Texas Southern Tigers

Texas Southern’s Derrick Griffin, left and Syracuse’s Dajuan Coleman, right, battle for a rebound in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. Syracuse won 80-67. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
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VIDEO: Texas Southern’s Derrick Griffin catches one-handed alley oop

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Texas Southern is once again viewed as one of the favorites in the SWAC, with returnees such as Malcolm Riley and Chris Thomas expected to lead the way for Mike Davis’ team. Another reason for that status is the addition of redshirt freshman forward Derrick Griffin, who as a high school athlete was considered to be one of the top two-sport athletes in the Class of 2014.

The Tigers fell 80-67 at Syracuse Sunday afternoon, but in his fifth game as a member of the program Griffin showed exactly why he’s expected to be an impact addition for Texas Southern.

Griffin scored 20 points, shooting 9-for-9 from the field, and grabbed nine rebounds in a losing effort. And two of those points came on an impressive one-handed alley-oop in which Griffin displayed the hands responsible for more than 700 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on the gridiron this past season.

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Griffin was originally a Miami signee expected to play both football and basketball at “The U,” but after failing to qualify academically he landed at Texas Southern.

Texas Southern is 1-10 on the season, but non-conference play for the Tigers (and many other programs in a similar position) is about helping the athletic department balance its budget through “buy games” and getting prepared for a run at their conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Adding Griffin to the rotation gives Texas Southern an athlete in the front court more than capable of giving the rest of the SWAC fits, which could result in another trip to the NCAA tournament come March.

SWAC Preview: Can Texas Southern return to the dance?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Last season, Texas Southern reached the NCAA tournament for the second-straight season under head coach Mike Davis. The Tigers will be in position to three-peat, but Southern, which last reached the tournament in 2013, and Alabama State look to end the trend.

Texas Southern will begin a quest for a third straight conference title without 2014 SWAC Player of the Year Madarious Gibbs. But the Tigers return two all-SWAC caliber seniors in Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley. Both finished the season strong, with Thomas averaging 14.8 points in postseason play and Riley posting 18 points and 10 boards in a 62-58 win over Southern in the SWAC Tournament championship game. David Blanks and Tonnie Collier are two key holdovers for the Tigers, but don’t forget about Jose Rodriguez, the 6-foot-7 forward who missed last season due to injury. He averaged 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in 2013-14.

Southern brings back one of conference’s best perimeters with Adrian Rodgers, the team’s leading scorer, and junior Trelun Banks and Christopher Hyder, who averaged 3.9 assists per game. The other returning starter for the Jaguars is 6-foot-9 sophomore Jarred Sam. Sam will have to hold down the inside for the Jaguars as the only returning big man who played significant minutes. Southern had one of the better defensive teams in the SWAC last season, and that could remain the same this year. But Southern will have to put an emphasis on rebounding with a thin frontline.

Wedged in the middle of Southern and Texas Southern the past two seasons has been Alabama State. In both campaigns, the Hornets have failed to make it past the SWAC semifinals. Jamel Waters is set to change that in 2015-16. Alabama State graduated two double-digit scorers, but look for Bobby Brown and Steve Rogers, two players capable of knocking down threes, should see benefit from playing alongside Waters.

Jackson State and Alabama A&M should round out the top-5 in the conference. Alabama A&M returns all five starters Ladarius Tabb, the first team snub from a season ago, and Nick West, the SWAC’s top rebounder. Jackson State also has its starting five back, including Raeford Worsham, who was limited last year after transferring in. Arkansas Pine Bluff, no longer facing an APR ban, can’t be overlooked either with three returning starters.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “I’d say Southern because they turn five of their top six guys. And they finished third in the league.”
  • Sleeper: “I think the team that’s the sleeper is Jackson State with eight of their top guys back.”
  • Star to watch: “It would probably be Adrian Rodgers from Southern or Chris Thomas from Texas Southern. They are natural perimeter guys. They can both put the ball on the floor. They both can get a basket.”

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ladarius Tabb, Alabama A&M

A season after being named SWAC Newcomer of the Year, the 6-foot-5 guard should be the favorite for SWAC Player of the Year honors. Tabb led the conference in scoring and was second in rebounding (behind teammate Nick West), averaging 20 points in 19 games against SWAC opponents and recording 11 double-doubles during the course of the 2014-15 season.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON SWAC TEAM:

  • Adrian Rodgers, Southern: The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 13.1 points and 4.2 boards per game; one of four starters back for the Tigers.
  • Jamel Waters, Alabama State: With the loss of three starters, expect the 5-foot-9 guard to see a bump in scoring. Led the team last year at 14.0 points per game, dished out 5.2 assists, second-best in the league.
  • Nick West, Alabama A&M: The 6-foot-10 big man recorded seven double-doubles as a junior, finishing first in the league in rebounding at 7.9 boards per game.
  • Raeford Worsham, Jackson State: The Arkansas State transfer scored in double figures in 15 out of 20 games he appeared in, recording four double-doubles in conference play.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @theSWAC

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Southern
2. Texas Southern
3. Alabama State
4. Jackson State
5. Alabama A&M
6. Arkansas Pine Bluff
7. Alcorn State
8. Prairie View A&M
9. Mississippi Valley State
10. Grambling State

MGM Grand Main Event schedule announced

Greg McDermott
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Another in-season tournament schedule has been officially completed, as the slate for the MGM Grand Main Event (to be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas) was announced Wednesday by BD Global Sports. The tournament consists of two four-team brackets, with the teams in the Heavyweight Bracket (Clemson, Creighton, Massachusetts and Rutgers) getting to host at least two home games before heading to Las Vegas for games November 23 (Monday) and 25 (Wednesday).

