SFA Picked In Upper Half Of SLC Basketball Race
Oct. 28, 2004
PLANO, Texas ~ Northwestern State University has been the nation's youngest NCAA Division I men's basketball team for each of the past two seasons, but now fields a veteran team with four two-year starters and three preseason All-Southland Conference selections. The head coaches of the league have taken notice and picked the Demons as the team to beat in 2004-05, edging past Sam Houston State University by the narrowest of margins in their preseason poll.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, defending champion of the league's postseason tournament and NCAA Tournament representative last year, has been tabbed No. 1 by the 11 sports information directors of the league. The SIDs have Northwestern State picked second, just one point behind the Roadrunners.
Last year's final standings had three teams wind up tied for the top spot with 11-5 league records. Southeastern Louisiana University lost its last two regular-season games to fall into the tie with the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas-San Antonio. The Roadrunners entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed and defeated Texas State University, SLU and Stephen F. Austin State University to capture the tournament title.
UTSA is picked third in the coaches poll, having received two first-place votes and accumulating 78 total points. Northwestern and SHSU each received four first-place votes to garner 88 and 87 points, respectively. SFA took the other first-place nod and is picked fourth by the coaches with 67 points.
SLU ranks fifth with 64 points, just ahead of Lamar University (56) and McNeese State University (43). The University of Louisiana at Monroe and UTA will tie for eighth according to the coaches while Texas State and Nicholls State University will be in rebuilding mode.
Northwestern State returns all five of its starters and has 13 of its 16 letterwinners from the 11-17 team in 2003-04 back. The Demons tied for fifth in the Southland with an 8-8 mark and now has four juniors and one senior in the starting lineup. Coming off the bench will be three sophomores and two juniors and the school,s preseason prospectus lists "No key losses" under its "Players Lost" category.
Head coach Mike McConathy, entering his sixth year at Northwestern, looks to Jermaine Wallace, Clifton Lee and Byron Allen to lead the way. Wallace, a junior guard, averaged 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds on his way to being named second-team All-Southland last year. Lee, a third-teamer last year as a sophomore, averaged 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds from his forward position. Allen scored 8.3 points and had 4.7 rebounds per game last year and will also be a junior this season.
Sam Houston State head coach Bob Marlin has a little experience of his own returning to the Bearkat camp. In addition to losing just one letterman from last year,s 13-15 club, SHSU gets a much-needed lift when 6-foot-11 Eddy Fobbs returns from a medical redshirt season. He averaged 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds while blocking a league-high 79 shots two years ago, but sat out last year with a knee injury.
Returning are four starters, led by preseason All-SLC selection Joe Thompson. The senior forward averaged 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists last year. Another double-digit scorer in the starting lineup for SHSU is forward Wilder Auguste at 10.8 points and 5.5 rebounds.
With two NCAA Tournament appearances over the last five years, the UTSA Roadrunners are beginning to establish themselves as a yearly contender for the SLC championship. The Roadrunners have recorded 15 or more wins in five of the last seven seasons and return eight lettermen and four starters off last year,s championship team.
Tim Carter, who is starting his 10th season in San Antonio, is the all-time winningest coach in UTSA history with 134 wins. Key for the Roadrunners and Carter this season will finding players to step in for LeRoy Hurd, who led the SLC in scoring the last two seasons and was the conference,s regular-season and tournament MVP last year as a senior.