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October 8, 2010

League preview: Southland

We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.

The breakdowns will become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.

25. Southland

By Joe Rexrode

The Southland Conference has more star power than a year ago, if nothing else.

Central Arkansas fired coach Rand Chappell right after the season and hired Corliss Williamson -- the former Arkansas great and NBA journeyman -- just a week later to head up a program that becomes eligible for Division I postseason play this season.

It may not be long before Williamson, 36, uses his name (call him Coach Big Nasty) to upgrade the Bears' roster and turn them into a league contender, but he'll be looking up at most of the rest of the league during his debut season.

At the top, Williamson should see Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State duking it out again for an NCAA bid. Sam Houston State won the league tourney last season, then gave Elite Eight-bound Baylor a bit of a scare in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

One difference this season is that the Bearkats and Lumberjacks will be in the same division, the West. The league's rotating divisions become permanent this season, and for now the West is much stronger than the East.

Another difference is that Sam Houston State will make its run without Bob Marlin, the 12-year coach who went 225-131 with the Bearkats before leaving to take the coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette. School officials promoted assistant Jason Hooten, and he hopes star forward Gilberto Clavell can help return the Bearkats to the NCAAs.

The Lumberjacks should be considered the favorites, with Eddie Williams making plays outside and Jereal Scott inside. After that, athletic forward Cameron Johnson makes Texas State a contender, senior forward Demond Watt leads a dangerous Texas A&M-Corpus Christi team and Lamar is looking to play up to its talent level and expectations.

Junior college guard Michael James will help Lamar, which should battle Southeastern Louisiana for the top spot in the weaker East division. Nicholls State could surprise there with Australian guard Anatoly Bose, who led the league in scoring at 21.1 points per game last season.

C Gilberto Clavell, Sam Houston State (6-6/230, Sr.)
F Cameron Johnson, Texas State (6-7/215, Sr.)
G Anatoly Bose, Nicholls State (6-6/200, Sr.)
G Devin Gibson, Texas-San Antonio (6-0/190, Sr.)
G Eddie Williams, Stephen F. Austin (6-2/190, Sr.)
F Jereal Scott, Stephen F. Austin (6-7/230, Jr.)
F Will Pratt, Northwestern State (6-5/224, Sr.)
F Demond Watt, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (6-7/210, Sr.)
G[/db]Melvin Johnson III, Texas-San Antonio (6-5/165, Soph.)
G Patrick Richard, McNeese State (6-4/193, Jr.)
PLAYER OF YEAR: G Anatoly Bose, Nicholls State
NEWCOMER OF YEAR: G Mike James, Lamar (6-1/185, Jr.; junior college transfer)

1. Southeastern Louisiana
2. Lamar
3. McNeese State
4. Nicholls State
5. Northwestern State (La.)
6. Central Arkansas
1. Stephen F. Austin
2. Sam Houston State
3. Texas State
4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
5. Texas-San Antonio
6. Texas-Arlington

New coaches: Jason Hooten at Sam Houston State (had been SHSU assistant); Corliss Williamson at Central Arkansas (had been coach at Arkansas Baptist College)
Regular-season winner last season: Sam Houston State (East) and Stephen F. Austin (West)
Tourney winner last season: Sam Houston State
League RPI rank in each of past 3 years: 26th in 2009-10, 19th in 2008-09, 20th in 2007-08
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2006, Northwestern State as a No. 14 seed in the first round
2011 conference tournament: March 8-12, Katy, Texas

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