Coming into the weekend of the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament, the men’s and women’s seasons could not have been more different.
The women’s teams from Lubbock Christian and Southern Nazarene separated themselves from the pack and nationally ranked No. 1 Oklahoma City had previously established itself as an elite force.
On the men’s side, parity ruled. No. 1 Oklahoma Baptist had three conference losses and John Brown, Southern Nazarene and Rogers State all looked to be contenders for the tournament title along with OBU.
The conference tournaments proved to be different from each other as well, with No. 1 Oklahoma City winning the women’s tournament and No. 7 Oklahoma Christian defeating the top three seeds seeds en route to a surprising tournament championship and national tournament berth.
Oklahoma Christian’s men’s team was the big winner over the weekend. With its defeats of No. 2 Rogers State (83-77), No. 3 John Brown (59-56), and No. 1 Oklahoma Baptist (73-66, OT) , No. 7 Oklahoma Christian went from having its season end to having an automatic berth in the National Tournament.
The OC Eagles were carried by the efforts of sophomore Tournament MVP Kendre Talley and junior All-Tournament center Will Reinke. Making the championship game versus OBU was enough to secure OC’s place in the national tournament.
OBU holds the SAC’s other automatic berth by earning the regular season title, meaning that all that was at stake in the championship game was a trophy and seeding in the national tournament. The OC Eagles beat the #1 team in the country anyway, winning their first postseason title in 30 years.
The top four seeds going into the tournament, which are Oklahoma Baptist, Rogers State, John Brown, and Southern Nazarene still have a place in the National Tournament despite OC’s run to the title. OBU has an automatic berth while Rogers State, John Brown, and Southern Nazarene have at-large berths.
Despite their second round exit on their home court, JBU will still be riding into Kansas City with its highest national ranking ever (No. 13) and the knowledge that it already beat the best team in the country, OBU, in the regular season (OBU was ranked No. 3 nationally at the time).
The biggest loser from the men’s bracket has to be Southern Nazarene, who was not able to improve it’s standing in the conference and dropped down to the SAC’s No. 5 team because of OC’s claim to the fourth SAC berth. The Men’s National Tournament is March 14 – 20 in Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO.
While the Men’s Tournament saw a surprising historic run to the title by a low seed, the dominance of Oklahoma City made sure no such thing happened in the Women’s Tournament. The Stars were propelled by the performances of Player of the Year Dietra Caldwell and Tournament MVP Nicollette Smith.
Oklahoma City had no problems in the first two rounds, defeating John Brown and St. Gregory’s by a combined margin of 89 points. In the Championship Game, Southern Nazarene gave the Stars a run for their money but fell short, 61-55. In addition to the Stars, Lubbock Christian has an at large berth and Southern Nazarene has an automatic berth by way of making the championship game. The Women’s Tournament is March 14 – 20 in the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, KY.