Ja'Monta Black, Northwestern State Demons, Southland Tournament Preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The Southland Tournament.

The Southland Conference has seen a major facelift over the past few seasons, but the teams that have remained or joined are looking to seize the opportunity for their chance at a spot in the Big Dance.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi won the league’s regular season and is also trying to defend its conference tournament title from last season. However, Northwestern State owns the league’s best victory in an early season win over TCU. Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State also lurk as dark horses.

2023 Southland Awards

Player of the Year: DeMarcus Sharp, Northwestern State

Freshman of the Year: Nate Calmese, Lamar

Transfer of the Year: DeMarcus Sharp, Northwestern State

Coach of the Year: Steve Lutz, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

First Team:

  • G: Terrion Murdix, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (13.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 4.5 RPG, 2.3 SPG)
  • G: Boogie Anderson, Southeastern Louisiana (14.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • G: DeMarcus Sharp, Northwestern State (18.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.9 SPG)
  • G: Caleb Huffman, Nicholls State (16.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 2.1 SPG, 40.4 3P%)
  • F: Isaac Mushila, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (14.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 55.3 FG%)

Second Team:

  • G: Jordan Johnson, New Orleans (17.7 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.3 RPG, 48.0 3P%)
  • G: Trey Tennyson, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (15.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 41.2 3P%)
  • G: Ja’Monta Black, Northwestern State (15.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.1 SPG)
  • G: Demarcus Demonia, Texas A&M-Commerce (15.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 APG)
  • F: Christian Shumate, McNeese State (13.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 54.8 FG%)

Southland Tournament Simulation

First Round – Sunday, Mar. 5

5. Texas A&M-Commerce (13-19, 9-9) vs. 8. McNeese State (9-22, 6-12) – 5 p.m. on ESPN+

Texas A&M-Commerce held its own in its first year in the league and at the Division I level. Meanwhile, McNeese State played a bunch of close games, coming up just short at the end of most. Commerce swept McNeese in the regular season, winning each game by just two points. Both teams struggle defensively, but Commerce’s slightly better offensive numbers get them through.

Matt’s Pick: 5. Texas A&M-Commerce

6. Houston Christian (10-21, 7-11) vs. 7. New Orleans (10-19, 7-11) – 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+

These two teams haven’t seen each other since the beginning of January, but New Orleans is the team coming with more momentum, having won four of their final five games. Both squads struggle defensively, with Houston Christian possessing the worst defense in the nation according to KenPom. New Orleans shoots and defends the three-ball better, and that’s how the Privateers advance.

Matt’s Pick: 7. New Orleans

Second Round – Monday, Mar. 6

4. Nicholls State (16-14, 11-7) vs. 5. Texas A&M-Commerce – 5 p.m. on ESPN+

Nicholls State is a well-coached group under Austin Claunch that plays outstanding defense by Southland standards. The Colonels are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers in the nation. They did lose by one to Commerce just a few weeks ago, but Nicholls won’t get fooled again.

Matt’s Pick: 4. Nicholls State

3. Southeastern Louisiana (18-13, 12-6) vs. 7. New Orleans – 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Southeastern Louisiana has been a tale of streaks throughout Southland play this season. They currently sit on a four-game winning streak entering the tournament and earned a sweep of their league rivals in UNO on the season. The Lions will force turnovers and turn them into quick offense to take care of business in this one.

Matt’s Pick: 3. Southeastern Louisiana

Semifinals – Tuesday, Mar. 7

1. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (21-10, 14-4) vs. 4. Nicholls State – 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU

Corpus Christi reminded the league why they were the reigning champions by ripping off wins in 10 of their final 11 games of the season. The Islanders get it done by playing physically and earning their points at the free-throw line. That was the story in this season’s series, as Corpus Christi swept Nicholls by getting to the charity stripe 37 and 23 times, respectively. The Islanders have the experience to advance.

Matt’s Pick: 1. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

2. Northwestern State (21-10, 13-5) vs. 3. Southeastern Louisiana – 8 p.m. on ESPN+

Northwestern State had a chance to earn the top seed in the league but couldn’t get the job done against Corpus Christi late in the season. The Demons went 2-2 over their final four games but had won nine in a row before that. That winning streak was bookended by wins over Southeastern Louisiana. Northwestern State crashes the glass hard, and it’s those second-chance opportunities that get them through to the championship game.

Matt’s Pick: 2. Northwestern State

Championship – Wednesday, Mar. 8

1. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. 2. Northwestern State – 4 p.m. on ESPN2

These two teams have played a pair of fantastic games this season and are truly the best the Southland Tournament has to offer to the NCAA Tournament. Corpus Christi earned the wins in both games this season, but that will serve as extra motivation for Northwestern State to get their revenge. The Demons, behind the explosiveness of DeMarcus Sharp, earn the auto-bid and immediately become a sneakily dangerous 15 or 16 seed.

Matt’s Pick: 2. Northwestern State

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