Tag:southern conference
Posted on: March 8, 2010 11:39 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 9:35 am
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The Monday Night Wrap

MATT JONES

11:30 PM

Now THAT is what Championship Week is supposed to be about.  One great game goes to overtime, another team makes its first ever NCAA Tournament and a power goes down in a game they always win.  This was the kind of night we have waited for!  Some notes:

---  The game of the night was the MAAC Championship, which our man CM recapped in a great running journal, but was a classic game for March.  Siena is the power of the conference, having made the last two NCAA Tournaments and won their first round game in both, a feat that less than ten teams in the country will be able to claim in this year's version of the NCAA.  They got down big early, falling behind by 13, just as they had in both their quarter and semifinal games as well.  But they stormed back, and watched as their opponent Fairfield, went ice cold in overtime to give Siena their third straight tournament berth.  Siena is slowly entering the Gonzaga/Butler level, where they can no longer be considered a sleeper team, but rather are a legitimate power to be contended with every season.  They showed the heart of a champion tonight.

---  Ding-Dong the witch is dead.  Gonzaga showed why its the softest program in America yet again on Monday, getting hammered by St Marys.  The Zags were beaten off the dribble, outhustled to loose balls and then lost their cool down the stretch, getting smoked by 19 in the tournament final.  That game thus gave us two realities...first, St Marys is in and worries about their bubble status are irrelevant.  And second, Gonzaga is once again a team to ignore in your NCAA pool...just like every year.

---  The best story of the night comes from Wofford, which will be in its first NCAA Tournament ever after winning the Southern Conference Tournament in Charlotte.  The Terriers held on to beat Appalachian State after giving up an 18 point second half lead and allowing the App. State to cut the game to three.  But Wofford hit big free throws down the stretch and they will be dancing for the first time in school history.  The tiny school in Rock Hill, South Carolina is known for almost nothing except having produced Wendy Nix and a bunch of congressmen in South Carolina that you dont know.  But now they will be the darlings of the NCAA Tournament, and having beaten both South Carolina and Georgia this year, they could be dangerous depending on the matchup.

---  The final ticket was punched in the "Battle of the Moustaches" as Old Dominion won the Colonial Title with a solid win over William and Mary.  ODU is going to its first tournament since 2007, built in large part on there athletic play that has overwhelmed their opponents in the Colonial, both in the regular season and the tournament.  When you watch ODU play, think of two things...first their coach's black moustache has the potential to be one of the 4 or 5 most ridiculous modern looks you will see from people that venture out in public.  Also, ODU is another team that can pull a shocker...they will likely be ticketed for something like a #13 seed, and if given the right #4 team (like maybe Vandy), we could see the traditional 4-13 upset go down,

So there you have it...a great night of college basketball to kick off one of the most fun weeks of the year.  Tonight we have three more finals, with the Sun Belt Conference, The Big Sky and the Butler-dominated Horizon League.  Also, the Big East Tournament kicks off in New York and we get that exciting South Florida-Depaul matchup that you have waited all year for.  We will get you ready for all these events and more all day...so stay tuned and tell your friends...because they want to know, even if they say they don't.

Posted on: March 8, 2010 8:58 pm
 

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE FINAL LIVE BLOG

MATT JONES

9:00  PM

This is for the true believers...those that love strange basketball (hello Wofford vs Appalachian State!) and absurd commentary.  Come join us!

 

Posted on: March 8, 2010 6:41 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2010 6:49 pm
 

SoCon finale tries to save tournament

MIKE RUTHERFORD

In 25 years, I've been wrong three times. New York isn't the capital of New York, Contact didn't win Best Picture, and regardless of what happens tonight, the Southern Conference Tournament is not going to be one of the most competitive of the 30 Championship Week has to offer. 

Donald Sims (0) of Appalachian State battles for a rebound with Davidson's JP Kuhlman (5), Ben Allison (42) and Steve Rossiter (23). (Tim Cowie photo)

The first two games of the four-day event featured Elon upsetting Davidson 66-59, and UNC-Greensboro topping Furman in a 66-65 thriller. Since then, a grand total of ZERO games have been decided by less than ten points. The average margin of victory in those eight contests was 16.75. 

"Never seen anything like it," said made-up All-Sessions ticket holder Bryce Jacobson. "Every game is the '64 presidential election. I voted for Goldwater, if you know what I'm saying. You don't? What time does Furman play again?"

The lowest low point in this, the Jim Jarmusch film of Championship Week came Sunday evening when the four top teams in the league met in what was supposed to be a pair of hotly contested semifinal games. Instead, Wofford blasted Western Carolina by 19, only to be outdone by Appalachian State's 77-54 trouncing of College of Charleston hours later. 

But there is hope. Tonight's 9 p.m. title game between Wofford and Appy State is a battle of the North and South Division champs, a couple of teams that played a 77-76 classic back on Dec. 7. ASU won that game, but the Terriers are the top overall seed in the tournament and winners of 12 straight. 

It's the only nationally televised SoCon game of the year, so I suppose the lopsided theme of the past three days can be saved by a beauty this evening. 

Little solace for Bryce Jacobson. 

