Skip to content

Can a Cinderella emerge from the SWAC?

Oct 5, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

On March 21st of this year, Gonzaga – the team that arguably popularized the term “Cinderella” as a signifier for mid-major success against the odds – nearly found the glass slipper on the other foot. The Bulldogs were the No. 1 seed, and the pesky, vastly outgunned Southern Jaguars were hanging around, threatening to become the first No. 16 seed to ever pull the first-round upset. The Zags pulled out the win, but the 64-58 final score sent shock waves around the college basketball world.

That it was Southern putting the irons to a top seed was even more shocking than the final score. The Jaguars earned their auto-bid out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the league that came in dead last in the kenpom.com rankings last season, below the Great West and DI Independents.

(MORE: Click here to read NBCSports.com’s SWAC preview)

SWAC teams don’t win much, because SWAC teams have no money. The Jaguars, who nearly made NCAA history a few months ago, ranked 341st out of 344 schools in basketball expenditures in 2012. According to the NCAA, each team that appeared in a tourney game last season earned roughly $242,200 for each March Madness showdown. The Southern basketball budget a year ago was roughly $535,000 total.

What could a SWAC team do with two NCAA units? More?

source: AP

Seasoned Texas Southern coach Mike Davis is adding horses to a dangerous team.

Winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament isn’t a crazy thought for a low-budget program any more. Remember Norfolk State and Lehigh celebrating 15 over 2 upsets on the same day two years ago? Both schools fall well below the median in basketball budget year-in and year-out. Norfolk State, like Southern is one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and a member of the MEAC, which has sent Hampton and Coppin State to legendary upsets in the past.

SWAC teams have won five NCAA tournament games since 1980, but three of those came in preliminary round games against other double-digit seeds. Another was an 8 vs. 9 matchup between Alcorn State and South Alabama in 1980. The only true upset came at the hands of the legendary Ben Jobe, who took a 13-seeded SWAC team – the Jaguars, handily enough – to a 93-78 win over Georgia Tech in 1993.

So, with the SWAC auto-bid firmly planted in the sixteen-seed range every year, can the big upset happen? Absolutely.

The Jaguars weren’t even the best team in the SWAC last year. Texas Southern, under former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, was 16-2 in the SWAC but ineligible for postseason play. This year, Davis and company add two-time transfer Aaric Murray to a team that loves to run and gun. A skilled big man who can run the court may be all the Tigers need to eke out a program-defining win in March. If they miss out, Southern is the counterpuncher, using defensive intensity to disrupt bigger, faster opponents.

The SWAC showed us that it’s possible for a 16 seed to beat a 1 last season. There’s no reason the cash-poor league can’t pull a true Cinderella routine in the near future. Possibly as soon as this year.

Latest Posts
  1. Northern Illinois extends contract of head coach Mark Montgomery through 2017-18

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    Mark Montgomery Mark Montgomery

    Northern Illinois extended the contract of head coach Mark Montgomery through the 2017-18 season.

  2. Chicago duo Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander earn MVP honors as East beats West in Jordan Brand Classic

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT

    Beach Ball Classic Basketball AP

    Chicago natives Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander earned MVP honors as the East beat the West in the Jordan Brand Classic.

  3. Report: Houston imposes transfer restrictions on Danuel House, TaShawn Thomas

    Apr 18, 2014, 8:40 PM EDT

    TaShawn Thomas AP

    Houston is allowing Danuel House and TaShawn Thomas to transfer, but only to certain programs.

  4. Indiana grabs commitment from prep school center (VIDEO)

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT

    North Dakota State v Indiana Getty Images

    Indiana grabbed a commitment from a 2014 center on Friday night.

  5. Miami forward James Kelly intends to transfer

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    Jim Larranaga AP

    Miami forward James Kelly is moving on.

  6. Butler loses guard Elijah Brown to transfer and adds Indiana transfer Austin Etherington

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    Brandon Miller AP

    It was a busy day for the Butler Bulldogs on Friday as freshman guard Elijah Brown intends to transfer while former Indiana wing Austin Etherington will transfer to the Big East program.

  7. Ole Miss signs Tennessee State transfer M.J. Rhett

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    Ole Miss picked up a big graduate transfer on Friday when former Tennessee State forward M.J. Rhett signed with the Rebels.

  8. Sophomore center Chris Obekpa will remain at St. John’s

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Chris Obekpa Getty Images

    St. John’s received some big news this week as sophomore center Chris Obekpa decided to stay in New York.

  9. Kentucky freshman forward Marcus Lee will return

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT

    Marcus Lee Getty Images

    Kentucky freshman forward Marcus Lee will return to Lexington for his sophomore season.

  10. Georgia State’s Ron Hunter receives extension through 2019-20 season

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Ron Hunter AP

    After leading Georgia State to 25 wins and a Sun Belt regular season title, Ron Hunter has been rewarded with a contract extension.

  11. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski announces changes to coaching staff

    Apr 18, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

    krzyzewski Getty Images

    With Steve Wojciechowski accepting the head coaching position at Marquette, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski announced how he would account for that departure Friday.

  12. Tulsa officially hires Frank Haith as its new head coach

    Apr 18, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    haith AP

    Tulsa has officially hired Frank Haith to be its new basketball coach.

  13. NCAA grants Arizona State’s Shaquielle McKissic extra season of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

    Pac-12 Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Stanford v Arizona State Getty Images

    Arizona State announced Friday that guard Shaquielle McKissic has been granted an extra season of eligibility by the NCAA.

  14. Duke sophomore Rodney Hood officially entering 2014 NBA Draft

    Apr 18, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT

    hood Getty Images

    Duke’s Rodney Hood made the news official Friday, announcing that he’ll be entering the 2014 NBA Draft.

  15. Family, friends celebrate life of ‘Princess Lacey’ at Breslin Center (VIDEO)

    Apr 18, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT

    lacey AP

    Family and friends of Lacey Holsworth gathered at the Breslin Center to celebrate her life on Thursday.

  16. Kansas to begin building home for Dr. James Naismith’s ‘Rules of Basket Ball’ May 2

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    naismith

    Kansas will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the DeBruce Center on May 2nd.

  17. NCAA council aims to change immediate eligibility waiver policy

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:23 AM EDT

    NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Getty Images

    With the rise in graduate transfers, the NCAA is looking to change the immediate eligibility process.

  18. Former Nevada forward Cole Huff free to transfer to non-Mountain West schools in southern California

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT

    huff AP

    The number of schools that former Nevada forward Cole Huff is prohibited from transferring to has been cut down to 38 following an appeals hearing Thursday.

  19. Cincinnati, Creighton among eight teams in inaugural Emerald Coast Classic

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT

    cronin AP

    NCAA tournament participants Cincinnati, Creighton and North Carolina Central part of eight-team field in inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.

  20. Order of protection filed against former Missouri F Zach Price thrown out

    Apr 17, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT

    Missouri_Tigers

    The order of protection filed against former Missouri forward Zach Price by Earnest Ross was thrown out Thursday.

Featured video

Derrick Gordon says 'Why not me?'