Sunday, August 27, 2017

LSC landscape going forward

By now you've seen where the LSC is welcoming eight universities into the conference.  Let's take a quick look over the past few years at the various sports with the additions.

Men's Sports
Football - no change as none of the new schools play football

Soccer - no change, because the LSC did not have enough participating institutions, so MSU, WTAM, UTPB and ENMU were members of the Heartland anyway.  The Mustangs are the pre-season pick to win the conference are ranked #6 in the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll.  St. Edwards is #9 nationally and a close second to MSU in the conference poll.  MSU advanced to the national quarterfinals in 2016, and playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015.  SEU also has qualified for the playoffs the last three years, advancing to the regional final last year, losing to MSU.

Cross Country - DBU is the top Heartland program, winning the conference crown and finishing 10th in the regional meet.  WTAM was the top LSC/Heartland team in the national meet, finishing 20th and is the only team ranked in the pre-season poll, coming in at #18.  Geoffrey Kipchumba (WTAM) and Baylor Harvey (Rogers State) are the top returning individuals.  Cross Country is dominated by the RMAC.  At last year's regional championships, they took the top 4 spots, 8 of the top 9, and 10 of the top 12.  At the national meet, 4 of the top 9 spots went to the RMAC, including Adams State's 12th national title.

Basketball - Men's basketball will add some quality depth, but the top LSC teams are a bit better.  Last year, the LSC sent 5 teams to the NCAA regional tournament, while UAFS was the only Heartland team. In  2016, UAFS, DBU and LCU received the invite, along with 3 LSC teams.  In 2015, St. Mary's was the lone Heartland representative.  In those three years, the Heartland's record was 1-5.

Track & Field - Slight change here.  Lubbock Christian competed in the LSC as a track affiliate and finished last at the LSC meet in both men and women.  OCU finished 38-T with 6 points and Rogers State earned 4 points in last year's national meet, finishing tied for 55th.

Tennis - This will be a great improvement to men's tennis.  Last year was the first year the LSC had enough teams to count as conference since 2012, and at that it is just four teams.  Cameron, St. Mary's, Midwestern State, and WNMU were ranked in the top 25 nationally at season's end and St. Edwards was also ranked in the top 50.  Those five squads were all top 25 teams in 2016 and top 35 in 2015.

Baseball - This will likely be the top conference in the nation.  UAFS, Lubbock Christian, St. Edwards.  UAFS won 35 games last year and went 2-2 in the regional tournament.  LCU has won 75 games over the past two seasons and advanced to the NCAA South Central Regional tournament.  St. Edwards has averaged 40 wins over the past 5 years, gone to the NCAA regional tournament 6 straight years, and advanced to the College World Series in 2013, falling in the national semifinals.

Golf - an upgrade in both depth and top-talent.  In 2016, men's golf was dominated regionally by west coast schools.  Heartland and LSC schools were 8-13-13-16-17-20 (MSU, TAMUI, DBU, Cameron, St. Mary's and St. Edward's) at the Super Region 4 tournament, with none advancing to the DII Championships.  Things were better in 2016 with OCU and DBU finishing 2nd and 3rd in the Super Region 4 tournament and qualifying for the DII Championship.  WNMU was 6th, St. Mary's 11th, St. Edward's 14th, Cameron 14th and MSU 19th.  DBU finished 10th and OCU 14th at the DII Championships.  WTAM was the lone qualifier for the DII Championship in 2015, finishing 17th.  They qualified by finishing 5th in the SR4 tournament.  Cameron was 7th, DBU 10th, WNMU was 11th, St. Edward's 12th, MSU 17th and St. Mary's 20th.

Women's Sports 
Volleyball - This shoudl be a daynamite volleyball conference.  The LSC has had the upper hand in numbers of quality teams, sending 3 teams to the regional championships in 2014, 2015 and 2016, while the Heartland only had one each year.  ASU won the regional title in 2016, but UAFS took it in 2014 and 2015, advancing to the final four in 2014, giving the Heartland the edge in top team.    

