Texas Southern’s coach is best known for replacing Bob Knight at Indiana. Its top two scorers have played for five college teams combined.
That’s the quick version of the Houston school as it goes into tonight’s NCAA Tournament play-in game against Cal Poly in Dayton, Ohio. The winner faces top seed Wichita State on Friday in St. Louis.
“We had an up-and-down season,” Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said of his 19-14 Tigers, who won the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament and got the automatic bid.
Texas Southern, in its first NCAA Tournament in 11 years, was 6-6 in league play and 10-14 overall in mid-February before winning its last nine games.
Davis is taking his third school into the tournament after doing so at Indiana and Alabama-Birmingham. Only this one is on NCAA probation for multiple violations.
“It’s been a journey,” he said.
Davis spent nine years at Indiana, including the last six years as coach after he was given a controversial promotion from assistant after Knight was fired in September 2000.
After back-to-back lackluster years, he announced in February 2006 he was quitting at the end of the season — four years after taking the Hoosiers to the championship game. Two months later, he went to work at UAB.
In August 2012, he was hired by Texas Southern — just two months before the NCAA put the school on five years’ probation covering 13 sports for violations that involved academics and booster-related recruiting. Tony Harvey had resigned in July.
Among the sanctions was banning Texas Southern basketball from the postseason last year, which didn’t seem to matter when the Tigers started the season 1-13. But then they finished by winning 12 straight for a 16-2 league record and 17-14 overall mark.
That set the stage for the arrival this year of Aaric Murray and D’Aris Scarver.
Murray, a 6-foot-10, 240-pounder, started his college career by playing at La Salle, thinking he was a one-and-done player headed to the NBA.
Instead, he said, “I made a lot of bad decisions,” and was told to leave. He switched to West Virginia, where he said he partied too much, leading to Bob Huggins giving him the boot.
Now 24, Murray said he has put things together. He was chosen the SWAC’s defensive player and player of the year after averaging 21.2 points and 2.6 blocked shots.
Cal Poly, 13-19, is the only team in the tournament with a losing record. The Mustangs lost nine of their last 11 regular-season games before winning three straight, taking the Big West tournament title and the automatic spot.
The Mustangs returned an experienced team and has an all-league senior forward in Chris Eversley.