 

Posted on: March 8, 2010 1:01 am
 

The Day Ahead: Monday of Championship Week

MATT JONES

1:00 AM

It was a relatively calm day (again) in the world of Championship Week and we were all left wondering, when is the Madness going to start?  The only news of big importance was the 67-52 win by Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, that sends the Panthers into the Big Dance with an automatic bid, thus ensuring that bubble teams from major conferences have another bid to fight over in the next week.   The Missouri Valley Tournament was supposed to be the highlight of the first four days of Championship Week, but it ended up being a dud, thus leaving us hoping for more wackiness in the days ahead.  I suspect we will see it however, as there are FOUR CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS TONIGHT, each of which provide interesting storylines to follow.  Here is a snapshot:

COLONIAL:  Old Dominion vs William and Mary

We get started in the heart of the Confederacy, as Old Dominion takes on William and Mary for the automatic bid in the Colonial Conference.  This entire tournament was suspected to be an elaborate ruse to get Old Dominion on the court with Northeastern for the title, but old William and his wife Mary combined to pull off the upset in the second semifinal on Sunday and ruin everyone's fun.  In all actuality, the most exciting basketball in all of America may have taken place at the Colonial Semifinals Sunday, as Old Dominion squeaked into the finals in OT, beating a tough VCU team in an offensive showcase, followed by William and Mary winning a defensive battle over Northeastern.  Now the two styles meet on Monday at 7 pm, with Old Dominion the heavy favorite.  For those of you following bubble teams, be on alert....Old Dominion is in contention for an at-large bid, so if they fall, you lose a bid for a mediocre power conference school.  You have been warned.

MAAC:  Siena vs Fairfield

At 7 pm tonight, the top two teams in the MAAC will square off for the automatic bid, with familiar Siena the favorite once again.  Siena only has one loss in conference and had they beaten Butler in the Bracketbuster event, would be a sure lock for the Tournament.  But now they may need to win on Monday, producing more pressure for this "biggest little program in America" than possibly any other school playing.  The last time these two teams matched up, it was on Siena's home court, where this game is also being played.  In that contest, Siena won with a late shot, 69-67.  This game will be a war and could be the game of the night.  Plus its in Albany and maybe David Patterson will show up with a mistress and make New Jersey jokes.  One can only hope.

SOUTHERN:  Wofford vs Appalachian State

I learned two important facts about this tournament over the course of the last four days.  First, the initial two rounds were played in something called the "Bojangles Coliseum", which may be the strangest name for an arena in these here United States.  If you are from North Carolina, you know Bojangles and its great dirty rice, but I think a move to the more mainstream "Time Warner Cable Arena" for the final two rounds was appropriate.  Then, I was also excited to learn that the former Miss Teen South Carolina who told us that we should give maps to the "Iraqis and such as" goes to Appalachian State.  I have been to Boone, North Carolina before and it is the best college town that no one knows about and has a disproportionate amount of gorgeous women for a school its size.  I tell you that only to say that when you watch this game, you should think not only about the action on the court (these are two of the three best teams in the league and Appalachian State won the only regular season meeting by one point), but the fun the people in Boone are having while you are watching on your couch.

WEST COAST:  Gonzaga vs St Marys

Has Gonzaga ever not played St Marys?  Seriously, everytime it is late at night and Gonzaga is on television, they are playing St Marys.  It is like the old NBA in the 90s, when the Knicks and Heat were contractually required to play each other 40 times a year, and each game would end 73-72 in Overtime.  Well once again they will play, this time for the West Coast Conference title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.  Gonzaga is of course the heavy favorite because they still have that kid who did mushrooms and a lot of long guys with floppy hair who will beat you senseless so long as it isnt March.  St Marys no longer has Patty Mills, so they stink, just not as badly as the other teams in the West Coast Conference.  If Gonzaga loses, it takes away a bubble spot, but they wont, so when the game starts at 9 pm, flip over and watch the Southern Conference.  There will be better looking women, a better game and you might learn what a "Wofford" is.

So there you have it...your night on tap.  We will be around all day for more updates as we shift into high gear for what will be a great week of basketball excitement and random blogging action.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 11:33 pm
 

The Day Ahead: Sunday of Championship Week

MATT JONES

11:45 PM

It was a day filled with college basketball, both large and small, a perfect example of what makes the sport great and how wonderful sports can be when you are playing for the name on the front...ah forget it, I cant do that with a straight face.  It was a highly entertaining day of hoops around the college game, although most of the big action occurred with the major powers.  Syracuse was beaten by Louisville for the second time this year, closing down Freedom Hall with chants of a player who going into the contest was averaging three points a game ("You got Kuriced!").  Kansas State kissed their hopes for a #1 seed goodbye with an embarassing loss at home to Iowa State that will force the bars in Manhattan to close extra late (11:00 pm) in order for people to drown their sorrows.  And Vanderbilt lost out on a chance at the SEC crown by losing at home to South Carolina and their coach with a 5th grader's haircut, Darrin Horn.  If you were a fan of the big boys, today was a good day.

But we are here to focus on Conference Tournaments, and in that realm...well I was a bit disappointed.  I had visions of tight matchups, crazy finishes and potential early-round upsets.  Instead, I got something quite different, and I am not just talking about Laphonso Ellis's announcer hair.  The usual suspects punched their tickets to the Big Dance and entertaining games were few and far between.  Lets look at what might qualify as the day's highlights:

1.  Three Tickets to the Big Dance Were Punched

---  We started with the biggest event in Conway, South Carolina since Ronnie Milsap came to town in 1982, as Winthrop defeated Coastal Carolina 64-53 to win the Big South Tournament,  I will admit that I watched the entire game but couldnt tell you one thing that happened during it, as it was played in the most boring manner possible in front of the smallest crowd that I have ever seen watch a game that was for an NCAA berth.  However that was exactly the scenario that Winthrop hoped to accomplish, attempting to slow the game down and believing that if it could hold Coastal Carolina under 60, it would win.  Well the Eagles did, and the Chantacleers ended the dream of an NCAA Tournament team based upon Geoffrey Chaucer.  For Winthrop, it is their 5th NCAA Tournament appearance in 6 years, and continues the trend of dominance over the league, even in years in which they didnt win the regular season title.  Winthrop moves on and someone who only knows basketball in March will see their likely 2-15 game and say "they could pull off a shocker."  I watched them today...they cant.  (John Wilkinson on the win and the fire on Winthrop's Campus)

