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SWAC Tournament Preview: A pair of unbeatens will look to cap their seasons

Prairie View A&M and Jackson State both finished unbeaten in this wacky SWAC season.

NCAA Basketball: Jackson State at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to look at a wacky set of standings, look at how the SWAC finished this season.

Both Prairie View A&M and Jackson State finished unbeaten due to the pandemic canceling their matchup. Mississippi Valley State might go down as one of the worst teams ever, yet they won two games. Alabama A&M went half of the season unbeaten, but finished at 6-9, and cannot play in the postseason due to APR scores, just like Mo Williams’ Alabama State Hornets.

There are two clear favorites in the league, but teams such as Texas Southern or Southern could get hot at any minute and spoil Prairie View or Jackson’s season.

Bracket

Schedule:

Note: All games in Birmingham. All times are Eastern.

Quarterfinals (Wed.- Thur., March 10 & 11) ESPN3

Game 1: No. 7 Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs No. 2 Jackson State, Wed. 3 p.m.

Game 2: No. 8 Mississippi Valley State vs No. 1 Prairie View A&M, Wed. 9:30 p.m.

Game 3: No. 6 Alcorn State vs No. 3 Texas Southern, Thur. 3 p.m.

Game 4: No. 5 Southern vs No. 4 Grambling State, Thur. 9:30 p.m.

Semifinals (Fri., March 12) ESPN3

Game 5: Game 3 winner vs Game 1 winner, 3 p.m.

Game 6: Game 4 winner vs Game 2 winner, 9:30 p.m.

Finals (Sat., March 13) ESPNU

Game 7: Game 5 winner vs Game 6 winner, 6 p.m.

The Favorites:

Prairie View A&M (14-4, 13-0): Prairie View is as complete of a team as you will get at the lower mid-major level. They rank second in the country in defensive turnover percentage, 44th in two-point percentage, and have a player who is ranked in the top ten of assist rate, Nebraska transfer Cam Mack.

Mack is the team’s leader, taking 24.3 percent of possessions used. When sharing the ball, Jawaun Daniels is the go-to-man. Daniels leads the Panthers at 14.6 points per game and ranks in the top 100 of the country in both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage.

Jackson State (11-5, 11-0): Led by two of the best players in the league, the Tigers have finished above five hundred in SWAC play for the third straight season. Tristan Jarrett gets most of the shots, and it’s well deserved, as he averages 20.1 points per game. Along with him, Jayveous McKinnis averages a double-double while shooting a stellar 55 percent from the field.

Just like Prairie View, the Tigers have a great defense. Throughout SWAC play, Jackson has allowed no more than 66 points in a game.

If Jarrett and McKinnis play like they have all season, the Tigers are in prime position to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2007.

The Dark Horse:

Texas Southern (13-8, 10-3): Led by 2016-17 MAC Freshman of the Year Marcus Weathers, and former LSU head coach Johnny Jones, the Tigers have won six-in-a-row. Unlike other teams in the league, TSU has a real presence down low, ranking 45th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Get the ball in to John Walker or Joirdon Karl Nicholas’ hands and it’s almost a sure two points. The Tigers have the pieces but got swept by Prairie View earlier in the year.

The Long Shot:

Southern (8-10, 8-6): Along with their stellar defense, the Jaguars have one of the best shooters in the country in Jayden Saddler. The Aberdeen, Maryland native averages 11.1 points per game while shooting an amazing 61.7 percent from the field as a 6’1” guard.

Southern finished the season battling it out with Prairie View and Texas Southern on the road. They just have to turn those into results.

Players to Watch:

Jawuan Daniels, Prairie View A&M (14.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 55.3% FG%)

Cam Mack, Prairie View A&M (12.1 PPG, 8.4 APG, 35.4% FG%)

Tristan Jarrett, Jackson State (20.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 41.1% FG%)

Jayveous McKinnis, Jackson State (12.2 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 55.4% FG%)

Michael Weathers, Texas Southern (16.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 48.9% FG%)

John Walker III, Texas Southern (12.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 57.7% FG%)

Joridon Karl Nicholas, Texas Southern (10.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 52.6% FG%)

Cam Christon, Grambling State (13.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 44.4% FG%)

Jayden Saddler, Southern (11.1 PPG, 5.3 APG, 61.7% FG%)

Troymain Crosby, Alcorn State (19.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 45.9% FG%)

Shaun Doss Jr., Arkansas Pine Bluff (16.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 39.1% FG%)

Prediction:

Jackson State will beat Prairie View in a SWAC Championship that fans will remember for a long time.