CLAYTON, Mo. -- For the seventh time in the last eight years the Sam Houston State bowling team will compete in the NCAA Championships, but this time it will be a little different.

In past years, there was a day of qualifying to determine seeding for the championship bracket. This year, the teams entered seeded and the double elimination bracket play will start Thursday morning.

The Kats are the No. 5 seed in this year’s event and will open with No. 4 Vanderbilt. In the new format, the teams will bowl a traditional format, a baker and then a best of seven if necessary.

“We like the new format,” said head coach Brad Hagen. “Now it has a feel of total pins. You knock down the most pins you are going to win the first match. You knock down the most pins in the baker set you are going to win the match.”

For the Bearkats, along with fellow Southland Bowling League members Arkansas State and Vanderbilt, they are a little more familiar with the process this weekend. This is the same format used in the Southland Championship the last two years.

“A few teams are going to be new to this format this week,” said senior Stephanie Zavala, who is competing in her fourth NCAA Championship. “They don’t know it is going to be more of a marathon than a sprint. I think this will really let the stronger teams prevail, because it will help the teams who are consistent instead of the team who can get hot for five minutes.”

Thursday’s opening match with Vanderbilt is an opponent the Kats are very familiar with. The two teams have squared off 10 times this year and the Bearkats hold a 4-6 record against the Commodores this season. In the Baker format the two teams split the two matches. In the traditional format Vanderbilt holds a 2-1 advantage and in the best of seven they have a 3-2 lead.

“Usually anytime we play Vanderbilt it is a very competitive match,” said head coach Brad Hagen. “The nice thing is, in our conference, we see them a lot. We can kind of come up with our game plan and have an idea of what they are going to do.”

Action will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning with second-round matches beginning at 3 pm. All matches are streamed live at www.ncaa.com/live