---  The wackiest early Championship Week tournament concluded in the Atlantic Sun Conference with #5 seed East Tennessee State taking down Mercer 72-66 on Mercer's home court to make its second straight NCAA Tournament.  Again, it was another game that I watched from start to finish and struggled to find memorable moments.  ETSU is however coached by Gene Bartow's kid Murray, who isnt really a kid I guess since he has bigger bags under his eyes than Jeff Van Gundy, but who continues his dad's coaching legacy with another tournament bid.  ETSU is the early favorite to be the lowest ranked team in the field and could be headed for the play-in game in Dayton. However they are headed for the Big Dance, which is more than I can say for North Carolina, which just cut it to a 33 point second-half deficit against Duke.  If UNC were a horse, they would put a curtain around it and start setting up the flower memorials for children who need to weep.  (Thomas Beisner on why the NCAA Hates what the Atlantic Sun stands for)

---  The game of the night was supposed to be in the Ohio Valley Conference, as two heated rivals were going to produce a game that would justify me staying in on a Saturday night to watch OVC basketball.  Instead, we got a Murray State 62-51 snoozer of a victory over Morehead State that even left the players' families on both teams asking why they had been subjected to it.  The refereeing was atrocious, stopping the game of any real flow, and when Morehead's MVP, Kenneth Faried went down with an injury, well the game was more gone than Roy Williams' pride.  Murray's Isaiah Cannan led the way with not only his biblical name, but 16 points as well, setting Murray up as one of the truly dangerous teams in March.  If Murray ends up with a 13 or 14 seed, the team that draws them needs to be on major upset alert.  This Murray State team, like so many in year's past from the program, is built to make March noise and absent drawing Michigan State, I am picking them in the their first NCAA game.  (Here is CM Tomlin's take on the game)

2.  Butler and Siena Hang On

There are three teams playing in conference tournaments right now that could still be in line for NCAA berths even if they lose.  Northern Iowa and Butler are locks for the Big Dance and Siena still has dreams of making it, even if they lose the MAAC tournament.  Thus for major conference bubble teams, these three squads are their new darlings, because any loss by them means ones less team for the big boys.  Today Butler and Siena tried to make life interesting by falling down early in their tournament games.  Butler was in the most surprising trouble, actually trailing at halftime at home to UM-Milwaukee in the Horizon Conference Semifinals before coming back and winning 68-59.  In the MAAC, Siena had an even more difficult time, falling down ten late in the first half to Manhattan, before pouring it on late for a 78-61 win.  Butler now faces Wright State in the finals next week and Siena moves on to play Rider in the Semifinals.

3.  Form Held Everywhere

All across the land I awaited one upset that would leave me shaking in my boots and have my foundations crumbled.  All I got however was news that Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons were fighting, likely for the title of "which formerly really fun sports guy has seen his sense of self-importance skyrocket the most in the last two years?"  Even though opening rounds and quarterfinals took place all across the land, no #1 or #2 were knocked off and the closest thing to an upset occurred with #2 seed Northeastern held off Hofstra in the MAAC Tournament.  March is still hopefully going to be mad, but it just wasnt today.

SUNDAY----WHAT TO WATCH FOR

This Sunday is the proverbial "day of rest" before Championship Week hits a fevered pitch beginning on Monday.  But that doesnt mean that there arent storylines to follow and games to watch:

1.  Missouri Valley Conference Finals

The fifth ticket to the NCAA Tournament will be punched when Northern Iowa plays Wichita State for the MVC Tournament title on Sunday afternoon on CBS.  Stereotypically, "Arch Madness" provides us with the biggest games and at least one shocking upset every year, but this edition has been relatively tame.  Northern Iowa is playing not only for the championship, but seeding, as a win could put them in the 6-7 range when the brackets are finally announced.  Whereas Wichita State is playing for something much greater.  The Shockers have not been to the conference tournament final since 1987, a shocking tidbit considering the history of the program.  Their only chance to play in the NCAA is Sunday, and thus they will give the Panthers their best shot.  I have picked against Wichita State in every game and it has proved unsuccessful, so why not again.  Northern Iowa wins and the major conferences get another mediocre team in the Tournament.

2.  Six Sets of Semifinals Are on Tap

Its Semifinal day across the Tournament landscape, as conferences get ready to set their final matchups for early next week.  Most are relatively boring and can be skipped for your preparation for The Oscars, but two are worth watching:

Southern

#2 Western Carolina vs #1 Wofford

#2 College of Charleston vs #1 Appalachian State

Colonial

#1 Old Dominion vs #4 VCU

#2 Northeastern vs #3 William and Mary

Both of these conferences have been setting up for monster battles for the title all year long, but each team needs one more victory to get to the much-anticipated game.  In the Southern Conference, the possibility of Wofford vs Bobby Cremins and his white hair at College of Charleston has been the goal all year, and the two teams from the same division face stiff challenges in order to make it happen.  As for the Colonial (which Mike Rutherford broke down extensively here), Northeastern and Old Dominon both at one time had visions of potential at-large bids to the Tournament, but now both need to win the title to go dancing.  If they can take care of business on Sunday, their title matchup might be the best of all the smaller conference games during Championship Week.

3.  The MAC Tournament Starts

Well ok that isnt all that exciting, especially since it is only the opening round, but I needed three things and couldnt think of anything else.  But The Oscars are coming, so that counts for something right?  I have "Hurt Locker" as my best picture ("Up in the Air" is second, "Inglorious Basterds" is third), Jeff Bridges as Best Actor (He is great in "Crazy Heart") and I guess Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side", although she was never as good as her performance in Speed 2.  And if movies arent your thing, talk to your family...you wont get to much over this next month.

