On the eve of March Madness, Texas has no less than seven universities going to the big dance. Basketball is representing itself very well in the Lone Star State, once known exclusively as a football state.
Texas Southern University, the University of Houston, Texas Tech, Texas, Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M and TCU all received their dance cards recently. The only question now is how long they all will stay.
Locally, Houston can proudly push its chest out. The Bayou City has TSU and UH holding dance tickets.
If it’s March, you expect TSU to compete. For the fourth time in five years, Tiger men’s basketball, under head coach Mike Davis, has been crowned SWAC Tournament champions. That automatically secures you a ticket to the dance. Point guard Demontrae Jefferson was named all-tournament and tournament MVP.
It’s been an up and down season for the Tigers, a talented group. Davis had to deal with some discipline issues that caused his team to struggle at various time during the season. The team has come together at just the right time, peaking in the SWAC tournament.
“We’ve had some challenges throughout the season, but those items are behind us now,” Davis said. “We knew that talent was there. We simply needed to come together, trust each other and play as a team.
“Our pre-conference schedule is always tough, but that prepares us to be on top of our game when conference comes. Our ultimate goal is winning the conference and getting to the dance.”
“We’ve been playing some really good basketball as of late,” Davis continued. “We’ve known all season that we can score the ball at a high level. Tonight, we were able to put it all together and bring home another SWAC Tournament championship.”
Because of a subpar regular season record (15-19 overall), the Tigers will face MEAC tournament champ North Carolina Central in a play-in game before heading directly to the NCAA tournament.
For the 20th time in school history and the first time since 2010, UH under coach Kelvin Sampson is back at the dance. The Cougars finished the season 26-7, losing by one in the AAC championship game to Cincinnati 56-55. The Cougars could be one of the more dangerous teams with Sweet 16 potential.
“In this conference, you hear a lot about Cincinnati and Wichita State and we like to think that we have a good program as well,” Sampson said. “We know they’re ranked eighth and 11th and we’re sitting at 21.”
During March Madness guard play rules the day and the Cougars have a jewel in first- team All-AAC guard Rob Gray, who averaged 18.5 points per game and 4.5 assists.
The Cougars are the sixth seed in the West region facing No. 11 seed San Diego State in the opening round.
Texas Tech (second), TCU (fifth) and Texas (seventh) participated in a bloody battle royale in an extremely competitive Big 12 season. How much they have left for March Madness remains to be seen.
Texas A&M finished eighth in the SEC, but stumbled down the stretch in the regular season, before losing in a buzzer beater to Alabama in the SEC tournament.
Stephen F. Austin is poised to go dancing for the second time in three years.