After wrapping up their first SWAC championship since 2003, Texas Southern has its sights set on a date in the First Four round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers (19-14) will play Big West champion Cal Poly (13-19) Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.
TSU, winners of their last nine, are led by SWAC Player of the Year Aaric Murray who scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Tigers 78-73 win over Prairie View in the SWAC championship on Saturday.
“I think I owed it to them,” Murray said after the game. “I was riding them the last six or seven games when I couldn’t score and teams were triple-and-doubling me. I would kick the ball to them and they would make plays.”
The win also was a significant one for head coach Mike Davis, who has now led three different schools to the NCAA Tournament during his career.
About the Mustangs
Cal Poly won the Big West after entering the conference tournament having lost nine of its previous 11 games. On their road to their first NCAA Tournament bid, the Mustangs stunned No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara and then shocked No. 1 seed UC Irvine before winning a 61-59 thriller against California State Northridge in the championship game.
Player to watch:
Forward Chris Eversley averages a team-leading 13.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. The 6-7 Chicago product scored 18 points and picked up five rebounds Saturday.
Eversley said he expected a hard-fought contest against Texas Southern in their First Four match up.
“We understand they are a very good team and well coached by Mike Davis,” he said. “It will be a very physical game and they have all the tools to make it a great game, so do we. I expect it to be close.”
What they’re saying about the game
Texas Southern is a much better team than Cal Poly, but, after the Mustangs’ performance in the Big West tournament, anything can happen. Expect a close one, where the more technical team ends up winning. However, Murray, who is averaging over 20 points a game, is another class of player and should go off on Cal Poly.
Murray presents a unique mismatch for a 16 seed because he’s played — and succeeded — against the big boys of college basketball before. Still, Texas Southern hasn’t beaten a single team in the RPI top 150 and the Tigers shouldn’t be counted on to suddenly topple one of the juggernauts of college basketball.
The Texas Southern Tigers are an interesting mid-major out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. TSU features two familiar yet forgotten names leading the way, with coach Mike Davis and leading scorer Aaric Murray guiding the Tigers back to the Big Dance. Does Texas Southern have what it takes to shock the world and knock off a top seed?
Tale of the tape
Record: 19-14 overall, 12-6 in the SWAC
Most recent tournament appearance: 2003 (lost to UNC Asheville in first round as 16 seed)
Jerry Palm predicts: 16 seed
KenPom ranking: 234
Sagarin ranking: 248
Best wins: at Temple, at Southern
Worst losses: at Prairie View A&M, vs. Jackson State
Notable stat: 2.69. That’s the average number of years of experience for Texas Southern, according to KenPom.com, making this the oldest team in college basketball in terms of seasons played.
Record: 13-19 overall, 6-10 in the Big West
Most recent tournament appearance: N/A
Jerry Palm predicts: 16 seed
KenPom ranking: 173
Sagarin ranking: 174
Best wins: vs. Hawaii, vs. Santa Clara
Worst losses: vs. UC Davis (twice), at UC Riverside
Notable stat: 40.5. That’s the percentage of all minutes that are used by Cal Poly’s bench, which makes this the deepest team in this year’s NCAA Tournament, unless Arkansas earns an at-large.
Cal Poly (-4) vs. Texas Southern (The Linemakers)