Though they left the Big Sky Conference Tournament empty handed after losing to Portland State University, the Southern Utah University men’s basketball team will take to the court at least one more time. SUU has been selected to participate in The Basketball Classic, a 32-team invitational tournament.
Not only does this historic SUU squad get another chance to play, they will have the opportunity to play at home in Cedar City. The Thunderbirds will host their first game of the tournament against the Kent State University Golden Flashes . This is a quick turnaround for SUU, with their tipoff scheduled for Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. Being an invitational tournament, fans and students need to buy tickets in order to attend. Ticket information can be found at suutbirds.com.
If nothing else, this tournament serves as an opportunity for the Thunderbirds to redeem themselves after a surprising loss in the conference tournament. It also gives Cedar City one last chance to watch seniors John Knight III and Dre Marin. Both of these players have scored 1,000 career points at SUU and helped establish a legacy at the school.
This is Southern Utah’s third ever postseason appearance after the 2001 team won the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Their most recent postseason appearance was in 2019 when SUU participated in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. That was the last time the CIT was held due to COVID-19. Now, CollegeInsider.com will host The Basketball Classic.
Last time out
Southern Utah entered the Big Sky tournament as the No. 2 seed and was awarded a first-round bye. They faced the No. 7 seed Portland State University Vikings in the quarterfinals and were upset 77-65. It was arguably the ugliest loss of the season for an SUU that sorely missed their leading scorer, senior guard Tevian Jones, who suffered a fractured wrist late in the season.
Against Portland, the Thunderbirds looked lost on the court and could not handle Portland’s intense press defense. The team shot 36.8% on the night and a paltry 12% from three. Senior Aanen Moody started in place of Jones and struggled arguably the most as he shot 1-10 from three-point range.
A look at Kent State
The Golden Flashes finished the regular season 23-10 overall and 16-4 in the Mid-American Conference on their way to being the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. There, they made it to the finals before they lost to the University of Akron in controversial fashion.
Before the final game in the tournament, the Mid-American Conference suspended four Kent State players from participating in the championship game. Following the team’s semifinals win over the University of Ohio on Friday, March, 11, the four players posted a video on Twitter which saw them showing the middle finger and insulting members of Akron’s basketball team.
The player who posted the video, DJ Johnston, was suspended “indefinitely” while Cli’Ron Hornbreak, Julius Rollins and starting guard Malique Jacobs were suspended for the first half of the championship. Down four important players, the Golden Flashes lost to their rivals 75-55.
How to watch
All games of The Basketball Classic can be live-streamed on ESPN+. Tipoff for SUU’s first game will be Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m, and fans that want to attend need to buy tickets. Follow SUUNews on Twitter for updates on the tournament and all other things SUU sports.
Article by: Christian Esparza
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics