The cities on Texas Southern’s men’s basketball team’s non-conference schedule read like that summer road trip out West that you always dreamt of taking in a rented RV: Missoula, Montana; Reno, Nevada; Tempe, Arizona; San Diego, California; Spokane, Washington.
Eleven of the Tigers’ 13 non-conference games are on the road — four against schools from a Power Five football conference and four against other established brands from the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West or West Coast Conference (San Diego State, Wichita State, Gonzaga and Nevada).
Six of Texas Southern’s non-conference opponents made the 2019 NCAA Tournament and two made the NIT last season.
The adjusted efficiency margin of Texas Southern’s non-conference opponents (meaning how many points Texas Southern’s opponents have outscored their opponents by every 100 possessions) ranks 25th nationally (+13.53 points per 100 possessions as of Monday morning), and the Tigers are probably lucky to face Arkansas, Nevada and Texas A&M in the first year of Eric Musselman, Steve Alford and Buzz Williams’ respective tenures.
In total, Texas Southern will pocket more than $800,000 in guarantees for its travels, according to copies of the game contracts obtained by Stadium via a public records request.
|Nov. 5||at San Diego State||$85,000|
|Nov. 9||at Wichita State||$90,000|
|Nov. 15||at South Dakota*||$210,000|
|Nov. 19||at Arkansas*||”|
|Nov. 23||at Northern Kentucky*||”|
|Nov. 25||at Montana*||”|
|Dec. 4||at Gonzaga||$95,000|
|Dec. 18||at Nevada||$70,000|
|Dec. 21||at Oregon||$90,000|
|Dec. 28||at Arizona State||$85,000|
|Dec. 30||at Texas A&M||$95,000|
*Part of the four-game, non-bracketed Collegiate Hoops Roadshow multi-team event (MTE) in which Texas Southern will receive a $210,000 financial guarantee
Texas Southern reported that it received $970,000 in men’s basketball guarantees during its most recently available NCAA Financial Report for the 2018 fiscal year, which was roughly eight percent of the athletic department’s total operating revenues for the year.
Texas Southern Head Coach Johnny Jones receives an annual $50,000 bonus if the program generates more than $250,000 in guarantee revenue in a given year — a bar that can be surpassed by the school agreeing to at least three road games against high-major schools.
Jones also receives a bonus if the Tigers win 14 or more games in a season, which, in a vacuum, might seem like a low bar, but when you’re spending your non-conference schedule almost exclusively on the road against high-level competition, it’s not.
Such is life in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), which has six of its 10 member schools rank in the top 50 nationally in non-conference strength of schedule, per kenpom.com.
The SWAC ranked a pretty distant 31st out of 32 men’s basketball conferences last season with an adjusted efficiency margin that was 4.44 points per 100 possessions behind the 30th-ranked Northeast Conference. For reference, the gap between the 10th-ranked Mountain West and 19th-ranked Big South was 4.53 points per 100 possessions.
“We allow coaches the freedom to make their non-conference schedules,” Texas Southern Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Kevin Granger told Stadium in an email response to an interview request. “They will be able to answer your questions of the rhyme or reason they schedule who they play.”
Stadium didn’t receive a response to an interview request for Texas Southern’s Johnny Jones.
Remarkably, Texas Southern went 5-8 in non-conference play last season, which is about as well as the Tigers can hope to emerge from their western tour in a given winter. They upset Baylor, Oregon and Texas A&M on the road and beat non-Division I schools Huston-Tillotson and Concordia (TX) at home.
The year before that, they went 0-13 against the country’s hardest non-conference schedule — one that featured trips to Gonzaga, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Clemson, Oregon, Baylor, TCU and BYU.
This year, Texas Southern made a run at its first road upset of the season on Nov. 9, when it went to Wichita State and lost 69-63. The Tigers led 10-7 through 10 minutes, 24-22 at halftime and 43-41 through 30 minutes before losing by six.
