POSTED: Saturday, March 16, 2013 - 8:51pm
UPDATED: Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 8:56am
Garland, TX — The Southern men's basketball team can turn its giant strides into a dance.
The Jaguars (23-9, 15-3) clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament with a 45-44 victory over Prairie View A&M in the championship game of the SWAC tournament.
Southern earned the conference's automatic bid with the victory. Had they lost, the Jaguars likely would not have made the field.
Just two years ago, Southern posted a 4-26 record, finishing last in the conference.
Derick Beltran led the Jaguars with 13 points, adding seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Southern became the first team from Louisiana to qualify for this year's NCAA tournament. Northwestern State joined them Saturday by winning the Southland Conference crown. Louisiana Tech won the WAC regular season title, but lost in the quarterfinals of its conference tournament. The Bulldogs are now a long shot to make the field of 68.
2013 marks Southern's eighth appearance in the NCAA tournament, and first since 2006.
Their first-round opponent and location will be decided Sunday night.