Texas-Arlington at Sam Houston State (Southland)Johnson Coliseum - Huntsville, TX8:00 PM EST
It's you, me and the Southland Conference tonight, here to witness the next chapter in the timeless Lone Star rivalry of Huntsville and Arlington. Huntsville is the state's prison capital
-- one out of every three residents can't leave at the moment, and about 400 Death Row inmates awaiting execution won't ever leave. What's Arlington's counter-offer? Six Flags and Rangers baseball. I don't know about you, but I'll have to flip a coin before choosing which city to spend my next Texas vacation in.
None of this has anything to do with host Sam Houston State's (15-3, 3-2, State No. 9) semi-patented "lockdown defense," which really has thrown away the key... and the post and perimeter too! The Bearkats allow only 37.4 percent of opponents' field goals to fall, which is the seventh-best mark in the entire republic (that's America, not just Texas). Efficiency-wise, opponents manage just .84 points per possession, which is No. 4 in the land. Rebounding-wise, Sam State scoops up an average of 38.4 per game and retrieves 58.5 percent of missed shots. Yep, that's nationally ranked too at No. 6. Nearly 11 of those per-game boards belong to Ryan Bright
, a 6-6 senior who averages 10.7 ppg as well. They've lost twice in the league to Southeastern Louisiana and Lamar, but we maintain this is still the Southland's best NCAA upset candidate.
In the other corner, the representatives from the land of Texas-sized fun and thrills. The Mavericks (14-4, 4-2, W4) are shooting the lights out -- Southland-best and national No. 9 49.5 percent -- and they feature four 12 ppg scorers. Only one (Jermaine Griffin
) is a senior, so this team will be around for a while. The defense isn't half-bad either... only three teams defend the perimeter better (28.1 percent 3-point FG percentage defense), and UTA only gives up .87 points per opponent possession. So we've got two immovable objects, basically, two metaphorical defensive boulders colliding. Interesting side note: Arlington has not won at Sam State since 1998, a 125-123 barnburner. Home teams have generally had the better of this series, winning 16 of the last 20.Basketball State Preview/Box