Mississippi Valley State and Grambling State bring in successful coaches, from the Division II and NAIA ranks respectively, to right the ship. Star players Leantwan Luckett and Jamel Waters return for their respective teams, and new faces like Reginald Johnson, Jr. and transfers Jason Thomas and Chris Thomas add talent to the conference across the board.
1. Alabama State 19-13 (12-6) t-2nd
Key Losses: None
Returners: Jamel Waters (14.3 ppg), DeMarcus Robinson (11.3 ppg), Bobby Brown (9.4 ppg), Brandon Graham (9.0 ppg), Maurice Strong (8.7 ppg), Luther Page (6.8 ppg)
It helps a basketball coach when he brings back everyone from the season before. Alabama State Head Coach Lewis Jackson certainly has that luxury and he adds 6-9 Wendell Lewis to the mix. Lewis sat out last season after transferring from Mississippi State.
After beating Texas Southern in overtime at home last season, Alabama State lost to Texas Southern by 20 points on the road and then lost to them again by 12 in the conference tournament. The Hornets are primed to win the conference this season and they have the depth to get it done.
2. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 13-18 (11-7) 4th
Key Losses: DaVon Haynes (12.8 ppg), Daniel Broughton (8.0 ppg)
Returners: Marcel Mosley (13.6 ppg), Tevin Hammond (13.1 ppg), Ghiavonni Robinson (6.1 ppg)
UAPB brings back a wealth of guards, including leading scorers Marcel Mosley and Tevin Hammond. Head Coach George Ivory also brought in a couple of transfers that happen to be local products. 6-6 T.J. Handley (Watson Chapel High School) and 6-8 JoVaughn Love (Pine Bluff High School) transferred in and give the Lions a full roster ready to contend for a SWAC title.
UAPB split their games with Alabama State last season, with each team winning at home. The Lions have upgraded their roster and they seem ready to take on the Hornets for the right to go to the NCAA Tournament.
3. Texas Southern 19-15 (12-6) t-2nd
Key Losses: Aaric Murray (21.6 ppg), D.D. Scarver (12.6 ppg)
Returners: Jose Rodriguez (11.4 ppg), Madarious Gibbs (9.1 ppg)
Texas Southern closed out last season on a nine game winning streak before losing to Cal-Poly in the first round of the NCAA tournament. However, the Tigers lose SWAC Player of the Year Aaric Murray, as well as three other starters. It will be tough for Head Coach Mike Davis (Yes, that Mike Davis) to bounce back very quickly.
Transfers Deverell Biggs (Nebraska), Chris Thomas (Marshall), and Jason Carter (Ole Miss) will help. The Tigers will lack the size necessary to contend up front with Alabama State until Carter becomes eligible after the first semester.
4. Alcorn State 12-19 (9-9) 6th
Key Losses: Twan Oakley (5.8 ppg),
Returners: Leantwan Luckett (16.0 ppg), Octavious Brown (13.5 ppg), Marquis Vance (10.0 ppg), Devante Hampton (5.6 ppg)
Alcorn State brings back most of their rotation from a team that finished in the middle of the pack a year ago. Reason for optimism is the arrival of 6-4 Reginald Johnson, Jr. who is better known in Louisiana as Monsta. The Richwood native averaged 32 points and 15 rebounds as a senior. The two time Louisiana Class 3A player of the year was named Mr. Basketball by the Louisiana Sportswiters Association. Johnson is sure to haunt other SWAC teams, especially the two in his home state (Grambling and Southern), when they face off.
Leantwan Luckett is back at guard after leading the team in scoring. Ocatvious Brown returns up front after leading the team in rebounding. Johnson will probably slide in at small forward, while 6-7 Marquis Vance will start at power forward. Vance averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds a game as a freshman.
5. Southern 19-13 (15-3) 1st
Key Losses: Calvin Godfrey (13.1 ppg), Malcolm Miller (12.7 ppg), YonDarius Johnson (10.5 ppg)
Returners: Tre Lynch (9.5 ppg), Trelun Banks (8.7 ppg)
After winning the regular season last in 2013-2014, Southern takes a step back as they deal with a postseason ban brought on by academic issues within the university as a whole. Leading scorer Calvin Godfrey transferred, leaving Head Coach Roman Banks with a rebuilding job.
