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. Four-star power forward/center verbally commits to North Carolina

    Sep 2, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT

    Roy Williams AP

    With two seniors in their current front court, adding a big man helps North Carolina moving forward.

  2. St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin throws out first pitch at Mets game (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Mullin threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game back in late-May.

  3. Big East announces program geared towards helping freshmen transition to college

    Sep 2, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    BigEastLogo

    The men’s basketball freshmen will meet in New York City September 12 & 13.

  4. ACC releases its full conference schedule

    Sep 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Mike Brey AP

    The ACC is loaded this year, which will make for a fun conference schedule.

  5. Four-star Class of 2016 guard sets five official visits

    Sep 2, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    tyson carter

    Mississippi guard Tyson Carter is one of the biggest stock risers of July.

  6. Two players in Arkansas forgery case plead not guilty

    Sep 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Marcus Paige, Anton Beard AP

    Two in the Arkansas forgery case pleaded not guilty.

  7. Josh Jackson, Harry Giles stay at top of new Rivals150 Class of 2016 national rankings

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Harry Giles (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Josh Jackson and Harry Giles are staying on top of the Rivals150 in the Class of 2016.

  8. The American releases full conference schedule

    Sep 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The American has some talented teams entering the 2015-16 race.

  9. Jalen Rose planning a book about the Fab Five

    Sep 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Jalen Rose isn’t done telling the story of the Fab Five. A new book is reportedly coming.

  10. Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers out for the season with torn ACL

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    Siyani Chambers, Anthony Thompson AP

    Siyani Chambers is leaving Harvard for the year after a torn ACL.

  11. Mixtape of five-star 2016 forward T.J. Leaf (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    TJ Leaf (adidas) TJ Leaf (adidas)

    T.J. Leaf is a hot name on the recruiting trail after decommitting from Arizona.

  12. Tom Izzo calls Denzel Valentine’s play during foreign tour ‘unbelievable’

    Sep 1, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Denzel Valentine will be in contention for Big Ten Player of the Year this season.

  13. Four-star 2016 recruit Juwan Durham commits to UConn

    Sep 1, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    UConn landed its second four-star recruit in the Class of 2016.

  14. Four-star 2016 center sets four official visits

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Jayce Johnson is focusing on five schools as he’s set four official visits.

  15. Rivalry games highlight Georgetown’s non-conference schedule

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    John Thompson III AP

    Georgetown has some very intriguing games on the non-conference slate.