Xavier’s first-round matchup is set. After a play in game victory over North Carolina Central, the Texas Southern Tigers will meet the No. 1 seeded Musketeers.
The Tigers qualified for the NCAA Tournament by way of winning the SWAC Tournament despite finishing the season with an overall record of 15-19. Originally, they were seeded third in the tournament but knocked off the No. 1 seeded Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a convincing 84-69 victory. This is the fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament for the team in the last five seasons.
Perhaps their losing record isn't necessarily telling the entire story for this Tigers squad. In non-conference action, they played a variety of tournament teams including Gonzaga, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Clemson, and TCU. None of these games, nor any of the other out of conference game resulted in a win.
As a team, the offense ranks 76th in the nation in scoring averaging almost 78 points per game. They shoot 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.
The scoring is lead by a pair of guards—sophomore guard Demontrae Jefferson and senior Dontae Clark. Jefferson leads the team in scoring with 23.4 points per game. Clark is the Tigers’ second-leading scorer but also a workhorse who averages all but six minutes of every game. He also averages 18.6 ppg and 5.3 rebounds per game to go along with it. Unsurprisingly, the pair combined for a total of 43 points in the play-in game, which accounted for roughly two-thirds of the scoring output for the entire team.
Jefferson poses a threat to Xavier mainly due to his size—He is a 5-7 150-pound guard. The Musketeers have had troubles defending smaller guards the entire season. The Tigers also have a physical specimen on their roster in 7-2 junior Treyvon Reed. He brings numbers per game close to double-double figures: 9.7 ppg and 8.8 rpg. In the game against NC Central, Reed took a deep pass from Jefferson to complete an alley-oop with ease.
Texas Southern has carried momentum on its side while riding an eight-game winning streak leading up to Friday’s first-round matchup against Xavier. If such momentum continues to swing their way, the Tigers could potentially make history by becoming the first No. 16 seed to take down a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Standing in their way, however, is the Xavier Musketeers, who claimed the Big East regular-season title.