Life used to be so simple. Back in the day, it was a relatively easy and painless task to attain a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and then spend roughly three seconds filling in your team's name as the winner of the upcoming matchup between your big name powerhouse and an anonymous patsy. Not now, though. Now we are forced to endure the agonizing wait to see who, between the scrappy Alabama State Hornets and the rough and tumble Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, will have the right to stand up to the Ohio State Buckeyes and say "We are here! We are human beings! We demand to be heard!"
And then lose by 50 points.
Still, if you're anything like me, you leave no stone unturned. An anonymous team is a dangerous team, and the only thing that defeats the unknown is knowledge. So today, we will be looking deeply into the souls of Roadrunners and Hornets alike, to determine where their mettle lies. We shall begin with Alabama State.
alabama State Hornets
The Hornet men's basketball team is possibly one of the most curious teams in the country. On January 31st, a loss to Texas Southern dropped Alabama State to a 6-16 record and any NCAA hopes they might've had entertained were surely pushed out of the window. However, with the return of senior (and best player) Tramayne Moorer, their fortunes immediately changed; they proceeded to win 11 of 12, including stomping through the Southwestern Athletic Conference tourney to seal an automatic bid to the big dance.
If the best player means "most valuable," and "most valuable" means most important to his team's success, then Tramayne Moorer is without hyperbole the greatest basketball player in the universe. When he plays, the team wins. When he doesn't, they lose. Simple as that. The 6-5 senior Forward averages only about 20-25 minutes a game, but still manages to score 12.5 points in each contest, along with about 5 rebounds. Though limited by illness and injury this year, Moorer makes the Hornets sting.
ASU itself is a historically black university located in Montgomery, Alabama. Founded in 1856 and established in its current form in 1875, it has long been a flashpoint for Civil Rights activism due to its history and location. As a result, many Civil Rights leaders are alumni of ASU, including the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Fred Gray, who worked as legal council for Martin Luther King during the Montgomery bus boycott.
Many historically black colleges are known for their excellent marching bands, and ASU is no exception. The Marching Hornets have played at halftime of many bowls, including the Bronze Classic and the Circle City Classic, which were apparently things that existed at some point. They have also appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show and played at halftime of a Bengals-Oilers game.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Stingettes, ASU's dance team. I'm fairly sure that every Youtube video that they're featured in violates the Terms Of Service in some fashion, meaning that they offend my stoic midwestern sensibilities in the best way possible.
Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
The Southland Conference Champion Roadrunners men's basketball team also faced their fair share of adversity earlier in the season, losing 7 of 10 at one point early in the season. However, UTSA may be a bit different than some other underachievers who get inexplicably hot and make a conference tourney run (I'm looking at you, Grambling). 6 of the Roadrunner's 13 losses have come by 4 points or less, and though they play pretty much everyone available in the state of Texas (10 players average 8 minutes or more of playing time per game), they are led by a three headed monster, a Cerberus, if you will, that goes by the name of GIBSJOHNHILL.
Devin Gibson, a senior 6 foot Guard, averages 17 points a game and was named MVP of the Southland Conference Tournament. He is the leader of the team, and has waited 4 years to reach the NCAA tourney, something the Roadrunners haven't done since 2004. Like Alabama State, UTSA carries an 0-3 March Madness record, and if the Roadrunners want to meep their way to a victory, it will be on Gibson's back.
Jeromie Hill and Melvin Johnson the Third are the other two gnashing maws that make up this monster. Averaging 13.6 and 14.8 points, respectively, they are both tall but thin threats to score at any time. All three players are capable of putting up 25 points, and it wouldn't be a surprise if one of them did tonight.
Texas-San Antonio is a branch campus of the centralized University of Texas system, but still has a student enrollment of over 30,000. Their alumni include Michelle Beadle, who is currently up for a Nobel Peace Prize due to her efforts restraining herself from strangling Colin Cowherd on a daily basis on ESPN, and our very best friend Larry Coker, who is now the coach of the Roadrunners' football team. That is actually kind of depressing. Let's move on.
Since 1980, UTSA has been the official starting point for Fiesta San Antonio, an event that celebrates the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto, and draws more than three million people to San Antonio for 11 days of events heavily influenced by the Mexican heritage of the land that the US captured in the Mexican-American War. UTSA is also home to some incredible facilities and architecture, including a rec center that rivals our own RPAC, complete with an outdoor pool that makes my neighbor's pool look like a piece of crap. Take that, Alan.
Both UTSA and Alabama State have had seasons that could generously be called "bumpy," as both the Roadrunners and the Hornets endured long losing streaks early on. But both teams got hot at exactly the right time, and will now be playing in front of the whole world. Provided the whole world's cable provider has TruTV.
My prediction: Jeromie Hill goes off for 20 plus as the UTSA Roadrunners pull away from the Alabama State Hornets in the second half. Should be fun.