Team preview: Southern

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Head coaches in this league, perhaps by nature, are a self-effacing bunch. When queried for their 2006-07 conference favorites, most offered a long list of teams they thought could contend. None of the lists contained their own teams.
None, that is, except Rob Spivery's.

"You mean, besides us?" the Southern head coach responded when asked for his picks to win the league.

Spivery has certainly earned the right to swagger. No current coach has had as much SWAC success in the last decade than Spivery. Over nine years at Alabama State and one at SU, Spivery has captured three SWAC Tournament titles and has paced the conference in scoring defense nearly every year. And in his first campaign with Southern, the Jaguars enjoyed one of the best seasons in the league's recent past: the Jaguars won 19 games, scored a 130 RPI, and held Duke 11 points under the Blue Devils' season scoring average in a 70-54 loss.

Based on paper analysis alone, Southern looks like it is due for a fall. Chris Alexander (15.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg), a 6-1 guard, dominated last season's offense, lofting no fewer than 444 shots. But he has graduated, as has Peter Cipriano (10.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg), the 6-9 rebounding machine. A host of senior role players from the championship team won't be back either -- Alvin Mott, Jerrid Campbell and Brandon Wardlow.

But Spivery didn't build his reputation on star systems. These were the players he inherited when he took the job in the summer of 2005, and he was able to work them into a powerful force that stormed the SWAC.

"This year, obviously, it's going to be a different makeup," Spivery said. "We won't have too many experienced players, but we have a good nucleus coming back. Whether we have a player the caliber of Chris Alexander, I don't know, but we have a group of players who will come together and give us in several players what Chris gave us in one individual."