Despite a double-digit victory total a year ago, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets missed the American Southwest Conference men’s basketball championship tournament, and are projected to be on the outside looking in again this season.
The Yellow Jackets were tabbed fifth in the ASC West in the preseason poll released earlier this week, as the three-day, eight-team, single-elimination conference tournament slated for Feb. 23-25 at the site of the East Division No. 1 seed features the top four seeds from both divisions.
Howard Payne (10-15, 5-9) received 27 points in the poll which was more than the 19 points of McMurry (3-22) — which is ineligible for the postseason due to reclassifying from the NCAA Division II ranks — but behind ASC West favorite Hardin-Simmons (19-11, 8-6), with 78 points and nine first-place votes; Sul Ross (16-10, 10-4), with 69 points and five first-place votes; Concordia (15-11, 8-6), with 58 points; and Mary Hardin-Baylor (10-16, 5-9), with 43 points.
In the ASC East, UT-Dallas (17-9, 9-6) is the favorite with 76 points and six first-place votes, while East Texas Baptist (21-16, 12-3) tallied seven first-place votes and 72 points. Coming in third was Louisiana College (14-13, 8-7) followed by LeTourneau (12-14, 8-7) — both of which received a first-place vote — then UT-Tyler (13-12, 4-11), Ozarks (12-13, 3-12) and Belhaven (2-23), which is ineligible for the postseason due to reclassifying from the NAIA ranks.
The Yellow Jackets return ASC West Division and All-West Defensive team selection Rickey Guillory and West Division honoree Khyce Randall. Both Guillory and Randall have been named to this year’s ASC preseason watch list.
Howard Payne faces Lamar in exhibition action at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, then begins the regular season on Nov. 18 against Eastern New Mexico at the Ed Messbarger Classic hosted by Angelo State, who the Jackets will also face during the Classic. HPU’s home schedule begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, with the ASC opener against LeTourneau to the follow at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1.