- Ky McKeon
(Compare to our preseason preview here)
- The Lions Roar in February - Southeastern Louisiana was a cute favorite to finish in the top 3 of the SLC standings in the preseason thanks to a roster chock full of returning talent (they are #3 in the country in experience). The Lions started 7-3 in the conference with embarrassing home losses to lesser Southland foes, then went on an absolute tear to close the season. Jay Ladner's bunch rattled off 8 straight victories including a decisive home win over Nicholls to clinch the 1-seed in the conference tourney and share the regular season title.
- Nicholls Rides the Transfer Wire - Richie Riley brought in 7 key newcomers this season made up of D1 transfers, JUCO transfers, and freshmen. Because of this, preseason expectations for the Colonels ran the gamut from title contender to bottom feeder. Ex-USF guard Roddy Peters and ex-UNCG guard Teveon Saddler led the way for Nicholls and set the Colonels up with a legit shot at the NCAA Tournament.
- An Underlying Theme - The Southland features teams that all play a similar style of basketball (more or less). Most squads play an uptempo style that focuses on rim attack, while focusing on forcing turnovers on the other end. Together, the SLC plays at the 4th fastest pace in the country, gets to the line at the 2nd highest rate, shoots less threes than any other conference, and turns the ball over more than any other conference.
Only the top 8 teams in the Southland play in the postseason, a tournament that holds all its games in Katy, Texas.
What to Watch:
Stephen F. Austin has made the NCAA Tournament three of the past four seasons and currently boast the highest KenPom ranking out of all the schools in the Southland. Kyle Keller's squad defeated LSU in the non-conference and almost upended Mizzou, proving this is a dangerous team capable of winning big ball games.
The defending champ, New Orleans, shocked everyone with its performance this season, surging to a 9-2 conference start to finish 5th in the SLC standings. The road to a second straight Tourney berth won't be easy, however, with games against Sam Houston State and SE Louisiana (assuming they get by TAMUCC), two teams they went a combined 0-3 against during the year. Also, Travin Thibodeuax is still suspended.
Who Will Win:
- Stephen F. Austin - The Lumberjacks are the best team in the Southland despite the 3rd place regular season finish (they ranked 1st in both offensive and defensive efficiency per KenPom). Weirdly enough, though, SFA dropped both its contests to Lamar this year, a team it could face in the second round of the bracket if the Cardinals can get by Central Arkansas. The Jacks also dropped a game to 1-seed SE Louisiana (they never got to play the Lions at home), but dismantled Nicholls in their only meeting this season.
If Not Them, Then:
SE Louisiana - The Lions are red hot and have one of the premier scorers in the conference in Marlain Veal. SLU's relatively good ball security gives them an advantage over just about every conference opponent and they're one of the more balanced squads in the league.
Nicholls State - Nicholls is also uber-talented with its slew of transfers, but the Colonels are a combined 0-3 against SFA and SLU, their two biggest obstacles to earning a bid.