Cal Poly vs. Texas Southern: NCAA Tournament Play In

Willie Bee

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 2:20 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2014 2:20 PM UTC

No team represents the little guy in this year's NCAA Tournament better than the Cal Poly Mustangs, and that alone adds intrigue to their No. 16 seed play-in game with the Texas Southern Tigers.

Day 2 of the First Four gets underway at UD Arena in Dayton with this battle, the tip set for 6:40 PM (ET) and truTV once again broadcasting. Despite a 13-19 record on the season, the Mustangs are 3 point favorites with SBR's live NCAA basketball odds showing 130 for the total.

It's the first-ever meeting between TSU and Cal Poly, and both should enjoy their time at dancing with each other Wednesday since the winner goes up against Wichita State in St. Louis on Friday. The Shockers are the top seed in the Midwest Region after finishing a perfect 34-0 with Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles.

Wichita State is the first unbeaten team to enter the NCAA Tournament since the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in 1991.

Compare live NCAA Basketball Tournament Betting Lines

Mustangs Ride Into 1st NCAA Tournament

All the talk so far about California Polytechnic State (13-19 SU, 10-19-1 ATS) centers on its losing record and 13 wins being the fewest among all 68 teams in this year's field. However, don't expect head coach Joe Callero and the Mustangs to let that bother them as they prepare for their first-ever trip to the Big Dance.

Cal Poly finished the regular season with just two wins in the final 11 games to tie Cal State Fullerton for sixth in the Big West Conference. That's when the magic began for the Mustangs. Just five days after dropping a 71-55 decision to conference runner-up UC-Santa Barbara in the regular season finale, Cal Poly got its improbable tournament run started by whipping the Gauchos 69-38 at the Honda Center in the opening round of the Big West tourney.

The Mustangs followed that with a 61-58 decision vs. UC-Irvine, the regular season champions, almost blowing a 10-point second half lead in that upset. Cal Poly then finished the job last Saturday with a 61-59 victory over Cal State Northridge. The Mustangs trailed by as many as 11 in the game, and needed a 3-pointer from freshman Ridge Shipley in the final seconds to pull off the victory.

Cal Poly was an underdog in the first two tournament games vs. Santa Barbara and Irvine, but missed the cover as 3-point chalk in the conference championship.

NCAA Tournament Betting: Breaking Down the Draw

Tigers On 9-Game Run Heading To Dayton

While the Mustangs are about to enjoy their first trip to the NCAA Tournament, Mike Davis and Texas Southern (19-15 straight up, 2-4 against the spread) are hoping to capture their first triumph at the event in their fifth appearance overall, first since 2003. The Tigers participated in the only play-in game of the '03 tourney and lost in overtime to UNC-Asheville, the only team in that year's Big Dance with a losing record.

Texas Southern captured the AQ bid from the SWAC by winning three straight games at Houston's Toyota Center this past weekend. The Tigers began things with an easy 79-54 rout of Grambling as 16.5 point favorites, then followed with another cover as 8 point chalk in a 73-61 takedown of Alabama State.

Davis' crew then had to rally from a 7-point halftime deficit in the final vs. Prairie View, eventually pulling off a 78-73 win while laying 11 against the Panthers. The victory gave the Tigers a 9-game win streak heading into Wednesday's game with Cal Poly.

Maybe it's a case of Mustang Mania that I've caught, or the notion of a team losing 20 games within a single season yet winning an NCAA Tournament game that fascinates me. I like Cal Poly to continue its magic in this game; put me down for a free NCAA basketball pick on the Mustangs.

My pick: Cal Poly -3


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