Forgive me if I’m not drinking the Texas Southern Kool-Aid. Sure, I see them as the No. 1 seed heading into the the Southwestern Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament at Garland, Texas, beginning March 9. But don’t discount the idea of an upset.
The Tigers (16-10, 14-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) have won eight straight, and clinched at least a share of the SWAC regular-season title. That’s no small shakes, considering that TSU’s last such title dates back to 1998, and the regular-season champ earns a berth in the NIT even if it doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament. But TSU can’t seem to put teams away — and letting somebody hang around in the postseason is the pathway to getting beat.
It’s not just last Saturday, when Texas Southern frittered away a 14-point lead over Alabama A&M (12-12, 9-6) before finally winning in overtime 83-78. Over the course of the previous seven victories, just one was by double digits. Six were by five points or fewer, and the Tigers also needed overtime to beat Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 21 — only clinching the victory when Kevin Galloway hit a pair of free throws with 10 seconds to play.
“Everybody’s going to give us their best hit,” Texas Southern coach Tony Harvey said, after his team’s nail-biting 71-68 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff back on Feb. 19. “And when we get a lead, we tend to relax out there on the perimeter.”
Can Harvey’s team keep that kind of magic going? We’ll see tonight, when they take on the stingy defenders of Alabama State — winners of six straight after toppling Prairie View over the weekend. The Hornets used, yes, red-hot perimeter shooting to pull away from a tight game in the final 30 seconds and secure the 68-61 win.