Thursday, March 1, 2007

Southern Conference Tournament Preview

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The Southern Conference has been one of the more underrated conferences all season long. They have two legitimate at-large contenders in Davidson and Appalachian State, plus a few other quality teams. Davidson won the conference with an outstanding 17-1 record, while ASU won the North division with a 15-3 record. Only two other teams, UNC-Greensboro and Charleston, finished .500 or better.

Favorites: Davidson and Appalachian State are the two best teams in the league, hands-down. Davidson has flown under the radar for the most part, but won 21 of their last 22 games, the lone loss at home to Appalachian State. The Wildcats are very efficient on both sides of the ball; they shoot well from all spots; and they also dominate the glass. They are led by freshman sensation Stephen Curry, who averages over 20 points per game on the perimeter. Inside, Thomas Sander and Boris Meno form one of the better post duos around. Appalachian State knocked off VCU, Virginia, and Vanderbilt in non-conference play, but had a few bad losses in league play. They are the best offensive team in the conference, and have plenty of scorers. D.J. Thompson is one of the best all-around guards in the league, while forwards Donte Minter and Jeremy Clayton form an excellent forward combo up front. The Mountaineers are deep and balanced.

Contenders: As the host school, Charleston has a distinct advantage over the rest of the league. The Cougars were the preseason favorite and four of their five league losses came to ASU and Davidson. Dontaye Draper is a terrific guard and distributor, and has the ability to do a variety of things on the court. Their frontcourt is very solid, with forwards Jermaine Johnson and David Lawrence. UNC-Greensboro has defeated Appalachian State and has won four of five heading into the SoCon Tournament. They also have arguably the best player in the league in Kyle Hines. He is one of the most underrated players in the country, but has the ability to get 20 and 10 every night. Ricky Hickman provides balance and athleticism from the perimeter.

Sleeper: Georgia Southern won three in a row heading into the conference tournament, to post a respectable 7-11 league record. They have one of the better inside-outside duos in the league in guard Donte Gennie and forward Louis Graham. Moreover, Dwayne Foreman is one of the best passers in the country, averaging over 6 assists per game. That trio can carry them to an upset or two.

Prediction: Despite the fact that Charleston will be the host of the league tournament, the SoCon final is destined to come down to Davidson and Appalachian State. ASU won the only regular-season meeting, at Davidson. Both teams have good balance and plenty of offensive options. The game will come down to the wire, and I think that Stephen Curry, one of the best freshmen in the country, will come through for the Wildcats. Moreover, Bob McKillop is one of the best coaches around, and has experience in the postseason. He’ll lead them to the promised land.

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