NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - After last season and a strong recruiting class it is no surprise that the SFA men’s basketball team has been picked to finish first in the Southland Conference preseason poll.
SFA grabbed 23 of the possible 26 first place votes. In all, SFA accumulated 287 points to take the top spot in the preseason listing but it was followed closely by 2017-18 Southland Conference regular season co-champion Southeastern Louisiana who totaled two first-place votes and 243 total points.
Since the beginning of the 2012 season, SFA has rolled up an impressive 91-13 record in Southland Conference skirmishes which is tied with American Athletic Conference power Wichita State for both the best in-conference winning percentage and the highest number of in-conference victories in the nation throughout that same span.
Last season, the 'Jacks lead the nation in total steals, steals per game and turnovers forced per game. They used that disruptive defense to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the past five seasons and finished the campaign with a 28-7 record and the team will be returning nine letter winners.
The season for the men starts November 6, at 6:30 p.m. inside William R. Johnson Coliseum.That night, SFA takes on Texas Wesleyan for the 35th time in program history.
2018 Southland Conference Men's Basketball Preseason PollPlace | School (first-place votes) | Total points1. SFA (23) | 2872. Southeastern Louisiana (2) | 2433. New Orleans | 2044. Abilene Christian (1) | 1965. Lamar | 1866. Sam Houston State | 1847. McNeese | 1728. Central Arkansas | 1369. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi | 115T10. Houston Baptist | 101T10. Nicholls | 10112. Northwestern State | 7313. Incarnate Word | 30
For the second straight season, the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks have been picked for a runners-up finish in the Southland Conference Preseason Poll, per a release from the conference office at the 2018-19 Basketball Media Day on Wednesday. SFA received a total of 248 votes in the poll, which combined votes from league coaches as well as sports information staff from each school. Voting for one's own team in the poll was not allowed.
Lamar was picked to the top spot in the poll with 288 votes (24 first-place votes), followed by Central Arkansas in third with 231 and the remaining pair of first-place votes. 2017-18 tournament champion Nicholls was picked fourth with 226 votes, followed by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in fifth with 209.
Abilene Christian was tabbed to finish sixth with 178 votes, followed by New Orleans in seventh with 153, McNeese with 128 and Southeastern Louisiana in ninth with 102. Houston Baptist (86), Northwestern State (76), Incarnate Word and Sam Houston State (32) rounded out spots 10-13, in that order.
After posting a second-straight 25-win season in 2017-18, the Ladyjacks return talent around the ball in the new campaign, led by senior guard Chanell Hayes, who was named a Preseason All-Conference selection via a conference release on Tuesday. A total of nine returners pace the Ladyjacks, Hayes and 2017-18 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year Imani Johnsonreturning as starters. A talented group of four freshman (Heaven Hamling, Aiyana Johnson, BriAnna Mitchell, Stephanie Visscher) give the 'Jacks options as they look to restock the rest of their starting lineup, while returners Brioenne Burns, Alyssa Mayfield, Aaliyah Johnson, Riley Harvey, Kia Fisker and Marissa Banfield look to carve out larger roles in the upcoming season.
The 'Jacks open up the 2018-19 season with a Postseason WNIT matchup at Miami, followed by up to four other tournament games against yet to be determined opponents. From there, the 'Jacks will face Our Lady of the Lake (Nov. 20) and Tulsa (Nov. 24) in a pair of home contests, before heading out to Lubbock to face another “Power 5” opponent in Texas Tech (Nov. 28) to close out the month of November. The 'Jacks open December with three straight home games versus Wiley College (Dec. 1), Montana State (Dec. 6) and Texas Southern (Dec. 15), before traveling to take part in the New Mexico Lobo Invitational before the holiday season (Dec. 19-20). A home contest against Cameron University on December 29 closes out the calendar year and non-conference schedule for SFA, with conference playing kicking off in the first week of January.
Opening up the conference slate once again with a matchup against Southeastern Louisiana, the 'Jacks will begin their journey through SLC play on Jan. 2ndin Hammond, La. Following that matchup, the 'Jacks will host Nicholls on January 9 for a rematch of the 2017 Southland Conference tournament title game, followed a rivalry matchup against Northwestern State three days later on the 12th, also at home. A midweek home contest against New Orleans on January 16 is the final home game of January for the 'Jacks, who play the final three games of the month on the road. Those games include trips to San Antonio, Abilene and Conway to face Incarnate Word (Jan. 19), Abilene Christian (Jan. 23) and Central Arkansas (Jan. 30).
A total of eight games are to be played by the Ladyjacks in February, beginning a jaunt to Huntsville to face rival Sam Houston State (Feb. 2). A pair of home contests versus Houston Baptist (Feb. 6) and Lamar (Feb. 9) await the 'Jacks following the rivalry contest, followed by three straight road games at McNeese (Feb. 13), Northwestern State (Feb. 16) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Feb. 20). Rounding out the month of February will be home tilts versus Incarnate Word (Feb. 23) and Central Arkansas (Feb. 27).
Of the three last regular season contests scheduled for the 'Jacks in March, the final two will be at home following a trip to Beaumont on March 2. The Ladyjacks close out the regular season with home games against Abilene Christian (March 6) and Sam Houston State (March 9).
The SFA Athletics Media Relations Department contributed to this article.