There are only a few games left in the regular basketball season, and soon the conference tournament in Katy will decide who gets to go to the NCAA tournament representing the Southland conference for men and women. Taking a closer look at the standings allows us to see whos hot, whos not, who has the inside track and who needs a little work before they can call themselves champions.
Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State, both 13-2 in conference are followed closely by Oral Roberts (12-3) as the top three mens teams in the conference.
Sam Houston State stands in 5th place (7-7) and has all but assured a spot in Katy. The only question is what seed will they end up with and how will they fare. The Bearkats have four games left with three of them against teams above them in the rankings. The teams next game against Nicholls State will be key. Nicholls stands one game behind Sam Houston, and a win for either team should solidify a top five seed. The other game to watch is against Southeastern Louisiana who rest just above Sam Houston in the standings. With a win against the Lions, The Bearkats have a chance to jump into the top four seeds going into the conference tournament.
Eventually they will have to face Stephen F. Austin, Oral Roberts or Northwestern State. These are teams they are winless against so far in the season, with one game each against Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State remaining in the regular season. Sam Houstons inability to hit key free throws down the stretch has cost them in many of their losses and I expect this to be the biggest hurdle to them winning it all in Katy. They have shown in close losses to Oral Roberts and Stephen F. Austin that they can match up physically but their inability to hit key shots consistently will hurt them.
The Womens bracket is a bit more muddled, with the top 3 teams all having the same number of conference losses. Oral Roberts sits at the top due to having one more game played than Lamar and Sam Houston, who both sit at 10-4 in conference play. McNeese State (9-5) and Nicholls State (8-6) sit in 4th and 5th respectively, only one and two games out of the top three. The Bearkats have four games remaining against teams below them in the standings, so it is not out of the question that they finish 14-4 in conference. This would give them the best chance to take the top overall seed going into the conference tournament.
The Lady Kats split the regular season meetings between Oral Roberts and Lamar, proving that while they can lose to the other top seeds, they also have a game plan for how to beat them.
The key will be shooting. In the two losses, Sam Houston shot below 35 percent from the field overall. In the two wins the number jumped to 41 and 65 percent overall. Sequeena Thomas, Britni Martin and Chanice Smith will get their points either way. It may, however, come down to whether the bench and supporting cast surrounding them can have good games as well. If they do, the Bearkats have a great chance to win the conference tournament and represent the Southland Conference in the womens NCAA tournament.
Selection Monday for the NCAA tournament will be on March 18 and the actual tournament will begin March 23.