By Jaden Lewis
It is officially March which means the college basketball season is shifting from regular season play to conference tournaments. This is a big deal for some conferences as winning will guarantee the champion an automatic big in the NCAA Tournament. Eight of the ten SWAC’s men’s basketball programs will participate the Cricket Wireless SWAC Men’s Basketball tournament at Bartow Arena in Birmingham from March 10-13. The Alabama State Hornets and the Alabama A&M Bulldogs are both ineligible to participate in the postseason meaning that the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils will be the eighth seed.
The tournament favorite:
Sixth year Head Coach Bryon Smith has done a great job at Prairie View A&M as the Panthers once again dominated SWAC conference play on their way to their third straight regular season conference crown. Prairie View A&M rolled through the SWAC with a perfect 13-0 record and are 44-5 in conference play since the 2018-2019 season. Junior guard Jawaun Daniels is a player to keep an eye on as he is one of the most efficient offensive players in the conference as he leads the Panthers with 14.6 points per game and 6.3 rebounds. Daniels shot 55 percent from the field which included 43 percent from behind the arc. He will be coming into the tournament on a hot streak as in the Panthers last game against the Alcorn State Braves, he dropped thirty points (11-13 FG, 5-6 3 PT). Along with Daniels, Cam Mack is another player that deserves a lot of attention. The former Nebraska Cornhusker averages 12.1 points per game and leads the SWAC in assists with 126 and comes in second with steals with 44.
Watch out for Jackson State and Texas Southern:
Sitting at the top of the SWAC conference with Prairie View A&M is the Jackson State Tigers who also finished conference play with a perfect 11-0 record. They are the best defensive team in the SWAC giving up only 61.6 points per game which is the tenth best in the nation. They are led by senior guard Tristan Jarrett who has averaged a conference high on 20.1 points per game while junior forward Jayveous McKinnis has been a rebounding machine as he leads the conference with 12.6 rebounds per game along with 12.2 points per game.
The Texas Southern Tigers are another team that could make a run for an NCAA Tournament bid. They are the conference leading scoring team with 74 points per game and are also the most experienced team in the SWAC. Michael Weathers (junior), John Walker (junior), Galen Alexander (Senior) and Joirdon Karl Nicholas (Junior) each average ten on more points and five or more rebounds per game. They have proven that they could stick with Prairie View A&M as they lost two close games by the score of 77-75 and 73-67.
If the favorites win in the quarterfinals, then it will create a very exciting matchup between Texas Southern and Jackson State with the winner most likely facing Prairie View A&M in the championship game.
First Round Matchups:
No. 7 Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs No. 2 Jackson State (ESPN 3) 2:00 p.m.
No. 8 Mississippi Valley State vs No. 1 Prairie View A&M (ESPN 3) 2:00 p.m.
No. 6 Alcorn State vs No. 3 Texas Southern (ESPN 3) 2:00 p.m.
No. 5 Southern vs No. 4 Grambling State (ESPN 3) 8:30 pm.
The Semifinals take place on March 12 with the championship game taking place on March 13 at 5:00 p.m on ESPNU.
Edited by Emma Moloney