Among the many beautiful things about March Madness is the notion that any team can make it. Every conference gets one automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. Most automatic bids are awarded to the winner of each respective conference tournament. Each article will preview a different conference tournament with a full bracket breakdown.
9 Western Carolina def. 8 The Citadel
7 Mercer def. 10 Samford
1 UNC Greensboro def. 9 Western Carolina
4 Chattanooga def. 5 East Tennessee State
7 Mercer def. 2 Wofford
3 Furman def. 6 VMI
4 Chattanooga def. 1 UNC Greensboro
3 Furman def. 7 Mercer
4 Chattanooga def. 3 Furman
The Southern Conference has strong parity with five teams finishing .500 or better in conference play. During the season, many of the individual matchups were close too. For Chattanooga, 21 of their 25 games were decided by 10 or fewer points. The Mocs don’t stand out in many statistical fields but shine in two major things. First, they are the best free throw shooting team in the conference. In SoCon play, Chattanooga shot over 80% from the charity stripe. Secondly, the Mocs are let by a veteran core of seniors in Darius Banks, Stefan Kenic, and David Jean-Baptiste. Add Wright State transfer and SoCon star Malachi Smith and this roster has the potential to battle through tough matchups.
There isn’t a specific part of the bracket that looks easier or tougher than any other. Wofford isn’t an easy first round opponent but Mercer has played them tough before. At the end of January, the Bears lost by three at Spartanburg. Strong offenses can rise up during conference tournaments and Mercer led the SoCon in field goal percentage during conference play. Senior guard Ross Cummings is one of the best three-point shooters in the conference hitting at over a 40% clip. Even with 10 losses to their name, the Bears have only lost by double digits twice. It’s been seven years since they made the Big Dance but catching stride in a balanced conference is within reason.
Matchup to Watch
Furman vs VMI
The easiest games to enjoy are offensive. Fans normally like scoring more than defense so pitting the two most efficient SoCon offenses against each other is ideal for viewership. When these teams first met, the Keydets snatched a 74-73 home victory from a streaking Furman. VMI should have the tougher time coming off a multi-week COVID break. On paper, these teams are not so dissimilar. The Keydets have the leading per game scorer in the conference in three-point ace Greg Parham. Meanwhile, the Paladins boast junior forward Noah Gurley who is the only qualified player to shoot over 50% in conference play. The winner of this matchup ha a very real chance of making the conference finals.
Featured Image courtesy of soconsports.com
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