SoCon Tournament Semifinals

All Southern Conference could have asked for was for four of the top five teams to make it to the semifinals.

That would mean that there would be two tremendously interesting match-ups on Sunday afternoon and early evening. It would mean that Asheville would have a buzz about how intriguing these match-ups would be.

In the end, on Saturday, we got what we wanted. We got four really good teams battling for conference supremacy on Sunday.

It should be wildly entertaining. Enjoy.

(1) UNCG vs.(5) Wofford
Time: 4:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: UNCG beat Wofford twice during the regular season. The game in Greensboro was very close, with Wofford leading big early but the Spartans fighting back and winning a very memorable game. The game in Spartanburg wasn’t as close as that one. The Spartans came up with the win. Of course, the Terriers had lost twice to Mercer as well and they took care of business on Saturday afternoon with relative ease. The Terriers will look to avenge a winless regular season against a team for a second consecutive day.

Key Players: Fletcher Magee was ice cold on Saturday, but Nathan Hoover picked up the slack. Trevor Stumpe and Storm Murphy both do not get the credit they deserve. These two have both turned into very solid contributors that know their roles on this team. It was not long ago that the Terriers couldn’t survive a cold shooting night by Magee. Now, with Hoover playing well, and Stumpe being solid, this team can survive that. Ironically, Francis Alonso was not particularly good on Saturday either. James Dickey stepped on the offensive end. Marvin Smith and Demetrius Troy (along with Isaiah Miller off the bench) were also very good. While the Magee-Alonso shootout would be entertaining, watching the “secondary” players could be just as entertaining.

Prediction: We did not even mention Jordy Kuiper or Cam Jackson up above. Unbelievable. These players are so good. This is such an interesting match-up. Jackson was remarkable on Saturday. He dominated Mercer. He won’t be that dominant against UNCG. However, much like against Mercer, Wofford is due to get one against the Spartans. They are too good to fall to this team a third time. Yes, my pre-tournament pick to win it all was UNCG. However, my tune is changing. The Terriers looked like a team on a mission Saturday. Wofford pulls the mild upset behind Hoover and Stumpe having big games. Terriers 72, Spartans 70.

(2) ETSU vs.(3) Furman
Time:6:30 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: In Greenville, ETSU survived on a last second basket. In Johnson City, the Paladins survived in the final minutes against the Bucs last Sunday. Two close games. There is absolutely no reason to think that these two should not play another classic in this one. The Paladins and Bucs played a fun semifinal game in Asheville two years ago, which the Bucs won. These two teams were part of the tri-champs last year. Furman was the preseason favorite to win it this year. ETSU was the favorite two weeks ago- and may still be the favorite today, depending on who you ask.

Key Players: Andrew Brown for Furman did not play particularly well on Saturday but he had scored in double figures the four previous games. The Paladins need someone like Brown to step up big in this game. It can’t just be Devin Sibley or Matt Rafferty. They need someone like Brown to step up for the Paladins in a big way. For ETSU, it seems to me that the Bucs go where Jalan McCloud goes. If McCloud plays very well, the Bucs tend to be better. It’s not just about scoring, but getting them into the right offense and being solid defensively. Jermaine Long is one of the best defensive players in the league. He will probably be guarding Devin Sibley and that will be a critical match-up in this one as well.

Prediction: Look- three weeks ago, I thought ETSU was going to run through the first two rounds of the SoCon Tournament and might have a bit of a battle against UNCG in the championship game. Now, I am just not comfortable picking ETSU to win this game. Could I be dead wrong? Absolutely. I am not going to swear that I’ve got this right. Picking a second upset on Sunday seems a bit risky. But again, here I am. The Bucs still looked a little out of sorts on Saturday and the Paladins still looked on a roll. It should be another tremendous showdown on Sunday night. Paladins 66, Bucs 65.

Note- I’m picking these games to be decided by a total of three points. I could see any combination of these teams playing in the championship. This is the best set of unpredictable semifinals in my memory. I seriously have no idea what’s about to happen.

