The march to a national title will begin on Wednesday with the #7 South Plains College Texans taking on Southern Union State (Alabama) in the first round of the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
"We felt like at the beginning of the season we had the talent to go this far," said Steve Green, who is leading the Texans to their first NJCAA Tournament since 1992. "What was yet to be seen is if we had the desire and commitment to get there. But the guys have really proved that they have that."
After picking up the Region 5 title Sunday with a win against McLennan, the Texans (30 - 3 overall) will take on Region 15 winner #13 Southern Union State (30 - 3 overall) at 1:45 p.m. in the first round of the double-elimination tournament. Green, who will be taking his third WJCAC squad to the NJCAA tournament in a decade, said the Bison have good inside and outside players.
"They really like to shoot the three-pointer," Green said. "They have two guys who have put up more than 200 attempts from outside. They also have a very good inside player who causes problems for people. Overall, they're a really solid team that has been to the national tournament a couple of times." And Green said Southern Union's style of basketball should be familiar to the Texans.
"I don't think they are all that different than Odessa," he said. "We just need to keep holding people to less than 30% shooting, and we'll be in good shape."
The Texans come into the game after winning their last four games and 16 of their last 16. In three wins in the Region V Tournament, SPC won by an average of 20 points while holding its three opponents to under 30% shooting from the field in each contest.
"I don't see any difference without winning the past few games compared with everyone else in the tournament because they've all had to play strong basketball to get there," Green added. "But I'm happy with how we've played in the regional tournament, we've really been riding a wave of great defense."
And along with strong defense in the tournament, the Texans received strong offensive efforts from sophomores Renaldo Major and Jonathan Woods along with freshman Allen Haynes. Woods recorded three double-doubles in three games, while Major averaged 18 points per game during the Texan title run. Haynes, an honorable-mention All-WJCAC pick scored 16 points in two games of the tournament.
"This is what we have really been shooting for since our first day this season," said Major, who received All-Region V and All-WJCAC honors. "This is what it is really all about, getting the chance to play in the national tournament. It seems like a dream, but it's reality, and we're ready. And Major said SPC just needs to continue playing great basketball.
"We've just got to play our game that got us to the national tournament," Major said. "We've got to continue to improve on things like boxing out and not committing little mental mistakes, but beyond that, we're ready to go."
The Texans will suit up again Thursday in the tournament with game times dependent on Wednesday's result. The squad will play at 8:30 p.m. in the championship bracket with a win; with a loss, SPC will play at 2:30 p.m. in the consolation bracket. Wednesday's will be broadcast locally on KLVT 1230AM beginning at 1:30 p.m.