If you blink during the Southland Conference Tournament, you might miss a few possessions. The basketball is not very good, but the pace is very, very good if you like quick games with a lot of action. Per Bart Torvik’s conference ratings, the Southland was the fastest in tempo. It was also the highest in Turnover Percentage on offense and, subsequently, the highest in TO% on defense, too.
Only one bid for the NCAA Tournament is available in this conference. If Stephen F. Austin gets it, they will be a 12 or 13 seed. If anybody else gets it, they will have to hope and pray to not be on the 16 line.
This one begins on Wednesday March 11 at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas. On the whole, this is a good conference tournament venue for unders, so keep that in mind as you peruse the teams in this field. Stephen F. Austin is the favorite that went 19-1 in conference play, as these teams play 20 conference games out of the 31 games that most of them played.
Here are the teams, seeds, standings, and odds from Circa Sports for the 2020 Southland Conference Tournament:
- Stephen F. Austin 28-3 (19-1) -179
- Abilene Christian 20-11 (15-5) (H2H tiebreaker) +335
- Nicholls 21-10 (15-5) +1200
- Sam Houston State 18-13 (11-9) (H2H tiebreaker) +950
- Northwestern State 14-15 (11-9) +15000
- Lamar 16-15 (10-10) (tiebreakers) +6500
- McNeese State 15-16 (10-10) (tiebreakers) +6500
- Texas A&M Corpus Christi 14-17 (10-10) +15000
This is the most exclusive of the conference tournaments. Only eight of the 13 teams in the league are eligible for the tournament. That is probably for the best, since the bottom of this conference is extremely bad. In general, this conference isn’t very good, but Stephen F. Austin is back at the top and has the biggest pedigree in this league. SFA didn’t even qualify for the conference tournament last year.
SFA has actually beaten VCU and West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament over the last seven years and has not been embarrassed at all. They don’t have head coach Brad Underwood anymore, but Kyle Keller, formerly at Texas A&M, has been really good aside from last year’s disaster.
Remember, this is a Stephen F. Austin team that beat Duke at Cameron Indoor back in November.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 Southland Tournament:
Wednesday March 11
5 p.m. CT: 8 Texas A&M CC vs. 5 Northwestern State
7:30 p.m. CT: 7 McNeese State vs. 6 Lamar
Thursday March 12
5 p.m. CT: 8/5 winner vs. 4 Sam Houston State
7:30 p.m. ET: 7/6 winner vs. 3 Nicholls
Friday March 13
5 p.m. CT: 8/5/4 winner vs. 1 Stephen F. Austin
7:30 p.m. CT: 7/6/3 winner vs. 2 Abilene Christian
Saturday March 14
8:30 p.m. CT: Championship Game
Is this a runaway for Stephen F. Austin? It very well could be. The Lumberjacks lead the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency and rank second in adjusted defensive efficiency. One major problem for SFA has been turning the basketball over. Another major problem for SFA is that they shoot just 69.1% from the free throw line. This is easily the best team in the conference, but they are not without flaws.
Abilene Christian likes to press a little and forced the most turnovers in the conference. They were also tops in 3P% defense. McNeese State was second among tournament teams in offensive efficiency and first in 2P% offense.
But none of these teams are really as good or as balanced as Stephen F. Austin. The upshot here is that we can consider a team from the bottom of the bracket that will eventually face the Lumberjacks, who do have a double bye to the semifinals. The choice really comes down to Abilene Christian or Nicholls. ACU was the best defensive team in the conference. Nicholls didn’t make enough shots, but had the lowest TO% during the conference play season.
Nicholls and ACU only played once and the Wildcats won by 18. It was an ugly game all around with 41 turnovers and a lot of bad shooting from deep. Abilene Christian was 26-of-37 on two-point shots, though, and had 22 assists to just four for Nicholls. That is the biggest issue with Nicholls. They just don’t make enough shots.
Abilene Christian lost twice to Stephen F. Austin in the regular season, but the Lumberjacks had 44 free throw attempts in that game and made 25. Abilene Christian really tried to extend the game, which makes sense, as SFA was not a great FT shooting team. The Wildcats did lead at halftime.
Still, it seems highly unlikely that SFA loses here. The Jacks were -1.5 on the road at ACU, so they will be probably -4.5 or -5 in the championship game. That means that their money line in the title game will be higher than the -179 for the conference tournament price by a little bit.
If you want value, Nicholls at +1200 is probably the team, but they’d have to beat Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin. That is a big ask of a team that doesn’t shoot well.
Pick: Stephen F. Austin -179