If you simply looked at Texas Southern's overall record, you very well may be deceived.
The Tigers are 1-9, but have played the 18th hardest schedule in the country thus far in 2011. With just one home game in their first ten contests, they've traveled to Baylor, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Colorado on a ‘Big Six' buy-game tour.
When they head into Chaifetz Arena on Dec. 27 to face the Saint Louis Billikens (11-1), they'll suit up with 11 players who average double-digit minutes. They won the SWAC regular-season title last year and are led by junior guard Omar Strong. He and Lawrence Johnson-Danner put up almost 14 triples per game between the two of them.
The Billikens should come away with the victory, and a key to their success could be being able to match the Tigers' bench depth. SLU has a more talented starting five, and Cody Ellis has provided impressive performances time and again off the pine.
The difference in this game will most notably be on the glass. Saint Louis hasn't been stellar, but TSU is averaging just 27 rebounds per game, and is allowing nearly 38. Look for the Billikens to clean the boards in an effort to get multiple second-chance opportunities.
TSU shoots a meager 64 percent from the free throw line, and will need to improve upon that number to keep things tight against a SLU squad that hopes to return to the Top 25 rankings. Another glaring statistic is TSU's 1:2.19 assist-to-turnover ratio. They've faced some difficult teams obviously, but the Billikens really get after it defensively. The Tigers must hold onto the basketball in order to stay within striking distance.
Prediction: Saint Louis 71, Texas Southern 48