It was revealed on Sunday that seven Texas universities will represent the state in this year’s NCAA Tournament, which began with the first set of play-in games last night.
The Tigers of Texas Southern proved that it pays off to schedule highly competitive non-conference matchups early in the season. The Tigers became the first team in recent memory to qualify for the big dance after starting 0-13 when they won the SWAC Tournament on Saturday.
Six of Southern’s 13 losses to start the year came against tournament teams and highly touted programs such as Gonzaga, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Clemson and TCU. If they can get by North Carolina Central in tonight’s play-in game, they will take on top-seeded Xavier on Friday. Keep in mind, no 16 seed has ever taken down a top seed in the opening round.
Without surprise, Texas Tech received the highest rank in the state with a 3-seed. The Red Raiders were a force in the Big 12 all season and may have even challenged Kansas near the end if it wasn't for the injury to star player Keenan Evans. A healthy Evans could mean a big run for Tech down the stretch. But first, they will have to get by SF Austin in an all-Texas first round matchup on Thursday.
Also standing in Tech’s Final Four path in the east region sits top-seeded Villanova, Purdue and conference rival West Virginia, who bounced the Red Raiders from the Big 12 Tournament last week. If they can recapture the magic they had to start the season, there’s no reason Tech can’t make a deep run as the east’s 3-seed.
The Longhorns did just enough to squeeze into the tournament as a 10-seed and will take on Nevada in the opening round on Friday. The Longhorns took down Iowa State in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament before meeting Tech for a rubber match. Despite the loss, the Horns played the Red Raiders well for the third time this season and did just enough in the committee’s mind to qualify. If they can upset Nevada, they will likely face Cincinnati in the second round.
Houston and TCU were both selected as 6-seeds in their respective regions. The Cougars will battle San Diego State in the opening round tomorrow and will most likely advance to play the surging Michigan Wolverines if they can prevail. The Horned Frogs, who play late on Friday, will not know their opponent until after tonight’s play-in action. They will face the winner of Syracuse and Arizona State.
A sporadic season that saw time in the top-10 as well as outside the top-25 has officially resulted in a 7-seed for Texas A&M. The Aggies participated in a thriller against Alabama in the first round of the SEC tournament, which resulted in a 1-point loss. Had they been able to pick up a win or two, A&M would be in a much better position.
Instead, the Aggies are forced to get by a tough Providence team in the opening round tomorrow morning at 11:15. If they can survive, they will likely have to battle the 2-seeded defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday with a Sweet 16 bid on the line.
Meteor Final Four picks:
Virginia over North Carolina, Michigan State over Texas Tech
Michigan State over Virginia