2007 Southern Conference Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 02/27/2007
"Before you go to the Big Dance…you've got to do the Charleston!"
Ah, Charleston. Both the dance and the city conjure up nostalgia for traditional old American staples like the milkman, clean streets, religion and racism. And that aforementioned order was declared at the Southern Conference's website, beckoning fans and players alike to join them in South Carolina for the SoCon Tournament. Heading to historic Charleston to do a little ditty is a must for any team hoping to waltz on to the NCAA Tournament.
Eleven teams will make a pilgrimage to the Holy City from March 1-4 to seek redemption and the new life of that automatic bid. But man cannot survive on faith alone; a nice jumper and a bit of luck will help.
The SoCon features a pair of mid-Major heavyweights as its top two seeds: Appalachian State and Davidson. Either team is capable of doing damage in the Big Dance but only one of them will get a shot. Davidson won this tournament last year, becoming the third top seed in a row to cut down the nets. And wouldn't you know it, the Wildcats are the top seed again this season despite being in a "rebuilding year".
But back-to-back titles are far from a foregone conclusion. There are heretics and unorthodox pagans lurking everywhere that will be looking to cut in on the Cats. Here's a quick look at what's in store in the Southern Conference Tournament:
Davidson - The defending champions lost 75 percent of their scoring from last year and seven seniors overall, but just keep on keepin' on. Amazingly, the Wildcats have lost just one game - just one seven-point loss at home to Appalachian State - since November. Yeah, November. They're 22-1 straight up and 16-5-1 against the spread since Thanksgiving and have proven themselves as one of the best small schools in the country. Freshman Stephen Curry has been phenomenal this year, averaging 20.7 points and 4.5 rebounds to lead the charge.
Appalachian State - The Mountaineers have been money - going 10-2 ATS over their last 12 games. Also, in their one and only matchup with Davidson they topped the Wildcats convincingly by seven points. They've beaten Virginia and Central Florida on a neutral court and VCU, Vanderbilt and Wichita State on the road this season to prove that they can play with anyone, anywhere. However, there have been some red flags. Losses at Furman, at UNC-Greensboro and versus Elon prove that on an off night they can also lose to anyone, anywhere.
Charleston - With the exception of an inexplicable road loss at Georgia Southern, the only losses that the Cougars have had since Dec. 15 were against Appalachian State and Davidson. Not bad. They'll also be on their own court where they are 11-2 SU. But they are just 4-7 ATS at home this season and lost to both teams ahead of them there.
UNC-Greensboro - The Spartans were the preseason favorites after bringing back all five starters from a decent team. They failed miserably to live up to the hype but have a chance for redemption here. They enter as the No. 4 seed and draw Furman, who they beat in overtime on the road and beat by 15 at home. After that they get a shot at Davidson. Also, UNC-G is led by the dynamic duo of Kyle Hines and Ricky Hickman. Both of those guys played key roles in 2005 as young players on a team that made it to the finals and lost.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
I fully expect this to be one of the most exciting and most well played tournaments in the country this week. I think a lack of experience will hurt Davidson in the semifinals against UNC-Greensboro. Then a lack of depth will submarine UNC-Greensboro, which will be playing its third game in three nights. Appalachian State is just 2-6 in eight trips to the conference title game, but I think they have a great chance to add banner No. 3.
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