Shawndarius Cowart, Grambling basketball, SWAC Tournament preview

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

* Featured image from Grambling basketball Twitter

It’s time for some SWACtion in the second week of March. As the teams travel to Birmingham, it’s the second postseason tournament for the league since they expanded two years ago with the addition of Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M. The way the SWAC Tournament is set up, the top eight teams in conference play participate, while the bottom four teams miss out. 

That’s unfortunate, as it eliminates the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils from contention and means we won’t get to hear their student broadcasting crew of Andre Williams Jr. and Caleb Brunson, who’ve gone viral for their calls throughout the season in the broadcast booth. Special shoutout to Andre and Caleb! 

The league, however, has been dominated by Alcorn State and Grambling State this year. The two teams both finished with 15-3 conference records with Jackson State behind them at 12-6. 

2023 SWAC Awards

Player of the Year: Shaun Doss, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Freshman of the Year: Zion Harmon, Bethune-Cookman

Transfer of the Year: Jeremiah Kendall, Alcorn State 

Coach of the Year: Donte Jackson, Grambling

First Team:

  • G: Terry Collins, Mississippi Valley State (15.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 SPG)
  • G: William Douglas, Prairie-View A&M (14.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG)
  • G: Cam Christon, Grambling State (12.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG)
  • G/F: Shaun Doss, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (17.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.5 SPG)
  • F: Joirdan Karl Nicholas, Texas Southern (11.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.1 BPG, 53.9 FG%)

Second Team:

  • G: Marcus Garrett, Bethune-Cookman (13.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 38.8 3P%)
  • G: P.J. Byrd, Southern (9.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • G: Kylen Milton, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (13.2 PPG, 4.2 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG)
  • F: Yahuza Rasas, Prairie-View A&M (11.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG)
  • F: Jeremiah Kendall, Alcorn State (11.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.5 APG)

SWAC Tournament Simulation

Quarterfinals Day 1 – Wednesday, Mar. 8

2. Grambling State (22-8, 15-3) vs. 7. Bethune-Cookman (12-19, 8-10) – 3 p.m. on ESPN+

The first game of the tournament isn’t a push-over for Grambling State, as Bethune-Cookman shoots the three-ball at a 36.1% clip, 2nd-best in the league. However, the skill and depth of Grambling are too much for the Wildcats, evidenced by the Tigers’ 2-0 mark against Bethune-Cookman in the regular season. Look for Cam Christon and Shawndarius Cowart to lead the Tigers to victory for the third time this year.

George’s Pick: 2. Grambling State

1. Alcorn State (18-12, 15-3) vs. 8. Texas Southern (11-20, 7-11) – 9:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Alcorn State, along with Grambling, has been the class of the SWAC this year. They’re a disciplined team, only committing 12.6 TOPG, and sophomore guard Byron Joshua is dishing 4.2 APG. Meanwhile, Texas Southern is shooting a league-worst 28.2% from behind the arc, which isn’t a great formula for an upset. Add in the fact that Alcorn State has won both meetings this year, and the Hornets should win for the third time.  

George’s Pick: 1. Alcorn State

Quarterfinals Day 2 – Thursday, Mar. 9

3. Jackson State (13-18, 12-6) vs. 6. Prairie-View A&M (13-18, 9-9) – 3 p.m. on ESPN+

Jackson State sits at third in the conference, but they draw a tough matchup with Prairie-View in the first round of the tournament. Yahuza Rasas averages 1.2 BPG on the interior and William Douglas is extremely efficient on the offensive end. Douglas should be the X-factor in this one, as Jackson State gives up almost 74 PPG on the defensive end. While the season series was split 1-1, look for a minor upset in the first round here.

George’s Pick: 6. Prairie-View A&M

4. Southern (15-17, 11-7) vs. 5. Alabama A&M (14-17, 10-8) – 9:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Southern, in terms of metrics at least, has one of the top resumés in the conference. They beat Cal and Loyola (MD) in the non-conference portion of their schedule, and are producing 8.7 SPG for a stingy defense. P.J. Byrd leads the SWAC with 5.6 APG, but Alabama A&M leads the conference in 3PT% and the Bulldogs have already beaten Southern twice in their two meetings this season. When it matters though, in the postseason, Southern should get it done. 

George’s Pick: 4. Southern

Semifinals – Friday, Mar. 10

1. Alcorn State (18-12, 15-3) vs. 4. Southern (15-17, 11-7) – 3 p.m. on ESPN+

The matchup between Southern and Alcorn State should be a good one, as Southern already handed a loss to Alcorn State in their lone prior meeting this season. Southern boasts a 154th-ranked KenPom defensive efficiency, which could pose problems for Alcorn State, who only shoots 29.6% from three, only better than Texas Southern in the conference. Alcorn State does have Jeremiah Kendall who is averaging 11 PPG and almost 7 RPG. But the ability of Southern to slow down their opponent is the difference-maker in this matchup, and the Jaguars should win. 

George’s Pick: 4. Southern

2. Grambling State (22-8, 15-3) vs. 6. Prairie View A&M (13-18, 9-9) – 9:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Prairie-View A&M, fresh off their upset over Jackson State, split the season series with Grambling 1-1. Grambling’s defense is the best in the league by a wide margin, led by Cam Christon and Shawndarius Cowart. They held Incarnate Word to 39 points, UTSA to 55, and Vanderbilt to just 62 in wins this year. Prairie-View can score, especially William Douglas, but not at the level needed to beat Grambling twice. The Tigers win a close one. 

George’s Pick: 2. Grambling State

Championship – Saturday, Mar. 11

2. Grambling State (22-8, 15-3) vs. 4. Southern (15-17, 11-7) – 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU

With apologies to Alcorn State, Grambling is the best team in the conference. With wins over Colorado and Vanderbilt, they’ve shown they can hang with Power 6 teams. But the season series with Southern was split 1-1, and Southern has the aforementioned wins over Cal and Loyola Maryland. P.J. Byrd can sling the rock, and the 1-2 punch of Brion Whitley and Bryson Etienne in the backcourt is lethal. However, Grambling is too strong this year, and they’ve got the most talent in the SWAC, especially on defense. Grambling State is the team that will be going on to March Madness from the SWAC this season.

George’s Pick: 2. Grambling State

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