After lengthy wait, SWAC tournament set to begin

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Coach Roman Banks was named the Southwestern Athlietic Conference's coach of the year two of the past three seasons.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Coach Roman Banks was named the Southwestern Athlietic Conference's coach of the year two of the past three seasons.

With the regular season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference having ended March 2, teams competing in the men’s and women’s tournaments this week may have to begin their postseason by knocking off rust.

The SWAC generally holds its tournaments on the heels of the regular season but pushed them back this year because several schools had midterm exams last week.

Ten teams in the women’s tournament and seven in the men’s will look to march on to the NCAA tournament by winning the SWAC tournament and receiving the league’s automatic NCAA bid. All action, for the third straight year, will be at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.

Both title games are Saturday, with the women’s final at noon and the men’s at 3:30 p.m. shown live on ESPN2.

Texas Southern’s men, who beat out Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff for first place in the regular season, are ineligible because a postseason ban is part of their NCAA probation. UAPB and Mississippi Valley are ineligible because of APR-related penalties.

Southern is the No. 1 seed in the men’s bracket. Jackson State, which finished .500 in league play, had the No. 2 seed.

All of the teams will compete in the women’s tournament, led by regular-season champion Texas Southern.

Texas Southern was 16-2 in league play under first-year coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who led Prairie View to a string of SWAC titles. Southern is No. 2 after winning a tiebreaker with Mississippi Valley based on point differential in conference games.

Having swept the season series, the Southern women own the only victories over TSU in conference play. The Jaguars will face No. 7 seed UAPB or No. 10 Alcorn State at 3 p.m. Wednesday after receiving a first-round bye. They split the regular-season series with both teams, losing to each in the second half of the conference schedule after winning in the first half.

No. 7 UAPB and No. 10 Alcorn play at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the opening game of the women’s tournament. No. 8 Alabama State and No. 9 Grambling play at 8 p.m.

The men’s tournament begins with No. 6 seed Alabama A&M facing No. 7 Grambling at 8 p.m. Wednesday. That winner will have a day off before facing Southern at 8 p.m. Friday for a trip to the championship game.