Ruminating On My Singular Chance to See Omar Strong

USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night was probably the last time this season that Texas Southern will find its way onto my television. I was sorely disappointed that Omar Strong scored nothing in the second half. But such is life in the SWAC, a league with everything stacked against it.

Tuesday night was the first time all season -- and probably the last -- that I was able to see Texas Southern play. The Tigers were the team that, after my analysis of the SWAC, seemed the most likely to take the regular season conference title.

They can't win the conference tournament thanks to punishments handed down by the NCAA prior to the season. They will have no Tournament dreams.

Then again, most SWAC teams don't have any tournament dreams. Getting to the NCAA Tournament is a lesson in liking Dayton, because there is little doubt that that is where they will begin.

As of Sunday night, the conference had just eight wins among its 10 teams. Jackson State managed to add to that total this week (shockingly), but they are still averaging less than a victory per program.

Texas Southern had little chance to change that Tuesday against Kansas State. The Wildcats toyed with the Tigers like mice. Every time they got close, Bruce Weber called in the starters to increase the lead back.

Even the fake drama created by the announcers each time Raymond Penn put down a 3-pointer in the final 10 minutes seemed forced. This game was never in doubt, at least not after they Wildcats focused in on Omar Strong and kept him scoreless through the second half.

Sure, the game was close at halftime. But eventually Kansas State made that run that was inevitable. That is the same run that teams make in the NCAA Tournament that marginalize the double-digit seeded teams.

This time it was fueled by offensive rebounding and a stiff defense by the Wildcats. The shorter Texas Southern team looked overmatched on the floor during what you might call the "win streak," the 15-5 run that Kansas State put together to begin the half.

It wasn't like I was shocked. I was more watching to see Omar Strong score against an upper-level squad. Of course he would go scoreless after I changed the channel. Of course he would.

But such is life in the SWAC. Texas Southern is just 1-10 on the season now, after facing off against Michigan State, Colorado, San Diego State, Houston, Kansas State, Northwestern, and some of the best mid-majors. And this is the team that is supposed to be the best in the conference based on talent.

They have traveled the country, playing just three games at home (where their single win came) in order to fund the program.

According to the Midmajority's Red Line stats, the average athletic budget in the SWAC is just $6.6 million, of which $0.6 million is spent on Men's Basketball. Some teams in the Big Ten spend that much on lunch for their centers.

It is no wonder that they have struggled so far.

This is a league where even the best players are grading out to less than 5.0 on the HOOPWAR scale. This is almost a minor league compared to what almost every other team we watch.

That is not to say that they don't play excellent basketball within the league. I would love to watch Fred Sturdivant roam the inside against Jackson State's Kelsey Howard. Or maybe Penn and Omar Strong (always the full name) could heat up from outside.

This is when the league is won, not now when they just are collecting bus money to get to the next game. Wins now are bonus points for the Tigers and their league buddies.

I want to root for these teams. I want to see them defy the odds. But those odds are stacked heavily against them, and get worse every day.

It is too bad. I want to see Omar Strong at his best. I want to see Sturdivant at his.

And I want a 6-for-8 performance from 3-point range by Penn to mean something, not just be another stat in a 9-point loss for the Tigers.

The conference season is coming, although that revolution will not be televised.

Someone get me my Omar Strong fix.

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