In the Heavyweight Bracket semifinals November 23, Clemson will take on UMass with Creighton/Rutgers being the other matchup. The consolation and championship games will be held two days later.

There’s also a Middleweight Bracket, with UTSA and Central Arkansas meeting in one semifinal and Texas Southern and Howard in the other. Those four teams will play two road games apiece against the teams in the Heavyweight Bracket before they play in the afternoon sessions in Las Vegas November 23 and 25.

Of the eight teams in the event just one, Texas Southern, played in the NCAA tournament last season. Mike Davis’ Tigers, who won games at Kansas State and Michigan State last season, was the SWAC’s automatic entrant and lost to Arizona in the round of 64.

HEAVYWEIGHT BRACKET

Monday, Nov. 23 – Session 2 (Evening Session – Game Times TBD)
Clemson vs. UMass
Creighton vs. Rutgers

Wednesday, Nov. 25 – Session 4 (Evening Session – Game Times TBD)
Consolation Game
Heavyweight Championship Game

MIDDLEWEIGHT BRACKET

Monday, Nov. 23 – Session 1(Afternoon Session – Game Times TBD)
UTSA vs Central Arkansas
Texas Southern vs. Howard

Wednesday, Nov. 25 – Session 3 (Afternoon Session – Game Times TBD)
Consolation Game
Middleweight Championship Game

OPENING GAMES

Nov. 13 – Howard at UMass
Nov. 14 – Texas Southern at Creighton
Nov. 15 – UTSA at Clemson
Nov. 15 – Howard at Rutgers
Nov. 17 – UTSA at Creighton
Nov. 19 – Texas Southern at Clemson
Nov. 19 – Central Arkansas at UMass
Nov. 21 – Central Arkansas at Rutgers

Trae Jefferson commits to Texas Southern

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Trae Jefferson, one of the more entertaining players to watch in the Class of 2015, announced that he had committed to Texas Southern on Tuesday afternoon via his personal Twitter account.

There’s no shortage of YouTube videos of the diminutive 5-foot-7 point guard. There’s this one from BallisLife that was uploaded last August and this one from last month of him torching defenders while wearing sweatpants.

Jefferson was once listed in the Rivals 150 and is still listed as a four-star recruit, according to the same recruiting service. Despite the ranking, he could only land offers from Atlantic 10, Conference USA, Horizon League and Big West programs, according to Rivals and ESPN, which rated him as a three-star prospect.

It’ll be interesting to track how Jefferson translates to the next level, but he should form an entertaining backcourt alongside rising junior guard Chris Thomas.

Texas Southern is coming off a 22-win season and reaching the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.

Former Duke guard speaks publicly for first time since dismissal from team

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Less than 24 hours after his team lost at Notre Dame in late January, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made the decision to dismiss guard Rasheed Sulaimon from the program. It was a decision that caught many by surprise given the timing, not to mention the fact that it limited the Blue Devils to an eight-man rotation.

Sure enough Duke was able to ride that eight-man rotation to the program’s fifth national title, with a trio of freshmen (Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow) and senior guard Quinn Cook leading the way. Since Sulaimon’s dismissal neither he nor the program had discussed the situation until Wednesday, when the player spoke with ESPN.com about the situation.

Among the topics discussed was an allegation that Sulaimon had sexually assaulted two female students (on separate occasions), something Sulaimon vehemently denied. Sulaimon was never charged for either alleged incident, with an investigation into one of the allegations not even resulting in a student board hearing and the second not resulting a meeting between Sulaimon and Duke’s Office of Student Conduct.

“Me being dismissed from the team had nothing to do with this allegation,” Sulaimon said in his first public comments since being dismissed by coach Mike Krzyzewski. He did not specify what the reason was, though he said he was frustrated and could have handled the situation better.

“I have never sexually assaulted, not only anyone on the Duke campus, but anyone period,” he said. “It’s not in my nature at all. I have great respect for the role of women in society. I would never demean or do anything to a woman in this manner. No, I’ve never done anything like this in my life.”

Also discussed in the story was Sulaimon’s support of his former teammates during their run to the national title, as well as a phone call with his father following the title game in which the guard acknowledged that he “could have been a part of something that was bigger than me.” ESPN.com also reported that “more than a dozen” schools have reached out to Sulaimon this spring.

Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, George Washington, Houston, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Seton Hall, SMU, Texas, Texas Southern and Texas A&M are among the schools that reached out to Sulaimon according to the report. Still in school at Duke, Sulaimon expects to graduate in August and that would then mean immediate eligibility at his next school.

No. 2 seed Arizona rolls past No. 15 seed Texas Southern

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Arizona cruised to an easy 93-72 win over Texas Southern on Thursday afternoon in the West Region. The No. 2 seed Wildcats jumped out to a 54-33 halftime lead and never looked back as all five starters finished in double-figures.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson paced Arizona (32-3) with a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman wing Stanley Johnson also had a strong outing for the Wildcats, going for 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting while Brandon Ashley had 14 points and Kaleb Tarczewski had 13 points. Senior point guard T.J. McConnell also chipped in 12 points.

Texas Southern (22-13) was led by 15 points from Madarius Gibbs while Chris Thomas added 13 points.

Offense came easy for Arizona on Thursday as they shot 60 percent (32-for-53) from the field and 88 percent (24-for-27) from the free-throw line. The Wildcats also outrebounded Texas Southern 35-19.

With the win over the Tigers, Arizona now advances to face the winner of the VCU/Ohio State game in the Round of 32.