As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 22-12 (16-2 in SWAC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 101.7 (178th)/104.9 (220th)
Seed: No. 15 in West
Impact player: Madarious Gibbs, senior guard. 14.1 ppg, 4.3 apg.
The Case For: Ask Michigan State (and Kansas State, for that matter). The Tigers notched what might’ve been the second-most shocking upset of the season behind NJIT’s win at Michigan when they took down the Spartans in overtime in East Lansing on Dec. 20, then followed it up by beating the Wildcats two games later, again on the road. Throw in the fact that Texas Southern also went to the NCAA tournament last season and has a coach in Mike Davis who once took Indiana to the national title game, and you have a team with more of a pedigree than most No. 15 seeds.
Led by Gibbs, the veteran-laden Tigers do an excellent job of attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, ranking 18th nationally with a 46.1 free throw rate. Texas Southern’s ability to get free points from the charity stripe and good looks from close to the basket are their formula for a potential Round of 64 upset, and the Tigers’ substantial depth means they’re unlikely to get worn down.
The Case Against: Ask Indiana, or Baylor, or any of the other power conference teams that managed to dispatch Texas Southern with ease. The wins over Michigan State and Kansas State were impressive, but in their seven other games against high-major schools, the Tigers lost by an average of 19.4 points, including a 40-point defeat to Gonzaga on Dec. 15. The SWAC is one of the weaker conferences in college basketball, so emerging as the league’s best team doesn’t mean much when the opponent, Arizona, was the regular season and tournament champion of the Pac-12, a Power Five league.
With the Tigers seeing a major talent upgrade in the tourney, they probably won’t be as successful at drawing fouls—teams with size and athleticism down low should do a better job at altering Texas Southern’s shots without putting the team on the free throw line. And while shooting a lot of free throws is a great trait to have, outside shooting is the great equalizer in the tournament for most Cinderellas. Texas Southern shoots just 31.1 percent from deep. With Davis’s crew unlikely to be able to assert its own style, the Tigers’ lack of perimeter threats will severely hinder their upset potential.
SI prediction: Lose to Arizona in Round of 64