By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
It's the beginning of January and with the pigskin being stored away in football stadiums across HBCU campuses, it's time to turn to the basketball court as the 2016-17 men's and women's HBCU hoops season kicks into high gear.
With conference schedules now becoming the focus, we at ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT want to give you a good primer on what to look at across the country in men's and women's black college/university basketball.
We start today in the Southwestern Athletic Conference:
- Alabama A&M went into January 0-12, the only close loss being to the Ohio Valley Conference's Tennessee Tech. The Bulldogs have struggled to score so far, with the SWAC's low of 57.9 points per game, and are struggling on defense, giving up 83 points per game. Quinterian McConico has led them in scoring with 11.4 points per game and 7.3 points a game, while De'Edrick Petty has added ten points a contest.
- Alabama State has had problems scoring so far this season. They have the SWAC's lowest field shooting and second-worst 3-point shooting percentage so far in 2016-17. Junior Rodney Simeon has been a bright spot, averaging 11.5 points per game and ranking third in the SWAC in 3-pointers. Tony Armstrong has also been steady, 11.2 points and seven rebounds a game. The Hornets have won two of their last three, defeating Fort Valley State and Grambling.
- Alcorn State nearly pulled off an early season upset, losing by just a bucket to SWAC power Texas Southern on Jan. 2. Though they started 3-9, ASU has played a bunch of big to medium sized schools to ready for the SWAC season. They've scored 64 points a game and rank second in the SWAC in defensive scoring. They also pound the offensive boards, ranking second in the conference in that area. Reginal Johnson has led them offensively with 15 points a game while averaging 7.5 rebounds a game. He's also hitting 51 percent of his shots. Marquis Vance has done the hardwork inside, averaging eight rebounds a game.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff started the year 2-12, beating lowly Mississippi Valley State and Eccelesia College in three overtimes. But this is a team that isn't allowing teams to run up and down the court on them. They are fourth in the SWAC in scoring defense (75.2 points per game) and second in defensive field goal percentage (45 percent). So defense isn't a problem. Scoring is. UAPB averages just 60 points a game, second worst in the SWAC. Ghiavanni Robinson has led them in scoring with 11.4 points a game, but he is the only person on their squad averaging double-digit points.
- Grambling picked things up earlier this season after getting wiped out at Virginia, with two overtime losses, one to Miami (Oh), and a win over Tougaloo. They are third in scoring in the SWAC with 67 points a game, but are giving up nearly 80 points a game. Ervin Mitchell has been a bright spot, as he has scored 15.5 points and grabbed 5.5 boards a game. Remond Brown has chipped in 13 points and three boards a game while freshman Averyl Ugba has been one of the SWAC's top rebounders this season with 9.2 rebounds a game.
- Jackson State has proven to be the stingiest SWAC team so far, giving up just over 67 points a game. The Tigers went 6-8 before January with some good wins over Drake and Southern Miss. Edric Dennis has been their big player, leading the SWAC with 17 points per game so far this season and with 2.9 3-pointers per game. Janarius Middleton has also been a beast on the boards as he averages eight boards a game. This is a team seen as one of the best in the conference this season.
- Mississippi Valley State has had little success for far this season, going 0-14 heading into January. They have played some biggies (Indiana, Michigan State, Iowa State, West Virginia) and have given up at least 100 points for times this season - including 105 to Arkansas-Pine Bluff - which is why they are the bottom in defensive scoring and scoring margin in the SWAC. Defense is a problem for the Delta Devils. Issac Williams (11.5 points per game) and Rashaan Surles (10.4 points per game) have been their scoring leaders. But this is a team that is hitting just 59 percent of their free throws.
- Prairie View A&M has had a tough beginning of the season, going 3-12 heading into the New Year. They did defeat Fresno State and played SWAC power Southern tough, losing only by two. A steady team that is a good scoring team and a middle of the pack defensive team, PVAM has been led by Zachary Hamilton (14.8 points, 3.7 rebounds per game). He's one of the league's better 3-point shooters and has hit 77 percent of his free throws.
- Southern is part of what's seen as the one of the top three SWAC teams this season, along with Jackson State and Texas Southern. At 5-9 heading into January, the Jaguars gave UAB fits, losing by one in overtime, and played tough at Nebraska. With easily the top scoring offense in the SWAC so far at 73 points a game, the Jags are led by Shawn Prudhomme (17 points a game), Jared Sam (13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) and Trelun Banks (11.7 points a game).
- Texas Southern is poised again to be the best team in the SWAC this season. They had a hot start, winning four of their first five before running into a buzzsaw of teams that included Arizona, Louisville, Cincinnati, Louisville, LSU, Baylor and TCU. Forward Derrick Griffin, last season's Player of the Year, averaging 11 points and ten rebounds a game. But junior guard Zach Lofton, in his first year at TSU after being at two schools the previous two years, is leading the team with 16 points a game. Guard Dulani Robinson rounds out their new big three with ten points a game so far.
