N.C. Central learned its NCAA tournament opponent on Sunday — Texas Southern in the First Four round on Wednesday.
Texas Southern, located in Houston, won the SWAC title by defeating Arkansas Pine-Bluff, 84-69, on March 10. The winner of the Eagles-Tigers game in Dayton will get to play the West region's No. 1 seed, Xavier, in Nashville on Friday. Wednesday’s contest will be the first meeting between the two HBCUs. The Eagles are 5-2 all-time against the SWAC, including an 80-67 win over Southern in Durham on Nov. 19.
NCCU advanced to its third NCAA tournament with an upset victory over Hampton, 71-63, in the MEAC finals in Norfolk on March 10.
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Here’s what we know about the Tigers:
Two old friends meet in tournament
Southern is coached by Mike Davis. If that name sounds familiar it’s probably because you remember him as the head coach at Indiana after coach Bob Knight was dismissed in 2000.
Davis, who was an assistant under Knight, led the Hoosiers to the NCAA title game in 2002, when Indiana fell to Maryland, 64-52. Davis was let go in 2006. The following season, he coached at UAB until he was fired in 2012. . On August 2, 2012, Davis was named the head coach at Texas Southern.
When N.C. Central got an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, Eagles’ head coach LeVelle Moton received a call from Davis.
“Mike Davis is a good friend of mine, he called me to congratulate me,” Moton said.
Texas Southern started out 0-13
The Tigers, who will be making their fourth trip to the NCAA tournament, didn’t get off to an ideal start this season. They started the year 0-13 and didn’t play at home until Jan. 1, when they defeated Southern, 78-66.
Texas Southern’s non-conference schedule was brutal and it included road trips to Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, Clemson, Oregon and Gonzaga.
“They played the toughest schedule in the country,” Moton said. “Don’t be deceived by their record.”
The Tigers have won four of the last five SWAC titles.
They like to play fast
The Tigers like to get up and down the court, establishing a fast tempo, sort of like what N.C. Central faced when they took on Savannah State in the MEAC quarterfinals. The Tigers average 77.6 points and 7.8 three pointers per game and were the No. 1 scoring team in the SWAC. They led the conference in field goal percentage (44.1) and three-point shooting percentage (36.3).
They have size
When asked to give an on-the-spot scouting report of the Tigers, Moton first mentioned center Trayvon Reed. The junior from Mobile, Ala. is hard to miss, standing at 7-2. He leads the team in rebounding (8.8), field goal percentage (67) and is No. 1 in the SWAC in blocks, averaging 2.9 per game.
“That’s going to be difficult to finish over,” Moton said. “We have our hands full.”
But it’s the little guy who makes them go
Sophomore guard Demontrae Jefferson is 5-7 and 150 pounds, but his role is huge for the Tigers. Jefferson averages 23.4 points per game and 4.5 assists. He scored six of the final 11 points for Texas Southern in the SWAC title game.
“He can play at any high major in the country,” Moton said. “He is really, really talented.”