Name: University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Founded: Legislation to begin the school as Branch Normal College was brought forward in the state senate in 1873, but was not passed until 1875. Those of you who have been paying attention to the Get To Know series are aware that a “normal” college is one that was charged with educating and preparing teachers in the state where the college is located. In particular, for UAPB, they were preparing black teachers since it is a HBCU. In 1927, they severed their ties with the University of Arkansas and took up the name Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College. They rejoined the University of Arkansas system in 1972 which is fun from a palindromic fashion from the time that they left, and that’s when they became Arkansas-Pine Bluff and gained university status.
Location: Believe it or not, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I was half-expecting to find out that Pine Bluff was a nearby geological formation and the school would actually be located in a city with a different name.
Okay, but I’m bad at Arkansas geography. It’s about 45 miles southeast of Little Rock, which is pretty much dead center of the state.
Enrollment: In Fall 2019, they had a total of 2,498 students enrolled with 2,240 as undergrads. Their 2020-21 Quick Facts sheet for men’s basketball says they’re at 2,800 now. They were at 3,792 in 2009, but they’ve been falling steadily since then.
Here’s an idea for Marquette: UAPB celebrates a Founder’s Day every year on the Thursday closest to April 25th to “pay tribute to those whose services and sacrifices have made the University’s achievements possible” and classes are cancelled for the day. Very important question: Should Marquette have a university holiday to celebrate Jacques Marquette? It can’t be his birthday (June 1) or the day he died (May 18) or the day that he and Louis Jolliet departed St. Ignace in Michigan (May 17) or the day they entered the Mississippi River (June 17). Figuring out a day to honor Pere Marquette might be the hardest part of this idea.
Nickname: Golden Lions
Why “Golden Lions?” The always popular student body vote. This one took place in 1928, according to a member of the football team at the time. A student by the name of Raymond Johnson suggested a lion as a mascot because they are the king of the jungle. That won the vote, and at some point someone added the Golden descriptor.
Notable Alumni: Samuel Kountz, who performed the first successful kidney transplant between humans that weren’t twins is the big standout on the ol’ list here, but there’s a whole bunch of pro football players in there, too.
Hey, you said they were a HBCU. Do they have a badass marching band? Sure! The Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South, or M4 for short, is the official UAPB marching band. Here they are playing Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.
And the theme from The Avengers:
Check out the UAPB Bands YouTube page for more.
Last Season: 4-26, with a 3-15 record in the SWAC
Final 2019-20 KenPom.com Ranking: #348
Preseason 2020-21 KenPom.com Ranking: #353, which is out of 357.
Final 2019-20 T-Rank Ranking: #349
Preseason 2020-21 T-Rank Ranking: #254
Returning Stat Leaders
Points: Markedric Bell, 10.8 ppg
Rebounds: Markedric Bell, 4.8 rpg
Assists: Dequan Morris, 1.5 apg
Shooters? Not any that are immediately notable. 6’8” Milwaukee native Terrance Banyard shot 36% a year ago to be the most accurate long range guy on the team, but he only took 22 threes in 27 appearances. Marquell Carter was the only UAPB player with more than 80 three-point attempts last year with 110, but he was a senior and is obviously not on this year’s roster. After Banyard, the next best shooter that returns from last year that took more than one three per game is 2020-21 preseason All-SWAC Second Teamer Markedric Bell..... and he shot 20% on 45 attempts.
Bigs? No one that jumps out at you and makes you say “Look at the size of that lad!” The four tallest chaps on the roster are split evenly with two each at 6’8” and 6’9”. However, no one is heavier than Terrance Banyard and Omar Parchman, both of whom are listed at 215 pounds. Banyard, Alvin Stredic, and the previously mentioned Markedric Bell were all on the team last year, while Parchman joins after averaging 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds at Rend Lake Community College last year. Bell is the leading returning rebounder as noted above, while Banyard was good for 4.4 boards per game and 7.9 points, too. Stredic played relatively limited minutes while appearing in 27 of 30 games last season and only averaged 1.0 rebounds and under a point per game.
Notable Addition: We have to talk about Shaun Doss, Jr., here because technically he doesn’t fit in anywhere else. As a sophomore out of Iowa Western Community College in 2018-29, Doss averaged 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. The 6’5” Arkansas native averaged 12.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting 33% from long range last season..... in UAPB’s first three games before suffering an injury and sitting out for the rest of the year. I’m going to say it’s a safe bet that he factors into what they’re doing in a big way last year, seeing as no one managed to best his scoring average across the other 27 games of the season. Doss was a preseason all-SWAC Second Team honoree before the 2019-20 season.
What To Watch For: If I tell you that UAPB has been ranked somewhere in the 300s on KenPom for all but two of the past 12 seasons, I think you get the general picture of what the Lions have looked like on the court. There’s not a lot to point at and say “oh, this is good.” However, as you probably guess from the “hey, they don’t shoot a lot” discussion earlier, you’ve probably guessed that Pine Bluff is actually pretty good at getting to the free throw line. Per KenPom.com, they have ranked in the top 100 in the country in free throw rate each of the past three seasons, including #9 in 2018-19 and #59 a year ago. Maybe things change with the new additions on their roster from last year to this year, but not even attempting threes is something that this coaching staff kind of leans into. As such, Marquette is going to have to be on their toes to avoid fouls as the Lions attempt to spend the better part of 40 minutes trying to get to the rim.
The other thing to watch for is on the other end of the court. Pine Bluff has ranked in the top 100 in the country in defensive turnover rate in each of the past eight seasons and in 10 of the 12 seasons under their current head coach. Even when they weren’t top 100, they still managed to generate a turnover rate north of 20%. Under Steve Wojciechowski’s guidance, for whatever reason, Marquette has been kind of fumblefingered, never finishing better than 86th in the country in offensive turnover rate. With a lot of new faces on the roster and limited practice time due to coronavirus restrictions either handed down by the NCAA or the literal shutdown of practice a couple of weeks ago, that’s not a lot of time to come together as a cohesive unit that plays together and avoids turnovers. We’ll see what happens, I guess?
One Year Too Late: “Not That” Jamil Wilson played in 26 games for Pine Bluff a year ago, starting four times. While the Marquette Jamil Wilson is a lithe 6’7” athletic guy that terrorizes the opposition in The Basketball Tournament, UAPB’s Jamil Wilson measured up at 5’11” and 175 pounds. Their Jamil Wilson was a junior last season, but he’s not on the roster for 2020-21.
Head Coach: George Ivory, in his 13th season at UAPB as head coach, making him the longest tenured coach in the SWAC. He has a record of 136-248 overall, but has gone 113-103 in SWAC play.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 1-0. The lone meeting came back on December 19, 2001, and the Golden Eagles won, 100-49. MU jumped out to a 35-6 lead before the under-8 timeout. Your scoring leaders for Marquette, in descending order: Oluoma Nnamaka (17), Scott Merritt (15), Cordell Henry (14), Dwyane Wade and Odartey Blankson (13).