Busting Brackets

SWAC Basketball: Bethune-Cookman “Down and Dirty in Daytona. Wildcats scratch and claw their way up the standings”

Dec 29, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Bethune-Cookman Wildcats head coach Reggie Theus reacts
Dec 29, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Bethune-Cookman Wildcats head coach Reggie Theus reacts / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It's CWells, your tour guide around the SWAC coming back at you. This season of SWACtion has been entertaining, confusing, and fun. I've decided to showcase one of the teams that has stood out to me so far. The NCAA Men's Tournament is the prize for every college basketball team. Watching teams try to climb that hill to success and a ticket to the dance is one of the best reasons to watch this great sport. And some teams are just like me in high school…..no invite to the dance. That brings me to the subject of this article, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. They have never been to the Division I Big Dance. I'll be honest with you great folks, if this team wasn't one of the first-half surprises, I wouldn't be writing about them. So sit back, get comfortable, and let's talk about the Wildcats basketball team.

Let's start this off from the beginning, last season in their second season in the SWAC the Wildcats finished seventh at 8-10 (12-20 overall). That record allowed the Wildcats to qualify for their first SWAC tournament. Hopes remained high coming into the ‘23-'24 season, despite the loss of 3 key players (Marcus Garrett, Kevin Davis, and Joe French). A big reason for excitement was the return of Freshman of the Year Zion Harmon, a dangerous weapon at point guard. This preseason BCU was selected to finish 9th in the conference. Coach Reggie Theus built a team with size that would allow the Wildcats to hold their own in SWAC play.

After a non-conference schedule in which the Wildcats picked up 3 Division I wins, they sit at 7-4 in the SWAC. These Wildcats will almost certainly eclipse their 8 SWAC wins from last season. I call this team scrappy because they will continue to fight to the end. Their 4 SWAC losses are by a combined 21 points. It seems like any time the Wildcats are underdogs they have picked up wins. They defeated 4 teams who were in first or second place at the time of their game (Southern, Jackson State, Alabama State, and Texas Southern). If you witnessed their suffocating defensive effort against Bama State last Saturday, then you understand why this is a dangerous team.

This team doesn't have the flash and style of other teams. That by no means is a bad thing, I love hard-nosed basketball and this team isn't afraid to get their hands dirty. It seems like when their backs are against the wall, they don't fold. Facing Southern without Harmon and trailing by 15 points? The team banded together in the final minutes and stole a huge home win. Forward Reggie Ward willed the team to victory by hitting clutch drive after clutch drive. Harmon lit Jackson State up for 23 points, returning after missing 4 games due to injury.

Monday night the Wildcats outlasted Texas Southern behind Harmon's 20 points and 4 assists. The Wildcats boast one of the few SWAC 7-footers, Elijah Hulsewe (4.9 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game) he is just one of the big bodies the Wildcats on put on the floor. They can play small ball as well, with plenty of shooters and guys that can get in the lane and make things happen. Jakobi Heady is one of their best shooters (50% field goal and 34% 3-pointers), he doesn't fear hitting the big shot.

Latest top-25 power rankings. dark. Next. Latest top-25 power rankings

With 7 games left the Wildcats find themselves sitting in a great spot tied for third. Next time you take a look at SWAC ball don't overlook the Wildcats. BCU will certainly bite your favorite team if they aren't careful. I know I will certainly enjoy watching this team attempt to make the SWAC tournament, this is certainly one of those teams you want to see advance in a one-bid league. Keep it locked in with me here at Busting Brackets, our 4th power rankings will be dropping later in the week. I'm your tour guide around the SWAC signing out and be sure to exit the SWAC bus carefully.