With four of the 10 teams ineligible to participate in the NCAA tournament, even if one of them runs the table over the next week, makes for an interesting SWAC Tournament.
The odds on favorite to win the four-day event in Houston is conference regular season champion Southern, even though the Jaguars – like Mississippi Valley State, Grambling State and Arkansas Pine Bluff – will be unable to represent the conference at tournament’s end due to academic issues.
According to the SWAC, the teams eligible for postseason play (Jackson State, Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Texas Southern, Prairie View and Alcorn State) that advance the deepest in the tournament will move on to the NCAA tournament in the event one of the four ineligible teams is crowned tournament champion.
Of that group, Alabama State figures to emerge as the favorite after finishing third during the regular season.
Alabama State (18-11) enters the tournament riding a three-game winning streak. The Hornets’ 18 wins are the most for the program since ASU won 22 games in 2009.
ASU will open the tournament Thursday against Alcorn State.
Texas Southern will head into the tournament as a surprising No. 2 seed after beating Southern on the road 67-64 in the season finale.
Texas Southern (16-14) will be paired against the winner of Jackson State-Grambling State on Wednesday.
Even though the SWAC tournament is no stranger to upsets, the 2014 version doesn’t appear to feature any with the bottom four teams only combining to win 21 conference games.
One team that could maybe shake up the bracket is Alabama A&M.
Alabama A&M (13-15, 10-8) rolls into the tournament winners of three of their last five games, including back-to-back wins over Jackson State and Grambling State to end the season.
The Bulldogs are led by Jeremy Crutcher who leads the team in points (12.8), steals (31), assists (4.0) and is fifth in field goal percentage (.410).
Alabama A&M ranked No. 4 in the conference in defense at only allowing 65.6 points per contest, and they are one of four teams who have a point differential of +2.0.
Additionally, the Bulldogs have been stingy in holding opponents to a 40 percent shooting percentage from the field. That ranked just behind Southern, whose 36 percent field goal percentage defense is first in the conference.
When the tournament concludes at the Toyota Center on Saturday night, there could be confusion or clarity.