Four women’s contests headlines the first night of the 2019 Toyota SWAC Basketball Tournament as the games will be played on the home courts of the top four seeds. Before the action tips off this evening, here are several storylines to watch.
SOUTHERN, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M ON OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE BRACKET
It took until late Saturday evening for the Southern University Jaguars to wrap up the SWAC regular season title and the top seed. Under the guidance of first-year head coach Carlos Funchess, the Jaguars have continued their winning ways and are tournament tested as they’ve reached the finals of the SWAC Tournament in three of the past four years. However, the tournament championship has eluded SU with its last title occurring in 2010.
On paper, the Jaguars play team ball as their top scorer (Skylar O’Bear) ranks 17th in the SWAC with 9.1 points per game. With the season resting on these three days, they’ll need everyone to contribute as the Jaguars open with Mississippi Valley State. SU swept MVSU this season and if they complete the trifecta on Tuesday, a showdown with Grambling State or Texas Southern waits in Birmingham, Ala. SU defeated Grambling State twice this season but both games were close while SU had a firm grasp in the win over TSU this past Saturday in Houston.
Prairie View A&M’s Sandy Pugh showed why she ranks as one of the all-time best in the history of the SWAC as she narrowly missed out on a regular season championship in her first season on the hill. Pugh, the architect of SU’s success in women’s basketball over the past 18 years, moved over to Prairie View A&M in July of 2018 and came within one game of winning Prairie View A&M’s first regular season title since 2009.
No. 2 Prairie View A&M will be ready for tournament play as the program has won six SWAC Tournament titles since 2007. The combination of Pugh’s experience and the program’s success will be hard to beat but Alabama A&M stands in the way come Tuesday night. No. 7 AAMU gave PVAMU all they could handle in a loss to the Panthers two weeks ago in Huntsville and will be a tough test to open tournament play.
CAN GRAMBLING’S SHAKYLA HILL GO OUT IN STYLE?
What more can Shakyla Hill do to cement her legacy at Grambling? At this point is winning another SWAC Tournament Championship as Grambling State is the defending champions.
The Lady Tigers have an interesting tournament opener in Texas Southern as this is a rematch of last year’s semifinal affair and the 2017 SWAC Tournament Championship. Grambling has had the last laugh since dropping the 2017 title game to TSU with a three-game winning over TSU dating back to the 2018 SWAC Tournament. One storyline to watch in Tuesday’s opener is the play of Hill and TSU forward Niya Mitchell. If both players are on fire, then it could be an interesting match-up down the stretch.
WATCH OUT FOR JACKSON STATE
Jackson State has quietly moved up the charts as the Lady Tigers enter Tuesday’s tourney as the third seed. After a 1-5 start in SWAC play, JSU has been hot as fish grease with an 11-1 record since Jan. 21. Tuesday’s match-up versus Alabama State will be one to watch as both teams split this season with JSU winning by 20 points on Saturday. How will first-year head coach Tomekia Reed fare in her SWAC Tournament debut against battle-tested Freda Freeman-Jackson of Alabama State?