Southern men’s basketball coach Roman Banks figures a lot of opponents are looking forward to playing the Jaguars this season.
After losing four seniors and seeing its top two returning big men transfer from last season’s Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season champions, Southern (2-8) is going through a transition.
“I expect a lot of people are thinking this is a down year for us,” Banks said. “They’re probably looking at it as payback time.”
Certainly nobody owes the Jaguars a bigger payback than Champion Baptist College, which visits Southern at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
The Jaguars set an NCAA record by scoring the first 44 points on their way to a 116-12 victory against the Tigers last season. They held Champion Baptist scoreless for nearly the first 15 minutes and led 82-7 early in the second half.
Champion Baptist coach Eric Capaci said he was aware that Southern was undergoing “some transition,” but his team wasn’t thinking about payback.
“The only thing I’ve heard from our players as we’ve prepared is that they just want to improve offensively,” Capaci said before his team’s game at Lamar on Monday night. “We want to prove to ourselves that last year was a fluke. We know we can score (more than that) against a Division I school. We want to show that we can score some points.”
The Tigers, who are located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and are independent members of the Association of Christian College Athletics, usually play a few NCAA opponents each year. They were 1-9 overall going into the game at Lamar, which is coached by former UNO and McNeese State coach Tic Price.
The Jaguars, who were 3-9 going into last year’s meeting, are 0-7 on the road after an 88-78 loss at No. 14 Iowa State on Sunday.
“It’s a lot like it was last year,” Banks said. “We’ve taken some lumps on the road, and we’re coming home needing a win. We need to work on ourselves.”
Banks said he was encouraged by the performance against Iowa State, especially from his big men. Southern had a 29-21 lead in the first half before trailing 42-35 at halftime.
The Jaguars are seeking enough of an offensive threat from their post players that defenses can’t surround the perimeter players as frequently as they have for much of the early season. Forward Keith Davis gave them a lift with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 20 minutes against the Cyclones.
“I don’t expect him to average 20 points a game or anything like that,” Banks said. “But he can give us some intangibles and a big presence that can catch the ball in the post and do enough offensively that teams have to show some respect.”
For Champion Baptist, Tuesday’s game is an opportunity to earn more respect than it did last season, though Capaci said other “small schools” told him they scheduled Division I teams for the first time this season after seeing the national notoriety the Tigers got last season — even if it was for the lopsided nature of the score.
He said his team’s goals against Division I opponents generally are to score more than 50 points and allow fewer than 100.
“We’re grateful for this game,” Capaci said. “It helps prepare us for our national tournament. The score last year was unfortunate, but we improved last year because of that game. We’re grateful to Southern for another opportunity to play them.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.