Posted on: March 5, 2010 11:41 am
Edited on: March 5, 2010 1:20 pm
 

Southern Conference Tournament Preview

MIKE RUTHERFORD

Whether it was because they were dominating or being upset, Davidson has been the story of the Southern Conference Tournament for the past four years. A new era begins today, however, as Stephen Curry is gone, the Wildcats are a middle-of-the-pack squad, and the SoCon has four days of basketball on the horizon that should be as competitive as any you'll find this postseason. 

SITE: Bojangles' Coliseum/Time Warner Cable Arena: Charlotte, N.C.

DATES: March 5-8

SET-UP: The SoCon is comprised of two divisions, and the champion and runner-up of those divisions are awarded first round byes into the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams are faced with the unenviable task of having to win four games in four days, beginning Friday. 

THE FAVORITE: Wofford (23-8, 15-3)

Regardless of what happens over the next four days, Wofford, which moved to Division-I in 1995 and joined the Southern Conference two years later, has already had the most successful season in program history. Despite the fact that all but one of the top seven scorers on the team are underclassmen, the Terriers have set school records for wins (both in conference and overall) and claimed their first SoCon regular season title. They come to Charlotte riding a program-best 10-game winning streak, and have lost just once (a 70-68 decision at Charleston) in 2010. 

Experience is the biggest factor standing between the Terriers and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Wofford has never been past the SoCon semifinals and this year's squad boasts just one senior key contributor. 

315746390_0d617b8aaf_medium

THE CONTENDERS

Appalachian State (20-11, 13-5) claimed its 10th North Division title and will begin its march towards its first trip to the dance since 2000 on Saturday. They've lost just once in their past nine games, a one-point loss at Charleston (the team they'd likely face in the semifinals) on Feb. 17. The Mountaineers are one of the three teams to hand Wofford a conference loss, winning on the road by a point way back on Dec. 7. They're coached by Buzz Peterson, whose wife we hope is every bit as hot as she was when he was the head man at Tennessee. 

College of Charleston (20-10, 14-4) owns the second best record in the league and is the only SoCon team to have knocked off both Wofford and Appalachian State. Boasting a three-guard lineup and four players who average double figures in scouring, the Cougars are probably the most fun team in the league from a viewer's perspective. Former Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Cremins has guided CoC to the conference title game in two of his three years at the helm, but has yet to get the Cougars over the hump.

Western Carolina (21-10, 11-7) made national waves when they raced out to a 10-1 start and shocked nationally ranked Louisville on the Cardinals' home floor. They've come back to earth since league play began, and went just 4-5 in the month of February. The Catamounts still managed to hold on to the last of the league's four first round byes, and won't begin their tournament run until Saturday. 

THE DARKHORSE

Davidson (16-14, 11-7) would likely be even more of a threat if they hadn't been shocked in this tournament a year ago, but the Wildcats are still the league's premier program and carry that confidence-inducing knowledge with them into Charlotte. They open the postseason with an Elon team they beat to end the regular season and are fortunate enough to have the weakest of the four bye teams, Western Carolina, waiting for them in the quarterfinals. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Noah Dahlman (Wofford) The junior forward who earned the coaches' nod for league Player of the Year has scored in double figures 44 straight times and ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage at 59.2%.

Donald Sims (Appalachian State) - Sims led the SoCon in scoring at 20.4 ppg and was the media's choice as the league's top performer. He's the best free-throw shooter in the country, having missed just eight freebies in 159 attempts (95%). 

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Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston) - Part of the Cougars' run-and-gun backcourt, he ranks just behind Sims in scoring (19.2 ppg) and is the most dangerous three-point shooter in the tournament. 

Jake Cohen (Davidson) - The 6-10 conference Freshman of the Year leads the Wildcats in scoring (13.4 ppg).

Brendan McKilliop (Davidson) - The coach's son is the league-leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7:1) and provides invaluable experience in this win-or-go home setting. 

WHERE TO WATCH

You can watch every game (for a price) through the league's website

For everyone else, the semifinals will be carried Saturday night (6, 8:30) on FCS Atlantic, Sport South and ESPN FullCourt. The title game will be carried Monday night at 9 p.m. by ESPN2. 

FULL SCHEDULE

Friday, March 5

Game 1 - (3S) Davidson vs. (6N) Elon, 2:00 p.m.
Game 2 - (4N) UNC Greensboro vs. (5S) Furman, 30 minutes following first game
Game 3 - (4S) The Citadel vs. (5N) Samford, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 - (3N) Chattanooga vs. (6S) Georgia Southern, 30 minutes following. 

Saturday, March 6

(2N) Western Carolina vs. Game 1 winner, 2:00 p.m.
(1S) Wofford vs. Game 2 winner, 30 minutes following first game
(1N) Appalachian State vs. Game 3 winner, 7:00 p.m.
(2S) College of Charleston vs. Game 4 winner, 30 minutes following

Sunday, March 7

Men's Semifinal No. 1 - 6:00 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)
Men's Semifinal No. 2 - 8:30 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)

Monday, March 8

Men's Championship, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

COIN-FLIP TOURNAMENT RESULT (Heads is top seed, tails is lesser seed)

Western Carolina over Appalachian State

TEAM I BLINDLY DREW OUT OF A HAT AND WILL THEREFORE SUPPORT

Furman

BOLD PREDICTIONS 

Davidson has a great shot at upsetting Western Carolina in the quarterfinals and I think that whichever team emerges from that tilt has a good shot to upset Wofford in the semis. Ultimately, I'm going with whoever comes out of the bottom half of the bracket to snag the league's bid to the dance. 

I'll say: Appalachian State over Western Carolina for the title. 

