March Madness: Southern Conference Tournament Preview and Predictions
Dec 9, 2016; Greensboro, NC, USA; The UNC-Greensboro Spartans mascot stands on the court in the first half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Greensboro Coliseum. Wake defeated UNCG 78-75. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
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March Madness is essentially upon us! With conference tournaments galore going on right now, there is plenty of college basketball to hold fans over until we reach Selection Sunday. One of those tournaments that will be set to tip off in the near future is that of the Southern Conference. And this should be a fun one.
The regular season ended in a three-way tie atop of the conference! With UNC Greensboro, Furman and East Tennessee State all finishing with a 14-4 conference record, they all tied for the top spot. But when it came down to tiebreakers, it is UNC Greensboro who lands the coveted one seed. Furman gets the two and East Tennessee draws the small straw with the three. But who will survive the tournament and represent the Southern Conference in the Big Dance?
Things will tip-off on Friday, March 3rd. From there, no days off for anyone who survives and advances. There will be games throughout the weekend, concluding with the title game on Monday, March 6th at 7:00 pm EST over on ESPN2. You can check out the seedings and bracket below.
(1) UNC Greensboro(2) Furman
(3) East Tennessee State(4) Chatanooga
(5) Wofford(6) Mercer
(7) Samford(8) Western Carolina
(9) The Citadel
Game one will see Western Carolina take on The Citadel. Two teams who are not poised for a deep run in this tournament. With a game against UNC Greensboro on the line for the winner, these two bottom dwellers need to play like this is their last game, as it will be their last good one. Luckily for The Citadel, they will do just that, as they will come out on top here 85-68. But they will then get trounced 85-70.
Game two of the quarterfinals will give us Chattanooga and Wofford. Overall, these two teams are fairly comparable. Defensively, their field goal percentage defense is identical. They shoot the same percentage wise inside the three point line. But outside the line, and at the free throw line, Wofford has the edge. For those reasons, Wofford comes out on top, 73-72.
Next up, we have Samford and VMI, with a game against Furman on the line. And one of these teams are just really really bad, and there is no way I could pick them. That team is VMI, so I see Samford winning this one with ease. Final score, 84-71. Now while I do not love Furman, I do see them as good enough to win this game. So give me Furman, 77-73.
Finally to wrap up the quarterfinals, we have ETSU and Mercer. Now this is going to be a good one. Both of these teams are high quality. ETSU is probably the most impressive team overall statistically in the Southern Conference. Now they are not the greatest defensively, but they will be able to overcome those liabilities in this one, beating Mercer 76-70.
To kick things off in the semis, we will see UNCG taking on Wofford. Now Wofford will certainly be a handful for UNC Greensboro, as they can virtually match them point for point. But when you factor in overall defense and their ability to create more possessions, I see UNC Greensboro moving on to the finals for that chance at an automatic bid. Final score, 75-73.
Their opponents will either be Furman or ETSU. Now both clubs do have some great things going for them. But ETSU has more in my eyes. This will be a great game, going back and forth. But when all is said and done, the three seed will take down the two. Give me ETSU 75-72.
That sets us up with a UNCG vs ETSU. So will the automatic bid go to North Carolina Greensboro or East Tennessee State? As you might expect, these two are fairly close in terms of statistics. This will certainly be a fun championship game that will have plenty of suspense in it. But at the end of the day, ETSU comes out on top 76-72.
So what do you think? Which of the big three teams in the Southern Conference will come out on top? Or will it be another surprise team who wins the bid into the Big Dance? Tell us in the comments!