It’s the second day of the NCAA tournament and another Big East powerhouse will be playing. It’s going to be the Xavier Musketeers versus the Texas Southern Tigers. We talked to Mitchell Northam of Mid Major Madness, SB Nation’s blog of Mid Major teams, to learn some more about the Musketeer’s opponent.
Big East Coast Bias: Texas Southern have won 8 games in a row, including their conference tourney and the First Four. What has been their key to this winning streak?
Mitchell Northam: Texas Southern played a stacked non-conference schedule that toughened them up. They played a boatload of teams from major conference teams in guarantee games, including six that made the tournament. A lot of HBCU’s are under-funded, so they have to do this in football and basketball to basically fund their athletic department. But for the Tigers, it made their conference slate seem like a cakewalk. They played the toughest non-conference slate according to KenPom, and then rolled through the SWAC, in large part because none of those teams really compared to what the Tigers faced in the first part of the season.
BECB: Regarding the First Four game against NC Central, how were the Tigers able to pull off the win?
MN: I think Mike Davis out-coached LeVelle Moton in some parts of the game, which is no easy task. Moton is one of the game’s top young coaches at 43 years old. He’s led NC Central to the tournament three times since 2014. He’s definitely the best coach in the MEAC. Still, Davis got an early lead and made adjustments when he needed to. Moton team never changed, even when they were down 22. Some folks forget Davis is a pretty good coach who led Indiana to a national title game.
The other advantage Texas Southern had was experience. This team has zero true freshmen on the roster. And their defense chased Central off the arc. The Eagles didn’t connect on a single three-point shot.
BECB: Talk to me about Demontrae Jefferson, what makes him so dangerous offensively?
MN: He seemed unguardable against Central. I think he can use his small size to his advantage because he’s lightning quick. He can sort of get lost and squeeze through tight spots in the half court, and on a fast break nobody is catching that dude. He’s tough too and isn’t afraid to bang around inside. He had eight rebounds against Central.
BECB: Any one particular matchup you will be watching closely?
MN: I think Trayvon Reed will be an interesting guy to watch against Xavier’s front court. He was a four-star recruit out of high school and was headed to Maryland in Melo Trimble’s class, but the school dismissed him when he had a run-in with police before the season started. He spent a year at Auburn and is now at Texas Southern. He’s 7-foot-3 and can be a real force. He tallied 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocks against Central.
BECB: Prediction and why?
MN: No. 1 seeds typically don’t lose. While I think Texas Southern is a solid team, I don’t think they have a chance against Xavier. The Musketeers seem deep, versatile and far more talented than the SWAC side.
But maybe Jefferson, Reed and Davis keep it close.
I’ll take Xavier, 68-55.