It’s finally March and conference tournament time is upon us–the precursor to March Madness. Here’s another conference tournament preview to whet your pallet.
When & Where: March 8-11 in Asheville, North Carolina
The Front Runner: Judged solely on the standings and who’s hot heading into the tournament, it’s Davidson‘s to lose. Bob McKillop‘s Wildcats have won 13-straight SoCon games and were 17-1 overall in conference. A strong non-conference schedule has helped Davidson once again–they’ve played New Mexico, Duke and Gonzaga–all current top-25 teams. Davidson is quite familiar with success in the SoCon, where they’ve been the No. 1 seed three times in the past five seasons.
The Best of the Rest: The “other” No. 1 seed–the Elon Phoenix (13-5 SoCon)–earned their seed thanks to winning the North Division but limp into the tourney losers in two of their last three. The Charleston Cougars (14-4) finished strong, winning four of their last five to earn the No. 3 seed but was just 1-2 against the SoCon’s best. Appalachian State (10-8) nabbed the No. 4 seed, but poses no real threat despite being the second-best offense (70.4 ppg) in the league–problem is they struggle on the defensive end, allowing 70.8 ppg. Davidson, Elon, Charleston and Appalachian State were the only four teams in the league with a winning record, so the SoCon is clearly in the hands of the favorites while only the first three have an overall record over .500.
Who To Watch For: While there really is no standout in the SoCon this year, there are a few players who can fill it up, namely Elon’s Lucas Troutman, the league’s fifth-leading scorer. Troutman is averaging 15.1 ppg in just over 26 minutes of action per game while shooting 55 percent. Elon also has an outside threat in 6-foot-8 junior guard Sebastian Koch, who is knocking down 44.2% of his three-point attempts. Davidson is the best team in the league and it shows on the stat sheet, as seven players average at least seven points per game, led by senior Jake Cohen (14.9 ppg).
Who’ll Be Dancing?: Davidson, barring a monumental collapse, should earn it’s second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. There might be some minor upsets in the first round, but it should be chalk from there on out. Davidson’s experience makes them a team that might win a game in March, but that’s about it. Because of a weak Southern Conference, it’s likely they’ll be in the 12-13 range when Selection Sunday rolls around. If they don’t win the SoCon Tourney, it’s unlikely they’ll get an at-large bid, so it’s Davidson’s to lose.