Tiny Dancers: Stephen F. Austin’s dynasty of dominance rolls on

There is no team in America that dominates its league like Stephen F. Austin dominates the Southland.

That’s just a fact.

Brad Underwood and the Lumberjacks won their third straight Southland Conference tournament on Saturday night, rolling over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 82-60. Like many games have been since Underwood began coaching SFA, this thing was over by halftime with Austin pushing out a 48-29 lead at the intermission.

At this point, it’s genuinely worth wondering whether Underwood and company are getting bored with winning within the league. Since he took over, the Lumberjacks are a staggering 59-1 in the Southland. For reference, Kansas is 48-13 in the Big 12 during that time. Wichita State is 56-5 in the Missouri Valley. Gonzaga is 56-7 in the West Coast Conference. It’s a run unlike anything we’ve seen.

Like the teams of the past, this 2016 squad is a high-pressure defensive team that runs smart, efficient offense. They’re going to out-execute a majority of the teams they run across in the Big Dance, and it’s going to be fun to see if they can pull off an upset like they did back in 2014.

What else do you need to know about Stephen F. Austin? Here’s the skinny.

Player to know: Thomas Walkup has had a storied career at Stephen F. Austin, and that’s continued through his senior season. He’s averaged 17.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists, and it looks like he’s saving his best for last. Over the Lumberjacks’ final three games, Walkup scored 79 points on 38 shots, which is just an outrageous efficiency number.

Plus, he embodies the Lumberjacks more than anyone with that glorious beard. It’s perfect.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 27-5 overall, 18-0 in the Southland
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2015 (Lost 57-50 to Utah as a No. 12 seed)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 14 seed
  • RPI: 75
  • KenPom Ranking: 40
  • Sagarin Ranking: 59
  • Best wins: Texas A&M-CC (three times)
  • Worst losses: Tulane
  • Notable stat: 25.6. The Lumberjacks force turnovers on 25.6 percent of their opponents’ possessions, more than any other team in the country. It’s a high-pressure defensive scheme that leads directly to offense, but is also much more solid overall on that end than past SFA teams have been.

Closing quip: This is a team that can make noise but might not quite get a seed commensurate with its talent because of the fact that it hasn’t beaten anybody yet this year. But one thing is for sure: If I were a No. 3 or 4 seed, I would not want to see the Lumberjacks on the other side of my draw. They’re experienced and tough, they force turnovers and they’re extremely well coached. That’s the recipe for an upset.

Thomas Walkup has had another great season for Stephen F. Austin. (USATSI)
Thomas Walkup has had another great season for Stephen F. Austin. (USATSI)

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