Posted on: March 5, 2010 11:41 am
Edited on: March 5, 2010 1:20 pm
 

Southern Conference Tournament Preview

MIKE RUTHERFORD

Whether it was because they were dominating or being upset, Davidson has been the story of the Southern Conference Tournament for the past four years. A new era begins today, however, as Stephen Curry is gone, the Wildcats are a middle-of-the-pack squad, and the SoCon has four days of basketball on the horizon that should be as competitive as any you'll find this postseason. 

SITE: Bojangles' Coliseum/Time Warner Cable Arena: Charlotte, N.C.

DATES: March 5-8

SET-UP: The SoCon is comprised of two divisions, and the champion and runner-up of those divisions are awarded first round byes into the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams are faced with the unenviable task of having to win four games in four days, beginning Friday. 

THE FAVORITE: Wofford (23-8, 15-3)

Regardless of what happens over the next four days, Wofford, which moved to Division-I in 1995 and joined the Southern Conference two years later, has already had the most successful season in program history. Despite the fact that all but one of the top seven scorers on the team are underclassmen, the Terriers have set school records for wins (both in conference and overall) and claimed their first SoCon regular season title. They come to Charlotte riding a program-best 10-game winning streak, and have lost just once (a 70-68 decision at Charleston) in 2010. 

Experience is the biggest factor standing between the Terriers and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Wofford has never been past the SoCon semifinals and this year's squad boasts just one senior key contributor. 

315746390_0d617b8aaf_medium

THE CONTENDERS

Appalachian State (20-11, 13-5) claimed its 10th North Division title and will begin its march towards its first trip to the dance since 2000 on Saturday. They've lost just once in their past nine games, a one-point loss at Charleston (the team they'd likely face in the semifinals) on Feb. 17. The Mountaineers are one of the three teams to hand Wofford a conference loss, winning on the road by a point way back on Dec. 7. They're coached by Buzz Peterson, whose wife we hope is every bit as hot as she was when he was the head man at Tennessee. 

College of Charleston (20-10, 14-4) owns the second best record in the league and is the only SoCon team to have knocked off both Wofford and Appalachian State. Boasting a three-guard lineup and four players who average double figures in scouring, the Cougars are probably the most fun team in the league from a viewer's perspective. Former Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Cremins has guided CoC to the conference title game in two of his three years at the helm, but has yet to get the Cougars over the hump.

Western Carolina (21-10, 11-7) made national waves when they raced out to a 10-1 start and shocked nationally ranked Louisville on the Cardinals' home floor. They've come back to earth since league play began, and went just 4-5 in the month of February. The Catamounts still managed to hold on to the last of the league's four first round byes, and won't begin their tournament run until Saturday. 

THE DARKHORSE

Davidson (16-14, 11-7) would likely be even more of a threat if they hadn't been shocked in this tournament a year ago, but the Wildcats are still the league's premier program and carry that confidence-inducing knowledge with them into Charlotte. They open the postseason with an Elon team they beat to end the regular season and are fortunate enough to have the weakest of the four bye teams, Western Carolina, waiting for them in the quarterfinals. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Noah Dahlman (Wofford) The junior forward who earned the coaches' nod for league Player of the Year has scored in double figures 44 straight times and ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage at 59.2%.

Donald Sims (Appalachian State) - Sims led the SoCon in scoring at 20.4 ppg and was the media's choice as the league's top performer. He's the best free-throw shooter in the country, having missed just eight freebies in 159 attempts (95%). 

0_focusedweb_medium

Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston) - Part of the Cougars' run-and-gun backcourt, he ranks just behind Sims in scoring (19.2 ppg) and is the most dangerous three-point shooter in the tournament. 

Jake Cohen (Davidson) - The 6-10 conference Freshman of the Year leads the Wildcats in scoring (13.4 ppg).

Brendan McKilliop (Davidson) - The coach's son is the league-leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7:1) and provides invaluable experience in this win-or-go home setting. 

WHERE TO WATCH

You can watch every game (for a price) through the league's website

For everyone else, the semifinals will be carried Saturday night (6, 8:30) on FCS Atlantic, Sport South and ESPN FullCourt. The title game will be carried Monday night at 9 p.m. by ESPN2. 

FULL SCHEDULE

Friday, March 5

Game 1 - (3S) Davidson vs. (6N) Elon, 2:00 p.m.
Game 2 - (4N) UNC Greensboro vs. (5S) Furman, 30 minutes following first game
Game 3 - (4S) The Citadel vs. (5N) Samford, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 - (3N) Chattanooga vs. (6S) Georgia Southern, 30 minutes following. 

Saturday, March 6

(2N) Western Carolina vs. Game 1 winner, 2:00 p.m.
(1S) Wofford vs. Game 2 winner, 30 minutes following first game
(1N) Appalachian State vs. Game 3 winner, 7:00 p.m.
(2S) College of Charleston vs. Game 4 winner, 30 minutes following

Sunday, March 7

Men's Semifinal No. 1 - 6:00 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)
Men's Semifinal No. 2 - 8:30 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)

Monday, March 8

Men's Championship, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

COIN-FLIP TOURNAMENT RESULT (Heads is top seed, tails is lesser seed)

Western Carolina over Appalachian State

TEAM I BLINDLY DREW OUT OF A HAT AND WILL THEREFORE SUPPORT

Furman

BOLD PREDICTIONS 

Davidson has a great shot at upsetting Western Carolina in the quarterfinals and I think that whichever team emerges from that tilt has a good shot to upset Wofford in the semis. Ultimately, I'm going with whoever comes out of the bottom half of the bracket to snag the league's bid to the dance. 

I'll say: Appalachian State over Western Carolina for the title. 

