Southland Conference basketball insider
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2013
1/24/13 at 4:59 AM
Stephen F. Austin: The beat goes on. Stephen F. Austin has won 11 consecutive games. The Lumberjacks (16-1) are one of five one-loss teams in Division I men's basketball.
Sam Houston State: Picked seventh in a preseason coaches' poll, Sam Houston State is a surprise contender. The Bearkats are 4-2 in Southland Conference games, losing at home to Northwestern State and Oral Roberts (in overtime). Bad news? Sam Houston State still must play Stephen F. Austin twice.
Northwestern State: Before last week, Northwestern State was one of three Southland Conference teams in the top 100 of the RPI. Then came a homecourt loss to Nicholls State that dropped the Demons to 136. Northwestern State became the first Southland Conference contender to lose a league game to a non-contender.
News and notes
Unstoppable force, immovable object: When Northwestern State hosts Stephen F. Austin on Saturday, it will be a matchup of the national leader in scoring versus the national leader in scoring defense. The Demons average 85 points per game. The Lumberjacks give up an average of 49.4 points per game.
Of course, something's got to give.
"I think it will be a great game," Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. "It will be a contrast in styles. Both teams are really good at what they do. The rest of the league is probably hoping Northwestern State can beat them, and it wouldn't shock me one bit because I think Northwestern State is really talented and they are really good at what they do."
Stephen F. Austin has held 49 consecutive opponents below 70 points. The last opponent to score 70 against the Lumberjacks? Northwestern State did it during the 2010-11 season in Natchitoches, La.
Bracket busting: ORU wants to hold serve in home games this week not only for obvious reasons, but also to perhaps gain a spot in one of 13 nationally televised games during ESPN's BracketBuster weekend Feb. 22-23.
A total of 122 teams from 13 conferences will participate in the BracketBuster event. ESPN plays the role of matchmaker and is expected to announce specifics (dates, times, networks) for the 13 televised games on Monday. A committee of conference commissioners will determine matchups for non-televised games.
Sutton indicated his team could be in the discussion for a TV appearance if the Golden Eagles can be in the top 80 or 90 of the RPI. As of Wednesday, their RPI was 87.
"We certainly wouldn't be one of the top TV games like we were last year," Sutton said. "But you could possibly get yourself in position to play on one of the networks. If you are in that position, you are going to get a good opponent. It will be a bonus for our fans and a bonus for this team to be able to play somebody that has a good RPI."
ORU is one of four Southland teams earmarked for a BracketBusters home game, joining Lamar, Central Arkansas and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Player of the week: For the second time in three weeks, ORU senior post player Damen Bell-Holter is the Southland Conference player of the week.
Bell-Holter scored 40 points and grabbed 19 rebounds during a road sweep of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Sam Houston State, going 11-of-15 from the field and 18-of-20 from the free throw line.
In Southland Conference games, Bell-Holter leads the league in scoring (22.3 ppg) and rebounding (11.7 rpg).
Golden Eagle teammate Warren Niles is the Southland's second-leading scorer in league play.
1. Stephen F. Austin: Streaking Lumberjacks are a Southland-best 67 in the RPI, and their average margin of victory in league play is 18.4 points.
2. Oral Roberts: Golden Eagles alone in second place after salvaging overtime victory at Sam Houston State.
3. Northwestern State: Demons have scored 100 or more points four times this season, including 103 in most recent game.
4. Sam Houston State: Bearkats lost to ORU despite owning five-point lead with 2:30 remaining in regulation.
5. Southeastern Louisiana: There's not much to separate middle-of-the-pack teams, but Lions are 1-0 against next team on this list.
6. Nicholls State: Colonels provided biggest shocker of league season by winning at Northwestern State.
7. McNeese State: With 299 all-time Southland wins, McNeese State can become first league team to reach 300.
8. Central Arkansas: What happens when Corliss Williamson's team gets hot? The Bears hit 8-of-12 shots from 3-point range after halftime and scored 52 second-half points to get first league win (at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) Saturday.
9. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Islanders' only win over a Division I opponent came at the expense of the bottom team on this list.
10. Lamar: Cardinals still looking for their first conference victory.
GAME OF THE WEEK: S.F. Austin at Northwestern St., 3 p.m. Saturday
Stephen F. Austin is alone at the top of the Southland Conference standings and plays just one game this week. It's accurate to describe this game as the toughest remaining road test for the Lumberjacks this season.
ORU's Damen Bell-Holter was named Southland Conference player of the week for the second time in three weeks. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World