2020-21 Small College Men's Basketball Preview

Photo by West Texas A&M Athletics

The first season of the expanded Lone Star Conference provided one of the best conference tournaments in recent memory. West Texas A&M overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat St. Edward’s and earn the Buffs  their third consecutive Lone Star Conference Tournament title.

The win also avenged the only loss that the Buffs suffered last season before the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to their season along with fellow LSC foes St. Edwards, Angelo State, Dallas Baptist and Texas A&M-Kingsville who were all selected to play in the South Central Regional.

West Texas will be a force once again this season with the return of Lone Star Conference Player of the Year junior Qua Grant back in the fold, along with junior Joel Murray. The Buffs should be a favorite to return to the Elite Eight again this year. Lubbock Christian will be improved this season with the return of Freshman of the Year Ty Caswell along with Parker Hicks and Cameron Copley. 

St. Edward’s head coach Andre Cook will look to rebuild the Hilltoppers following the graduation of Ashton Spears and August Haas while Texas A&M-Kingsville returns talented guard Tre Flowers and the Javelinas will push for another appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Dallas Baptist will once again be led by Chandler Jacobs as the Patriots seek an impressive eighth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Angelo State and Texas A&M-Commerce will have revamped rosters this season but Rams head coach Cinco Boone and Lions head coach Jaret von Rosenberg always produce a team towards the top of the Lone Star Conference standings.

Eastern New Mexico, Western New Mexico and Texas A&M International each have new head coaches entering this season with the Dustdevils selecting former Tarleton assistant coach Mac McConnell to lead the squad.

UT Permian Basin head coach Josh Newman brought in an impressive recruiting class as he tries to return the Falcons to contender status in the Lone Star Conference while Midwestern State head coach Justin Leslie added a second impressive recruiting class as he continues to rebuild the Mustangs in his second season at the helm.

UT Tyler head coach Louis Wilson is entering his second season in transitioning the Patriots to NCAA Division II while Oklahoma Christian and Arkansas-Fort Smith seek a return appearance to the conference tournament. St. Mary’s and Cameron will compete to earn a spot in the Lone Star Conference Tournament this year.

The American Southwest Conference had another incredible season last year as UT Dallas was selected to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament. The Comets season came to an end in the second round with a loss to Whitworth.

LeTourneau followed an impressive regular season by winning the YellowJackets first men’s basketball tournament title. LETU guard Nate West was named NABC Division III Player of the Year after averaging 28.6 points and 7.2 assists per game while posting three triple-doubles.

The YellowJackets will need to quickly adjust to life without West to compete for another ASC title this year. UT Dallas will be led by Kelden Pruitt, Michael Forster and Hunter Stevens as the Comets seek a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

Sul Ross State won the American Southwest Conference West Division last season but will be under the leadership of a new head coach as four-time American Southwest Conference West Division Coach of the Year Clif Carroll left the Lobos to become the head coach for Mary Hardin-Baylor following the retirement of Ken DeWeese after 22 seasons in charge of the Crusaders.

East Texas Baptist will also have a new head coach as Chris Lovell takes over a solid Tigers program after Brandon Curran left the program to transition to full-time church ministry. Concordia, Hardin-Simmons, and Louisiana College are seeking a return trip to the American Southwest Conference Tournament this season as the Wildcats play their final year in Division III before transitioning back to NAIA.

McMurry, Howard Payne, Belhaven and Ozarks look to rebound after missing out on the conference tournament last year.

St. Thomas made a splash in its inaugural season in Division III as it finished atop the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season standings. The Celts were not eligible for the conference tournament while transitioning to DIII and Centenary took advantage and won their first Southern Collegiate Athletic title.

Jimmy Smith takes over as the head coach at Trinity following the retirement of the Tigers all-time winningest coach Pat Cunningham. Schreiner took the interim tag off Marwan Elrakabawy and named him head coach after Elrakabawy led the Mountaineers to an 11-16 record last year.

Colorado College will have a new head coach as Jeff Conarroe was selected to take over his alma mater. The Tigers will be the only Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference school in Colorado after JWU (Denver) announced in June it was terminating its athletic program effective immediately due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin College will be led by senior Michael Holland as the ‘Roos should compete for the conference title. Texas Lutheran will lean on seniors Sebastian Andrade and Caleb Lister as the Bulldogs seek a return to the NCAA Tournament.

Michael Wambsganss will once again lead Dallas as the Crusaders seek a return to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Tournament while Southwestern only lost one senior off last year’s team and the Pirates could contend for the league title this season.

In NAIA, LSU Shreveport won their first Red River Athletic Conference title since 2012 after they defeated Texas A&M-Texarkana who made a surprise run through the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament to the title game.

Wiley will have a new head coach as Derrick Mitchell takes over the Wildcats following a successful run at Voorhees College (S.C.). Aloysius James returns to lead Huston-Tillotson while Spencer McElway and Mateo Escheik will lead Paul Quinn following All-Red River Athletic seasons.

Christian Byrant (Texas College), Ruben Monzon (Our Lady of the Lake), Connor Ouellette (Texas A&M-Texarkana) and McShane Wyatt (Jarvis Christian) also return after producing all-conference seasons.

Tim Kisner is now the head coach at Oklahoma City after previously leading fellow Sooner Athletic Conference foe John Brown. Kisner led John Brown to 51 wins in two years as head coach but fell victim to budget cuts at the school.

Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year and first-team All-American Nykolas Mason returns to lead SAGU along with fellow All-Sooner Athletic Conference member Joshua Kashila while All-Sooner Athletic Conference selections Peyton Sallee and Akeem White will lead Texas Wesleyan.

 

Hogue's Projections

LONE STAR

Division
1. West Texas A&M
2. Lubbock Christian
3. Angelo State
4. UT Permian Basin
5. Eastern New Mexico
6. Western New Mexico

Division
1. Texas A&M-Kingsville
2. Dallas Baptist
3. St. Edward’s 
4. St. Mary’s
5. Texas A&MInternational

Division
1. Texas A&M-Commerce
2. Midwestern State
3. Cameron
4. Oklahoma Christian
5. Arkansas-Fort Smith
6. UT Tyler

AMERICAN SOUTHWEST

East
1. UT Dallas
2. East Texas Baptist
3. Louisiana College
4. LeTourneau
5. Ozarks
6. Belhaven

West
1. Mary Hardin-Baylor
2. Concordia Texas
3. Hardin-Simmons
4. Sul Ross State
5. McMurry
6. Howard Payne

SOUTHERN COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC
1. St. Thomas
2. Texas Lutheran
3. Austin College
4. Centenary
5. Southwestern
6. Schreiner
7. Trinity
8. Dallas
9. Colorado College

RED RIVER ATHLETIC
1. LSU Shreveport
2. LSU Alexandria
3. Huston-Tillotson
4. Texas A&M-Texarkana
5. Southwest
6. Wiley
7. Our Lady of the Lake
8. Texas College
9. Paul Quinn
10. Jarvis Christian

SOONER ATHLETIC
1. SAGU
2. Texas Wesleyan
3. Mid-America Christian
4. Wayland Baptist
5. Oklahoma City
6. John Brown
7. USAO
8. Langston
9. Southwestern Christian
10. Central Christian
11. Oklahoma Panhandle State

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