Let’s Appreciate Texas Southern’s Season-Opening Win Over Baylor

Historically, few college basketball programs have consistently scheduled as tough of a non-conference schedule as Texas Southern. This season, 14 of the Tigers’ first 16 games are on the road, including six against teams from the Big 12, SEC or Pac-12.

TSU’s first 13 games were on the road last year, and they lost every single one, losing to four teams ranked in the AP Top 25 and six NCAA Tournament teams before the start of the new year.

But this year was different.

For the first time in five years, Texas Southern started a season with a win – rather than a two-month losing streak – thanks to a 72-69 victory at Baylor Tuesday night. The Tigers rallied from a 55-39 deficit with 11:27 left in the game, ultimately taking the lead on Jalyn Patterson’s three-pointer with 21 seconds left.

It may have been the most surprising result on the first day of games of the 2018-19 college basketball season outside of No. 4 Duke’s 34-point win over No. 2 Kentucky.

The win marked the Tigers’ first victory over a power conference team since they won at Michigan State in overtime in 2014.

Here’s a look at the road ahead — no pun intended — for Texas Southern and the potential long-term benefit of the way the Tigers annually schedule their non-conference slate.

  • Saturday, November 10 at No. 3 Gonzaga (1,951 miles from Baylor)
  • Monday, November 12 at Iowa State (1,523 miles from Gonzaga)
  • Wednesday, November 14 at San Diego State (1,778 miles from Iowa State)
  • Sunday, November 18 at Evansville (2,015 miles from San Diego State)
  • Monday, November 26 at No. 14 Oregon (2,235 miles from Evansville)
  • Thursday, November 29 vs. Huston-Tillotson (2,383 miles from Oregon)
  • Saturday, December 1 at Arizona State (1,173 miles from Texas Southern)
  • Monday, December 3 at Georgia (1,917 miles from Arizona State)
  • Saturday, December 8 vs. Concordia Texas (862 miles from Georgia)
  • Monday, December 17 at Tulane (348 miles from Texas Southern)
  • Wednesday, December 19 at Lamar (266 miles from Tulane)
  • Saturday, December 29 at Texas A&M (180 miles from Lamar)
  • Saturday, January 5 at Alcorn State (466 miles from Texas A&M)
  • Monday, January 7 at Southern (182 miles from Alcorn State)
  • Saturday, January 12 at Prairie View A&M (395 miles from Southern)

 

Not including potential connecting flights or trips home during longer breaks between games, that’s at least 17,000 miles (according to MapQuest) that Texas Southern will travel before it plays its first conference home game.

While the travel has taken a toll on Texas Southern’s record over the years, it’s hard to argue with the results. During former head coach Mike Davis’ six-year tenure at the school, the Tigers made the NCAA Tournament four times out of the one-bid SWAC. They won at least 20 games twice in Davis’ last four seasons at Texas Southern, which is incredibly impressive considering the program has roughly 10 non-conference games per year that it has virtually no chance of winning, at least on paper.

New Texas Southern coach Johnny Jones, the former LSU head coach, has continued Davis’ difficult non-conference scheduling. Fortunately for him, he also inherited a talented roster that’s benefited from making the last two NCAA Tournaments.

But even then, this might be the last time Texas Southern has a winning record until late February.

Excluding the team’s home games against Huston-Tillotson and Concordia, Texas Southern has less than a 40 percent chance of winning any of its remaining non-conference games, according to kenpom.com.

The website projects less than a 10 percent chance of victory for the Tigers at Gonzaga, Iowa State, San Diego State, Oregon, Arizona State and Texas A&M. Its best chances of picking up another non-conference win are at Lamar (37%), Evansville (31%) and Tulane (26%).

Texas Southern started with a 2.8 percent chance of victory at Baylor, according to Ken Pomeroy’s projections, meaning the Tigers have already done the unthinkable just one game into the season.

Texas Southern may not win another game for three weeks, but let’s appreciate what the Tigers have already accomplished this year. After all, recent history tells us it’s more likely than not that we’ll see them in the NCAA Tournament.