Don’t stop believin’

At long last, tournament week, which is often described as the most exciting week in college basketball, is finally here. The regular season has come and gone. The time for checking the standings after every game for conference position is over. It is now March and that means only one thing.

Let the madness begin!

For teams from bigger conferences that have pretty much already locked up their spot, the conference tournament is a chance to improve seeding in the NCAA tournament.

For smaller conferences like the Southland, tourney week means so much more. For the Southland conference, only one spot is reserved.

The team that battles through and survives the Southland Conference Tournament is awarded with an automatic berth into what is now affectionately called “The Big Dance.”

Before punching that ticket, the Bearkats must win the conference tourney.

The conference tourney has a different look this year. For the first time since 2001, the tournament will take place at a neutral site unlike the previous few years where higher seeds would host games.

This way all qualifying teams, despite their record, now face off against each other on an even playing field at the M.O. Campbell Center in Houston.

“It’s close to us, obviously, so we’re excited about that. We wouldn’t have to go down to Corpus Christi, the way it’s set up in the finals,” SHSU head coach Bob Marlin said Saturday. “It’s like people have asked me all year, ‘Do you like the tournament format?’ and I say ask me when the season’s over. So, yeah, I like it.” SHSU head coach Bob Marlin said.

Sam Houston had a chance to clinch the regular season conference title in the regular season finale against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but squandered that opportunity 85-68.

The Bearkats reached the conference tournament finals last year only to fall to Northwestern State 95-87.

The conference tournament kicks off Thursday afternoon when Sam Houston faces Lamar in their first-round meeting.

In their first meeting this year, the Bearkats had four players in double-figures crushing Lamar 88-52.

Tipoff for the opening game between Sam Houston State and Lamar is at noon.

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