Soccer - This looks like a combination of equals.  In this years United Soccer Coaches pre-season poll, Texas A&M Commerce is ranked #15 and St. Edwards is #23, while Midwestern State is receiving votes.  In 2016, the Heartland and LSC each sent two teams to the NCAA regional tournament - SEU, DBU, TAMC and MSU.  TAMC advanced to the regional final.  In 2015, again two teams from each conference - SEU, DBU, TAMC and ASU.  DBU won the region, losing in the national quarterfinals.  In 2014 it was the same four teams, with TAMC advancing to the regional finals.

Cross Country - DBU owns the Heartland, winning the past 10 conference titles and the unanimous choice to do it again this fall.  They finished 6th at the regional meet.  Like the men, this is an RMAC dominated region, as 9 of the top 12 teams in last year's regional meet were RMAC schools.  The new LSC would have seen DBU 7th, MSU 9th, ENMU 10th, WTAM 14th, LCU 16th and Rogers 20th.  Better depth, but the RMAC is far and away the top regional conference.

Basketball - The conferece will be stronger both in depth and top-talent.  Lubbock Christian won the national championship in 2016, capping a perfect 35-0 season, the first year the Lady Chaps were eligible for postseason play.  St. Edwards was the sole SC regional participant last year, losing to the Angelo State in the first round, while UAFS was the sole representative going 1-1.  By comparison, the LSC sent four teams to the regional tournament in 2017, with WT beating ASU in an all-LSC final and advancing to the national tournament, losing in the quarterfinals.  Three LSC teams qualified in 2016, all three losing to LCU by 20 or more points.  Again in 2015, three LSC teams went to regionals, with WT dominating and making it to the national quarterfinals before bowing out.

Track & Field - No change here.  Lubbock Christian competed in the LSC as a track affiliate and finished last at the LSC meet in both men and women and none of the other schools had any national qualifiers.

Tennis - Another case where a strong conference improved to one of the best in the nation.  St. Mary's, Dallas Baptist, St. Edward's are nationally ranked annually, as are Midwestern State and Cameron (and Tarleton was #25 in 2017).  Regionally, the new conference would have had the top 6 spots, and 7 of the top 8.

Softball - This will be the best conference in D2.  The final NFCA poll had Angelo State #2, WTAM #17 and St. Mary's #23.  The final South Central Regional poll had those at 1-2-3 and Cameron, TWU, Tarleton State, Texas A&M-Commerce and LCU at 5-6-7-8-9.  Angelo State was the national champion in 2004, the national runner-up in 2017, and has won the South Central region 3 other times.  WTAM won a national title in 2014 and the regional title in 2016.  Not to be outdone, St. Mary's won a national championship in 2002 and 3 other South Central region titles, the last coming in 2015.  There are several other quality teams from each conference with just a few slam dunks.

Golf - Two really good conferences combine to form a great one!  WT won the Super Region 4 tournament last year, with DBU 2nd, St. Mary's 3rd, Tarleton State 5th, St. Edward's 6th and Midwestern State 7th.  At the NCAA Division II Championship, DBU finished 2nd, just 1 stroke behind Barry University.  WT was 4th, and St. Mary's 5th.  In 2016, it was Tarleton State, DBU, WTAM, St. Mary's, Oklahoma Christian and St. Edward's finishing 1-2-3-4-7-12 at Super Region 4.  DBU and Tarleton State tied for 6th in the DII championship, and WT was 11th.  In 2015, Tarleton State, St. Edward's, WTAM, MSU and DBU were 1-2-4-7-9 at SR 4 and at the DII Championships Tarleton was 4th and St. Edward's 6th.

To recap, the combined conference will create elite baseball, men's tennis, volleyball, women's basketball, softball, women's golf and women's tennis programs.  There will be improvements in quality depth in cross country, men's golf, men's basketball and women's golf.

Men's Soccer and Track & Field won't see any changes, b/c only one conference sponsored each sport and schools from the other conference were affiliates in those sports.  Football doesn't see any changes either, b/c none of the Heartland schools have football teams, nor have publicly stated intentions of starting a program.

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Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico