Tonight, your University of Kentucky Wildcats open the season with the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, aka, “Oh yeah, that team that made some noise in the tournament last year.” Yes, most college basketball fans will remember Stephen F. Austin (or, as the kids call it, SFA) as the squad that took down Bobby Huggins and his 3-seed West Virginia Mountaineers in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament before losing to Notre Dame by one point in the second round. But did you know…
Stephen F. Austin is known as the “Father of Texas”
That man with the coquettish smile up there is Stephen Fuller Austin, one of the founding fathers of Texas. According to the Wikipedia, Austin led the second, and ultimately successful, colonization of Texas, bringing 300 families to the region in 1825. Want an SAT word? Austin was known as an empresario, or businessman who entered into contracts with the Spanish or Mexican government to settle a certain number of families in Texas in exchange for sizable land grants (Texas was not part of the US at this time).
UPDATE: Apparently, Austin also went to Transylvania University, graduating in 1810.
SFA has advanced to the second round in the two of the past three NCAA Tournaments
The Lumberjacks have been to the NCAA Tournament the past three years, and in 2014, upset 5-seed VCU in overtime in the first round before losing to UCLA by three in the second round. In 2015, they lost to Utah, and, in 2016, as previously mentioned, beat West Virginia before losing a heartbreaker to Notre Dame. Before you start to worry…
Most of their players from last year are gone
The Lumberjacks lost their top three scorers from last year: Thomas Walkup, Demetrious Floyd, and Clide Gerrard. They still have junior guard Ty Charles, who was named to the Preseason All-Southland Conference Second Team for the second year in a row. Last year, he averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He’s the top returning scorer, rebounder, assist producer, and steal-getter. He’s also missed most of the preseason with a shoulder injury and is questionable for tonight’s game, as is 6’7″ JuCo transfer Josh Huntley, who is in concussion protocol.
They also have a new coach
SFA’s recent run was so successful that their coach, Brad Underwood, got the nod to replace Travis Ford at Oklahoma State. Kyle Keller, a former assistant for Texas A&M, is now the Lumberjacks’ head man, and faces a tall task in his head coaching debut.
They’re really inexperienced
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of newcomers on this Stephen F. Austin squad; eight, to be precise. According to ESPN, the Lumberjacks return only 17.7% of last year’s offensive production and some of the players are so green that one didn’t even realize he had to check in at the scorer’s table during their exhibition game last week. That game took place in friendly William R. Johnson Coliseum in Nacogdoches, Texas; how will the young Lumberjacks handle themselves to a crowd of 24,000 at Rupp Arena?
I can’t wait to find out.