Savannah State hosting SIAC Basketball Tournament for first time

Do you need proof that postseason basketball tournaments can be unpredictable? A year ago, Savannah State University’s men limped into the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament as an underdog. The SSU women were touted as runaway favorites. So, of course, what happens?

The men captured a title and the women fell short. There’s a reason why this time of the year is called March Madness.

“It’s the one-and-done syndrome,” SSU men’s coach Horace Broadnax said. “That brings the intensity.”

The 29 men’s and women’s teams of the SIAC’s 15 member schools head to Savannah for eight days of basketball tournament madness, tipping off Feb. 25 with three men’s games at Tiger Arena.

Spring Hill vs. Edward Waters opens the action at noon, followed by Benedict vs. Central State at 2:30 p.m. and Kentucky State vs. Allen at 5 p.m. The SIAC women’s portion of the tournament begins Feb. 26 with LeMoyne-Owen vs. Fort Valley at 2 p.m. and Edward Waters vs. Spring Hill at 4:30 p.m. 

Four tournament games follow every day until the men’s and women’s championship games on March 4. All games will be streamed on ESPN Plus, and the title games will be replayed March 5 on ESPNU. The SIAC champions earn automatic bids to the NCAA Division II tournaments.

Both the SSU women and men, entering as No. 2 seeds, see their first tournament action March 2 at noon and 5 p.m. respectively.

“It’s always been my philosophy that tournaments should mirror NCAA March Madness atmosphere,” Tigers women’s coach Cedric Baker said. “Savannah, Ga., is a destination place, and I think a perfect place for this tournament. We have the hospitality, we have the eateries. I think it’s going to be great for the membership schools.”

A year ago, the SIAC finished its three-year deal with Rock Hill, S.C., and league officials looked for a new home for their tournament. Savannah State was agreeable and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Visit Savannah provided some positive proding. It doesn’t take much to sell Savannah, Broadnax said.

“Savannah’s a nice city. Fans spending the week will have plenty to do,” he said.

And there will be some benefits for the SSU basketball teams. The men (15-10, 13-8 SIAC) won 11 of 12 games at Tiger Arena this season with the lone setback, a 71-70 defeat to Morehouse, coming in the final seconds of the game.

“Hopefully, being on our floor, I think our crowd will help refresh and re-energize us,” said Broadnax, whose squad has lost four games in a row. “That’s what it takes this time of the year. We know we’ll be front and center being the defending champions and being on our home court.”

The women (17-7, 13-6 SIAC) also will be in the spotlight, a year after posting a 27-3 record and claiming an at-large bid to the Division II national tournament a year ago. During the first month of the season, SSU’s women were ranked No. 20 in Division II.

The Tigers showed a little push from the home crowd  can make a difference. They were 9-1 at home this season and have won 25 of their last 26 games in Tiger Arena. Sometimes home makes a big difference. SSU beat Benedict by 19 in Tiger Arena this season and three days later lost to Benedict by 21 in Columbia, S.C.

The Tuskegee women should be the tournament favorite after going undefeated in 19 conference games during the regular season. Miles and Tuskegee had SIAC-best 15-5 marks in men’s play. But as we learned last year, records don’t mean a lot in March.

“It’s a new start for everyone. We’re all 0-0,” Baker said. “The most important thing for our team is we’re together. The cohesiveness is there. The chemistry is there so we’re excited.”

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