The portrait painted by the Southland Conference coaches and sports information directions of the Louisiana portion of its men’s basketball league isn’t aesthetically pleasing unless you’re looking with purple and white glasses.
Northwestern State, one of the SLC’s more entertaining teams with its breakneck pace, was selected second in the league’s preseason predictions that were released a day before Thursday’s coaches’ teleconference.
With two returning first-team all-conference selections in Jalen West and Zeek Woodley, the Demons received one first-place votes and 130 points, trailing three-time defending champion Stephen F. Austin.
“We don’t talk a lot about it,” Northwestern coach Mike McConathy, who enters his 17th season and is 240-227 at the school and 592-386 overall. “If you’re first, second, third or fourth, I think everybody knows we should have a pretty good team. You’ve got to go out and prove that. Just because someone votes for you to do well doesn’t mean you’re doing to be successful.”
Woodley, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, topped the Northwestern State’s scoring with a 22.2-point average and 5.0 rebounds. West, a 5-11 senior, was next at 20 points and dished out 7.7 assists.
The Demons have a four starters back from a 19-13 team that lost 104-79 to Tennessee-Martin in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament.
“We need to make sure we play like we’ve got a bulls-eye on our back,” said McConathy, whose team averaged 84 points a game. “Play a little hungry, play a little angry trying to prove we’re a team that can be at the top of our league.”
The remaining four teams — all of which suffered through losing seasons — were part of the SLC’s lower tier that included Southeastern Louisiana (seventh), UNO (8th), McNeese State (10th) and Nicholls State (11th).
With a pair of 7-foot centers, Nicholls could be one of the SLC’s more intriguing teams for coach J.P. Piper.
“We’re very excited about adding a dimension to our offense,” Piper said. “We can throw the ball in and make you figure how to take it away from us and play off of that situation. It’s a role reversal for us and I’m excited about that.”
Nicholls, which returns three starters from last year’s 10-19 team, has 7-foot junior Liam Thomas, a native of Sydney, Australia, who graduated from Central Private back along with 7-foot Boston College transfer Kyle Caudill.
Devastating ACL knee injuries to starting guards Zay Jackson and Joshua Filmore derailed the first season (9-23) of SLU coach Jay Ladner, who dressed seven healthy players against McNeese in the SLC tournament.
Jackson, who was named to the All-SLC’s preseason second team, averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists. His return is expected closer to the start of league play, Ladner said.
“We’re certainly on our way to being healthy,” Ladner said.