|(Herald Times photo)|
SWAC: Texas Southern
Yes, they are 4-10. And yes, they are the defending SWAC Champs. But TSU definitely deserves this honor, especially when you realize what they’ve accomplished without last year’s SWAC Player of the Year Aaric Murray
Everyone knows about the Michigan State win, as well as the team’s improbable comeback at Kansas State. But TSU was a few missed baskets away from beating Auburn and New Mexico State as well. Marshall transfer Chris Thomas proved against Michigan State (22 points) that he can score against top teams.
If TSU can take home the SWAC’s automatic bid, top seeds will definitely be on alert.
Chew on this: At 8-8, UMES has already matched its win total for the last two years in early January. A big reason for that? Two newcomers: forward Mike Myers and coach Bobby Collins. Collins spent the last five seasons coaching in the CIAA, but cut his teeth in the MEAC at Hampton and later at Winston-Salem State.
One of only two men to win both the MEAC and CIAA Tournaments, he’s got the future looking bright at UMES. As for Myers, the JUCO transfer has been an offensive force, averaging 14.5 points per game in less than 25 minutes a game. NCCU and Norfolk State are still the class of the MEAC, but the new kids on the block should be in the mix as well.
|(Goldsboro News photo)|
CIAA: Virginia State
Last season the Virginia State basketball program took a backseat to the football team. This year’s squad may be ready to match VSU football’s CIAA title run. Defense is VSU’s calling card, as the Trojans allow less than 69 points per contest while scoring 75 per game. On offense, everything starts with guard Lamar Kearse. The NJIT transfer leads the CIAA with 18.9 points per game and does much of his damage from the three-point line, shooting a blazing 55 percent from downtown.
SIAC: Albany State
The Golden Rams finished fourth in the SIAC East last season, but are currently tied for first with Paine at 5-3. ASU has gone 4-1 since a 1-2 start, with ball-handling and defense being a big reason why. ASU averages 15 assists per game while stealing the ball from its opponents 10 times every contest. Three Golden Rams are averaging double-figures in scoring, including sophomore guard Larry Bullock who averages 13.6 points and 1.7 steals per game.
Philander-Smith was no pushover last season, winning 20 games and going to the NAIA Tournament, but they look to be even better this year. Senior Aquill Baynard has mad a big leap forward this season improving his scoring average from 13 to 18.5 and blocking just under two shots per game.
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The second annual Deacon Jones Trophy will be awarded in Feb. 2018.