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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Ticket Punched: Southern uses strong defense to get SWAC title and NCAA spot

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Southern's SWAC championship victory wasn't pretty, but that doesn't matter. The Jaguars are back in the NCAA tournament for just the second time since 1993.

The title game victory is typical of Southern's style. It was a defensive grinder of a game against Prairie View A&M, and the Jaguars' strength is its ability to defend. Prairie View A&M had a late 6-0 run to get back in the game and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but couldn't get a shot off and Southern survived with a 45-44 win. This is Southern's first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2006.

One thing to count on, whenever Southern plays its next game (and it could come at Dayton in the First Four on Tuesday or Wednesday) is that the Jaguars will play pretty good defense.

Coming into Saturday's action Southern was second in Division I in field-goal percentage allowed, at 36.4 percent, sandwiched right in between Kansas at No. 1 and Florida at No. 3. It doesn't turn teams over, but forces many missed shots from inside and outside the 3-point line. It shouldn't be a huge surprise Southern held Prairie View A&M to 44 points.

Southern is 23-9 and lost just three times after Dec. 18. The SWAC is the lowest rated conference among those with an automatic bid, but at least it is sending one of its best teams. Southern is an experienced team with its top six players either seniors or juniors. Southern was the No. 1 seed and heavily favored because Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff were ineligible for postseason play, and the Jaguars got through the tournament without being upset.

Southern's first game might not be pretty, especially if you like scoring. That style is just fine for the Jaguars. It got them to the NCAA tournament.

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