– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
KATY, Texas — Barbecue or boudin? Waylon Jennings or Dr. John? The Lone Star State or the Pelican State?
Rivalries run deep down in the Southwest, and that will be highlighted on the hardwood over the next five days with the start of the 2021 Southland Conference Tournament. After the results of the regular season, the men’s tournament has played out such that the top half of the bracket is made up of all schools based in Texas and the bottom half is all made up of Louisiana teams.
One of the teams that will not be participating in the 2021 Southland Conference Tournament is the leviathan of the league, Stephen F. Austin, who is serving a one-year ban from the conference and NCAA Tournaments for NCAA Level I violations for lack of institutional control. The Lumberjacks had won four of the last six tournaments played on the men’s
Whoever wins this tournament will enter the NCAA Tournament as a team that, more than likely, will be a tough out in the Big Dance. Abilene Christian, the No. 2 seed in this year’s SLC Tournament who won the last completed installment of the tournament in 2019, is looking to win its second consecutive tournament behind the backs of players who featured on the championship team a couple of years ago. The top seed, Nicholls State, come into the tournament winning seven straight and 15 of their last 16 games, all part of the 14-2 record it amassed in league play. The Colonels’ only two losses in conference play both came at the hands of the No. 3 seed, Sam Houston State, and the Bearkats feature the conference’s player of the year in guard Zach Nutall.
The first contests of the Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament came on Tuesday night, with No. 8 seed Southeastern Louisiana holding off No. 9 McNeese State 71-68, as the Lions were led by the career-high 26 points from forward Gus Okafor, who also chipped in with five steals and four rebounds. In the second game, it was the tenth-seeded Huskies of Houston Baptist who upset No. 7 Incarnate Word 80-68 behind the 21 points and nine rebounds of junior guard Pedro Castro.
We are so fortunate to once again bring you coverage of Championship Week in college basketball, especially given the uncertain times that the country faced last year at this time as the reality and gravity of COVID-19 started to sink in and shut down sports all across the country. In Katy, we have photographer Jamar Carrington who will be (close to) courtside to shoot all of the happenings at the Merrell Center all this week. Continue surfing our page over the next few days for coverage of conference tournaments all across the country, including the Big East, Big Ten, American, and more.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Tuesday night’s action, with all photos taken by Houston-area photographer Jamar Carrington. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 31 pictures in total.