It wasn't supposed to be like this. The Texas Southern Tigers went 16-2 in the SWAC regular season and were Houston's one hope for representation in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the question for today's SWAC game is more ignominious than anything: Can they get a team into the NCAA Tourney that actually has a .500 record?
With both the #1 and #2 seeds stumbling last night, the weakest conference in America per the Pomeroy Rankings will either send the Alabama St. Hornets or the Grambling Tigers to The Big Dance. Should the Hornets win, the SWAC will send a 17-17 team. That's the least embarrassing of the two outcomes though, because if Grambling wins, they'll be representing the SWAC with an astonishing 13-20 record.
Clearly these two teams are peaking at the right time. The Hornets have won 10 of their last 11 games, and the Tigers have won 9 of their last 11. Think about how bad their starts to the season were. The teams played twice in the regular season, with the home court team holding serve in each, barely. The Tigers did account for the Hornets lone loss in their last eleven games, however much predicative power you think that might hold.
Both teams run the small school "let one guy carry the load" offense. Tramaine Butler will be carrying that load for Alabama State, and Justin Patton will do the same for Grambling. On paper, everything about this game seems to trend towards the Hornets. They've been hotter in the tournament, they've got a better defense, and Grambling can't capitalize on one of Alabama State's biggest weaknesses because it simply can't shoot three-pointers.
But with how absolutely crazy this tournament has been, why wouldn't Grambling win? If you want to scout ahead for the play-in games or you just have a fascination with sad basketball, this game can be viewed on ESPNU at 7:30 P.M. CT.
2 Jackson St. Tigers 50 vs.
7 Prairie View A&M Panthers 38
1 Texas Southern Tigers 50 vs.
8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions 45
3 Mississippi Valley St. Delta Devils 62 vs. 6 Grambling Tigers 65
4 Alabama St. Hornets 81 vs.
5 Alabama A&M Bruisers 61
2 Jackson St. Tigers 75 vs. 6. Grambling Tigers 81 1. Texas Southern Tigers 66 vs. 4. Alabama St. Hornets 73
6 Grambling Tigers vs. 4 Alabama St. Hornets - 7:30 PM