If they win a road game this calendar year, it’ll be a pretty remarkable feat. According to kenpom.com, their combined chance of victory in their eight remaining road games is 59.3 percent — a two percent chance at Arkansas, 14 percent at Northern Kentucky, 21 percent at Montana, 0.3 percent at Gonzaga, 10 percent at Nevada, one percent at Oregon, five percent at Arizona State and six percent at Texas A&M.
If your favorite team — regardless of which of the other 352 Division I schools you cheer for — played Texas Southern’s non-conference schedule, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t enter conference play with fewer than two losses.
Playing such a rigorous non-conference schedule every fall has paid off — pun intended — as Texas Southern can pocket checks worth anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000 per road game, and the battle-tested Tigers have made the NCAA Tournament by winning the SWAC’s auto-bid in four of the last six seasons.
So if you look up in early January and Texas Southern’s record is something like 2-11, no, that’s not a typo, and, yes, you still may very well see the Tigers in the Big Dance, playing against a No. 1 or No. 2 seed — the likes of which it already faced in November or December in teams like Gonzaga and Oregon.
Way-Too-Early National Title Contenders
As I’ll do every week in my And One column, here’s a look at the top 10 teams on kenpom.com (through Sunday’s games) in relation to the Championship Arc, an adjusted efficiency-based scatter plot that features a chart that connects the offensive-minded 2018 Villanova Wildcats to the defensive-minded 2013 Louisville Cardinals, and shows the efficiency margins typically required to win a national championship.
While I’ll have to go back to the drawing board to see how the Championship Arc should be adjusted to reflect the increased distance of the 3-point line, Michigan State, Louisville and Gonzaga currently have the best combination of offensive and defensive efficiency that is typically present among Final Four teams and serious national championship contenders during the kenpom.com era.
Starting this season, the shot clock resets to 20 seconds — not 30 — after an offensive rebound, so here’s a reset with 20 thoughts from the last week of college basketball.
20. Former VCU Coach Will Wade returned to the Siegel Center with his LSU team as part of his old contract with VCU, which required that he schedule a non-conference game at VCU if he left for another school. VCU fans gave him a warm welcome and by warm welcome, I mean the exact opposite. Every mid-major school should put one of those clauses in their contracts with their head coach because it gives them a chance for a home game against a high-major school that they would likely have difficulty scheduling otherwise.
Illinois State’s Dan Muller, UT Arlington’s Chris Ogden, Morehead State’s Preston Spradlin and Western Illinois’ Billy Wright are current mid-major coaches with similar contractual clauses that would require them to schedule a future road game against their current school if they were to leave for another job.
19. Give credit to these VCU fans for the Burt Macklin-esque FBI costumes. Not only did VCU fans boo Will Wade upon his return, but they took advantage of LSU being involved in the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
18. Memphis freshman James Wiseman’s eligibility situation has changed since the Tigers’ team Twitter account tweeted a picture of their practice shirts, which showed the Memphis logo in the literal crosshairs. Memphis has since declared him ineligible, and Wiseman withdrew his lawsuit against the NCAA as he applies for reinstatement. The situation is far from over but Memphis declaring its star freshman ineligible and Wiseman withdrawing his lawsuit brings to an end what could’ve been a compelling stand-off between the NCAA and a program that has had two Final Four appearances vacated by the NCAA.
17. Memphis’ last two games of November are against Ole Miss (home) and NC State (neutral), so assuming Wiseman misses at least four games, the Tigers will have to add notable wins to their non-conference resume without their best player. If Wiseman misses seven or more games, he’ll also miss a road game at Tennessee. Memphis lost to Oregon last week in a game in which Wiseman played.
16. Tennessee, by the way, lost a First Team All-American in Grant Williams, another First Team All-
SEC selection in Admiral Schofield and Second Team All-SEC point guard Jordan Bone, but the Volunteers are 3-0 after a 13-point win over Washington on a neutral court. They rank No. 10 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, in large part thanks to their 46.2 percent 3-point shooting as a team, and juniors John Fulkerson (126.4 offensive rating) and Yves Pons (140.3 offensive rating) have been productive as full-time starters this season.