Posted on: March 4, 2010 7:25 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2010 7:53 pm
 

Championship Week(s) Primer

MIKE RUTHERFORD

Opening round action has already tipped in the Big South, Horizon League, Ohio Valley, Patriot League and Atlantic Sun, which means the madness is officially upon us. 

Thirteen days of nothing but dream-fulfilling, career-ending, win-or-turn-in-your-jersey action. All the elements that draw casual fans so completely into the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament are inherent in each and every one of the 30 conference tournaments that will take place over the course of the next two weeks.

Quite simply, it's high drama that you can't find anywhere else in sport.

We've taken our shots at ESPN since the start of the season, but the fact remains that each and every one of us are enormously indebted to the worldwide leader for what it does during college basketball's postseason. Between Thursday and Selection Sunday, ESPN will air 152 conference tournament games on its family of networks. If it was possible for me to get sick of the sport, I would.

Mid and low-major D-I basketball is an acquired taste, and it's one that's especially difficult to attain when the team you love and follow plays in a conference like the Big East. So while I'm fully aware that the majority of you likely aren't interested in any of what you're about to read, allow me to say this: I don't care. This is my favorite time of the year, I'm currently smiling as I type, and this post is going to happen whether you like it or not.

For the rest of you, it's time to get briefed for Championship Week...sans, of course, the six major and four mini-major (A-10, WAC, MWC, C-USA) conferences.

YOUR COMPLETE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT DATES AND LOCATIONS

It's the most logical, if not exciting, jumping off point, and we all know this blog has always been rooted in practicality.

Let's go ahead and include the big boys in this one just because we can.

Conference Tournament site Dates
ACC Greensboro, N.C. March 11-14
America East Hartford, Conn. March 6-7, 13
Atlantic Sun Macon, Ga. March 3-6
Atlantic 10 Atlantic City, N.J. March 9, 12-14
Big East New York March 9-13
Big Sky TBD (regular-season champion) March 6, 9-10
Big South Campus sites (higher seeds) March 2, 4, 6
Big Ten Indianapolis March 11-14
Big 12 Kansas City, Mo. March 10-13
Big West Anaheim, Calif. March 10-13
Colonial Richmond, Va. March 5-8
Conference USA Tulsa, Okla. March 10-13
Horizon Campus sites (higher seeds) March 2, 5-6, 9
Ivy League No Tournament  
MAAC Albany, N.Y. March 5-8
MAC Cleveland March 7, 11-13
MEAC Winston-Salem, N.C. March 8-13
Missouri Valley St. Louis March 4-7
Mountain West Las Vegas March 10-13
Northeast Campus sites (higher seeds) March 4, 7, 10
Ohio Valley Nashville, Tenn. March 2, 5-6
Pac-10 Los Angeles March 10-13
Patriot Campus sites (higher seeds) March 3, 7, 12
SEC Nashville, Tenn. March 11-14
Southern Charlotte, N.C. March 5-8
Southland Katy, Texas March 10-13
Summit Sioux Falls, S.D. March 6-9
Sun Belt Hot Springs, Ark. March 6-9
SWAC Shreveport/Bossier City, La. March 10-13
WAC Reno, Nev. March 11-13
West Coast Las Vegas March 5-8
 
Five is a good number. Agree? Agree.

 

FIVE SQUADS FOR THE BUBBLE BOYS TO PULL FOR

If you're a major conference fan still with us (me), we'll (I'll) humor you.

Rapidly aging fans of teams that haven't done enough yet to warrant "lock" status should adopt these squads as their own for the next couple of weeks.

1. Gonzaga (West Coast)

A perennial occupant of any such list, the 'Zags are merely playing for seed at this point.

2. Butler (Horizon)

Ditto.

3. Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)

A team from the MVC was noticeably absent on this list a year ago. No more, as the Panthers have controlled the Valley from start to finish and have put themselves in position to snag a single-digit seed in the big show. 

4. St. Mary's (West Coast)

No team has been helped more by the struggles of bubble teams from power conferences in recent weeks than the Gaels. They've lost three conference games in a down season for the WCC, but their RPI is strong enough (44) that winning a game in the league tourney and falling to Gonzaga in the finals might be enough to get them an at-large bid. 

5. Siena (Metro Atlantic Athletic)

The Saints' 0-4 record against RPI top 50 teams means they'll likely have to win the MAAC tourney to get in, but the Notre Dames and San Diego States of the world should probably go ahead and don their gold and green this week just to be safe. 

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FIVE MORE BIG TIME FAVORITES

These runaway  regular season champs are all expected to go dancing, but will be relegated to the NIT with an upset.

1. Murray State (Ohio Valley)

The Racers weren't the preseason favorite in the OVC (defending champ Morehead was), but they, ahem, raced out to a 15-0 start in conference play and finished the regular season at 17-1 and 28-4 overall. 

2. Morgan State (MEAC)

Todd Bozeman's Bears are the three-time defending regular season MEAC champs and the defending league tourney champs. Their 14-1 conference record is best by four games. 

3. Oakland (Summit)

The Rawle Marshall-led Golden Grizzlies went to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, but Oakland captured its first Summit League regular season title this season by virtue of its 17-1 league record. 

4. Sam Houston State (Southland)

The Bearkats (it's right) have won 14 of their last 15 and have dominated opponents on their way to a 14-1 league record. SHS has won its last three games by a combined 71 points.

5. Jackson State (SWAC)

They've won 11 straight and sit at 15-1 in the conference but will still almost certainly be sent to Dayton for the play-in game if they can make it through the SWAC tourney unscathed. 

 

15 PLAYERS WHO WILL BE HEARD FROM

1. Gordon Hayward (Butler/Horizon League)

By averaging over 15 points and rebounds a game, Hayward became the fourth Bulldog in five years to bring home Horizon League POY honors. He sat out the regular season finale with a back injury, but should be good to go when Butler takes the floor in the Horizon semifinals on Saturday.

