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Get To Know A Marquette Basketball Opponent: Southern University

The Golden Eagles and the Jaguars face off for the third time this century.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - First Four - California Photo by John Todd/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Name: Southern University and A&M College

“And A&M College”? What? Hang on, we’ll get to it.

Founded: Chartered in 1880 by the Louisiana State Assembly and opened their doors for the first time in New Orleans in March 1881. I continue to be fascinated by these spring dates for the first day of classes back in the day. Southern received Land Grant status from the assembly in 1890 in order to receive benefits as laid out in the Morrill Act and that led to the introduction of a Agricultural and Mechanical side of the school. If you’re Land Grant, you have to provide that kind of education and study.

Hey, you skipped the usual Location bit at the top! On purpose! Did you see where I mentioned that Southern was founded in New Orleans? Yeah. In 1914, they relocated to just outside Baton Rouge, which is the current location of the school. The official seal of the university makes a big deal about mentioning both the incorporation of the school in 1880 and the relocation in 1914. Was it probably good for the school to have space to grow outside Baton Rouge, and is it better for the prospective student body for the school to be a bit more inland? Yep. Was there a certain amount of “yeah, maybe this black school is taking up precious space near the whites in New Orleans, please move” attached to it? I mean, apparently the governor said as much in 1910, sooooooooo

Acknowledging history is important, but can we move on to something more fun now? Yes, but only because I want to spend a lot of space talking about the Southern University Human Jukebox.

The what now? That’s the name of Southern’s marching band, and they are AWESOME. Please go visit their YouTube page and bask in their glory. A brief sampling:

Canned Heat by Jamiroquai

About Damn Time by Lizzo

Ready Or Not by The Fugees

I’m sure Southern has many other great campus traditions that are worthy of mention here to provide a bit of extra knowledge of what it’s like to be a student there, but I’m a sucker for marching band videos and we’ve got other things to talk about.

Enrollment: 8,226 total students at the Baton Rouge campus in Fall 2022, with 6,470 undergraduates.

Notable Alumni: Former American Idol judge Randy Jackson; jazz musician Branford Marsalis; and Sherian Grace Cadoria, the first black woman to be promoted to the rank of General in the US Army.

Nickname: Jaguars

Why “Jaguars”? I have no idea. Neither the Southern Athletics website nor the main university website seems to be interested in having an obviously located history page and Ye Olde Google is not helpful. I can say that the nickname seems to have been in existence long before 1971 when Southern was presented with a live jaguar mascot as a gift by Henry J. Bellaire. Lacumba lived on campus until 1991 and her successor, Lacumba II, reigned from then until 2004. Lacumba is now the name of the Guy In Suit mascot that you can see at the top of the page.

Last Season: 15-17 with an 11-7 record in SWAC play after starting out 8-1 in the league.

Final 2022-23 KenPom.com Ranking: #280

Final 2022-23 T-Rank Ranking: #302

Preseason Poll: I want to say this first before we talk about the Southern part of it. The SWAC preseason poll was WIIIILD. First of all, they had the head coaches and the sports information directors vote, so there’s a lot of votes to go around. Next: Eight different teams in the 12 team league received at least one first place vote. EIGHT. This includes the team that ended up finishing TENTH in the poll.

Anyway. Southern, right? They were one of the eight teams that got a first place vote, but the Jaguars ended up at #5 in the poll, 60 points behind #4 Jackson State.

This Season: 1-5, all against Division 1 competition, all on the road. The win was by 14 points, 85-71, at UNLV in the Runnin’ Rebels first game of the season, and Southern led by 25 early in the second half. They also have a 28 point loss at Illinois, so there’s a lot of common opponent game tape to go through.

Current 2023-24 KenPom.com Ranking: #307

Current 2023-24 T-Rank Ranking: #325

Returning Stats Leaders

Points: Festus Ndumanya, 5.7 ppg
Rebounds: Festus Ndumanya, 4.0 rpg
Assists: Festus Ndumanya, 0.3 apg

Can you tell that the Jaguars had a coaching change in the offseason yet?

Current Stats Leaders

Points: Tai’Reon Joseph, 18.8 ppg
Rebounds: Jalen Reynolds, 6.0 rpg
Assists: Tidjiane Dioumassi, 3.7 apg

I already teased it, so let’s drop this part in here instead of later....

Head Coach: Kevin Johnson, in his first season at Southern, and first as a Division 1 head coach since 2005 when he was in charge at Centenary..... which dropped down to Division 3 in 2011. He had a 65-100 record with the Gentlemen back in the day.

Wait, this isn’t..... The former mayor of Sacramento and long time Phoenix Suns point guard? No, and I’d imagine Southern’s Kevin Johnson gets that a lot. The Jaguars coach has been an assistant at Louisiana Tech, Nicholls, Louisiana, and Tulane in between his time at Centenary and Southern hiring him as the 15th head coach in program history in March.

