Texas Southern is accustomed to this.
After rallying back from a 10-point deficit to beat Mount St. Mary’s 60-52 Thursday in the First Four, the Tigers take on No. 1 seed Juwan Howard and Michigan in the East Region first round.
Saturday matchup will just be another in a long line of top-rated opponents Texas Southern has played not only this season but in recent years.
“If you know Texas Southern, you know that we play the toughest road schedule in the country,” said John Walker III. “It’s always tough.”
During a 2020-21 season marked by COVID-19-related stoppages, the SWAC champions played two games versus top-30 teams in the NET — Oklahoma State and BYU — both of whom are in the NCAA Tournament field.
In previous seasons, Texas Southern (17-8) has played at Gonzaga, Kansas, Syracuse, and Ohio State. At the start of the 2019 season, the Tigers knocked off Baylor in Waco.
“That’s (in) our blood, that’s our nature,” said Walker about navigating its extremely difficult non-conference slate. “We want the toughest teams possible. This is not a new challenge for us.”
Michigan (20-4) enters the tournament as the Big Ten regular season champion and three years removed from a Final Four appearance.
It doesn’t get much tougher than that for Texas Southern despite the Wolverines being without one of its best players in Isaiah Livers, who will miss the tournament with a stress fracture in his foot.
“Well, we’ve always played a very challenging schedule. Generally, we have the No. 1 toughest schedule in the country, non-conference schedule because of the caliber teams that we play,” said head coach Johnny Jones. “Our guys look forward to those challenges. That’s one of the reasons they sign on the dotted line to come and be a part of the Texas Southern Tigers. When that happens, we’ve got to make sure that we put them in a position to compete at the highest level.”
Said Walker about competing against another traditional college basketball power:
“That is an unbelievable opportunity for us again. We know that’s a great team and we’re blessed to be able to showcase our talents against a high-level team. It’s going to a good game, for sure.”
Who: Michigan v. Texas Southern
Time: 2 p.m. CST
TV/Radio: CBS/Westwood One