If you’re not gonna play in Texas, it’s probably because your historically Black college or university needs the money from buy games in men’s college basketball to support its athletic program. I think that’s how the lyrics go?
Anyway, that’s the situation Texas Southern is in as it makes the trek to Gainesville for the second time in seven years to face the Florida Gators (6 p.m., SEC Network+ streaming) on Monday night. When the Tigers last did this, in 2014, I wrote at some length about it, and about how the Tigers playing through a gauntlet of these so-called guarantee games might not prevent them from making the NCAA Tournament even if they went 1-12 in non-conference play.
I was wrong about the going 1-12: Those Tigers bit both Michigan State — an eventual Final Four team — and Kansas State to salvage a 3-10 mark in non-conference competition. But I was right about their NCAA Tournament destiny, as they managed to win the SWAC Tournament and earn a first-round bouncing at the hands of Arizona.
Things have slid up and down the scale for TSU since. The 0-13 non-conference run would finally come for the Tigers under Mike Davis in 2017-18, but they still made their fourth NCAA Tournament in five years that spring — and won a game, too, knocking off fellow HBCU North Carolina A&T. That success helped Davis land the job at Detroit (now Detroit Mercy), and LSU’s firing of Johnny Jones helped get him to Houston to succeed Davis.
The Tigers have only been back to the Big Dance once under Jones, but they’ve taken an up-tempo style that Davis had drifted towards and slowed it down, going from fourth in Adjusted Tempo in 2018-19 to just 160th in 2021-22 thus far. And this year’s team isn’t doing much well but going to the offensive glass, with a slew of weaknesses showing up during their 0-7 start.
Florida should make that 0-8 tonight, especially if it can force turnovers — the Gators’ loss to Oklahoma last week was their worst outing by turnover percentage of the season, which helped to cut down on their offensive efficiency. And this Tigers team doesn’t look likely to resurrect itself in conference play.
But a seven-year return finding one program in the same spot as it may ever be — and another in the seventh year of the tenure of a coach succeeding a legend — shows that some things do change in college basketball, while others truly don’t.