Sophomore Thomas Walkup and SFA to face No. 5 seed VCU on Friday.
March 19, 2014
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The 2013-14 Southland Conference regular season and tournament champion Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team enters the NCAA Tournament looking for the program's first win in the big dance in program history.
The Lumberjacks (31-2, 18-0 SLC) are making their second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. SFA made their first appearance in 2009, as a No. 14 seed, falling to then No. 3 seed Syracuse 59-44 in the South regional in Miami.
SLC Coach of the Year Brad Underwood, with 31 wins and also a Coach of the Year candidate according to ESPN's Seth Greenberg, moved into the NCAA's top 10 best career starts at the Division I level with two wins to close out the regular season. Underwood, currently in a three-way third place in the all-time list, can pull into sole possession of the mark with a win over No. 5 seed VCU on Friday. Underwood is currently tied with Steve Prohm (Murray State, 31-2, 2012) and Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh, 31-5, 2004). Bill Guthridge recorded the best head coaching start at the Division I level, finishing 34-4 at North Carolina in 1998.
SFA closed out the conference tournament still near the top of its overall win streaks. The `Jacks, who have not lost since Nov. 23, are on a 28-game win streak, which sits second to only No. 2 Wichita State. SFA also closed out the regular season among the nation's leaders in two others. The `Jacks became just the 18th team in NCAA to navigate a perfect conference schedule of 18 games or more and the third to do so this season, joining No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Wichita State. With the win over Central Arkansas in the regular season finale, SFA collected its 33rd straight home victory to remain in a tie with No. 6/8 Duke for the longest active home streak.
In Week 17, the 'Jacks closed out their conference road schedule 9-0, the first time the SFA has gone undefeated on the road in league play in the Division I era, extending its road wins streak to 12 consecutive game. The 12-game road mark is tied with Wichita State for the nation's lead, while its 14 overall road wins (14-2) lead the country.
The win streaks and NCAA berth have garnered much national attention, as SFA remains in the No. 2 spot in CollegeInsider.com's Mid-Major Top 25 poll for a fourth straight week, the highest ranking in program history.
For a ninth straight week, the `Jacks are receiving at least one vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll, now with 13 points, with a feature on the team appearing back on Mar. 5. After its first appearance of the season in Week 15, SFA has also continued to receive points in the Associated Press' Top 25. SFA is currently receiving 46 points and is the fourth vote getter out of the national rankings. The `Jacks received votes in both polls last season and in the 2007-08 campaign.
Underwood continues to extend his first-year success as program's all-time winningest head coach in their first season with at SFA. With the 74-58 victory at Northwestern State back on Jan. 16, Underwood passed Glen Rose (1948) and John O. Stephens (1952), who both recorded 15 wins back in their respective first seasons. Underwood guided the 29 wins in the regular season, a school and conference record and has the `Jacks one win away from becoming the league's first 30-game winniner. SFA's 29 wins are currently tied with 1984-85 Louisiana Tech team that went 29-3 with an appearance in the Sweet 16.
One of 351 NCAA Division I men's basketball programs in the country, the `Jacks currently rank in the top 10 in both win percentage (3rd-93.9), turnover margin (T5th-5.2), scoring margin (7th-13.8) and assists per game (8th-16.6). SFA also ranks 11th in assists-to-turnover ratio (1.49) and 37th in both steals per game (7.6) and rebounding margin (4.7). Defensively, the `Jacks are tied for 25th in scoring defense (62.6) and are 43rd in scoring offense (76.5).
SFA will play VCU at 6:27 p.m. (CT) on Friday on TruTV.