Of all of the conferences that I have had the opportunity to preview so far, there is not a conference that is more wide open than the SWAC. As of February 5, there are 5 teams within 1 game of first place in this conference. When there’s a lot on the line for seeding in the regular season, teams are playing way more physically than other teams with a comfortable lead, making it entertaining. Here are my predictions for seedings for the conference tournament and an overview of each team. Note: All records and standings are as of February 5.
- Southern University (13-9 overall, 8-2 conference)
Overview: When the regular season is all said and done, I think Southern is the team that will end up as the #1 seed in the conference tournament. Both of their losses in the conference were by two mere possessions, and of their 8 wins in conference, 7 of them were by double digits. They are the best team in the SWAC in terms of offensive ppg (74.4), 3 point percentage (39.5%), assists per game (14.0) and steals per game (10.71). Their entire starting backcourt is averaging double figures for points. They are definitely the most well-rounded team in the SWAC and is my pick for the #1 seed.
- Florida A&M (9-12 overall, 7-3 conference)
Overview: You will notice the 2-5 seeds all have the same record in conference. Florida A&M will take the two seed for a couple of different reasons. They have a guy who is likely going to be in the running for SWAC Player of the Year with senior guard, MJ Randolph. Randolph is in the top 10 in the SWAC in points (19.7 – Best in conference), assists (3.4 – 6th in conference), and steals (2.05 – 4th in conference). They also have been on a heater as of late, winning 7 of their last 8 games. Overall, this is a dangerous team that is going to be a solid 2 seed.
- Alcorn State (8-14 overall, 7-3 conference)
Overview: One of the two teams in the conference to defeat Southern, Alcorn State is a team that is out to prove they are the best team in the conference. Many were unsure how the Braves were going to be this year after the loss of last season’s first team all SWAC member Troymain Crosby. However, this team has had all 5 starters contribute in the scoring category this season. On paper, this team doesn’t look like they would do anything in any conference, but the Braves have found ways to win. When a team has no right to win and does, that is a scary team and one to watch out for.
- Texas Southern (9-10 overall, 7-3 conference)
Overview: One thing that separates the Tigers from the rest of the conference is their dominance in the rebounding category. This season, the Tigers have pulled down 39.6 rebounds per game, most in the SWAC and 5 more rebounds per game than the next best. They have played several close games with solid squads such as St. Marys (Lost by 9), Washington (lost by 7), and NC State (lost by 8). This team has the potential to be really solid the rest of the season, but also have lost some games to some of the worst teams in the conference. For the success of this squad, there will need to be more consistency each and every game from here on out.
- Grambling State (9-13 overall, 7-3 conference)
Overview: Grambling State is an odd team in the SWAC this year. They have high quality conference wins this year over Southern and Alcorn State. However, on the flip side, they lost to Alabama State and nearly lost to Bethune Cookman. They got one of the best 3 point shooters in the conference with their senior Guard Cam Christens. Christens is averaging 13.6 ppg (6th in conference) and is shooting 42% from 3 (32/75). They are the worst team in the top 5 for the reason of consistency. With a fairly favorable schedule to end the season, if the Tigers can pull out a winning record to end the season, they very easily could be seeded higher than 5.
- Alabama State (7-16 overall, 5-5 conference)
Overview: One thing that makes the Hornets unique from other teams in the conference is their depth. They have had bench players who have been the leading scorer in a number of games this season. One of the big bench players for the Hornets is Freshman guard Juan Reyna, who had a 25 point night in their win against Grambling State on February 5. This squad has also been in every single game in conference thus far, with only one loss in conference coming by double digits. The problem is Alabama State has struggled to finish games off when they have a lead. If the Hornets can compete for all 40 minutes and finish games, they could be a dark horse this tournament.
- Prairie View (4-14 overall, 4-6 conference)
Overview: Prairie View this season has had two teams show up: The team that wins by double digits and the team that loses by double digits. The Panthers have not had the success they would have hoped for this season, to state it lightly. They have had some positivity from three of their starters with Jawaun Daniels (14.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg), D’Rell Roberts (11.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg), and William Douglas (10.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg). They have the starting lineup and potential to get the job done each and every game. Confidence has been an issue for the Panthers, shooting only 42% from the field. They are still likely going to make the conference tournament, but to get a win in the tournament, they need to do a better job of shooting the basketball with confidence.
- Alabama A&M (5-15 overall, 4-6 conference)
Overview: The Bulldogs narrowly edge out Bethune-Cookman for the final spot in the conference tournament. They get the nod as they have a way easier schedule to end the season than Bethune-Cookman. They also have a really solid 1-2 combo with Forward Jalen Johnson (15.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Guard Garrett Hicks (14.2 ppg, 35% 3 pt). This 1-2 combo has been big in the Bulldogs wins this season. These two have to show out big time for the rest of the season to gain more confidence for the Bulldogs to have a shot at winning a game in the tournament.
The Rest of the Field:
- Bethune Cookman (6-16 overall, 4-6 conference): The Wildcats are very close to getting in the tournament. Unfortunately, they have to face some of the best teams in the conference on the road to end the season, thus causing them to miss the tournament.
- Jackson State (5-16 overall, 3-7 conference): The Tigers definitely have guys who are denying shots at the rim, leading the conference in blocked shots per game (4.65). However, that is just not enough to translate to success this season.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff (5-18 overall, 3-7 conference): Although the Golden Lions have been close with teams in the lower tier of the conference, they have lost pretty handily to the better teams in the conference and just haven’t found ways to win.
- Mississippi Valley State (1-19 overall, 1-9 conference): The Delta Devils can take away that they did get a win against Prairie View this season. Unfortunately, that is the only positive to be said about this squad.
The SWAC is absolutely wide open this year. Not even the best team in the conference is solidified as of yet. The rest of these games could end up being incredibly close, physical, and fun to watch. It is likely that any team 1-5 could win this conference, so if you’re looking for uncertainty and endless possibilities in a conference, the SWAC is the conference for you!