Packing their bags: SFA 'Jacks to play in Belfast, Ireland next season

Source: KTRE Sports
Source: KTRE Sports
Source: SFA Athletic Department
Source: SFA Athletic Department

If the SFA Lumberjacks had a theme song it might be the classic "I've Been Everywhere" by Johny Cash.

The team has gone everywhere from a tournament in  Hawaii to The Big Apple and up the road from campus in Dallas for the NCAA Tournament. Now the team will embark on a road trip to the Emerald Isle. The team is one of eight schools to be in the 2018  'Belfast Classic'.

In a press release put out Monday the  NCAA  announced that Division I College basketball is going back to Belfast, Northern Ireland for 2018. The Sport Changes Life Foundation (SCLF) in partnership with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (BHOF) and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) will host its second 'Belfast Classic' in the SSE Arena, Belfast on November 29, 30 and December 1, 2018. The tournament will be broadcast live across America.

"The 2018 event will feature an expanded field to eight schools," the release stated. "The schools will compete in two four-team brackets, with University campus round games in America leading into two tournament brackets in Belfast aptly named 'Samson' and 'Goliath' after the iconic Harland and Wolfe cranes in the Titanic quarter ship yard of Belfast."

The field for the 2018 event is as follows: University at Albany (America East Conference), University at Buffalo (Mid-American Conference), Dartmouth College (Ivy League), LIU Brooklyn (Northeast Conference), Marist College (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Horizon League), University of San Francisco (West Coast Conference) and Stephen F. Austin State University (Southland Conference). Brackets and exact schedules will be announced at a later date.

"We have such a great tradition rich program here," Head Coach Kyle Keller said. "I think everyone knows who we are and that is why we got invited to participate. It will be such a fun experience for us. We have a couple of players from Europe so it will be easier for their families to come see them play."

The team will use the games of the tournament to help fill their non-conference schedule. it is a stretch of games where the 'Jacks will be tested before entering a tough South;and Conference.

"It is a great tournament for us against some teams that are comparable to who we are and  what we will find out early in league play with where we stand and what we need to improve upon," Keller said. We went 14-4 in conference play. We finished one game out of first place. We got beat by a good southeastern team and a good Central Arkansas team. Lamar, they were are kryptonite. I have to hand it to them. They beat us twice. I would think 14-4 could win the conference. I would take that record. It just shows how tough the conference has become."

SFA will also head out to Monroe to take on Louisiana Monroe. They will also host Louisiana Tech. After that, they are still searching for a few more non-conference opponents. With the reputation they have on the big stage, that search is harder than one may think.

"Besides winning a game, that is probably the hardest thing to do right now is get some one that wants to play us," Keller said. "It is a jigsaw puzzle you have to piece all together. I wouldn't say people are knocking our doors down wanting to play or come to Nacogdoches. Not many teams play the style we play. That is why you don't see teams getting us. They want to play teams in non-conference that prepare them for a conference run. Not may teams do what we do."

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