Could the Ultimate Upset Come From the SWAC?

10 Oct

In the NCAA Tournament we know a 16 seed has never beaten a top seed, although some have come pretty close.   Will it ever happen? Probably.  Is that moment getting closer? I think so.  Who might be able to pull off such a historic and monumental upset? The answer as to where that team may come from could surprise some people.  The SWAC may have a team or teams capable of taking down a top seed.  That’s right the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

The same conference that has long been seen as an also-ran in college basketball, the same conference that had nine of its 10 teams ranked 321 or lower in men’s basketball expenditures last season, but also the same conference that has shown in the past it is capable of pulling upsets.

In its history the SWAC has five NCAA Tournament wins since 1980 with three of those coming in the recently added Opening Round/First Four games.  In 1980 Alcorn State won an #8/#9 match up and in 1993 Southern defeated Georgia Tech as a 13-seed.

It just so happens that the same Southern Jaguars are one of the teams that could pull off the upset only the Harvard women have been able to achieve.  Why Southern and why now?  Let’s start with the why now.  Teams seeded 15 and 16 have had more tournament success of late.  Two years ago #1 Syracuse got a scare from #16 UNC-Asheville before pulling out a 72-65 win and then both Lehigh and Norfolk State as 15 seeds knocked off a pair of #2s in Duke and Missouri respectively.  Then last year a 15-seed was again the talk of the tournament as “Dunk City” Florida Gulf Coast knocked off #2 Georgetown and #10 San Diego State on its way to the Sweet 16.  For the second year in a row a #1 seed got a scare from a 16, Gonzaga defeated the aforementioned Southern 64-58 with the Jaguars getting as close as 59-58 with 2:28 to play.

So why Southern?  They almost accomplished the feat last year and defeated Texas A&M on the road last season while finishing 15-3 in conference.  The Jags also return three of their top five scorers including potentially the league’s best player in senior guard Malcolm Miller.  Coach Roman Banks also has an experienced roster with nine juniors and seniors returning.   If Southern can find a way to replace leading scorer Derick Beltran they could certainly challenge for more than just the SWAC title.

Standing in Southern’s way may well be Texas Southern who would’ve earned the league’s top seed had they been eligible for post-season play finishing 16-2, unfortunately for the Tigers they were hit with APR sanctions.

The Tigers are led by former Indiana and Alabama-Birmingham coach Mike Davis so they are led by a man who knows what it takes to beat big time college basketball programs.  Even though they went just 1-12 during their non-conference schedule last year they did take #19 Colorado to double overtime and Houston to overtime before falling.

Despite the Tigers losing league Player of the Year Omar Strong and Defensive POY Fred Sturdivant they return three players who some believe are all capable of earning all-league honors in guards Ray Penn and Lawrence Johnson-Danner and forward Aaron Clayborn.  Davis also brings in possibly the league’s best recruiting class led by a trio of Texas Prep players, 6-8 Christian McCoogle, 6-6 Vicktor Arnick and 6-7 Victor Haywood.   In addition Davis also brought in Juco transfer 6-6 Jose Rodriguez.

Much like Southern with Beltran, if the Tigers can find a way to make up the production that Strong and Sturdivant brought them, the two-horse race in the SWAC should be one to keep an eye on because come March if a top seed is going to fall it could fall at the feet of one of these two teams.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: