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The Southland unfortunately faceplanted into conference play

It was a rough week for the league.

NCAA Basketball: Stephen F. Austin at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Southland’s last week before conference play was filled with plenty of good, winnable games. The league could’ve helped itself as it looks to create more recognizable names besides just Stephen F. Austin.

Instead, the Southland will look back on the past week as one of missed opportunity. From Dec. 17 to last weekend, Southland teams played 23 Div. I games. They lost all of them.

Here are the ones that the teams will regret the most, in addition to SFA’s near-win at Missouri on Dec. 19.

  • Against a solid Tulane team, Nicholls got off to a hot start, taking a 45-28 lead into the half. But an 11-minute scoring drought toward the end of the second half gave Tulane the opportunity to come back. The Green Wave ended up winning by seven, and this graph says it all.
Win Probability for Nicholls vs Tulane
  • Central Arkansas faced a Morehead State team they had already beaten this year. The Bears scored only 20 points in the first half, most of them accounted for by star guard Jordan Howard. UCA was able to rally after falling behind by as many as 21 points in the second half. With a minute and a half left, a Hayden Koval three tied the game. After a Morehead State answer, UCA forced overtime on this nifty play before an extra period with little defense doomed the Bears, as they eventually fell 98-94.
  • The biggest missed opportunities (plural) of the week were by Lamar, which faced four Div. I opponents, all ranked 144th or lower according to KenPom (Southern Illinois, Duquesne, UC Davis, North Carolina A&T). The Cardinals dropped all four games, and an 0-4 final non-con week leads to some major question marks. Are they still a contender alongside impressive SFA?

All-in-all it’s a group effort to go 0-for-23 as a conference against other Div. I teams, and it was a very disappointing week for everyone in the Southland. Conference play, however, is what really matters, and it’s time to see if anyone can challenge the Jacks.