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2017 NCAA tournament preview: Texas Southern

Texas Southern Tigers: 23-11, 16-2 in the Southwestern Athletic

Head coach: Mike Davis (5th season)

Players to watch: Zach Lofton (17.0 PPG, 42.7 FG%); Demontrae Jefferson (14.9 PPG, 3.3 APG); Kevin Scott (9.7 PPG, 44.1 FG%)

Season recap: Texas Southern might have played as tough a schedule during the early portion of its nonconference season as any mid-major team. The Tigers did not play a single nonconference game at home, traveling to UT-Arlington, Arizona, Louisville, LSU, TCU and Baylor and coming up short in all six games. However, head coach Mike Davis' squad did pick up a pair of solid road victories at LaSalle and James Madison in November before settling into the heart of its conference schedule.

Texas Southern ripped off 10 wins in its first 11 games in the SWAC and enters the NCAA tournament on a nine-game winning streak—although the Tigers were able to knock off Alcorn State, 53-50, in their conference tournament final, they had already clinched a postseason bid due to the Braves' postseason ineligibility. Guards Zach Lofton and Demontrae Jefferson control the offense, averaging almost 32 points per game combined despite both struggling from beyond the arc. Lofton was recently named SWAC Player of the Year, extending Texas Southern's streak to five straight seasons with the league's best player.

The Tigers suffered a blow earlier in the season when their leading rebounder Derrick Griffin—who also plays football—left the team after playing in 13 games to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft. The sophomore forward averaged a double double with 10.9 boards and 11.3 points for Texas Southern. Center Marvin Jones has helped make up for Griffin's departure, averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. If he can continue to give head coach Mike Davis some size and consistent scoring in the low post—the senior leads the SWAC with his 64.4 field goal percentage in league play—Texas Southern could put up a fight even as a low seed.

How they make a run: The Tigers make history and finally cash in against a big-time opponent—top-seeded North Carolina—leaning on their talented backcourt to dominate the scoring and earn Texas Southern its first NCAA tournament win in program history.

How they falter: Just as they did during their tough nonconference slate, the Tigers fall to a more athletic and talented opponent, heading home after just one game for the seventh time.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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