2. Omar Samhan (Saint Mary's/West Coast)

The senior center broke the Saint Mary's single-season scoring record when he dropped 33 on Loyola Marymount Saturday. He went off for 31 and 12 against Gonzaga in the first of two losses to the 'Zags earlier this year.

3. Artsiom Parakhouski (Radford/Big South)

The 6-foot-11 repeat Big South Player of the Year averaged 21.6 points and 13.2 rebounds and led the nation with 24 double-doubles. 

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4. Ryan Wittman (Cornell/Ivy)

You won't get to see him until the big dance since the Ivy League doesn't have a little dance, but the son of ex-NBA head coach Randy Wittman is one of the best shooters in college basketball. 

5. Reggie Holmes (Morgan State/MEAC)

Holmes, a senior, didn't become a full-time starter until this season, but has scored enough (22.0 ppg) to be just 42 points shy of 2,000 for his career. He's gone over 30 points five times this season, including a 34-point outburst in a November win at Arkansas.

6. Kenneth Faried (Morehead State/Ohio Valley)

Faried led the nation in rebounding again this season despite standing just 6-7. The reason for that being possible is simple: he plays harder than anyone else on the floor.  His 22 double-doubles were second only nationally to Parakhouski. 

7. Adnon Hodzic (Lipscomb/Atlantic Sun)

The A-Sun Player of the year averaged over 22 points per game for the top-seeded Bisons. His family fled war-torn bosnia when he was just a toddler.

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8. Ronald Moore (Siena/Metro Atlantic Athletic)

Moore leads the nation in assists per game (7.7), has an assist-to-turnover ratio of more than 3-to-1 and has the Saints poised for another NCAA Tournament run. He almost single-handedly led Siena to a first round victory over Ohio State a year ago, and then handled Louisville's pressure as well as any point guard had all season as the Saints nearly upset the top overall seed in the tournament. 

9. Marquez Haynes (UT-Arlington/Southland)

Haynes, a Boston College transfer, is the nation's third-leading scorer and one of the few true NBA prospects on this list. 

10. Noah Dahlman (Wofford/Southern)

Despite leading the league in scoring, Appalachian State's Donald Sims lost out to Dahlman in a hotly contested race for SoCon Player of the year. The junior forward led the division champion Terriers and ranked fourth in the league in scoring at 17.4 points per game. He has scored in double figures 44 straight times.

11. Tyren Johnson (Louisiana-Lafayette/Sun Belt)

Johnson led the Sun Belt in scoring, was second in rebounding, steals and minutes played, was fourth in blocked shots and in the top 15 in field goal percentage (.503), assists and assists-to-turnover ratio. No other player in the league led his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots.

12. Chris Harris (Navy/Patriot)

The All-Patriot League selection led the league in scoring (21.1), three-pointers made (84) and steals (2.0).

13. Justin Rutty (Quinnipiac/Northeast)

Rutty, Quinnipiac's first NEC Player of the Year, is the prototypical dominant mid-major post player: strong, too short to play low in a BCS conference and extremely aggressive. He notched a league best 14 double-doubles in his junior season. 

14. Larry Sanders (VCU/Colonial Athletic)

The departure of Eric Maynor has allowed Sanders to establish himself as his team's and the league's top post presence, averaging 14.8 ppg and 8.9 rpg. He's expected to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft if he chooses to skip his senior year of college. 

15. Osiris Eldridge (Illinois State/Missouri Valley)

He was the Arch Madness MVP a year ago despite playing for the runner-up, and has admittedly spent the past 12 months preparing for this week and a shot at redemption. 

Osiris_20eldridge_202_medium

 

FIVE MORE BECAUSE I CAN

Marqus Blakely (Vermont/America East)
Donald Sims (Appalachian State/Southern)
Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga/West Coast)
Johnathon Jones (Oakland/Summit)
Michael Deloach (Norfolk State/MEAC)

 

FIVE TITLE GAMES YOU WANT TO HAPPEN

1. Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's (West Coast)

These two simply don't care for one another. The 'Zags swept the regular season series with relative ease, but the stakes will be higher with the Gaels - perhaps - playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. 

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2. Murray State vs. Morehead State (Ohio Valley)

The defending champs and preseason favorites squaring off against the team that surprisingly dominated the league from start to finish. The last meeting between these two ended with Morehead handing Murray its first OVC loss and snapping the nation's longest winning streak in the process. 

3. Akron vs. Kent State (Mid-American)

Two words: identical records (22-8, 12-3).

4. Robert Morris vs. Quinnipiac (Northeast)

Robert Morris spanked the Bobcats by 27 in the NEC semifinals a season ago, but Quinnipiac exacted a bit of revenge in 2010 by knocking off the Colonials on Feb. 20 to earn the head-to-head tiebreaker and bring home the first regular season title in program history. 

5. Stony Brook vs. Vermont (America East)

The Catamounts are back among the league's elite and head into the postseason winners of eight of their last nine. Their only loss over that span was an 82-78 decision at Stony Brook which proved to be the difference in a regular season title race that was ultimately decided by one game. 

 

FIVE CRAZY COMPETITIVE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

Parity reigns supreme and should make for some tremendous games in each of these leagues.

1. Atlantic Sun

Four teams tied for the regular season title, with Lipscomb ultimately earning the top seed by virtue of their 4-2 record against the other three teams. Perennial powerhouse Belmont wasn't one of the teams who finished 14-6, but the Bears enter the postseason as the hottest team in the league, having won eight of nine. 

