Many didn't expect Tony Harvey to be back in basketball, let alone with a head-coaching job. The former assistant at Missouri was out of the game for a few years after Quin Snyder was fired in Columbia. But here he is at Texas Southern, leading the team to a 16-2 record in the SWAC. His team is the overwhelming favorite to win the conference tournament.
The league is rated as the worst or second-worst by all major ranking systems. The SWAC isn't sexy, but it will be getting a bid and does provide a gritty, rough brand of basketball.
The key question with this year's conference tournament: will history be repeated?
Last year, the Tigers were favored as well but got clipped by Arkansas Pine-Bluff in the finals. Pine Bluff is a 7-23 team this year, so don't expect that to happen again. Plus, Harvey's team is older, more developed and much improved, defensively. Traditionally, defense is what wins this tournament.
If Texas Southern is going to get challenged, Jackson State seems like the team to do it. The other brand of Tigers in the SWAC finished 12-6 in the conference and 16-14 overall.
If the two meet in the title game, expect a low-scoring affair and tons of bodies on the floor. Jackson State is one of the best teams in the country at turning its foes over.
Mississippi Valley State (12-6) and Alabama State (11-7) can make a run too, as this conference has shown, almost as much as any other, it can be unpredictable in March. When the basketball teams are rated so poorly, a crap shoot isn't such a bad thing.
Title game: Friday, 8:30 p.m., March 12 (ESPN2)
- Kevin Galloway, Texas Southern
- Jenirro Bush, Jackson State
- Travele Jones, Texas Southern
Conference RPI: 31
KenPom.com rating: 33
Sagarin rating: 3
NCAA tournament locks: None
NCAA tournament bubble teams: None
- Alabama A&M: 2005. Lost in the play-in game to Oakland, 79-69.
- Alabama State: 2009. Lost in the play-in game to Morehead State, 58-43.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff: 2010. Beat Winthrop in the play-in game, lost to Duke in the first round, 73-44.
- Jackson State: 2007. Lost to Florida in the first round, 112-69.
- Grambling: 0 NCAA appearances.
- Mississippi Valley State: 2008. Lost to UCLA in the first round, 70-29.
- Prairie View: 1998. Lost to Kansas in the first round, 110-52.
- Texas Southern: 2003. Lost in the play-in game to UNC-Asheville, 92-84, in overtime.
Posted by Matt Norlander