Tiny Dancers: Texas Southern wins SWAC bid before playing title game


Texas Southern has better wins than any potential 13, 14, 15 or 16 seed. (USATSI)

By technical knockout, Texas Southern wins the SWAC.

Before the tournament’s championship game is even played.

Texas Southern will play Southern on Saturday night in the SWAC title game, but APR sanctions on Southern’s program include an NCAA Tournament ban. That means this final SWAC game is for none of the marbles.

So even if Southern won, it’d be a loss. Texas Southern will be repping the league in the NCAA Tournament, meaning Mike Davis will be back in the Big Dance yet again.

This is an unusual way to get to an auto bid, but with the NCAA putting stricter guidelines on programs graduating players, cumulative grades and grad rates are keeping some schools out of contention each year.

So Texas Southern essentially clinched its bid on Friday when it beat Prairie View A&M 90-77 and Southern moved on to the championship game with a 68-66 win over Alabama A&M.

This isn’t a typical SWAC team, either. Texas Southern won at Michigan State (71-64 in overtime!) and won at Kansas State (58-56) this season. The league had gone nearly two decades between road wins in a power confernece game, and then Davis’ club went out and got two of them. Remarkable.

When the SWAC title game is played out and finished, we’ll update our story here with how the game played out.

Player to Watch: Madarious Gibbs. Texas Southern’s senior point guard is a do-it-all kind of player, leading the team in scoring (14.2 PPG) in addition to putting up 4.3 assists and 3.4 boards. He also plays the most minutes on the team and isn’t prone to fouling. Since Texas Southern has already taken out two major-conference teams this season — on the road! — they know what they’re getting from their best player in big spots.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 21-12 overall, 16-2 in the SWAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2014 (lost to Cal Poly in the First Four as a No. 16 seed)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 15 seed
  • RPI: 126
  • KenPom ranking: 206
  • Sagarin ranking: 204
  • Best wins: at Michigan State, at Kansas State.
  • Notable stat: 1. That is Texas Southern’s non-conference strength of schedule, according to KenPom.com. No matter what team the Tigers draw, they won’t be startled or overwhelmed in the scouting session. TSU has played Indiana, Baylor, Gonzaga, Michigan State and SMU this season, in addition to Tennessee, Kansas State and Auburn.
  • Closing quip: This is Mike Davis’ seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in 15 years of being a coach, but in one of those years, his first at Texas Southern, the team wasn’t eligible for the postseason. So for a guy who was at Indiana, and then UAB, and now Texas Southern, batting .500 on Big Dance showings is pretty remarkable. In a way, he’s always been underappreciated; he took over for Bobby Knight at a tumultuous time at Indiana. And that team went to the national title game in 2002. Now he’s thriving in the obscurity of the SWAC, with a winning percentage above .600 in his career and a 53-41 record in three seasons with the Tigers.


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