Friday, March 5, 2010

Southern Conference Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

With Stephen Curry and the rest of his mates no longer on Davidson, the Southern Conference was expected to be wide-open this season. That turned out to be true, as five teams finished with double-digit league wins. The conference champion ended up being Wofford, which bounced back from a 0-2 start to finish 15-3. Charleston lost two of its final five to finish second at 14-4, while Appalachian State won the North Division at 13-5. Western Carolina and, yes, Davidson finished 11-7.

Favorite: With Wofford winning 15 of its final 16 league games and 19 of 21 overall, the Terriers have to be considered the headliner. This is a battle-tested group with wins over South Carolina and Georgia. Wofford plays excellent defense, controlling the glass and forcing difficult shots for opponents. The Terriers’ offense is predicated on taking care of the ball and getting to the foul line. Forward Noah Dahlman is the go-to-guy, as one of the most efficient scorers in the country. Jamar Diggs is a solid all-around guard, and Junior Salters can shoot.

Contenders: Charleston was pegged as the preseason favorite by some, and the Cougars looked on their way until going just 6-4 in their last 10 SoCon games. Charleston likes pushing the ball; the Cougars are a very good offensive team that can score from inside and outside the arc. Andrew Goudelock is a big-time scorer, while Donovan Monroe and Tony White Jr. are also solid guards. Jeremy Simmons is a double-double threat down low. North Division champions Appalachian State is hot, having won eight of its last nine. The Mountaineers are a highly-effective offensive team, although they do turn it over too often. Defensively, they limit fouls and control the glass. Guard Donald Sims is one of the most explosive scorers in the conference, while Kellen Brand and big man Isaac Butts provide other options.

Sleeper: When you throw Western Carolina into the mix, it might be tough for a sleeper to break through. However, The Citadel could be a threat. The Bulldogs have defeated Charleston, Appalachian State and Western Carolina, and lost just two league games by double-digits. They slow down the game, and use the guard tandem of high-scoring Cameron Wells and gunner Zach Urbanus to score points.

Prediction: The tournament is at a completely neutral site, making it even more up in the air. Charleston might have the most offensive weapons in the league, but Wofford is playing the best basketball. Appalachian State has Donald Sims, and Western Carolina has a few impressive wins this season. In the final, I expect the top two teams from the South Division to match-up: Wofford and Charleston. The two teams split the regular-season match-ups, and I think Wofford will win the rubber match. Charleston’s defensive deficiencies and rebounding struggles will be too much to overcome against a tough defense like Wofford. The Terriers advance to the NCAA Tournament.

No comments:

Post a Comment