As the season approaches, Mid-Major Madness will be taking a closer look at its preseason Power 15 teams.
8. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
At the rate Brad Underwood has the Lumberjacks going, they'll have chopped down more opponents than an actual group of lumberjacks have chopped down trees. While that may be a bit of hyperbole, what Brad Underwood has accomplished in two seasons at Stephen F. Austin has been impeccable to say the least. The Lumberjacks have racked up a record of 61 wins and eight losses overall, and are 35-1 in conference play. That one loss came to Texas A&M - Corpus Christi on February 14, 2014, and ended a 28-game conference winning streak.
While wins and loses are nice, looking at this team in further detail provides a rather remarkable perspective to Stephen F. Austin's season last year and their potential heading into this one.
The major strengths come on the offensive side of the ball as the Lumberjacks were first in the nation in assists per game with 17.8, fifth in field goal percentage at .491, and ninth in points per game at 79.5.
Looking at the lineup for this season, Underwood has four of five starters returning from last season. They are Trey Pinkney, Dallas Cameron, Ty Charles, and the probably the most significant of all, Thomas Walkup. Walkup who lead the Lumberjacks in scoring and rebounding last season averaging 15.7 points per game and 6.4 boards.
Underwood's toughest task this season is replacing the production of Jacob Parker, who graduated last year averaging nearly 14 points and 6 rebounds per game. SFA will turn to an unproven frontcourt rotation of Clide Geffrard, CJ Williams, JaQuan Smith, TJ Holyfield, and Jovan Grujic.
Geffrard has the most experience after averaging nearly nine points and three rebounds a year ago. Williams and Smith bolster the 'Jacks frontcourt after a solid showing at the JUCO level. Holyfield and Grujic are both freshmen and the wildcards for Underwood this year. Holyfield, the brother Sam Houston big man Michael Holyfield, has a 7-3 wingspan and had ACC offers on the table. Grujic is a Serbian import who stands 7-0 and turned heads with his shooting ability this summer. Look for 6-6 Nathan Bain to also work his way in at times as his athletic ability cannot be ignored.
Looking at the schedule, it is clear that no one wants to play the Lumberjacks this season. While they do play Baylor to open up the year and also have games against Northern Iowa, Arizona State, and UAB on the docket, the remainder of the slate leaves much to be desired.
In one stretch, they will play two NAIA teams (LSU Shreveport, Our Lady of the Lake) and two Division II schools (Arkansas Tech, Henderson State). When you have to fall back on that kind of schedule, it is clear that other teams are dodging the Lumberjacks given the talent and upset potential of this team..
It would not be surprising to see Stephen F. Austin once again at the top of the Southland Conference this season. The core is there in the form of Walkup, Charles, Cameron, and Pinkney. They will have to keep a sharp eye for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi who could pose a threat within the conference. Given Underwood's skyrocketing success so far, the lure of bigger teams will mostly come calling if this success continues, but for now keep a look out for the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, or they'll cut you down on the court.