2. Southern

While Stephen Curry's decision to leave for the NBA a year early will likely have a negative affect on the SoCon title game's TV rating, the tournament itself should be more fun to follow. Or at least the games will be more competitive. Come back, Steph. Wofford (15-3), Charleston (14-4) and Appy State (13-5) are the most likely contenders to end the Davidson Invitational era.  

3. Colonial Athletic Association

There was talk in late January of this league possibly producing multiple at-large bids, but inexcusable stumbles from the league's top dogs quickly brought it back down to win or go home status. Still, any one of the top five teams from this conference (Northeastern, Old Dominion, William & Mary, VCU, George Mason) are more than capable of springing a first round upset in the dance. 

4. Patriot League

With the exception of American and Navy tying for fourth-place at 7-7, each spot in the final league standings is separated by a single game. Year in, year out, the Patriot produces the most competitive quarterfinal contests during the opening week of the postseason. 

5. Sun Belt

Middle Tennessee, Troy and North Texas all finished with league-best records of 13-5. Still, Western Kentucky may (again) be the favorite here, riding a seven-game league winning streak into the Belt tourney. 

 

FIVE CRAPPIER CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

There's been a growing trend in recent years of leagues starting their regular season champions, or top two seeds, in the semifinals of the postseason tournament. It makes sense in that it adequately rewards regular season performance and gives the league its best shot to be well-represented in the NCAA Tournament, but it's like, not as fun.

Here are five conference tournaments that hope the prince cheats on Cinderella in ten years.

1. Big Sky

Not only does the Big Sky automatically place its top two seeds in the semifinals, but it only includes six teams in the whole tournament. A conference tournament that has as many total games as a first round baseball playoff series is un-American. I said it.

2. Horizon League

The Horizon has been utilizing this practice for a few seasons, but two years ago they stepped it up a notch. Now the top two seeds get an automatic bye into the semis, while the other eight teams have to win four games in four days. Wright State earned the second seed over Green Bay by a mere game and now sits in the semifinals, while the poor Phoenix have to win a pair of games just to get there. Of course a year ago Cleveland State did make it to the NCAAs by winning four games from the No. 3 spot.

3. West Coast

Gonzaga and St. Mary's will both begin league play in the semifinals, making this the easiest championship game to predict in the history of college basketball.

4. Big West

The Big West gives its top two seeds a bye into the semis, but it's also one of the few leagues that employs the NHL style of having the highest remaining seed play the lowest remaining seed in each round. Smart? Sure. Annoying as hell for fans of postseason college basketball? You bet.

What have we learned so far? Conference tournaments west of the Mississippi are infinitely lamer than conference tournaments east of the Mississippi. The Big East has four games for three straight days. THREE STRAIGHT DAYS OF FOUR GAMES.

Grow up, left coast. 

5. Ivy League

Say what you will about the other four, but at least they have tournaments. Also, studying: not cool.

 

FIVE TEAMS EVEN THOSE WHO STOPPED READING AN HOUR AGO SHOULD WATCH

1. VMI (Big South)

The highest scoring team in college basketball. That is all.

2. Sam Houston State (Southland)

Lots of pressing, lots of points, fairly high quality of basketball.

3. North Dakota State (Summit)

They stole America's hearts a year ago and I seriously doubt they've gotten any less scrappy or any less white.

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4. Morehead State (Ohio Valley)

Kenneth Faried should be taped and shown to any and all youth basketball players.

5. Portland State (Big Sky)

Capable of beating or losing to anyone in their conference because of their style of play. If you must watch the Big Sky Tournament, then be happy that the Vikings snuck in. 

 

TEN POTENTIAL NON-TOP SEEDS WHO COULD GO DANCING

1. Mount St. Mary's (Northeast)

Losers of nine straight earlier in the year, the Mountaineers are now riding a ten-game winning streak into the postseason. They've already defeated both Quinnipiac and Robert Morris, who tied for the regular season title.

2. Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley)

The Panthers have won eight straight, including a victory over league runner-up Morehead State on Feb. 11.

3. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)

Sharing the wealth has never been Western's thing. Just when you think it's definitely going to be someone else's year the 'Tops run off seven straight and thump the league's regular season champ (Troy) by 18. 

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4. Belmont (Atlantic Sun)

See above. The Bears have dominated this tournament for the past decade and, despite finishing fifth in the final A-Sun standings, have won eight of their last nine. 

5. Hofstra (Colonial)

A tough task lies in front of the seventh-seeded Pride, but they're playing as well as any team in the CAA. They closed the regular season by winning six straight and nine of their last ten, a run that included a Bracket Buster win over Rider and an 11-point triumph at Northeastern. 

6. Milwaukee (Horizon)

Winners of six straight, the fourth-seed may have a better shot at knocking off Butler than anyone else. 

7. Northern Colorado (Big Sky)

Not just for stab-happy kickers anymore. The Bears have won seven of eight, falling only to regular season champ Weber State on Feb. 13, a game which was their second on the road in as many days.

8. Vermont (America East)

Not exactly a sleeper pick. The Catamounts have won eight of nine and figure to get another shot at top-seed Stony Brook this weekend. 

9. Norfolk State (MEAC)

I'll go ahead and say it: if anyone's going to upset Morgan State, it'll be the Spartans. They've won five of six and fell to the Bears by a single point on the road last week. 

10. Portland (West Coast)

The odds of anyone outside of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's snagging WCC glory are slim, but the Pilots have won six of seven and knocked off the Gaels in ovetime on Feb. 13.

 

FIVE MORE BECAUSE I STILL CAN

Buffalo (Mid-American)
Illinois State (Missouri Valley)
Radford (Big South)
Oral Roberts (Summit)
Appalachian State (Southern)


And that's it. If you didn't read every word, you're tacky and I hate you.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com