Banks recruited well locally and will have to turn to youngsters like Trelun Banks and Jared Sam from Scotlandville, Elex Carter from East St. John, and Chris Thomas from Glen Oaks. Banks will join senior guard Tre Lynch in the backcourt. 6-10 centers Frank Snow and Keith Davis will combine to patrol the paint. The wing positions are up for grabs and Banks will have to develop his rotation almost from scratch.
6. Prairie View A&M 11-23 (6-12) 8th
Key Losses: Demondre Chapman (11.6 ppg), Louis Monks (9.9 ppg)
Returners: Montrael Scott (14.9 ppg), John Brisco (12.2 ppg), Tre Hagood (6.5 ppg)
Prairie View should make a move up in the standings after returning several players, including leading scorers Montrael Scott and John Brisco. The Panthers should be set at guard with Scott, Brisco, and Tre Hagood returning.
Head Coach Byron Rimm II brought in 6-8 forward Charleston Dobbs, a Dumas, AR native to compete with 6-8 Hershey Robinson from Benton, LA for the power forward position. 6-10 senior Reggis Onwukamachu returns after averaging 1.5 rebounds and .5 blocks in 10 mins per game.
7. Jackson State 11-20 (7-11) 7th
Key Losses: Julysses Nobles (15.7 ppg), Brandon West (12.8 ppg), Jeff Stubbs (7.1 ppg)
Returners: Javares Brent (7.8 ppg), Derrell Taylor (7.1 ppg), Treshawn Bolden (5.4 ppg)
Jackson State hired Wayne Brent last year after Brent had a highly successful run as a high school coach in Jackson. Brent brought his big man from Calloway High School, Treshawn Bolden, who had SEC offers. Another local product, Tavares Brent from Provine High School, is a prolific three point shooter.
After losing his two leading scorers, Coach Brent may take a slight step back in year two, but we expect them to come on strong the second half of the season. Bolden, Brent, and fellow sophomore Janarius Middleton, a 6-8 forward from Greenwood, MS all got valuable experience last season and will only improve as they continue to play together. The Tigers should at least finish seventh again in the conference, and they could get as high as fourth of fifth if things fall right.
8. Grambling 5-24 (3-15) 10th
Key Losses: Antwan Scott (15.7 ppg), Terry Rose (9.9 ppg)
Returners: A'Torri Shine (13.8 ppg), Remond Brown (8.9 ppg)
A'Torri Shine is back and he will have to carry the load for Grambling. The Tigers bring in a new coach, Shawn Walker, and with him a new attitude. Remond Brown and fellow sophomore Richard Freeman, a 6-7 forward, gained valuable experience last season as freshmen.
Antwan Scott transferred to Colorado State, so there will be plenty of opportunities for new guys to step up. 6'9" Kyle Williams, from Long Island, NY was a highly regarded big man coming out of high school and will provide Coach Walker a big building block for the future.
9. Alabama A&M 14-16 (10-8) 5th
Key Losses: Jeremy Crutcher (12.2 ppg), Brandon Ellis (8.6 ppg), Demarquelle Tabb (8.0 ppg)
Returners: Nicholas West (6.0 ppg), Justin Colvin (3.4 ppg), Tyler Davis (3.3 ppg)
Alabama A&M lost almost everyone last year after finishing the season as a .500 team in 2014. Leading scorer Jeremy Crutcher is gone as well as most of the starting lineup. Head Coach Willie Hayes starts his fourth year in Huntsville with one solid building block in 6-10 junior Nicholas West.
Coach Hayes went to Shelton State College to find help, where he found 6-2 Marcus Merriweather and 6-5 Ladarius Tabb. The duo will be counted on to team with West and juniors Tyler Davis and Justin Colvin in the starting lineup. None of the five projected starters are seniors, so the Bulldogs should have this group together for two years.
10. Mississippi Valley State 8-23 (5-13) 9th
Key Losses: Anthony McDonald (11.9 ppg), James Currington (10.4 ppg)
Returners: Jeffrey Simmons (10.6 ppg), DeAngelo Priar (10.5 ppg)
Mississippi Valley State opens the season on the road against Indiana and Mississippi State and it doesn't get much better. The Delta Devils play their first nine games on the road before returning home to face N.C. Central on December 20th.
Head Coach Andre Payne comes in after a long run at Wiley College. He inherits senior guards Jeffrey Simmons and DeAngelo Priar, who both averaged in double figures last season. He brought in 6-5 Latrell Love and 6-7 Charles Bargman to help out up front.