One of the early-season tournaments that regularly brings in a highly competitive field is the Gulf Coast Showcase. Taking place down in Southwest Florida inside Germain Arena, any of the eight teams could realistically come away with the tournament title when all is said and done.
Last year was no exception. In the end, the Weber State Wildcats took down the Murray State Racers to win the 2015 Gulf Coast Showcase in a battle of two top-tier mid-major programs.
On Friday, the bracket for the 2016 edition of the event was released. From top to bottom, there are talented programs who will be vying for an early-season tournament title.
Eight different conference are represented in the event, which takes place from November 21-23, 2016.
Things came down to the final game of the regular season, but the South Dakota State Jackrabbits earned a share of the regular season title in the Summit League with a 12-4 record.
Due to the tie-breaking procedures, they earned the 2-seed in the conference tournament, while the IPFW Mastodons were awarded the top seed.
On their journey towards the conference championship, the Jackrabbits had to fight to reach the finals. A three-point win over the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in the quarter-finals was followed by a come-from-behind win over the Denver Pioneers in the semi-finals, in which South Dakota State won by a single point.
The Jackrabbits were unquestionably tired after their tough two games, but they were one win away from the NCAA Tournament. In the top half of the bracket, upset victories led the 5th-seed North Dakota State Bison to the Summit League championship for another instalment in the rivalry between them and the Jackrabbits.
North Dakota State had their sights set on the Big Dance, but the Jackrabbits weren’t about to let their hard work from the previous two games go to waste.
The regular season in the Summit League came to an end on Saturday, and the IPFW Mastodons had the opportunity to secure the regular season title outright with a win on the road over the IUPUI Jaguars.
Having won their past four games, the Mastodons were riding a hot streak at just the right time. The same couldn’t be said for the Jaguars, as they came in having lost their previous two outings.
In the first meeting between the two this season, the Jaguars went on the road and shocked the Mastodons, coming away with the 84-82 victory. With the action switching to their home floor, they were looking for a season sweep, while closing the regular season on a high note.
Coming into the 2015-16 season, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits were the favourite to come away with the Summit League title come March. They have a group that is filled with talent and experience, and they are also the beneficiary of some of the other top contenders losing some of their own talent from last season.
On Thursday night, they went on the road to take on the IUPUI Jaguars in a big road test for the Jackrabbits. The Jaguars came into the night with a 5-12 record overall, and 1-1 in conference play. Despite their sub-.500 record, they have shown flashes of strong basketball this year, and were looking to make a statement on their home floor against the best the Summit League has to offer.
When all was said and done, the Jaguars did exactly what they set out to do. They hung with South Dakota State over the first half, and took control of the game in the last 9 minutes of the game to pull off the upset.