Playing behind their star, Texas Southern beat Prairie View A&M 78-73 in Saturday afternoon's Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game. Aaric Murray went for 27 points and 10 rebounds, which helped bring this program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.
And they did it by coming from behind. TSU trailed 38-31 at the half, but thanks to Murray and point guard Madarious Gibbs (15 points, five dimes), they broke through.
The SWAC has a very interesting story angle this season. Texas Southern's coach is Mike Davis, who led Indiana to the national championship game in 2002. He also coached at UAB for six seasons, bringing the Blazers to the NCAAs in 2011. Few men can say they've brought three programs to the Big Dance, but now Davis is one of them.
Player to know: Aaric Murray. The well-traveled senior forward previously wore La Salle and West Virginia uniforms. He went for 48 in the team's trip to Temple this season. Murray's off-the-court issues led him to Texas Southern, but at his best he's among the 100 most talented players in college basketball. He will create a matchup issue for whatever team draws the Tigers. Start with Murray -- who avearges 21.0 points and 7.6 rebounds -- and go from there.
- 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
- RPI: 249
- 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.
- Closing quip: The SWAC always struggles in the NCAA Tournament. Could this year be different? Hard to say that, even if this team has a road win at Temple. (Temple was terrible this season.) But Mike Davis deserves so much credit for getting a third team to the NCAAs. It's not easy to come out of this league and find stability, but he appears to be doing that.