The 31st Annual Sikeston Invitational Tournament will get underway tomorrow at the Sikeston Field House.
The SIT is arguably the top tournament in the region every year in terms of quality teams from top to bottom.
Where else would you find a tournament that large schools Cape Central and Poplar Bluff haven't won since 1982 and 1988 respectively?
A tournament where the host school, Sikeston, hasn't won since 1994? Or even Charleston, which has by far the most SIT titles, but hasn't won since 1997?
New Madrid County Central, prior to their incredible run of winning the last three SIT championships, had a 13-year drought dating back to 1986.
Throw in traditional power Blytheville (Ark.), and relative newcomers Doniphan and Kennett, and you've got the strongest field any tournament in the area will see all year.
In fact, six of the seven Missouri schools involved are ranked in the latest Southeast Missouri Regional Top 15 poll.
Poplar Bluff garnered the top seed this year. They will play eighth-seeded Kennett tomorrow at 5:30.
The Mules, ranked No. 1 in the SEMO top 15, feature two of the top players in the area in returning all-stater Tony Webb and 6-foot-8 sophomore sensation Tyler Hansbrough.
Kennett, ranked 10th in the area, is coming off a big 50-45 win against Bootheel Conference rival Portageville on Friday. Senior Tyree Goolsby scored 34 points in the game.
After an impressive showing in the Riverbend Classic and a big road win against Dexter, Charleston comes in at No. 2. The Bluejays, ranked No. 2 in the area, have one of the tallest lineups in the region, featuring 6-foot-8 senior Kewain Gant and 6-6 sophomore Ashton Farmer patrolling the front court.
Add cat-quick guards Marcus Biles and Deshaundray Hamilton and Charleston has the ingredients to run the table in the SIT.
They will play seventh-seeded Doniphan tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. The Dons are led by sharp-shooting guard Danny Kellas.
Blytheville enters the tournament seeded No. 3. The Chickasaws already handed Sikeston (62-40) and New Madrid County Central (62-50) lopsided defeats.
Blytheville has a balanced scoring attack led by John Fowler and Daniel Smith.
The Chickasaws, helped by more lenient Arkansas rules which allows the team to practice in August, haven't won an SIT championship since 1998. Their only other championship came in 1987.
The Chicks will play sixth-seeded Cape Central on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. The Tigers won their first game on Friday by defeating Riverview Gardens 57-56. Cape Central is led by junior guard Ryan Delph, who had 24 points in the Tigers' win Friday.
The Tigers also have gotten a boost out of 6-foot-8 transfer Scott Chestnutt, who is second on the team in scoring.
Sikeston enters the tournament seeded fourth. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 5 in the Top 15 poll, defeated fourth-ranked Dexter on Friday night 68-67. The Bulldogs' two losses came to Blytheville and Marion (Ill.) on the road.
Sikeston's top scorers are returning all-stater Lontas McClinton (21 ppg) and Lavar Morgan (19 ppg).
The Bulldogs won SIT championships in 1992 and 1994 but have only been able to reach the finals one time since.
Sikeston will play fifth-seeded NMCC at 7 p.m. tomorrow. The Eagles enter the game 0-3 for the first time since the 1998-99 season. But all three losses have come to out-of-state foes.
The Eagles are led by juniors Vaughn Shepard and Edgar Givens and sophomore point guard Malcolm Long.