround for Sean Woods’ club.

Loss to hide from: Texas needed this one. The Longhorns, coming off a loss to Oklahoma State over the weekend, had a chance to solidify their resume with a home win over a reeling Baylor club. After getting off to a double-digit lead, they let the Bears come back on the glass – and on the scoreboard. Baylor pulled it out late, 77-72, after J’Covan Brown turned it over in the final minute. Texas’ NCAA hopes are now in trouble, while Baylor is back on the right track. Quincy Acy had 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Bears.

Player who deserves improper benefits: North Florida’s Parker Smith is gunning lately. He’s knocked down at least five 3-pointers in four of his last six games – but nothing topped his performance on Monday. The Ospreys’ guard went 11-for-17 from behind the arc – and also knocked down 9-for-9 from the free-throw line – en route to 46 points in a 75-66 win over Mercer. The loss for the Bears is their second in a row, dropping them two games behind first-place Belmont.

Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: There weren't too many disappointing performances tonight, although a couple caught my eye. DePaul's Jamee Crocket had taken 82 3-pointers the entire season heading into Monday night; that's slightly over three attempts per game. For some reason, he took 11 shots from behind the arc against St. John's, only making one in the loss. Meanwhile, even though Baylor won, Perry Jones struggled once again. He shot 3-for-11 from the field -- he still needs to step up in big games.

Numbers don’t lie:

  • 0: The number of Atlantic Sun wins Kennesaw State has this season, after falling just short, 73-71.
  • 0: The number of MEAC wins South Carolina State has this season, after the Bulldogs lost by one to Florida A&M.
  • 5: Delaware State has now had five games in a row decided by either one possession or in overtime. The Hornets won Monday in double overtime over Hampton.

Three other notable results:

  1. St. John’s is now in 11th place in the Big East after beating DePaul by seven. Given what the Red Storm have been through, that’s an accomplishment.
  2. It looks like Belmont will win the Atlantic Sun, after defeating USC Upstate, 88-79. The Bruins are now up by two games on Mercer with just two games left.
  3. Savannah State took a full game lead in the MEAC standings by demolishing Bethune-Cookman, who entered Monday only one game back of first.


  • Look out for Fairfield in the MAAC tournament. The Stags won their seventh straight league game by beating Marist on the road.
  • Kyle O’Quinn struggled offensively, but still grabbed 16 rebounds as Norfolk State picked up an easy win over Longwood.
  • Southern looks likely to finish second in the SWAC after improving to 11-4 on Monday, but the Jaguars are ineligible for the conference tournament and won’t thus be able to take down MVSU.
  • There was a false report claiming that Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun would return for Saturday’s game against Syracuse. It was denied by school officials. 
More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 9, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 3:20 pm

Conference tourney preview: SWAC

Many didn't expect Tony Harvey to be back in basketball, let alone with a head-coaching job. The former assistant at Missouri was out of the game for a few years after Quin Snyder was fired in Columbia. But here he is at Texas Southern, leading the team to a 16-2 record in the SWAC. His team is the overwhelming favorite to win the conference tournament.

The league is rated as the worst or second-worst by all major ranking systems. The SWAC isn't sexy, but it will be getting a bid and does provide a gritty, rough brand of basketball. 

The key question with this year's conference tournament: will history be repeated?

Last year, the Tigers were favored as well but got clipped by Arkansas Pine-Bluff in the finals. Pine Bluff is a 7-23 team this year, so don't expect that to happen again. Plus, Harvey's team is older, more developed and much improved, defensively. Traditionally, defense is what wins this tournament. 

If Texas Southern is going to get challenged, Jackson State seems like the team to do it. The other brand of Tigers in the SWAC finished 12-6 in the conference and 16-14 overall.

If the two meet in the title game, expect a low-scoring affair and tons of bodies on the floor. Jackson State is one of the best teams in the country at turning its foes over.

Mississippi Valley State (12-6) and Alabama State (11-7) can make a run too, as this conference has shown, almost as much as any other, it can be unpredictable in March. When the basketball teams are rated so poorly, a crap shoot isn't such a bad thing.



Title game: Friday, 8:30 p.m., March 12 (ESPN2)


  1. Kevin Galloway, Texas Southern
  2. Jenirro Bush, Jackson State
  3. Travele Jones, Texas Southern

Conference RPI: 31

KenPom.com rating: 33

Sagarin rating: 3

NCAA tournament locks: None

NCAA tournament bubble teams: None

Tournament history

  • Alabama A&M: 2005. Lost in the play-in game to Oakland, 79-69.
  • Alabama State: 2009. Lost in the play-in game to Morehead State, 58-43.
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff: 2010. Beat Winthrop in the play-in game, lost to Duke in the first round, 73-44.
  • Jackson State: 2007. Lost to Florida in the first round, 112-69.
  • Grambling: 0 NCAA appearances. 
  • Mississippi Valley State: 2008. Lost to UCLA in the first round, 70-29. 
  • Prairie View: 1998. Lost to Kansas in the first round, 110-52.
  • Texas Southern: 2003. Lost in the play-in game to UNC-Asheville, 92-84, in overtime. 

Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Tags: SWAC
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