March 13-16, Curtis Culwell Center, Garland, Texas|Bracket
It’s all happening in the SWAC, at least for those schools actually participating in the conference tournament. Recalling the days of weekend childhood rec league schedules, the men’s and women’s championships take place simultaneously, in the same gym, alternating back and forth through sessions and time slots. Unfortunately, only seven of 10 members of the SWAC were eligible to challenge for the men’s title, a group that does not include Texas Southern (16-2 in the league and the first-place finisher) and Arkansas Pine-Bluff (15-3 in the SWAC, tied for second place).
Key Matchup: No. 4 Prairie View A&M vs. No. 3 Alcorn State
Both teams were 8-10 in the league, and the Panthers lost twice to the Braves along the way. But Alcorn State does have victories against No. 1 seed Southern and No. 2 seed Jackson State to its credit. There is very little to love about a team that enters the postseason losing six of seven, but should Alcorn State find a way in its first game, it knows it found a way against the favorites before.
Team To Watch: Texas Southern
All in all, Southern had an RPI of 188 as of March 10, and according to kenpom.com metrics, the Jaguars comparatively were not as good at basketball as Northwestern, Penn State, South Florida or DePaul. Yet here they are, 15-2 in the SWAC during the regular season and with their two most formidable competitors not even vying for an NCAA tournament berth. Rarely, if ever, does an upstart low-major have this sort of gilded chance to fulfill a dream.
Hottest Storyline: Texas Southern isn’t here because of a postseason ban for various NCAA rules no-nos, which nevertheless seems preferable to the death penalty the NCAA said it was close to imposing. Arkansas-Pine Bluff is nowhere to be found thanks to APR failings. So two teams that went a combined 31-5 in league play had their NCAA tournament visions gouged out preemptively. SWACtastic? Not hardly, friends. Not hardly.
The Pick: Texas Southern
With various rules infractions laying waste to its closest competitors, and various talent deficiencies laying waste to the rest, Southern takes full advantage as the only decent team left standing and makes no apologies for it.