Nov. 20, 2016
Quiet Dominance: Stephen F. Austin Basketball
Until recently, only hardcore basketball fans had heard of Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks are a little team from a little conference, they are hardly considered Division 1. SFA competes in the Southland Conference, a gathering of below average teams. So what makes SFA worthy of spending the time to write a blog about? The Lumberjacks happen to be one of the most dominant teams in recent memory, comparable to the Wichita State Shockers.
Some of you may know Stephen F. Austin solely because of their stunning win in the 2015-2016 tournament. The 14 seed Lumberjacks took down the mighty(ly overrated) three seed West Virginia Mountaineers by a score of 70-56. The win was not just an upset, it was an embarrassment of a top team in a power five conference. The Lumberjacks followed this win with an outstanding effort against Notre Dame, falling just short 76-75. Regardless of the early exit, the Lumberjacks garnered national attention as a team that could hang with the big boys. While most of the world found out about them in 2016, I learned of the small conference giants back in 2009.
For years, I have done extensive research on college basketball, looking for potential sleeper picks for the tournaments. I scour the smaller conferences for signs of dominance. I stumbled across a team that was an impressive 11-5 in conference, Stephen F. Austin. They won their conference that season and earned a ticket to the dance, only to be bounced by Jim Boeheim and his Orangemen. They faded from memory for the next few years, only to show up back on my radar in 2014. SFA went undefeated in conference, 18-0, and had a total record of 32-3. I hopped right on the bandwagon right there. I picked them to upset VCU, the 5 seed. I was correct, SFA pulled the upset 77-75 in overtime. They continued on to lose to UCLA by 17, but the season was still one for the books.
While their tournament record isn't what makes them dominant, their conference record is nothing to scoff at. From 2009 to 2016, their conference records went as follows: 11-5, 9-7, 12-4, 16-2, 18-0, 17-1, 18-0. The Lumberjacks have had an iron grip on conference play for the past even years, something unheard of in current college basketball. Not enough people are talking about the Lumberjacks. Expect them to keep up their outstanding conference play again this season. The team is disrespected time and again by the rankings and by basketball fans nationwide, failing to acknowledge their accomplishments. The Lumberjacks are hungry for more wins, and are sure to grab the spotlight in the tournament again this season.
The Lumberjacks graduated their three leading scorers, including superstar Thomas Walkup. Ty Charles is the leading returning scorer, averaging 9 last season. Junior Isiah Traylor showed promise as a scorer in their first game this season, however, pouring in 15. Also, watch out for senior guard Dallas Cameron. He got decent time with the successful team last season, so he knows how to win and should be a good leader for the Lumberjacks this season.