Southern Conference Tournament Preview

7 Mar

Where: US Cellular Center Asheville, NC

When: 3/7-10

Bracket 

Who should win…#1 Davidson steamrolled the SoCon competition once again for old time’s sake in their final season in the league. They lost just once and that was in OT to Elon back on 1/16. The defense looked to be a major issue for Davidson after a tough non conference slate and a bizarre loss to Niagara, but they got healthy and once again led the SoCon in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Led by De’Mon Brooks and sharp shooting Brian Sullivan, the Wildcats should once again win this tournament. Weakness…they can be beat on the perimeter by quicker, more athletic guards. I think Davidson’s biggest challengers actually lie in their half of the bracket with the winner of Elon/WCU. Davidson beat second seeded UT Chattanooga by 43, and third seeded Wofford by an average margin of 12.5.

If not them then…the winner of #4 Elon and #5 WCU. Elon had been clicking after hitting a bit of rough patch in mid January, but then dropped two straight at home to the top teams in the league, including a revenge beat down from Davidson. Elon and WCU similar in that they both shoot the 3 a lot, and are senior laden teams, both ranking in the top 30 in terms of experience. Defensively they’re not that similar in that Elon likes to stay disciplined and not gamble on steals, instead pushing teams off the 3 point line. WCU on the other hand brings a lot of pressure and has the highest defensive TO rate in the conference to try and compensate for their lack of height. This unfortunately tends to lead to a lot of fouls. The two split their series, with each winning relatively easily on their home floors. Elon struggled with WCU’s pressure in the first meeting, but had it solved by the second, and Troutman was much more comfortable inside at home. WCU has to get Tawaski King involved for more balance. There was a stretch in mid Feb where it looked like that was the case, but then his production curtailed again. He is coming off a nice outing in the Samford loss though. I would think Elon probably prevails again, but WCU has been to at least the semis three straight years. These are both veteran teams who would love nothing more than to finally break through just once over Davidson.

Sleepers: Tough to call #2 UT Chattanooga and #3 Wofford sleepers, and one of them has a better shot than Elon/WCU of winning this tournament simply because they can reach the finals. Will Wade has completely revitalized the UTC program already and his first season isn’t even over. He has brought “Chaos” to Chattanooga, as he was a Shaka Smart assistant. While he doesn’t quite have the personnel there yet to fully implement it, the Mocs to bring some pressure, but the biggest issue defensively is in transition. They’re a bad defensive rebounding team and teams are getting out in front of them off the glass. If they make buckets and get the pressure set, they can beat you. Unfortunately, outside of Mason being a monster inside, they don’t have anyone who can consistently hit shots. White and Bareika are going to need to get hot over the weekend for the Mocs to have a real chance at winning.

Wofford plays the slowest tempo in the conference, and outside of Cochran (26th in the country in % of shots taken), they really don’t have anyone who can score points when they need it. They have no height and no presence inside on offense or defense, and they have a bad bracket. Excluding The Citadel, they’re 0-3 vs UTC and UNC Greensboro this year.

The Rest:

#8 Samford vs #9 Appalachian State

ASU swept the series this year, and that was with minimal if non existent contributions from Canty and Neal. Neal will be back from suspension, but Canty is still out. Spagnolo dominated the interior for ASU, going 17-25 and 20 rebounds in the two games. App State’s 5 SoCon wins are 2x over Samford, 2x over The Citadel, and a home win over Georgia Southern. They also represent Furman’s only non Citadel win. I think Samford likely gets revenge here, and Seltzer has even deployed Michael Bradley lately, and the big UConn transfer has played well inside. He might get some minutes again to bother Spagnolo., as Seltzer might have a trick up his sleeve. Samford is the better team, despite having lost twice to ASU. They have wins over UTC, Elon, and most recently over WCU. Not really sure what Tyler Hood’s status is, but it’s something to keep an eye on if you can find any news.

#7 Georgia Southern vs #10 Furman 

Georgia Southern has zero height, none. That makes Furman and their zone a perfect matchup for the three point heavy Eagles. The first meeting went to OT, but the Eagles pulled off the sweep, and looking ahead, they beat UTC in their only meeting when the Mocs couldn’t slow down Bussey and Hewitt in transition. Could be a little interesting on Saturday.

#6 UNC Greensboro vs #11 The Citadel 

The Citadel comes in actually having two in a row and with a little confidence knowing they could have beat the Spartans on the road in the first meeting. They blew a double digit second half lead before falling in OT. Ashton Moore has been a scoring machine lately after 3 straight off games, but the key is Van Scyoc. If he get an Paulos, Locker, or even Cain to guard him away from the rim, it could help with The Citadel’s major issues on the glass. In general, Cain and Locke got whatever they wanted inside in the first meeting, and when The Citadel goes zone to compensate for that, Paulos and Potts can exploit that.

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