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Mid-Major Madness Conference Tip-Off Primer: SWAC

The SWAC took its share of lumps in the nonconference season, but now the real race for the NCAA Tournament begins. Can anyone challenge Aaric Murray and Texas Southern?

You can't be serious!
You can't be serious!
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Conference Standings:

Rank

School Record
1 Alabama State Hornets 6-5
2 Jackson State Tigers 4-8
2 Texas Southern Tigers 4-8
4 Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils 4-9
4 Southern University Jaguars 4-9
6 Alabama A&M Bulldogs 3-7
7 Alcorn State Braves 3-9
8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lions 2-10
8 Prairie View Panthers 2-10
10 Grambling Tigers 1-8

*Based on win percentage since all teams have not played a conference game.

Leading Scorers:

Rank Player PPG
1 Aaric Murray (Texas Southern) 24.0
2 A'Torri Shine (Grambling) 18.0
3 Julysses Nobles (Jackson State) 17.1
4 LaAntwan Luckett (Alcorn State) 15.4
5 Anthony McDonald (Mississippi Valley State) 15.2

Top Rebounders:

Rank Player RPG
1 Brandon West (Jackson State) 11.3
2 Calvin Godfrey (Southern) 8.4
3 DaVon Haynes (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) 7.3
4 Aaric Murray (Texas Southern) 7.2
5 Demarquelle Tabb (Alabama A&M) 6.5

Assists Leaders:

Rank Player APG
1 Jamel Waters (Alabama State) 6.9
2 Ray Penn (Texas Southern) 5.1
3 Christopher Hyder (Southern) 4.8
4 Madarious Gibbs (Texas Southern) 4.7
4 Tre Hagood (Prairie View) 4.7

Biggest Surprise:

Jackson State has to win this award so far. The Tigers actually look like they could contend in the SWAC this season despite a first year head coach coming to the team from the high school ranks. They also lost almost all their starters from last year, on a team that was just 9-9 in the league. But Jackson State has two major additions this season in Julysses Nobles (from Arkansas) and Brandon West (from New Mexico State). The two have combined to help the Tigers get wins against Air Force, UT-Martin, Evansville and most surprisingly, Louisiana-Lafayette. Jackson State is playing the best defense in the conference heading into league play and that could be a major factor in staying near the top of the standings.

Player of the Year:

There is little doubt on this one. Aaric Murray is the best talent in all of the SWAC, and that should be no surprise. He was a highly regarded recruit out of high school. But he has failed to really settle in where ever he landed, whether that was La Salle, or West Virginia, or now Texas Southern. There are concerns about his makeup, but there can be no doubting that the 6-11 senior is a monster when it comes to facing up against these SWAC teams. Brandon West at Jackson State might be the only one who could challenge him.

Biggest Storyline:

Texas Southern was the best team in the conference last season, but were not eligible for NCAA Tournament and therefore left out of the conference tournament. The Tigers have the most talent and the best all-around team again this season, but the SWAC is a tricky place to play. Only three times in the last 10 seasons has the team that finished first in the conference standings earned the berth into the NCAA Tournament. Texas Southern is the team to beat, but that won't mean much if they can't keep it together in March.