Gibbs set to lead Texas Southern into NCAA’s opening round
by Doug Gorman
Former East Coweta standout Madarious Gibbs will experience March Madness up close tonight.
The former Indian, who was the Newnan Times-Herald's Player of the Year as a senior in 2010-11 will help lead Texas Southern (19-14) into tonight's opening-round game against Cal-Poly (13-19), which will decide the Midwest's No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament and an eventual date as an underdog against undefeated Wichita State.
The 6-0, 180-pound junior guard helped the Tigers claim a Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament championship on Saturday with 15 points and a team-high five assists in a 78-73 victory over Prairie View.
Coached by Mike Davis, who previously led program at Indiana and Alabama-Birmingham, Texas Southern heads into tonight on a nine-game winning streak while looking to reach the field of 64 for the first time since 2003 when it lost an opening round game to UNC-Asheville 92-84 in overtime.
The program has never won an NCAA tournament game, with Gibbs looking to be a part of history tonight in a 6:40 p.m. tipoff to be televised on truTV.
'It feels really great to be a part of the NCAA tournament,' he said by phone from Dayton Tuesday. 'That is every team's goal when you start the season.'
Despite capturing last year's regular season title in the SWAC, sanctions kept the Tigers out from postseason contention. 'We really felt like we were the best team in the conference last year, so this time it was good to win the tournament and prove it,' he said.
Gibbs, who is averaging 9.2 points and 5.2 assists over 34.7 minutes a game, and his teammates have been on a roller coaster ride during the 2013-14 season, losing seven of their first 10 games before catching fire through the last part of the regular season and the conference tournament.
'Once we started playing as a team and playing better defense, we started winning games,' he said.
One of the team's biggest wins this season came against Temple when it beat the Owls 90-89 on December 19.
Gibbs only scored two points in 37 minutes against Temple, but hit two of three free throws in the contest to help the Tigers to the victory against the Atlantic-10 opponent.
The East Coweta graduate isn't overlooking tonight's opponent, but he looks forward to possibly stepping on the court with one of the teams many think will advance to the Final Four in Dallas in a few weeks.
'We feel like the way we are playing now, we can play with anybody,' he said.
He comes into the tournament as one of Texas Southern's most potent scorers.
In addition to his 15 points and five assists in the SWAC Championship game, Gibbs also added 15 points against Grambling and 12 points against Alabama A&M in the first two games of the conference tournament.
The former Indian has started all 34 games this season for Texas Southern, posting double figures 13 times including a season high 20 against Cal State Fullerton after shooting 6 of 12 from the field and converted 7 of 7 free throws.
The Tigers' junior was one of the team's best shooter's this season, hitting .507 percent from the field (107-211).
He also converted .652 percent of his free throws (73-112).
Cal Poly could be college basketball's biggest Cinderella story.
The Mustangs entered the nine-team Big West Conference Tournament a week ago with a just 10 wins, but played some of its best basketball of the season, winning three times, including a 61-59 decision over Cal State Northridge in the championship.
Cal Poly is just the 20th team in NCAA history to earn an NCAA bid with a losing record.