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It’s a Southland shakeup after the league’s opening weekend

SFA was supposed to invincible, right?

NCAA Basketball: Southeastern Louisiana at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The first weekend of the Southland conference play is over and there was one huge surprise.

Southeastern Louisiana had the hardest opening weekend, facing Stephen F. Austin, the No. 14 team in our Power Rankings, and Central Arkansas, led by Jordan Howard who was praised extensively by SI.com. The Lions won both of those games, and now sit tied atop the league with four other teams. Their next three opponents are a combined 5-1 in conference play, so there will be some immediately-important games for the Southland standings.

Against SFA, 5’9 guard Marlain Veal was the star, ending with a stat line of 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, including eight points in the final 47 seconds to close out the game. Joshua Filmore also hit back-to-back three’s with 2:41 left to reclaim the lead and ended five-of-nine from the field, all on attempts from behind the arc.

Against Central Arkansas, Southeastern Louisiana held Jordan Howard to just 13 points on four-for-15 shooting. Moses Greenwood scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Lions in just 19 minutes. It was a back-and-forth game but a late run by the Lions was too much for Central Arkansas to overcome.

Nobody expected these upsets, especially with SFA playing so well recently. Looking forward, here are some matchups this week to watch for around the Southland:

  • Lamar (2-0) at New Orleans (2-0), Wednesday, Jan. 3, at 8 pm EST
  • SE Louisiana (2-0) at Abilene Christian (1-1), Saturday, Jan. 6, at 5 pm EST
  • McNeese (2-0) at New Orleans (2-0), Saturday, Jan. 6, at 4:30 pm EST

More from around the Southland:

  • New Orleans is off to an early 2-0 start to conference play, after a 3-8 non-conference record. We will see if their early success is sustainable.
  • McNeese is 2-0 as well, with wins over Incarnate Word and Northwestern State. Although the two wins are against two of the worst teams in the nation (per KenPom), 2-0 in conference play with relative ease is always nice (especially when you yourself are a sub-300 KenPom team).

Early on, It’s looking like it could be a three-way race in the Southland between Lamar, SFA, and Southeastern Louisiana. There’s still the very real possibility SFA shapes up and runs through the league, but the loss to Lions could haunt the Jacks: the teams don’t play again, giving Southeastern Louisiana the tiebreaker (should that become relevant).

The Southland, considered one of the most lopsided conferences a week ago, is now competitive and exciting, and maybe that preseason Lamar pick looks a little better. January is where you figure out which teams can be competitive in February and March and, thus far, Southeastern Louisiana has shown it is a contender.