Busting Brackets

SWAC Basketball: Where are the big men? Thoughts on the lack of solid interior players

Alcorn State v Gonzaga
Alcorn State v Gonzaga / Robert Johnson/GettyImages

Salutations Busting Brackets family, it's CWells, your tour guide around the SWAC. I attended my local SWAC basketball game yesterday and a thought crossed my mind. Where is the post-play? Now I already know what you're going to say (I think….), “CWells, basketball is perimeter-oriented now.” And you would be right but there is still a place for guys that can make an impact in the paint. I decided to do my own research project to get an idea of the impact big men have in the SWAC.

But before we get into the weeds of this article, let's establish a couple of things. First, there is always a lack of size (6’10” and above) on the low major level. It is certainly easier to find 6’4” to 6'7” athletic players and let them slash and shoot 3s. Also, the style of play is catered to players on the perimeter, 4 guard lineups are common in the SWAC. So with that out of the way, let's get to my findings.

I decided to use the SWAC scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage rankings to see if there are any big men making an impact. Next, I researched each roster to find the number of centers and forwards on the roster. For the sake of this article, any swingman (G/F) I listed as a forward if they fit the size of a forward. I also wanted to know how many players played significant minutes. I consider significant minutes to be an average of 10 minutes per game. So without any further ado, let's get on with the show.

When looking at the top 25 scorers in the league, 4 are forwards. Of those 4, one (Jakobi Heady, BCU) is more perimeter-oriented. Another one (Keith Lamar, FAMU) is a player that can bang in the paint, or shoot from outside. The other two are interior players (Jeremiah Kendall, Alcorn and Jordan O’Neal, JSU), basically the type of player my study set out to discover.  Looking at the scoring rankings proves two points. Number one: the league is dominated by guards and there is no short supply of those players. And number two: an interior player can feast in this league if allowed to play to his potential.

It should be no surprise that forwards and centers dominate the rebounding leader rankings. Eighteen of the top 25 are forwards and centers (16 forwards and 2 centers). Nine of the top ten rebounders are interior players. For whatever reason the SWAC only lists 14 players in their field goal percentage leader rankings. Three of those 14 are forwards, although as I earlier stated Heady could be considered a guard. Let's take a closer look at the rosters.

There are a total of 65 players listed as forwards in the SWAC. 6 players are listed as centers. Of those totals, 47 forwards play an average of 10 minutes or more. 5 centers earn significant minutes. Alabama A&M and Bethune-Cookman have the most forwards and centers on their roster with 9 each. Alabama A&M, Bethune-Cookman, and Florida A&M play the most with 7 each. University of Arkansas Pine Bluff has the fewest forwards and centers on their roster with 3. This is no surprise because the Golden Lions are the most guard-heavy team in the league. UAPB and Prairie View only play two forwards and centers. Again neither team has a ton of size on their team. UAPB big men average 6’8” while Prairie View is at 6’6”.

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

So let's wrap this up, I was not surprised at the number of quality men in the league. Watching games and understanding trends made that an easy discovery. I was a bit surprised at the total number of big men in the league. Especially the lack of true centers. After doing this study I 100% believe the lack of interior play hurts our league. Especially in out-of-conference games. I don't think we need to go back to the days of feeding the post until the big man can shoot or the guard gets a jumper. But I do think a guy that can work inside will only make your offense even more dangerous. Keep it locked here with your tour guide around the SWAC as I bring you my updated SWAC power rankings later this week. Enjoy your day/night, please exit the SWAC bus carefully.