As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 22–12 (11–7 SWAC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 100.0(244th)/105.4 (206th)
Seed: No. 16 (First Four)
Impact player: Adrian Rodgers, senior, guard, 16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.3 apg
The Case For: Southern is not fazed by superior competition. You’ll recall that in 2013, the Jaguars, as a No. 16 seed, came close to upsetting No. 1 seed Gonzaga before falling, 64–58. This is a different team, but it’s led by the same coach, Roman Banks, and it has spent the past two seasons waiting for another tourney shot after being hit with a postseason ban (over APR). The Jaguars don’t have the size to bang with high-major teams—they rank 306th nationally in average height, according to kenpom.com—but they held their own against major-conference squads this season. In November, Southern beat Mississippi State in Starkville and upended Tulane at home. The next month the Jaguars won at Wyoming and then pushed Memphis in a five-point loss at FedExForum.
Their biggest strength is taking the ball away (39th nationally in steal percentage), but don’t overlook senior Rogers and senior guard Christopher Hyder, both of whom ranked in the top five of the SWAC in Offensive Win Shares. While Southern didn’t finish conference play on a strong note—it dropped four of its final five games—the Jaguars got hot in the SWAC tournament. After ringing up 1.12 points per possession in wins over Alabama State and Texas Southern, respectively, Southern grinded out a 54–53 victory over Jackson St. by notching 0.79 PPP.
The Case Against: That aforementioned lack of size? It’s hurt Southern’s ability to end opponents’ possessions, as they grab 31.7% of their missed shot attempts (267th in the country). The Jaguars also send opponents to the line quite often (244th nationally in opponent free throw rate), and they don’t do a great job protecting the rim. Those factors help explain why Southern ranks 206th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. And yet, the Jaguars are even worse on the other end of the floor. They make only 47.4% of their twos, 34.5% of their threes and 67.3% of their free throws, which ranks 272nd in the country. Southern takes pretty good care of the ball, but that’s not as helpful for a team that has such a hard time scoring.
Quite simply, this team is not as good as the one that nearly shocked the Zags three years ago. Though Southern is more efficient offensively, its defense is far more permissive. In that game against Gonzaga, the Jaguars held the nation’s No. 2 offense to 64 points in 61 possessions. This Southern team allowed Prairie View A&M, a 7–24 squad that averages a lowly 0.90 points per possession, to score 1.16 PPP on March 5. That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars’ chances of advancing in the tourney.
SI prediction: Lose to Holy Cross in First Four.