HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Marcus Sasser's absence in the Houston Cougars' American Athletic Conference tournament championship loss was a void that the No. 1-seeded team in March Madness could not get over.
Despite letting an automatic bid go, Houston is still in a good position to make a run at something past Cougars teams haven't achieved: winning a national championship, let alone earning it at home.
Meanwhile, the city's other NCAA tournament representative, the Texas Southern Tigers, is in familiar territory with its third straight Southwest Athletic Conference tourney win and automatic entry into March Madness. ABC13's cameras were at TSU on Monday as the team began heading to its opening matchup of the 2023 tournament.
STORY UPDATE: Is Marcus Sasser playing in March Madness? UH star practices day before NCAA opener
UH calls off media availability
The Monday after Selection Sunday would have provided some valuable context as to how the UH Cougars are handling the adversity of being without their star, Sasser, who went down in the AAC tournament semifinals with a non-contact groin injury.
That was not to be when the team canceled its scheduled media availability hours before it.
While this shouldn't necessarily mean anything regarding Sasser and his health status, the radio silence may loom large for a No. 1-seeded team that was placed in a rigorous Midwest Region bracket. Not even ESPN's Dick Vitale thinks the team will crack the Elite Eight, with teams like Iowa, Miami, and Texas posing as obstacles in the Cougars' way.
In his post-Selection Sunday news conference, head coach Kelvin Sampson kept things as businesslike as possible, electing to focus on the next game rather than the games beyond.
"We play (16th-seeded) Northern Kentucky," Sampson told reporters in Fort Worth. "It's a tournament. You have to win to advance."
Sasser is the team's leading scorer, earning most of his points from the three-point line.
Medical experts state that the recovery time for a Grade 1 groin pull is at least two weeks. At the very worst, the highest Grade 3 would be four months or more.
The Coogs face the Northern Kentucky Norse in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
Tigers peaking at right time in typical TSU fashion
Teams can play hard all season long, earn the most wins in their conference, and yet, still come out of it with nothing to show for it.
Texas Southern is the antithesis of all that.
The Tigers won just 11 games to 20 losses in the regular season but squeaked into the SWAC tournament as the No. 8 seed after a furious run down the stretch. That was good enough for them to run the table again and win their conference tourney for the third straight season.
Coach Johnny Jones' bunch loaded their bus at TSU on Monday to travel to Dayton, Ohio, where they will begin another tournament run in the First Four play-in round.
"We just gotta make sure our guys are geared and locked in and understand the level of play you have to be at in every second and every play, because of the fact that the team, the opponent you are playing is on the same mission as we are," Jones told ABC13.
TSU is 3-3 in NCAA tournament games since 2018, thanks mostly to its First Four matchups against fellow 16-seeds. This go-around, TSU drew Northeast Conference tournament champ Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Tigers and the Knights face off on Wednesday at 5:40 p.m. The winner moves on to face No. 1 Purdue on Friday at 5:50 p.m.