During the preseason the expectation of many was that the Southern Conference race would provide suspense throughout the season, with at least five teams having realistic hopes of winning the regular season title. Ultimately this would not be the case, with perennial juggernaut Davidson winning the league title by three games. However the Wildcats, who will move to the Atlantic 10 in July, won’t lack for challengers in Asheville. Chattanooga won 12 league games in Will Wade’s first season, and three other teams won at least 10 conference games.
When: March 7-10
Where: U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.
Final: Monday, March 10 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Bob McKillop’s Wildcats lost just one conference game: an 87-85 overtime decision to Elon back on January 16. De’Mon Brooks, the coaches’ choice for SoCon POY, and company were dominant in conference play as they led the SoCon in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, field goal percentage defense and both offensive and defensive efficiency (conference games only). And from a rebounding standpoint the Wildcats led the conference in defensive rebounding percentage; very rarely will this group beat itself. The starting five is experienced, and with four players (including Brooks) scoring in double figures Davidson is a difficult team to defend.
And if they lose?: Wofford
After losing three of their first five conference games (two of the losses came against Chattanooga) the Terriers have gone 9-2, and in conference play they’re second in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Guard Karl Cochran (15.2 ppg, 3.1 apg) and forward Lee Skinner (11.1, 8.6 rpg) have led the way offensively for a group that plays slower than any team in the SoCon.
- Chattanooga: Will Wade’s Mocs won their first eight conference games, and in forward Z Mason they’ve got one of the SoCon’s best players.
- Western Carolina: The Catamounts are led by guard Trey Sumler, but they’ll need to defend better than they did in losses to Chattanooga (83 points allowed) and Samford (93) last week.
- Elon: The Phoenix were the preseason pick of some to win the SoCon, and with five seniors they certainly don’t lack for experience.
- DeMon Brooks, Davidson: SoCon POY, Brooks averages 18.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on the league’s best team.
- Z Mason, Chattanooga: In addition to averaging 18.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game Mason also swatted three shots per contest, winning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year.
- Trey Sumler, Western Carolina: Sumler’s averaging 17.9 points and 4.4 assists per game for the Catamounts, leading the conference in the latter statistic.
- Jelani Hewitt, Georgia Southern: Hewitt led the SoCon in scoring with an average of 20.0 points per game, and his first round matchup with Furman’s Stephen Croone (19.3 ppg) won’t lack for entertainment.
CBT Prediction: Davidson beats Wofford in the title game.