Aug. 30, 2007
FRISCO, Texas -- The 2008 Southland Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments will return to the greater Houston area on March 12-16, as the 16-team event will be held at the Leonard E. Merrell Center in suburban Katy, league commissioner Tom Burnett announced this week.
The top eight men's and women's regular season finishers will meet at the Merrell Center, playing 14 games over five days. The men's and women's bracket winners will earn automatic qualification into the 2008 NCAA Tournaments. In 2007, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi won the Southland men's tournament and Texas-Arlington took the women's event at the Campbell Center in north Houston, the league's first neutral site tourney since 2001.
The 5,600-seat Merrell Center is owned and operated by Katy Independent School District and is conveniently located off Interstate 10, near the renowned Katy Mills Mall. In addition to Katy ISD athletic events, the Merrell Center has hosted concerts, commencements, conventions and trade shows and indoor professional football games. The arena features complete chairback seating, two Daktronics video boards, scoreboards and video ribbons, on-site parking for 2,400 vehicles, professional sound and lighting systems, and wireless internet and multimedia capabilities.
"We are very pleased to announce the site of the 2008 Southland Conference Tournament," league commissioner Tom Burnett said. "The Merrell Center is a state-of-the-art basketball facility with numerous amenities that will provide a great tournament experience for the participating teams and the fans coming to the event.
"Also, the tournament allows the Southland to continue to build its premier championship event in the geographic center of the league," Burnett added. "The Houston area is a strong recruiting base for our institutions, both academically and athletically. Southland schools have approximately 80,000 active alumni in the area, and over 18,000 students from metro Houston are currently enrolled at our institutions."
"We are very excited about the opportunity to host the 2008 Southland Conference Basketball Tournament," Katy ISD Executive Director for Athletics Rusty Dowling said. "This will be an excellent opportunity for us to showcase the Leonard E. Merrell Center and bring Division I basketball to the Katy area."
In the 2008 tournament, the women's qualifiers will begin play with four quarterfinal games on Wednesday, March 12. The men's teams will start tournament action with four quarterfinal contests on Thursday, March 13, as the women's quarterfinal winners take the day off. The women's semifinals are set for Friday afternoon, March 14, while the men's semifinals will be played that evening.
The women's championship game is slated for Saturday, March 15, and the men's final is set for Sunday, March 16, at noon. The men's championship game will be televised live nationally on ESPN 2.
Information on tournament ticket prices and availability will be announced in the near future.
The Southland Conference, headquartered in the north Dallas suburb of Frisco, consists of 12 member institutions in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Texas schools include Lamar University in Beaumont, Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and Texas State University in San Marcos.
Louisiana institutions include McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, and Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. The University of Central Arkansas in Conway rounds out the membership, but is ineligible for the tournament through 2009-10 because its athletic program is transitioning into NCAA Division I and is also ineligible for NCAA Championships during that time.