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Against all odds, Mike Davis and Texas Southern are heading to the NCAA Tournament again

The former Hoosier coach has won the SWAC title four times in five seasons and already has a third NCAA Tournament bid locked up ahead of tonight’s title game.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Southern at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

There’s perhaps no man better on the planet that understands how Tom Crean feels at the moment than Mike Davis.

Davis has been seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows — much like Crean has in Bloomington. Crean won two Big Ten titles in four seasons. Davis took the Hoosiers closer to a title than any coach in the last 30 years has in Bloomington. Both understand intimately how quickly things turn in Monroe County when the Hoosiers don’t make the NCAA Tournament. The parallels are obvious.

But with Crean’s future in doubt in Bloomington, Davis has quietly built a mid-major power in the SWAC -- and might be positioning himself for another high-major job if he’d be interested.

After a win in last night’s SWAC semifinals over Grambling, Davis’ top-seeded Texas Southern Tigers clinched their third NCAA Tournament bid in the last four seasons. (Alcorn State, their opponent in today’s championship game, is ineligible for the postseason because of lagging APR scores.) The Tigers bid caps off yet another dominant championship campaign for Davis’ team in the SWAC. His teams have won the four of the last five regular season titles, good for a 76-14 (!!) record in conference play for Davis at the school. In the lone season Davis’ Tigers failed to win the regular season crown, they finished 2nd and won the conference tournament.

What Davis has done is even more impressive when you consider where Texas Southern was when he took over -- and what he’s able to do on a hamstrung SWAC budget. When Davis took over in 2013, TSU had won exactly one regular season title and had been to the NCAA Tournament exactly once each since 1995. The financial picture was dire, too. In order to fund the program and the rest of the athletic department, TSU’s been one of the biggest benefactors of “buy games” from high-major programs in recent years. Consider this season: Davis & Texas Southern opened the season with 16 straight road games playing at places like Louisville, Baylor, Arizona, Cincinnati, LSU, and TCU. That’s a hard sell to players. Still, Davis has built a power. Just this season, TSU is 18-2 since the calendar turned to 2017 and the gauntlet of schedule lightened up.

That’s the resume of a coach deserving of a shot at a higher level job once again. But at 56 years old and with his son Antoine set to graduate high school in 2018, would he even want to make a move? Back in 2014, Davis sat down with me for over an hour to chat about the comfort he’s found in Houston -- and all that he’s learned from his time at Indiana.

I ask him if he'll finish his career in Houston.

"If they'll have me. I want to watch my son play. But definitely want to coach more than four more years. And I want Mike, Jr. to be a coach one day. So if I could coach for another 15 years that would be great for me. But I'm at a really good place where I understand the process now, and that's the most important thing."

Davis, forever tied to turmoil at Indiana, has found peace away from the spotlight in Houston.

"Not everybody belongs somewhere, but you can belong somewhere and I'm where I belong."

Mike Davis is a damn good coach. And if you’re looking for someone to pull for in the NCAA Tournament with Indiana at home, the Texas Southern Tigers are a strong option.