Busting Brackets

SWAC Basketball: 2024 Conference Tournament Preview

Put on your dancing shoes, it's time for 8 teams to fight it out for the right to go to the Big Dance.

Nov 18, 2023; Omaha, Nebraska, USA;  Texas Southern Tigers head coach Johnny Jones watches action
Nov 18, 2023; Omaha, Nebraska, USA; Texas Southern Tigers head coach Johnny Jones watches action / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings to all, it's CWells your tour guide around the SWAC. After 180 regular season SWAC games, it is time for the most important games of the year. 7 games of SWACtion over 4 days, who can ask for anything more? Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama is the setting. One team gets their opportunity to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. Alcorn State comes in as the hottest team, winning 9 straight games. Alabama State needed an upset of top-seeded Grambling State on the last day of the season to get into the tournament.

No one enters this tournament on a losing streak, so that means the teams are all playing fairly well. That should make for an interesting and competitive tournament. I think there are 3 legitimate contenders to win this tournament (Grambling State, Alcorn State, and Texas Southern). There are also 2 dark horses (Bethune-Cookman and Jackson State) to keep an eye on. There is an opportunity to witness history as we may have a team make their first NCAA tournament (Grambling or Bethune-Cookman). In this preview, I will share my thoughts on each first-round game. I will also give my predictions for the rest of the tournament. Spoiler Alert: the championship game will be a rematch of last year's game. Let's get to the preview.

Quarterfinal #1: Wednesday, March 13 2:00 pm 7 Alabama A&M (9-9 SWAC, 10-21) vs 2 Alcorn State (13-5 SWAC, 14-17)(season series AlcSU 1-0 1/11/24 @AlcSU 74 AAMU 71)

Alcorn State Key Players: Jeremiah Kendall 16.0 ppg 6.7 rpg, Byron Joshua 11.4 ppg 4.2 apg, Jeremiah Gambrell 13.1 ppg 43% 3pt.
Alabama A&M Key Players: Omari Peek 9.4 ppg 3.1 rpg, Lorenzo Downey 5.8 ppg 4.1 rpg, Cameron Tucker 9.3 ppg 4.3 rpg):

The Braves of Alcorn State are the SWAC's hottest team, entering the tournament on a 9-game winning streak. They definitely have a legitimate chance at winning the whole thing. AAMU is the definition of a 9-9 team, they can beat anyone or lose to anyone. They have played their last few games without leading scorer Dallin Smith (14.0 ppg) Offensively the Bulldogs are not the team to overwhelm you with points. They just find ways to win. Alcorn has great inside/outside play which makes them a tough matchup for anyone. The Braves were upset in the first round last year and they won't let it happen again. Winner: Alcorn State

Quarterfinal #2 Wednesday, March 13 8:30 pm 8 Alabama State (8-10 SWAC, 13-18) vs 1 Grambling State (14-4 SWAC, 17=14)(season series 1-1 2/10/24 @GSU 74 AlaSU 68 3/9/24 @AlaSU 87 GSU 84 2OT)

(Grambling State Key Players: Kintavious Dozier 13.3 ppg 2.0 rpg, Jonathan Aku 4.3 ppg 5.3 rpg, Tra'Michael Moton 11.4 ppg 2.5 apg
Alabama State Key Players: TJ Madlock 15.9 ppg 4.8 rpg, Isaiah Range 9.6 ppg 3.0 rpg, CJ Hines 9.7 ppg 2.5 apg)

This game features Alabama State, a team that until Saturday afternoon was still considered a longshot to make the tournament. These two teams actually faced off in the last game of the regular season. The Hornets pulled the upset in double overtime. That result combined with UAPB's loss spring boarded the Hornets into the tourney. Even with Saturday's result, Grambling should be able to win this Quarterfinal matchup. Alabama State hasn't been the most consistent team down the stretch, slumping after a 5-1 SWAC start. I don't know if Bama State has it in them to defeat the G-Men in back-to-back games. Winner: Grambling State 

Quarterfinal #3 Thursday, March 14, 2:00 pm 6 Jackson State (11-7 SWAC, 15-16) vs 3 Texas Southern (12-6 SWAC, 14-15)(season series 1-1 1/22/24 @JSU 73 TSU 64 3/2/24 @TSU 80 JSU 70)

Texas Southern Key Players: PJ Henry 15.0 ppg 2.7 apg, Jonathan Cisse 12.8 ppg 39% 3pt, Grayson Carter: 7.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Jackson State Key Players: Ken Evans 18.9 ppg 5.5 rpg, Jordan O'Neal 12.7 ppg 6.1 rpg, Chase Adams 9.4 rpg 4.3 apg)

This matchup is a prime example of SWAC basketball, two teams that are even no matter where they are in the standings. These teams are similar statistically, as both averages around 71 points. They both have size inside and game-changers on the perimeter. Ken Evans (Jackson State) and PJ Henry (Texas Southern) can both easily go for 30 points in a game. Jackson State has had a Murphy's Law type of season, a win here can make things smoother. Texas Southern is the 3-time defending SWAC Tournament champions (winners of 5 of the last 6 tournaments) and they understand what it takes to win in March. Texas Southern wins this one with a late surge. Winner: Texas Southern

Quarterfinal #4 Thursday March 14 8:30pm 5 Bethune-Cookman (11-7 SWAC, 15-15) vs 4 Southern (12-6 SWAC, 18-14) (season series BCU 2-0 1/15/24 @BCU 83 SU 81 OT 3/2/24 BCU 67 @SU 61)

Southern Key Players: Brandon Davis 12.8 ppg 37% 3pt, Derrick Tezeno 9.2 ppg 5.6 rpg, Tidjiane Dioumassi 9.0 ppg 5.5 apg.
Bethune-Cookman Key Players: Zion Harmon 15.5 ppg, 4.1 apg, Jakobi Heady 15.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, Dhashon Dyson 14.2 ppg 3.5 rpg

4-5 matchups are usually the most difficult to predict due to the two teams usually being even. But this is an odd matchup because even though the Wildcats swept the season series, Southern held double-digit leads in both games. If you've been following my power rankings then you know I'm really high on the Wildcats. Southern is a difficult team to figure out, they can jump out to big leads against anyone. And they can easily let that lead go. Southern's biggest weakness is free throw shooting, which is a killer in a tournament setting. This one can go either way but I have more confidence in the Wildcats. Winner: Bethune-Cookman 

Here are my predictions for the rest of the tournament. Semifinal #1 Friday, March 15 2:00pm: 5 Bethune-Cookman vs 1 Grambling State Winner: Grambling State Semifinal #2  Friday, March 15 8:30 pm 3 Texas Southern vs 2 Alcorn State Winner: TSU Final Saturday March 16 8:30pm  3 Texas Southern vs 1 Grambling State Winner: Grambling State 

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Since I was 8 years old I have been in love with the SWAC tournament. I really enjoyed being able to bring you all my thoughts on this year's tourney. The fun doesn't stop there. I will have a tournament recap and a preview of the SWAC's NCAA tournament game next week. So make sure to keep it locked in here with me. I'm your tour guide around the SWAC signing out and please make sure to exit the SWAC bus carefully.