Stephen F. Austin Will Be This Year’s Cinderella Team
Christmas Day for college basketball fans is finally here as we have made it to Selection Sunday. The brackets will be released later this afternoon and then the debate will start in regards to who will be the Cinderella. Who will be the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast, the 2012 Ohio, the 2011 Virginia Commonwealth or the 2010 Cornell? Who will be that 11 or higher seed that could make a run to the Sweet Sixteen? There is one program in the tournament that is the perfect candidate to be the 2014 version of those clubs: the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.
Stephen F. Austin just won the Southland Conference tournament on Saturday and will be making their second NCAA tournament appearance in school history. The school currently holds the second-longest winning streak in the nation at 28; only undefeated Wichita State has a longer streak. They also boast one attribute that not many schools around the country can claim: the Lumberjacks have started the same five players in every game this season.
This starting five has combined for 66.1 percent of minutes played, 70.7 percent of points, 67.1 percent of rebounds, 74 percent of assists and 69.5 percent of shots made. On top of that, all of these starters stand 6-foot-6 or smaller. Their frontcourt consists of 6-foot-6 junior Jacob Parker, 6-foot-5 senior Nikola Gajic and 6-foot-4 sophomore Thomas Walkup, all while 6-foot-3 senior Desmond Haymon and 5-foot-9 sophomore Trey Pinkney make up the backcourt.
The thing about this club that makes them so dangerous is their balance. Stephen F. Austin has four players who average 12 or more points including 6-foot senior guard Deshaunt Walker, who scores 12 per game off of the bench. They had five different players who led the team in scoring at least once during the season with Parker, Walkup and Haymon all leading at least eight times.
Their biggest weakness is obviously the lack of size which shows in their rebounding numbers. They average only 33.8 rebounds per game which ranks them in the 200s out of a possible 351 schools.
This success is hardly just a one-time thing as they have been very good over the last several seasons. They have 169 wins in the last seven seasons which ranks them 25th just behind a group at 171 that includes Belmont, Connecticut and Utah State. They have more wins than Arizona, Texas, UCLA and Baylor in the same time frame.
The consensus right now is that Stephen F. Austin should be ranked in the No. 12 spot which is absolutely accurate considering the history of 12 seeds defeating five seeds in the Round of 64. There have been 23 upsets out of a total of 52 games in this matchup since 2001 or roughly 44.2 percent. Stephen F. Austin will be this year’s Cinderella if the matchups are in their favor come Selection Sunday.
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