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Sam Houston State Edges Stephen F. Austin In Southland Preseason Poll
Sam Houston State Athletics

Sam Houston State Edges Stephen F. Austin In Southland Preseason Poll

Sam Houston State Men's Basketball Head Coach Jason Hooten
2016-17 Southland Men's Basketball Media Guide (PDF)

FRISCO, Texas -
Sam Houston State, by the slimmest of margins, has been selected by Southland Conference coaches and sports information directors as the 2016-17 preseason men's basketball favorite over four-time defending league champion Stephen F. Austin. The polls and preseason all-conference teams were released Thursday in advance of the Southland's 54th men's hoops campaign.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi senior forward Rashawn Thomas and Northwestern State senior guard Zeek Woodley, both first-team all-Southland selections as juniors last season and second-team all-league picks in 2014-15, pace the preseason all-conference teams selected by the head coaches. Thomas and Woodley were joined by Central Arkansas junior Jordan Howard, an all-Southland first-teamer as a sophomore last season, Abilene Christian sophomore Jaylen Franklin, the 2015-16 Southland Freshman of the Year, and Sam Houston senior forward/center Aurimas Majauskas, a second-team all-league choice last season.

Sam Houston State received six first-place votes and 138 total points in the coaches' poll, edging Stephen F. Austin, also with six first-place votes and 137 points. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi received one first-place vote and 123 points for a third-placed prediction by the coaches. In the SID's preseason poll, SHSU received seven first-place votes and 137 points to SFA's five first-place votes and 135 points. The sports information directors also rated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as the preseason third-place team with a single first-place tally and 123 points.

Sam Houston State, the third-place regular season finisher and Southland tournament semifinalist last year, also advanced to its third straight CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament in 2015-16. The Bearkats return all five starters and eight letter winners from last season's 18-16 squad (12-6 SLC), and seventh-year head coach Jason Hooten's team opens the season Nov. 12 at home against LeTourneau University.

Stephen F. Austin, setting a Southland record with a fourth outright league title in 2015-16, and its second perfect 18-0 league mark in three years, defeated third-seeded West Virginia in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, its second Big Dance win in three seasons. The Lumberjacks, who have also won three straight Southland Tournament championships, return two starters and five letter winners under first-year head coach Kyle Keller, making his SFA coaching debut at Kentucky on Nov. 11.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, under sixth-year head coach Willis Wilson, opens the season at home Nov. 11 vs. Our Lady of the Lake. The Islanders finished the 2015-16 season in second place in the Southland race, and with a 25-8 overall mark also advanced to its first Southland Tournament final since its initial year in the league, 2006-07. A&M-Corpus Christi advanced to its third straight CollegeInsider.com Tournament last season.

Thomas, in addition to his first-team Southland honor as a junior, was also voted by the league's head coaches as the SLC's 2015-16 Defensive Player of the Year, leading the league with 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 block per game in addition to his 16.6 scoring output. He also recorded a league-best nine double-doubles (scoring-rebounds) last season, and grabbed a league season-best 19 rebounds in one game, and swatted seven shots in another contest.

Woodley, who enters this season's top returning scorer (22.2 ppg in 2015-16), has been displaying his competitive efforts since his first season that garnered him the 2013-14 Southland Freshman of the Year honor. He has since recorded an 18.1 scoring average with a stellar 58.1 percent shooting percentage throughout his career. He has three 30-point scoring games in his Demon career, to go along with 25 20-point games and 53 double-figure games.

Howard won Southland postseason awards in both of his UCA seasons, taking the 2014-15 Freshman of the Year honor before his first-team all-SLC award last year. Last year's top freshman, Franklin, lead the ACU Wildcats with a 16.2 per game scoring average, tallying a Wildcats' freshman record 486 points. Majauskas posted a team-best 14.2 scoring average and a 54.9 percent shooting percentage as a junior.

The Southland's preseason second-team selections include senior guards Dakari Henderson and Paul Baxter from Sam Houston State, senior guard Jamaya Burr from McNeese, senior post player Christavious Gill of New Orleans, and junior guard Ty Charles of Stephen F. Austin.

The 2016-17 season begins with all 13 men's teams in action during the opening Nov. 11-13 weekend, and following the conclusion of regular season games on March 4, the 37th Southland Conference Tournament will played for the 10th consecutive year in Katy, Texas, March 8-11.

 
2016-17 SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE PRESEASON MEN'S BASKETBALL POLLS

Coach's Poll
Place Team (first place votes) Total
1. Sam Houston State (6) 138
2. Stephen F. Austin (6) 137
3. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1) 123
4. Northwestern State 93
5. Houston Baptist 91
6. Abilene Christian 75
7. Southeastern Louisiana 66
8. McNeese 64
9. New Orleans 63
10. UIW 58
11. Central Arkansas 49
12. Lamar 33
13. Nicholls 24
Sports Information Directors' Poll
Place Team (first place votes) Total
1. Sam Houston State (7) 137
2. Stephen F. Austin (5) 135
3. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1) 123
4. Houston Baptist 92
5. Northwestern State 77
6. Abilene Christian 75
7. McNeese 68
8. Southeastern Louisiana 65
9. Central Arkansas 64
10. New Orleans 62
11. UIW 54
12. Lamar 34
13. Nicholls 28
2016-17 SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE PRESEASON MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAMS
First Team
Name Class Position School
Rashawn Thomas Sr. F A&M-Corpus Christi
Zeek Woodley Sr. G Northwestern State
Jordan Howard Jr. G Central Arkansas
Jaylen Franklin So. G Abilene Christian
Aurimas Majauskas Sr. F/C Sam Houston State
Second Team
Name Class Position School
Dakari Henderson Sr. G Sam Houston State
Jamaya Burr Sr. G McNeese
Christavious Gill Sr. P New Orleans
Paul Baxter Sr. G Sam Houston State
Ty Charles Jr. G Stephen F. Austin