15. In a season in which two different No. 1-ranked teams have lost in the first two weeks of the year, there could be a lot of parity in the sport in the next four-plus months. Don’t be surprised if preseason No. 18 Ohio State climbs into the tier of teams that are believed to be legitimate Final Four contenders.
Through the Buckeyes’ first three games, their top six scorers have scored 33, 32, 31, 29, 28 and 25 points, respectively. That’s a pretty remarkable level of balance, especially for a team that relied so heavily on big man Kaleb Wesson last season (a 29.9 percent usage rate in 2018-19, which ranked 57th nationally).
14. Villanova, which has won two of the last four national championships, lost at Ohio State 76-51 in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, marking the second year in a row that ‘Nova has lost by at least 25 points in the event. Sure, you win conference and national championships in March and April, not November, but it’s jarring to see the Wildcats get blown out two years in a row.
13. One game after losing to Division I-newcomer Merrimack by 10 points at home, Northwestern beat Providence by nine points in a game in which the Friars attempted 25 more shots, took 35 threes, grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and in which the Wildcats turned the ball over 20 times. It was a wild game-to-game swing by Northwestern amid a week that offered a few of them.
12. Last season, Purdue was 6-5 through its first 11 games and 9-6 through its first 15 but the Boilermakers turned things around by sharing the Big Ten regular season championship with Michigan State and coming just a few seconds away from reaching the Final Four. This season, Purdue is 2-2 through four games after losses to Texas and Marquette, and they still have to play VCU (neutral court), Virginia and Butler (neutral court) during non-conference play. It’d be foolish to doubt Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter after his ability to adapt to different roster constructions in the last few seasons, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on how the Boilermakers fare in the first year without Carsen Edwards, as well as without the reliable, veteran 3-point shooting of Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert.
11. Speaking of 2-2 teams, preseason No. 6 Florida has lost at home to rival Florida State by 12 and on the road to UConn by three, with a six-point home win over Towson sandwiched in between. Villanova is the most recent example of a preseason top-10 team to start 2-2 as the Wildcats were ranked No. 9 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll last season (and they received one first-place vote!), only to lose at home to Michigan by 27, then they fell at home to Furman in overtime. Villanova later rattled off 11 wins in a row from Dec. 22 to Feb. 5, swept the Big East regular season and tournament titles, then earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
10. Something I noticed in Evansville’s 67-64 upset of then-No. 1 Kentucky is how well freshman guard Tyrese Maxey runs off of screens. It’s a little thing that wouldn’t make headlines — especially not after the No. 1 team in the country lost at home to the preseason No. 8 team in the Missouri Valley.
Maxey changes pace and fakes in one direction to set up his defender to move the wrong way before Maxey cuts back in the opposite direction. He leaves little room between his shoulder and the screener’s shoulder, and takes sharp turns as he runs off of screens. Maxey makes sure both the screener is in position and the ball-handler, who’s looking to pass the ball to Maxey, is also in a position where he’s ready to dish the rock.
9. On a critical late-game possession against Evansville, with just under a minute and a half remaining and Kentucky trailing by five, the Wildcats resorted to a post-up on the block by Nick Richards after the Purple Aces stopped Kentucky’s initial high ball screen action.
Richards missed the short, right-handed jumper and his four teammates stood around the perimeter and watched him. He shot just 40.6 percent on 2-point jumpers last season, per hoop-math.com.
The stats say it wasn’t an efficient shot even if it wasn’t a horrible look but Kentucky’s offense was way too stagnant on such a critical possession, and you could make the case that Richards should’ve been the Wildcats’ fifth option on offense when he shared the floor with Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Nate Sestina, even if Richards had a clear size advantage.
8. Evansville committed three shot-clock violations in the final six minutes of its win against Kentucky, and it led by three points each time. While running off as much time from the clock as possible helped limit possessions late in the game, it’s pretty incredible the Purple Aces were able to pull off the upset despite wasting critical possessions down the stretch.
