In a surprising turn Thursday night, McNeese State beat Southland Conference favorite UT-Arlington to clinch a spot in the tournament finals against Lamar. Both teams will wait a day to play for the NCAA automatic bid, but it should be a great rematch.
It's a bit of a historic win for the Lamar Cardinals and first-year head coach Pat Knight. Everyone knows the YouTube rant at this point, but the Cards have won five straight games since then. Bob West of the Port Arthur News ran through some other historical tidbits here:
By winning two games in two nights, the Cardinals doubled their win total in the five years the SLC Tourament has been in the Merrell Center. They also reached the championship game for the first time since Mike Deane's team won it in 2000 as the No. 6 seed.
The two teams split their conference matchups, with McNeese winning a 57-54 game in the third conference game while Lamar beat the Cowboys 78-68 in the final conference game for each team in Beaumont.
The 44 points Lamar gave up in the victory over Stephen F. Austin on Thursday was its least points allowed all season. Lamar holds a 2-1 edge in Southland tournament games against McNeese, but the Cowboys won the most recent meeting, in the semifinals in 2004.
If Lamar wins, it'll be the first time since 2000 that the Cardinals have made the NCAA tournament. For McNeese, it'll be the first time since 2002.