"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grambling Preview - Straight Outta the SWAC

The following preview comes from none other than our own John Pudner, whose work you may have seen here many times before. The especially detailed preview comes courtesy of John living in SWAC country. He's having trouble getting it published, so without further ado...
Diminutive guards #1 and #2 will need treys to keep Grambling close

Writing from the home of the SWAC champion Alabama State Hornets in Montgomery, Alabama, I wanted to offer a little preview of the Grambling State game before flying up tomorrow to catch it. While this is clearly the third of four “cupcakes” of the season to warm up for Xavier on Thanksgiving Day, the Tigers did pull one November shocker last year when they stunned Morehead State, which went on to win the Ohio Valley Conference and destroy SWAC champion Alabama State in the play-in game.

Marquette needs to always find star #1 Ariece Perkis and #2 sharpshooter Donald Qualls off the bench. The 5-foot-10 Perkis may remind some of Dominic James for his incredible ability to grab rebounds from centers and forwards (he grabbed 106 boards last year, only two short of the team leader) and dish passes to all sports of the floor (Pomeroy ranked him as the 108th best assist man in the country last year despite playing on a poor team). Perkis led the team in points (11.9) assists (3.9 apg), and when 5-foot-8 Donald Qualls comes of the bench they have a dangerous combo that hit 100 treys last year and has combined to go 9 for 18 from behind the arc through two games this year.

Starting guard Lance Fuertado has made an immediate impact, pounding the offensive boards as Grambling has 25 offensive rebounds in two games. The three guards have each scored between 12 and 17 points in each of their opening games, while no one on the front line has hit double figures.

Grambling State may have gotten a few extra tips on Marquette when they lost a close game to fellow Louisiana school Centenary 71-66 on Tuesday. It took MU a half to shake free of Centenary 85-62 in the opener. For Grambling State to stay close, at least one of the three guards will probably have to have a performance like the 25 points scored by David Perez for Centenary in that game – a hot streak that stopped when Jimmy Butler was assigned to clamp down on him.

Beyond the three guards, little production so far

Grambling State is in the football-heavy Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), a proud conference of traditionally black universities that chooses to play its conference championship and the National Black Football Championship rather than join in the I-AA playoff system. In fact, last year Grambling won the SWAC title and the National Black College Football Championship, and after taking this week off to focus on basketball, they will play in arguably the biggest game of the year between traditionally black universities – the annual Bayou Classic that always pits them against Louisiana rival Southern.

Basketball has not been so kind to the SWAC. It is only 4-29 in NCAA tournament history, and last year Pomeroy ranked it as the worst conference in Division I. After winning the SWAC, Alabama State players (led by the coolest name in the game in 7-foot-1 Chief Kickingstallionsims) complained about being forced to play in the play-in game – only to be destroyed by Morehead State on national TV. Grambling State’s 6-23, 4-14 record therefore tied them for last place in the worst Division I conference.

They were expected to improve this year, but it was a tough offseason. Henry White, a 6-foot-6 freshman guard, died after conditioning during the summer, and coach Rick Duckett left in the aftermath. Coach Bobby Washington has taken over as interim coach and started 1-1, but the team must be fighting through an emotional roller coaster. Their one good defensive presence was expected to be 6-foot-5 shot blocker Jarred Riley, but he does not appear on their roster, and the team has yet to block an opponents shot.

They are a small team that rarely gets to the free throw line and only hit 61% last year when they did. With very little in the front line, the guards have to try to pound the glass, which leaves them very vulnerable on defense, and this is clearly an opportunity for an MU player to put up a career night if he gets on a roll.

A pretty easy 3-0 start from all appearances, but perhaps some fireworks from the trio of guards before it is over.

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