Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Southern Conference Tournament Preview

The Southern Conference is home to one of two undefeated conference champions, along with Illinois of the Big Ten. The Davidson Wildcats finished 16-0 in the conference after a tough 5-7 non-league season. However, don't overlook the other teams in the conference, as eleven of those sixteen conference victories were by single digits. There are six other teams in the Southern that finished with at least a 9-7 record. The Wildcats were definitely the best team, though. They were a fairly thin team, only having seven players play at least ten minutes per game, but only one averaged more than thirty minutes per contest. Swingman Brendan Winters leads the team in scoring (3rd in the conference) and steals and is second in rebounding. He has put up double figures in every game except one this season. Sixth man Ian Johnson and Logan Komalski are a very good post combo, both averaging over 11 points a game, and Komalski fourth in the conference in rebounding. Kenny Grant leads the league in assists and also provides scoring and rebounding. Jason Morton comes off the bench to average 10 points per game. As a team, they rank second in the league in scoring defense. UT-Chattanooga won the North Division with a 10-6 record. After winning seven of eight in January, the Mocs lost six of their final ten. Chris Brown and Mindaugas Katleynas form one of the best forward combos in the league, combining to average 23 points and over 15 boards per game. Alphonso Pugh is another double figure scorer in the frontcourt; he comes off the bench. Perimeter production is provided by Casey Long, who leads the team in assists and steals. College of Charleston got the second seed from the South division, finish 10-6. They won their last three games entering the conference tourney, after going 5-6 in the previous 11. They lost to Davidson twice by a combined 7 points. Tony Mitchell leads the way for the Cougars, leading the team in scoring, and also averages almost two steals per game. Dontaye Draper, another 5-11 guard, is a great sidekick to Mitchell, as he puts up twelve points and almost two steals every night. Stanley Jackson is a solid perimeter option, as well, scoring in double figures and ranking second on the team in rebounding. Bernard Jackson is the post man, and he leads the squad in boards and also averages double figures. Drew Hall is second in the conference in assists. UNC-Greensboro finished 9-7 and got the second seed from the North division. They won their last three games after losing six of seven games prior to that. They may have the best trio in the conference in Ronnie Burrell, Ricky Hickman, and Kyle Hines. Hickman anchors the backcourt, averaging almost 15 a game, but has boosted his play during the recent winning streak, putting up 19 per contest. Hines and Burrell are two of the best forwards in the conference. Both rank in top 6 in the league in rebounding, and they combine for over 29 points per game to go with their near 17 per game average in rebounding. While Burrell has struggled a bit lately, Hines has been going for 18 and 9 every night over the past 3 games. Georgia Southern, the league's highest scoring team by a landslide, finished 10-6 in the South. 5-8 Elliot Nesbitt is overshadowed by another 5-8 guard, Tim Smith from East Tennessee State, but he is a wonderful talent in his own right, and is second in the conference in scoring at over 20 a game. Terry Williams is fifth in the league in assists, and compliments Nesbitt with 13 points a game. Williams and Nesbitt each also average over two steals per contest. Jean Francois is one of the best forwards in the league, going for over 14 points and almost 8 rebounds every night. Louis Graham has come on lately, averaging a double double and 2 blocks in only 21 minutes over the past 3 games. The problem with the Eagles, though, is that they are the second worst defensive team in the conference, giving up close to 76 points per game, 82 in losses. Appalachian State finished 9-7 and got the third seed from the North. They have split their last four after winning seven in a row. 11 guys average double figures in minutes, including the backcourt of Noah Brown and D.J. Thompson (third in the Southern in the assists), who are the lone double figure scorers for the Mountaineers. Due to their balance, however, they have had twelve players score double figures in points sometime this season. Furman is the seventh team in the conference that was above .500 in league play, but they have been up and down all season and are not really a threat to win the tournament. However, they have given Davidson two very tough games, so you can not count them out. Of the rest of the teams in the league, I think that East Tennessee State was overrated at the beginning of the season, but may be a bit overlooked now. Yes the Bucs went 4-12, but they have the league's leading scorer in Tim Smith and leading rebounder in Dillon Sneed; when a team has that, they could always be considered a sleeper.
Prediction: Davidson obviously has to be the favorite to win it, and I am going to go with them as a result of their perfect season. However, they are very vulnerable and did not dominate the league. Chattanooga is loaded, UNC-Greensboro has the best trio in the conference, and Georgia Southern can score with the best.

No comments:

Post a Comment