Bigs? Not really, no.

Freshman Brentay Noel is 6’10” tall and weighs 220 pounds, but he comes off the bench for 14 minutes a night to average 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds. Senior JaRonn Wilkens is effectively Southern’s starting center at 6’8” and 190 pounds, but he’s averaging just three rebounds a game and only played six minutes against Valparaiso last time out. Freshman Delang Muon (6’8”, 202 pounds) has started the last three games in place of our man Festus Ndumanya (6’7”, 220), who has been absent from the lineup after starting the first three contests. However, Muon played just seven minutes in one of those starts against Western Illinois and just five minutes against Valpo.

Shooters? Two to watch out for and one to wonder what he’s doing.

Brandon Davis is Southern’s most dangerous shooter, connecting on 46% of his 4.3 attempts per game so far this season. His 3-for-4 outing off the bench against UNLV played a big part in their upset there as Southern knocked down 61% of their three-pointers overall. Marquette’s also going to have to keep an eye on Jordan Johnson checking into the game. He’s shooting 54% this season and most of his attempts have been in the last two games. He went 3-for-6 against Illinois and 3-for-4 against Valparaiso in 39 combined minutes in the two games and just 1-for-3 before that in 25 minutes across four games.

The “Hey, whatcha doin’?” award for the day goes to Tai’reon Joseph, Southern’s leading scorer. He’s shooting 55% from the field this season, which is very impressive because 1) 7.7 of his 10.3 attempts per game come from behind the arc and 2) he’s only hitting 23.9% of them. In Joseph’s defense, he was shooting 36% in Southern’s first three games before going 2-for-9 against Western Illinois and 0-6 against both Illinois and Valparaiso. So 1) he’s cold and 2) he’s actually toning down his shooting while he’s cold. That’s something. Joseph is a career 31% shooter after stops at Austin Peay and Radford.

Should we mention Tidjiane Dioumassi starting off the year 2-for-5 from downtown? Seems interesting at least, especially since he has started all six games. Jordan Mitchell’s 3-for-9 and has actually played two more minutes this season than Dioumassi while coming off the bench for all six games.

What To Watch For: Well, it’s Kevin Johnson’s first year in charge so we can’t say “well, his Southern teams usually look like this.” It’s also his first year running a D1 team in nearly 20 years, so it’s probably best that we not draw any big picture ideas from what he was doing at Centenary.

There’s really just one particular thing about Southern’s profile in general that’s potentially concerning for Marquette. That’s their defensive turnover rate. The Jaguars are generating turnovers on 23% of possessions so far this season, and that ranks them #23 in the country according to KenPom.com. For comparison: Marquette and Shaka Smart’s emphasis on kills and deflections is at 21.9% and #38 in the country in that department. Southern has posted at least a 20% turnover rate in each of their last four games, and the Valpo game (20.2%) on Saturday was the only one of the four under 25%. Marquette is one of the best teams in the country at not turning the ball over, and that was the case last year as well, so I’m not particularly worried about what Southern is going to do.... but we do have to point out that five of MU’s six opponents are currently ranked below #270 in the country in turnover rate and four of them are sub-300. The Golden Eagles haven’t really faced a team that’s mirroring their interest in forcing turnovers yet this season, as UCLA comes the closest at 20.4% and #78 right now.

One other thing I want to point out, and that’s Marquette’s schedule. This is MU’s first game since losing to Purdue in the Maui Invitational final back on Wednesday. Flying back from Hawaii, Thanksgiving, nearly a week off from games.... it might have an effect.

In 2017, the last time MU was in the Maui Invitational, their first game back was on Monday night, and they needed overtime to beat Eastern Illinois. After the Panthers started the game on a 12-2 run.

If you’re of the “yes, but Steve Wojciechowski is bad at his job and that team was the NIT team that couldn’t defend their way out of a wet paper bag” mindset, let’s go back to 2012 when Buzz Williams was in charge. In 2012, Marquette went to Maui and went 2-1 on the consolation side of the bracket after Rotnei Clark gave Butler a win at the buzzer. First game back was on Monday night against UMBC..... and Marquette led 28-24 at halftime. And trailed 31-30 with 16:52 to go after a Brent Roseboro jumper. And went on a 37-5 run to win by 33.

In 2007, Marquette went to the Maui Invitational for the first time ever, lost a hell of a contest to Duke in the title game, took nine days off afterwards, and beat Milwaukee 100-65, hanging 50 points on the Panthers in both halves. That was the MU team that lost to Stanford in the NCAA tournament after starting the season #11 in the preseason AP poll to give you an idea of what kind of mindset the guys were in.

Would it be weird if Marquette doesn’t look 100% crisp out of the gate on Tuesday night? No, it would not. Does it stand to reason that a focused team with a defensive identity is going to shake off any slow starts and do what they need to do? Sure does.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads 2-0 with wins in 2013 and 2018.