By: Kyle Morgan
With 15 conference tournaments already tipping off here on the sixth day of March, it is safe to say that we have reached the peak of conference tourney madness. Despite having only four teams with an above .500 record, the Southwestern Athletic Conference is still expected to provide fans with unexpected entertainment that college basketball fans crave. The No. 1 seed Texas Southern Tigers will begin their quest for back-to-back conference championships after running the table last season on their way to an NCAA Tournament berth.
The team that Texas Southern defeated in the SWAC title game last season, the Southern University Jaguars, finished the year 19-11 (11-6 SWAC) and are the No. 4 seed in the bracket, despite having the best overall record of any team in the conference. The Jaguars scored more points per game than any team in the SWAC this year, and once again look to be the top contender to halt Texas Southern’s reign of supremacy in the conference tournament.
After finishing as the No. 8 seed in the conference last season, the Alcorn State Braves made an exceptional up to No. 2 in the conference this year, finishing with a 15-14 record and a tremendous 13-5 in conference play. The turnaround made by this Braves team is quite impressive after they started the 2015-16 campaign with a 1-9 record. Although they allow the third-most points per game in the conference, don’t count out this Alcorn State team.
Now here is my projected outlook of the favorites to win the tournament and the teams that could surprise a few people once the SWAC tourney tips off:
Favorite: Texas Southern Tigers
With a dazzling 16-2 record in SWAC play, the Tigers of Texas Southern know what it takes to win. Three of the team’s four leading scorers are seniors, and this team is one of the most experienced in the conference. They also average the most points scored per game in the conference and allow just under 70 points per contest, equaling a nice mix of balance and efficiency. Don’t be surprised to see the Tigers crowned conference tournament champs once again.
Honorable Mention: Southern University Jaguars
Sleeper: Jackson State Tigers
They say defense wins championships, and Jackson State prides itself on the menacing defense attack it showcases to its opponents each game. Giving up just under 66 PPG, the Tigers could beat almost any team in the SWAC just on its defense alone, but need to provide more on the offensive end if they want to make a deep run in the tournament.
Honorable Mention: Alabama State Hornets
Prediction: Championship Game: Texas Southern, 68, Jackson State, 57