BLOOMFIELD -- For seven years, the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament has known just one champion -- the Dexter Bearcats.
It's a streak unlike any the tournament has ever seen and may never see again.
The unprecedented streak, however, could come to an end this season as the tournament enters its 49th year.
That is, if the tournament seeds have anything to say about it.
Dexter is off to its one of its worst starts ever at 0-6 and they will have an uphill climb with the No. 6 seed, which doesn't reflect their record, but more the respect they've earned over the years in the BCT.
The tournament will open play tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with top-seeded Doniphan taking on No. 16 Greenville (0-6).
Dexter's quest for an eighth straight championship will begin with a first round game against 11th-seeded Hayti (3-4) at 5 p.m.
Lost in the talk of Dexter's slow start this year has been the Bearcats' competition.
All of Dexter's losses -- Charleston, Sikeston, Notre Dame, Jackson and Twin Rivers -- are teams ranked in the top 10 in the SEMO media poll.
Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell says Dexter still should be considered one of the favorites.
"They can win it again this year, sure," said Bidewell. "When they get in that tournament it's kind of their aura. They just find a way to beat teams. I don't know if it's confidence or what it is. But I guarantee everybody's going to be scared to play them regardless of what their record is.
"They've played a schedule that most teams in the tournament would probably have identical records as them if they played those teams. Records can be deceiving."
One thing in Dexter's favor is the overall field of the tournament appears to be down this year. Of the 16 teams, only five enter the tournament with a winning record.
Most of the pre-tournament buzz has surrounded Doniphan, which is off to a 7-0 start.
The Dons have already notched one tournament championship with a three-
game sweep in the Farmington Tournament, defeating Cape Central, Jackson and Cardinal Ritter.
Doniphan coach Shawn Gibbs is happy with his team's fast start, but even he is leery of Dexter.
Every year at Bloomfield, I hear Dexter is down and they're not going to win it," said Gibbs. "We've made it to the semis the last three years in a row and ran into that team that's won it a few times. We haven't quite been able to get over the hump, so we're hoping this is the year.
"I really think our kids are focused to the point that they won't be worried about that mystique. I do worry about that a little bit if Dexter wins that first-
round game and pulls off a couple upsets."
Doniphan, which was the last team to win the BCT before Dexter's streak in 1997, features a weapon unmatched by any team in the field in 6-foot-10 center Matt Rogers.
The senior is a legitimate triple-double threat every game with his ability to block shots. He is surrounded by sophomore twin standouts Charles and Chandler Wilson, who are the younger brothers of Nic Wilson, the hero of Doniphan's championship run in 1997.
Charles Wilson leads the team in points per game.
The Dons haven't even been challenged this year as they've won by an average score of 70.6 to 40.1. Their closest game was 51-41 versus Ritter. They beat Jackson 47-35, despite not having Rogers due to illness.
"Doniphan's got an awful nice squad this year and they've kind of proven themselves with some of the teams they've beaten," said Bidewell. "I'd have to say they're by far out in front of the pack right now. I think you have to put Doniphan up on that pedestal and everybody else is kind of a notch lower."
South Pemiscot, led by standout point guard Anthony Jones, is the No. 2 seed. But the Bulldogs, who are 7-1 with their only loss to Scott City, have only had one game against a team with a winning record.
The Bulldogs' combined record of their opponents this season is 19-35 heading into the tournament. However, they have defeated three traditionally competitive teams in Caruthersville, Hayti and Malden.
Third-seeded Twin Rivers (6-1) is led by do-everything guard Michael Lance, who averages 25.1 points per game on 61 percent shooting. He also grabs 12.1 rebounds per night and records 2.4 steals.
The Royals took second in the Oran Tournament to Bell City. They defeated Dexter 82-80 in overtime.
But they are banged up heading into the tournament with post players Dexter Moore and Ryan Adams still recovering from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Moore has actually returned to action but is still far from 100 percent according to coach Jim Vaughan.
He is scheduled for an MRI exam on Tuesday. Adams, the team's tallest (6-4) and best post player, has missed the last three games and isn't expected to play in the tournament.
"We're playing short-handed and it's changed the way we've had to play a little bit," said Vaughan. "We don't have a significant offensive post presence, which with Dexter and Ryan we had, and we've lost a lot of rebounding. We played a lot of zone anyway, but we're playing almost totally zone right now."
Twin Rivers plays No. 14 seed East Carter (2-4) at 12:30 p.m.
If both teams win in the first round, Dexter could get a rematch with Twin Rivers in the second round.
Bidewell's Bulldogs are seeded fourth and will play No. 13 Bloomfield at 1:45 p.m.
Even Portageville, usually a shoe-in for a good tournament showing, has struggled in the early season with a 2-3 record.
"We're off to a real slow start and we have the potential to be very bad at times," deadpanned Bidewell.
Portageville has had several near misses in the finals, including last year's 56-55 loss to Dexter. Since last winning the championship in 1992, they've made it to the title game six different times but haven't been able to seal the deal.
Van Buren comes in with a 7-0 record and the No. 5 seed. They will take on No. 12 East Prairie (2-5) at 3:30 p.m.
Following Dexter is a team that many feel is a tournament darkhorse in seventh-seeded Malden. Although the Green Wave are just 2-5 this year, part of the slow start has come in the wake of player suspensions to key personnel.
If Malden has a full roster in place, many coaches think they have what it takes to make a deep run in the tournament.
Malden will play 10th-seeded Bernie (3-3) at 6:30 p.m.
"Our whole side of the bracket is just ugly," said Vaughan. "Not to take anything away from Van Buren and Portageville, but Malden is a scary team. Not a great record going in, but once they get at full strength, look out. In my opinion, they're one of the teams that can compete with Doniphan because of their size and athleticism. For them to be a seventh seed, that's deceiving."
Eighth-seeded Kennett (3-4) will play No. 9 Puxico (5-2) in the final game of the first round at 8 p.m.
In the end, however, it all comes back to the seven-time defending champions.
"Dexter's played a tough schedule and they're still the reigning champs," said Bidewell.