Texas Southern finally dispatched the notion that it was just SWAC good by dominating MEAC Tournament champion North Carolina Central en route to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win in the First Four.
The Tigers now will face a No. 1 seed in Xavier that could reach the Final Four.
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed.
In last year’s tournament, Texas Southern — as a No. 16 seed — was soundly beaten by eventual national champion North Carolina in the first round.
TSU head coach Mike Davis understands that his group will have its hands full against Xavier Friday night in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Like I said (Wednesday) night, they’re the No. 1 seed,” said Davis. “They earned that No. 1 seed. They don’t give that away. They want to shoot the basketball. They have good speed. All of them are the same as far as rebounding the basketball. They all go to the glass, both offense and defense board. It’s going to be a very, very big challenge for us. ”
The Musketeers (28-5), which was a No. 11 seed in the tournament in 2017 and got all the way to the Elite Eight, carry the unusual burden of being the favorite for the first time in its tournament history.
They are led by National Player of the Year candidate Trevon Bluiett, who led the team in scoring at 19.6 points per game.
“Whether they think we’re the strongest No. 1 seed, the worst No. 9 seed, the last 16 seed – who really cares,” head coach Chris Mack said. “You throw all these teams in one tournament and the better team on that particular night wins. They get to advance and the other one gets to pack up and worry about the next year.
On the other side, Texas Southern (16-19), moved past North Carolina Central on the strength of 5-foot-7 guard Trae Jefferson, who led the Tigers with 25 points and eight rebounds on Wednesday night.
Jefferson, who averaged 23.4 points per game this season, is full of confidence heading into the round of 64 matchup.
“I feel like it’s no pressure on us,” said Jefferson. “I guess the world got comfortable with the 16 seed falling out, but that’s not on our mind. 16 seed not on our mind. We’re going to come into this game and we’re going to play Texas Southern basketball.”
Record: 16-19 overall, 12-6 in the SWAC
KenPom ranking: 249
Sagarin ranking: 66.7
Record: 28-5 overall, 15-3 in the Big East
KenPom ranking: 14
Sagarin ranking: 88.6
Texas Southern vs. Xavier (-21.5)
Xavier, 97.6 percent chance to advance
6:20 p.m. Central