Believe it or not but Selection Sunday is less than three weeks away. Now is a good time to look at a team who could bust some brackets on the first weekend. This team from the Southland conference won 27 games last season before falling in the finals of the conference championship and this year they are 25-2 and a perfect 14-0 in the Southland conference, I’m talking about the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin.
Last year the Lumberjacks were 27-5 before falling to Northwestern State in the Southland finals and then falling to Stanford in the first round of the NIT by a point. The Southland conference tournament finals was an interesting dichotomy between the country’s #2 scoring offense of Northwestern State defeating the #1 scoring defense of Stephen F. Austin 68-66. While this year’s edition of the Lumberjacks isn’t putting up the gaudy 51.2 points allowed per game they let up last season, this year’s squad is still playing stingy defense ranking 22nd at 62.3 points per game. They have allowed 70 points or more five times all year (once in a loss) and just three since Nov. 26.
Another factor that has made the Lumberjacks so successful over the last year plus, to the tune of 52 wins since the beginning of 2012-13 is the fact that they share the ball. The 15.5 assists they dished out last season ranked them 24th in the country. This year they’ve even improved on that with 16 assists per contest, good enough for 14th nationwide.
The Lumberjacks haven’t lost since Nov. 23 when they fell at East Tennessee State (their other loss was at Texas) and currently have a 22-game winning streak. Offensively the team is led by five guys in double figures with no one else averaging over three points. Junior Jacob Parker leads the team with 15 points and 6.8 rebounds. The team’s three seniors; Desmond Haymon, Deshaunt Walker and Nikola Gajic tally 36.6 points of the team’s 75 points per game.
The country’s leading bracketologists currently have the Lumberjacks in the 13-14 seed range. With four regular-season games remaining if Stephen F. Austin runs the table to a NCAA bid they will be 31-2 and as hot as any team in the country. If you are looking for this year’s Florida Gulf Coast, give the defensive-minded Stephen F. Austin a look.