The predictions are identical for Southern’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference released its predicted order of finish Wednesday, and both Jaguars squads found themselves in the same spot: second place, behind Prairie View.
The two teams also saw their leading scorers named all-conference selections, as guard Kendra Coleman (12.8 points) earned first-team honors, and guard Derick Beltran (13.2 points) was named to the second team.
SU’s coaches also had similar reactions to the rankings.
“I really don’t pay that any attention. I won’t speak much about this because it’s a pick, and it is what it is,” second-year men’s coach Roman Banks said.
Having been picked last and finishing second in 2011, Banks would know, and women’s coach Sandy Pugh echoed that sentiment.
“Anything can happen in this conference,” she said. “I like to refer to it as Murphy’s Law Conference, because I’ve seen some crazy things happen. Look at our men’s team last year, the phenomenal job coach Banks did. We’re picked to finish second, and it is what it is, but when we come out, we won’t be playing like we’re a second-place team.”
Indeed, Pugh’s crew will be gunning for the top spot — one they’d grown accustomed to holding but fell short of with a 12-6 conference mark and third-place finish.
“We were attempting to go for the three peat on the regular season and that didn’t happen,” Pugh said. “So that was disappointing for us, and I think the kids are really looking forward to gaining ground and getting back to being in that No. 1 chair, a place that’s familiar to us and where we like to be.”
To get there, she’ll rely on a mix of talented returning players and exciting newcomers.
There’s enough skill on the roster that even Coleman, the all-SWAC first-teamer, is locked in a position battle at guard with the lines of Yasmin Fuller and freshman Victoria Davis.
“Kendra has swag, so I think she’s reminded,” Pugh said. “I don’t have to say much because every time she looks to her left or her right, she has a freshman that can put it in the cup and is quicker than she is.”
On the men’s side, Beltran won’t have to spend much time worrying about his job security — especially not if he plays as well as he did last season.
Banks returns just two of his top five scorers (Beltran and point guard Jameel Grace) and will look to a cast of seven fresh faces to improve the team’s height and versatility, as well as try and get the Jaguars past the second-place spot that they finished in last season.
Southern’s 13-5 SWAC mark last year was a stunning turnaround that, as evidenced by the preseason poll, gained the program respect and amounted to a dream start for its new coach.
But the massive roster turnover means Banks has to get a whole new group comfortable in his system — so much so that he says it feels like his first season all over again.
Between that and the nature of the conference, you’ll have to forgive him for not getting too excited about his preseason ranking.
“Me knowing and understanding SWAC basketball, I don’t get too high or get too low,” Banks said. “There are going to be some good days and some bad days, and we just hope we’re consistent enough that we can have more wins at the end of the day than we do losses.”