Wednesday’s Texas Southern-North Carolina Central matchup is a historic one as it will mark the first meeting between HBCUs in NCAA Tournament history at the Division I level. Here are four things to know about the SWAC champion Texas Southern heading into the game.
1. The Tigers played a killer non-conference schedule
Texas Southern started the season Nov. 10 at Gonzaga and didn’t play at home until Jan. 1 against Southern. That’s right, TxSU played the first third of its season on the road and lost every single one of its 13 games. Going winless is never ideal, but TxSU stacked its non-conference schedule with a total of eight teams that will participate in the postseason, including six of the 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament, including no. 1 seed Kansas. The closest it got to beating one of those teams was an 84-77 loss to Clemson.
2. Trae Jefferson is one of the best scorers in all of college basketball
Texas Southern’s Jefferson is one of the best in the country at putting it in the basket. The 5’7 sophomore from Milwaukee averaged 23.4 points per game this season, which would be good for eighth in NCAA Division I basketball behind Howard’s R.J. Cole if he had played in enough games to qualify for the national rankings. Sporting News college basketball writer Nick Birdsong called him the best player “pound-for-pound“in the country. That’s pretty high praise.
3. But he’s not the only weapon
Jefferson commands a lot of attention from defenses, but he’s not the only Tiger who can hurt you. Former UMass guard Donte Clark has been a big-time weapon for the program in his grad transfer year, averaging 18.6 points per game and adding 5.3 rebounds. He carried the load offensively when Jefferson missed several games due to suspension in January and February, exploding for 41 points in a win over Mississippi Valley State on Jan. 20. He scored 20 or better 15 times this season, including a pair of 30-point performances against Alcorn State.
4. TxSU just might be due for a tournament win
Under Mike Davis, going to the NCAA Tournament has become the expectation in Houston. TxSU has won the SWAC Tournament four of the last five seasons, but has yet to come away with a win. Maybe Wednesday is the day.