7. I was a few days late to this Archie Miller answer when asked about “load management,” a term more common in NBA circles with how star players’ minutes are managed in regard to the league’s 82-game regular season schedule. “Load management? Load management? Is that something that they got going on in the NBA or something like that? I think Doc Rivers got fined like $50,000 for talking about load management, I don’t think I should talk about load management, right? There’s no load management in college basketball. You play every minute that you can play.” The Hoosiers’ shortest turnaround between games before the calendar turns to 2020 is three days (with two off days in between games) and they have two stretches where they’ll have seven off days in between games, so in the words of Miller, there’s no load management in college basketball.
6. It feels like you can pencil down one or two Gonzaga players a year to make a massive leap, whether it’s a player who redshirted as a freshman, a transfer who sat out the previous season or an international player who may not have benefitted from the exposure of the American AAU scene. Sophomore Filip Petrusev appears to be that player this season, averaging a team-high 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 assists on 63.6 percent shooting as a starter after averaging just 6.5 points in 11 minutes per game as a freshman.
5. Kenpom.com’s national player of the year standings through Sunday are as follows: North Carolina’s Cole Anthony, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, Louisville’s Jordan Nwora, Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite, Marquette’s Markus Howard, Arkansas’ Mason Jones, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell, Florida’s Kerry Blackshear, Virginia’s Jay Huff and Oregon’s Payton Pritchard. Despite most players only having a three- or four-game sample size, those top 10 candidates feel like they’re here to stay. I’d venture to guess that six to eight of those players will finish the season in the top 10 of kenpom.com’s rankings.
4. Who knows what really happened (if anything?) to Seton Hall star Myles Powell’s ankle but give credit to Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard (and the Pirates’ medical staff?) for overselling (treating?) his ankle injury. Google the phrase “Myles Powell health” and the headlines that pop up suggest that the preseason All-American would be out for weeks, if not months. Ahead of Seton Hall’s game against preseason No. 1 Michigan State, Willard told reporters that Powell would have a “prolonged absence,” only for Powell to play against the Spartans and score 37 points.
It may have been gamesmanship, it may have been a minor medical miracle, but luckily for Powell, Seton Hall and college basketball fans, there wasn’t a prolonged absence for one of the best players in the country.
3. How amazing is it that reigning national champion Virginia can lose its three best players to the NBA then have two players in the top 10 of kenpom.com’s national player of the year rankings? Tony Bennett’s program feels like it’s at a rinse and repeat status, where the faces and names can change but the results largely won’t. Through Sunday, Virginia ranks No. 1 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, defensive effective field goal percentage, defensive free throw rate, defensive 2-point percentage and block percentage.
2. If there is a concern with Virginia through the Cavaliers’ first three games it’s their 3-point shooting. They’re 13-of-65 as a team (20.0 percent, which ranks 348th out of 353 DI teams). Is Virginia the sixth-worst 3-point shooting team in the country? No chance. But it’s fair to wonder if the ‘Hoos have the pieces to replace Kyle Guy (120-of-282 from three in 2018-19), Ty Jerome (79-of-198) and De’Andre Hunter (46-of-105).
Freshman Casey Morsell is 1-of-14, sophomore Kody Stattmann is 1-of-11 and point guard Kihei Clark is 5-of-16. Jay Huff was really efficient from behind the arc on less than one attempt per game last season and Diakite has made two 3-pointers after making just five all of last season, but so far, Virginia’s most frequent 3-point shooters have been some of the least efficient outside shooters on the team.
1. The parents of Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly, a transfer from Villanova who had his application for an immediate eligibility waiver denied, spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with Stadium College Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman last week. “He broke down,” his mother, Caren, said. “It’s just taken its toll on him and our family. None of this has been in his control and he has been punished for something he didn’t do.”
It’s a shame that Quinerly’s case doesn’t fit in one of the “boxes” that has led to numerous waivers being approved by the NCAA.