- Alabama A&M's first problem to solve is scoring. They average a SWAC worst 46 points per game and have a minus-27.4-point scoring margin so far this season. They've also made the fewest 3-point shots so far. Their offense so far has come mainly from Jameica Cobb and her 16.2 points per game. No other Bulldog is averaging double-digit points so far this season, so scoring will be a huge issue to fix. Cobb has been stalwart on the boards, as she is third with 7.2 rebounds per game.
- Alabama State will be shooting for a third SWAC title. But they started with a brutal early schedule - North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Southern Miss, Troy, Ohio State, Mississippi State and LSU. They went 1-10 going into the start of January and fell to a good Grambling squad by 15. But this is expected to be a much better team than that. They have not kept pace scoring with their opponents so far, but they have been tough on the boards. The Hornets are led by Britney Wright and her 12.2 points per game and six rebounds a game. Daniel Ewert (10 points per game) has also been solid so far. This team is expected to gel and challenge for another SWAC title, though they have started slow.
- Alcorn State has had a tough go at things so far this year, going 0-12 to start the season. The problem starts on defense where they give up 78 points per game. The fewest they've allowed is 57 points to a strong Texas Southern in a 4-point loss a few days ago. They rank at the bottom of the SWAC in most defensive categories - scoring defense, defensive field goal percentage (31.6 percent), defensive 3-point percentage (38.8 percent), and rebounding margin (-11 per game). Their offense isn't much better as they average just 51 points per game. Tia Sanders is their only double-digit scorer, averaging 11 points per game. Miracle Rushing is one of the SWAC's better rebounders so far, grabbing seven boards a game.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff has had one of the tougher early schedules of anyone in the SWAC having played Xavier, Cincinnati, Ball State, Illinois and Oregon State. They lost to Mississippi Valley State to start the SWAC campaign. UAPB ranks in the middle of most offensive and defensive categories in the SWAC, although their rebounding isn't very good. Senior Niya Head leads them with 11.7 points per game while Destiny Brewton has chipped in 9.7 points a game so far. This is a team that will need to turn their game up a notch to challenge the better teams in the conference.
- Grambling started 3-9, but they've won their last two games including a win over one of the SWACs top teams, Alabama State. They haven't been the high scoring team that they were last season, though they have been one of the top defensive teams so far this year. But this team is led by guards Shakyla Hill (16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds per game) and Jazmin Boyd (12.5 points per game). The Tigers also have gotten steady play from Jazmine Torian (8.5 points, 5.8 rebounds per game). This is a solid team that won't sneak up on anybody this year.
- Jackson State has started strong - as expected - this season with two three-game winning streaks already. They have the SWAC's top scoring offense (72.6 points per game) and sport the second-best scoring defensive team (68.5 ppg). They make it hard for teams to hit field goals (only allowing teams to hit 36.5 percent of their field goals per game) and they pound the boards. Derica Wiggins (12.1 ppg), Chelsey Causey (9 ppg, 7 rebounds a game, 84 percent free throw shooter) and Kiera Adams (1.4 blocks ppg) make this one tough team to beat this year - just as everyone expected.
- Mississippi Valley State went 4-8 to start 2016-17 and has a SWAC win already over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Delta Devils have been a good scoring team though a mediocre defensive team so far. But they have the SWAC's leading scorer in Christina Reed. Reed has averaged 17.2 points per game and leads the SWAC in steals with 3.6 a game. Ashley Beals is also back and has averaged 11.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Lauren Elliott (8.7 ppg, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals) has also been a significant contributor for this promising team. This is a team that can make some noise in the SWAC, depending on their defense.
- Prairie View A&M has gotten some quality wins already this season, defeating Marshall, Sam Houston State and Bethune-Cookman, although they fell to SWAC power Southern to start January. Despite losing their two leading scorers from last season, the Aggies can score (second in the SWAC in scoring and field goal percentage so far), are a strong rebounding team and can hit 3-pointers. Defense is probably their weak link, as they give up 75 points per game. Alexis Parker (15.3 points a game) and Tori Carter (14.6 per game) are fourth and fifth among SWAC scorers so far this season, with Jeronia Allen (12.7 ppg) and Dominique Newman (10.4 ppg) not far behind. Watch this team.
- Southern may have started 3-6, but their schedule has included the likes of Michigan State, UCLA, Ohio State and Texas A&M. The Jaguars are still expected to be one of the better teams in the SWAC. They start with their leading scorer, Briana Green. Green averages 14.6 points per game and six boards a game and she hits 47 percent of her shots. Cortnei Purnell has averaged ten points and six rebounds a game so far, while Skylar O'Bear is one of the SWAC leaders in 3-pointers a game. This is a strong Jaguars team that will contend for a title.
- Texas Southern has lived up to their billing as one of the Big Three in SWAC women's hoops with Alabama State and Southern. They won four of their first five, with the one loss in overtime. They lost three in a row, but to big schools Rice, TCU and SMU before beating Florida International and Alcorn State. They play the stingiest defense in the SWAC so far, giving up just 58.9 points a game, nearly ten points a game better than second place Jackson State. Joyce Kennerson (13.7 points per game) and Artavia Ford (12 ppg) lead this team in scoring, with Ford leading the conference in field goal percentage.