Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament.
- Larger Arena- The tournament has been hosted in the Show Me Center since 1987, and seats just over 7,000 spectators in its Basketball Configuration. This is good considering that most of the larger schools in the region such as Central, Jackson, Notre Dame, and Charleston bring large crowds. Also, schools like Charleston and Scott County Central bring attention to fans outside their respective schools due to both teams contending for state championships every season. Did I mention that rivalry is intense too?
- Wider Concession Choices-Want pizza? Got it. Want Pretzels? Got it. Larger Soda? Got it! The Show Me Center provides a little more concession variety than Bloomfield's tournament, and instead of settling for a $2.00 bottle of soda, make it larger and not run back and forth to get a drink. Then again, that sometimes applies to gym rats like me that stay and watch all of these teams play.
- Parking-Since the Show Me Center is home to the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State, and several events/expos in the region, parking is plentiful. While it can fill up on occasion, you can still find ample parking even on the most packed of nights in the tournament.
- Little parity between the teams-While this has improved in previous years, it's still EXTREMELY unlikely that we see a lower seed creep into the Championship Semi-Finals. Usually, its four out of the top five teams seeded. Six if you're lucky on occasion. Also, the quality of teams really seems to drop after you pass the 10 seed, as you see the best of the best in the top, but often the worst of the worst too. Sadly, some of these teams know they could be 2 and out at best. (Both tournaments are Double Elimination.)
- Double Entry Fees-Eight Games are played on Days 1 and 2, and split into morning and evening sessions. However, you can't stay around at the end of session 1 to wait for the next set of games to start, as you are forced to leave and pay another entry fee to get in, which usually has been $4 in recent years. If you wanted to watch all 26 in this tournament, entry fees will cost you $24, along with a little time in the cold on days one and two. Gotta pay the bills somehow, though.
- Sense of Emptiness-Yes, playing in a D1 Basketball arena is great. However, what if you're stuck playing in an early morning/afternoon game, and you see tons of empty seats around you. It makes a tournament that should feel special sometimes, into just another game. For most of these schools, this tournament is just as important as winning a district championship, and making a deep run into the state playoffs!
- Lots of parity here. Usually, there's a good slate of 6 or 7 teams that can win it all. (We saw that happen with Holcomb as a #6 seed win last year.) However, teams can be often on upset alert as well, as sometimes a 9, 10, or even an 11 seed can win on the first day, and often at times be in the running for 5th, maybe even 3rd place. Looking at this years slate (Power Rankings coming Soon), it wouldn't surprise me if we see more than our fair share of upsets.
- Bang for your buck-Yes, the entry fee is $5. But on the first two days when all eight games are back-to-back-to-back and no interruptions? That's pretty good considering what you may be getting yourself into. Don't feel like coming though? All 26 games are televised by YHC TV and streamed online at SemoSportsZone.com.
- Old-School sense-Yes, the arena can seat no more than 2500 people, but the staff there tries to squeeze everyone in for what is usually, great basketball. While the bleacher seats may hurt you after awhile, you feel like you walk into a gym that has been a cornerstone for Southeast Missouri Basketball for over 50 years. It'll be a sad day if and when the gym goes down.
- Parking-If you want to get a good place to park, you better either commute or get there early. Parking in and around the school is often limited. It's not rare that you have to park 3 or 4 blocks away to get to the arena on a packed evening. Also, make sure you're not parking in front of a driveway because your car's license plate will be announced over the PA system with the warning "Please move your car, it WILL be towed."
- Minimal Concessions-Not many concession options are offered here, with its most extravagant offering being Pizza from either Pizza Hut or a local pizza shop. They used to offer Hot Dogs in the tournament, but I haven't seen them being offered in the past few years. Maybe that will change this year. Plus, getting a large fountain cola? Not gonna happen here. Only option is a bottle for $2. Highly suggest eating a large meal before coming to watch games. Then again, the Pizza isn't bad.
- Bleachers-While there are Chair back seats available, there are very few of them. 9 times out of 10, you'll be sitting on the bleachers. If you're sitting for a long time, not good for your torso. But the main worry comes if you roll solo, like me sometimes. Expect to move around quite a bit, especially if your seat gets taken away by someone unsuspecting. Nonetheless, its not that bad of a con, unless you absolutely hate bleachers.
If you ask me to compare the two, I gotta say Bloomfield. Yes, it's right in my backyard by all means. Yes, I'm an Old-School kinda guy, but it comes down to quality of play for me. Any given team has a chance to win and make a deep run. For most of these schools, it's just like winning a district or state title. Plus, 6 out of the 16 schools are in Class 2 District 1, arguably one of the toughest districts in the state. It's nice to see who's going to be hot in the season, or who's got work to do in the weeks following. It's also really good when it's packed elbow to elbow, which has happened on several occasions. Nothing against the bright lights of Cape, it just feels empty and predictable sometimes.
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