What-to-know tourney previews: Southland
Stephen F. Austin is the favorite to win the Southland, but there are a couple of teams nipping at its heels.
1. Which style will win out: up-tempo or halfcourt?
This question pertains to both the top of the bracket and the bracket as a whole. The top two teams in the league, Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State, couldn’t be more different in terms of tempo. League champion SFA plays a grind-it-out style, while second-place Northwestern State has the fastest tempo in the country. The two teams split the regular-season meetings, and both games were in the low 60s. In terms of the bracket, it’s essentially split down the middle between fast and slow teams.
2. Can Stephen F. Austin -- or anyone -- win a Round of 64 game in the NCAA tournament?
Stephen F. Austin, Northwestern State and Oral Roberts each had a shot at the league title at some point during conference play, but can any of them be a threat in the NCAA tournament? Stephen F. Austin is your best bet. The Lumberjacks have one of the best defenses in the country, and they are disciplined and efficient on the offensive end. Taylor Smith is a double-double threat on the inside. Moreover, SFA has already beaten Oklahoma this season. Northwestern State is deep and fast, while Oral Roberts has three of the six best players in the league in Damen Bell-Holter, Warren Niles and Shawn Glover.
3. Are there any potential Cinderella stories at the bottom of the bracket?
The top three teams are clearly a cut above the rest, with Stephen F. Austin looking like the favorite heading into the tournament. After that, though, who can make a run? Central Arkansas is a scary team, as the Bears love to push tempo and have three guys -- Jarvis Garner, LaQuentin Miles, Robert Crawford -- who can beat you. Meanwhile, Nicholls State has Fred Hunter, who averages nearly 20 points per game and is capable of dropping 35 on a given night.
Schedule: March 13-16 in Katy, Texas
Title game: Saturday, March 16 at 8:30 p.m., on ESPN2
THREE BEST PLAYERS
- Taylor Smith (Stephen F. Austin)
- Damen Bell-Holter (Oral Roberts)
- Fred Hunter (Nicholls State)
Conference RPI: 25
KenPom.com rating: 27
Sagarin rating: 27
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