The dust settled on Thursday night, and Saturday afternoon in Katy will settle which school will take the 2011 Southland Conference Tournament Championship, along with a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Last year's champion, Sam Houston St. Bearkats, were done in by the #7 seed Texas--San Antonio Roadrunners. With the help of a 2-3 zone, they forced the Bearkats into shooting a ton of three-pointers over the zone. They'll take on the #1 seed McNeese St. Cowboys, winners of 10 of their last 13 games. These two teams met just once on the season: a 65-61 UTSA win in San Antonio.
These two teams are almost complete opposites when it comes to the makeup of their starting lineups. The Roadrunners probably enjoy the advantage of having the best player on the floor in senior guard Devin Gibson. He's the classic small-conference creator, except he's actually a pretty good passer as well. He didn't notch a triple double against Northwestern State in the tourney opener for nothing. The Cowboys rely on a more balanced attack. Between Patrick Richard, Diego Kapelan, and Stephan Martin, they have three players that can fill it up from the perimeter. The Cowboys start four seniors and a junior, and the Roadrunners have one senior, two juniors, a sophomore, and a freshman.
Neither team actually plays much defense, although McNeese State was able to silence Texas State guard Ryan Hill in the semifinal game after he'd dominated in the opening round. Both teams take a plurality of their shots from beyond the three-point arc, and both get to the free throw line a lot as well.
There aren't really too many differences between the teams on paper. UTSA is a little more turnover prone, but also a bit better at hitting three-pointers. This projects to be an up-and-down game with high offensive efficiency. As long as the Roadrunners are able to keep their turnovers to a minimum, they should be in the game.
As much as I'd like to say that UTSA is the better bet, because I'd love some Texas team to actually win a conference we're covering here, it's going to be awfully hard to shut down a team with McNeese State's weaponry. To go to the conference tournament and beat the top three seeds? That's a pretty tall task. I wouldn't be surprised if the Roadrunners won, but the smart money is on the Cowboys to represent the Southland in The Big Dance. Give it a look on ESPN2 tomorrow, starting at 3 PM CT.
2 Northwestern St. Demons 96 vs. 7 UTSA Roadrunners 97
3 Sam Houston St. BearKats 61vs.
6 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 45
1 McNeese St. Cowboys 61 vs.
8 Nicholls St. Colonels 54
4 Texas St Bobcats 72 vs.
5 Southeastern Louisiana LIons 68
7 UTSA Roadrunners 79 vs.
3 Sam Houston St. BearKats 70
1 McNeese St. Cowboys 91 vs.
4 Texas St. Bobcats 83
7 UTSA Roadrunners vs. 1 McNeese St. Cowboys -- 3 PM, ESPN2