Just like we all predicted, seven games into the conference season the Southland is led by — *double checks the notes* — Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana.
No, we didn’t predict this, this is not normal, but I am here for it. These power rankings only take into account conference games, because that’s the only thing that matters for the Southland Conference Tournament.
- Southeastern Louisiana (6-1) - SE Louisiana beat unanimous favorite Stephen F. Austin to start off the conference season, and has only had one setback against McNeese. They do not face SFA again this year, so they will own the tiebreaker against them. Until they lose again, they will be number one.
- Stephen F. Austin (5-1) - After an early conference loss, the Jacks have won five straight, although most weren’t as easy as the final score would indicate. They are still probably the favorites to win the Southland, but it’s not nearly as sure as many once thought.
- Nicholls (6-1) - The Colonels are off to a hot start, their only loss being a blowout to SFA. Their fast pace continues to catch teams off guard, and they can simply outscore teams.
- Sam Houston State (5-2) - Sam Houston was on a five-game winning streak, with a three-game stretch of blowouts, and things looked good in the first half against Lamar. But then the Cardinals outscored them 67-45 in the second half and OT combined. That said, the Bearkats are still a top challenger with the top-ranked offensive efficiency in the league.
- Abilene Christian (5-3) - The Wildcats have faced a tough opening stretch of conference games, losing to Southeastern Louisiana and SFA, and beating Sam Houston State in a close one at home. They most recently beat Central Arkansas this past Saturday pretty easily.
- New Orleans (6-2) - The Privateers won zero Div. I games in the non-conference season, but they went out and won their first four Southland games. They have dropped two out of their last four with losses against Central Arkansas and SFA. Their next three games include opponents with a combined 0-18 record in the conference season so far (@ Northwestern State, @ Incarnate Word, vs Northwestern State), so they will likely be 9-2 through January.
- Central Arkansas (4-4) - Central Arkansas probably has the toughest schedule in the Southland, facing SFA, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, and Nicholls twice each. This team might be a lower seed in the tournament, but it’ll be able to beat any team with Jordan Howard at point guard.
- Lamar (4-3) - Lamar has the talent to challenge for the league, but hasn’t found the right pieces yet. The Cardinals are dangerous against any team, but also, almost any team in the Southland can beat them. Don’t be surprised if they go 15-4, but there’s also a possibility of them finishing with a conference record under .500. They got a nice win against Sam Houston State over the weekend, but to really contend they’ll need to put more complete efforts together.
- McNeese (4-3) - The Cowboys are 4-3 in conference play but could be 6-0 with a few different bounces. Their biggest conference loss came by seven points in overtime to New Orleans. Their best win is against Southeastern Louisiana, but their other three wins are against Northwestern State, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word, so we will see if the win over Southeastern Louisiana was a fluke, or something they can build off of.
- Houston Baptist (0-7) - Houston Baptist has had a couple of close games so far in the conference season, the closest being was a one-point loss to Nicholls where the Huskies missed a last-second shot for the win. Houston Baptist has a few upcoming winnable games, but none are sure things. They are without their best player — Josh Ibarra — and have been without him since December. There’s no timetable for when he comes back and until then, don’t expect too much out of the Huskies.
- Texas A&M Corpus Christi (1-5) - A team with an actual win, but it was over Northwestern State, at home, by two, on a last-second shot by Myles Smith (who also hit a buzzer-beater earlier in the year). They barely lost to Lamar, but every other game has not been close.
- Northwestern State (0-7) - This team was beating SFA at halftime and only lost to them by eight. The Demons held the Jacks to 0-16 from three. That and the aforementioned game against Texas A&M Corpus Christi are their only two conference games that were within two points.
- Incarnate Word (0-7) - Incarnate Word has been rough to watch this year. Before the Cardinals latest game against New Orleans, they hadn’t had a single conference game where they lost by 10 or less. Against New Orleans, Incarnate Word led for most of the game but surrendered the lead with nine minutes left, and could never retake it.