After failing to qualify for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) tournament the last two years, the University of Dallas men’s basketball team enters the 2018 tournament as the number three seed and having beaten every team in the conference.
The top six teams in the SCAC head to Colorado Springs for the tournament this weekend, and the Crusaders will play in the second quarterfinal game at 3 p.m. Central against the sixth-seeded Bulldogs of Texas Lutheran.
The Crusaders split the season series against the Bulldogs, who have won the tournament the last three seasons.
“The first game they shot it really really well so that’s something that we’re going to have to focus on: just getting out to shooters,” Head Coach Jarred Samples said. “And for us, we have to guard the way we’re capable of guarding and rebounding. I think [that] is going to be key for us. That just allows us to get out into transition and get easy buckets so that’s no matter who we’re playing.”
Dallas shouldn’t be afraid of anyone in the tournament, as they’ve beaten every team in the conference this year, including a season sweep of the top seed, Schreiner.
“When my teammates and I are locked in, I feel we have the best shot of winning it all, we have a ton of talent,” senior Manny Calton said.
The tournament looks to be wide-open this year. Though Schreiner won the league by two games with a 10-4 conference record, the Mountaineers lost three of their last four games, including a 95-83 loss to the Crusaders.
“I think the tournament’s wide open in this league. There’s been so much parity in the league this year. I think there’s a lot of different teams that have a chance to make a run at the title, including us,” Samples said.
Though Texas Lutheran has won the last three tournaments, they’ve lost all of their key players from that run and struggled to a 7-7 conference record this season.
The last SCAC tournament game UD played, they fell to these same Bulldogs.
“My freshman year we were eliminated against TLU and an 18-year-old me vowed vengeance, and here we are today with that chance,” Calton said.
The second seed in the tournament is the Centenary Gents, who went 8-6 in the league and finished with a three-way tie for second with Dallas and fourth-seeded Trinity.
The top three seeds in the tournament feature three of the best players in the league: Schreiner’s Keenan Gumbs, Centenary’s Travion Kirkendoll and Dallas’ Spencer Levi.
The Trinity Tigers will take on the host, Colorado College, in the other first round matchup.
If the Crusaders are able to beat TLU on Friday, they will face Centenary in the semifinals on Saturday.
Dallas has won just one SCAC tournament game since joining the conference in 2011-2012 and has one player on the roster who has played in a SCAC tournament game: Manny Calton. However, Samples isn’t concerned about their lack of experienced tournament players.
“Our young guys have played so many minutes and they’ve been really good for us, so I don’t see that changing,” Samples said.
The tournament will be in Colorado Springs, where the Crusaders just played a week ago.
“I got a taste of that altitude and it definitely gave me a heads up of what to expect for the tournament,” Calton said.