SoCon Tournament Day Two Preview

On this second day of the SoCon Tournament in Asheville, the top six teams will all take the floor for the first time.

You’ll have the home town Western Carolina Catamounts, that play so well in this arena and always seem to be good for an upset.

You’ll have the ETSU Bucs, a team that appeared heading towards an at large bid in the NCAA Tournament possibly, until they lost four of their last five.

You’ll have the surging Mercer Bears, the hottest team in the league by far, that spent most of January towards the bottom of the conference and now are one of the tournament favorites.

You’ll have the UNCG Spartans, who received the number seed in this tournament for the second consecutive year.

You’ll have the hot Furman Paladins, who were part of the tri-champs a year ago, but were upset in their tournament opener and will be looking to undo that.

You’ll have the Wofford Terriers, who have one of the most exciting players in the conference in Fletcher Magee, who can shoot the Terriers to a win every single night.

These six teams will enter the arena. No more than four can survive to Semifinal Sunday.

There have been five top teams in the conference. Will any of the top three be shocked on Saturday?

Game of the Day
(4) Mercer vs.(5) Wofford
Time: 2:30 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: The Bears have beaten the Terriers twice this year, including on a Jordan Strawberry game winner last Sunday. These two teams are very evenly matched, and should produce one tremendous game. The Bears are on a huge run, but the Terriers beat ETSU on the road just last week, so it’s not like they’ve been bad. How hard is it to beat a team three times in one year? Pretty hard. Can the Bears get it done?

Key Players: The Bears will need to see Ross Cummings stay hot. He has been an almost unstoppable force recently for the Bears. Going toe to toe with Fletcher Magee should be interesting. Also, we could see Stephon Jelks going against Cam Jackson. That’s another very interesting match-up. This game is so full of great players, it is hard to pinpoint where the match-ups are.

Prediction: In Asheville, I’m going to stick with the team that has been red hot. The Bears get the job done. They have played like the best team in the conference over the last month. They have a very difficult run to get to the NCAA Tournament, but it is not an impossible run. The Bears come up with a really tight, really competitive quarterfinal win. Bears 69, Terriers 67.

(1) UNCG vs.(8) The Citadel
Time:12:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: The Spartans beat The Citadel by 14 and 16 points during the regular season. They have won both of the games with their defensive intensity. The Spartans have not turned the ball over a ton either time, and that has slowed the Bulldogs down substantially. After The Citadel won without Kaelon Harris on Friday night, the Bulldogs are hoping that they can pull off an upset on Saturday with Harris.

Key Players: Kaelon Harris will not be tired from playing Friday night. In a lot of ways, Harris will be a critical part of what the Bulldogs are doing on Saturday. He will need to step up and play huge, and I think we will see a huge game out of Harris on Saturday. If Harris does not play, then Matt Frierson will need to step up and knock down some big shots. The Spartans will need Demetrius Troy to step up at point guard. Against The Citadel, you need really solid point guard play. Troy can provide that, and he will have to if the Spartans are to come up with the win.

Prediction: This game feels kind of like a trap for the Spartans. The Bulldogs have played well against ETSU this year, but have not against UNCG. Is that match-up related? I don’t know. If Harris coming back, the Bulldogs may play their best game. It feels like they are going to play even better with him in the lineup and he is going to be on top of his game after the disappointment of not playing on Friday. If he does not play, this team seems to be rallying behind the idea that they are playing for him. Still, UNCG is the much better team. If they did not use up their emotional energy to win the regular season title last weekend, they will come up with the win here. Spartans 83, Bulldogs 78.

(2) ETSU vs.(10) Chattanooga
Time:6:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: The Bucs dominated the two showdowns with the Mocs earlier this year, winning by 19 and 20 points. But those ETSU teams were playing very well. This one is not. The Mocs are as complete of a team as they’ve been in a while, with Rodney Chatman back from injury. The Mocs might not be able to hang with ETSU, but this is their best set of circumstances to give it a run.

Key Players: Makinde London for Chattanooga was a force to be reckoned with against the Bulldogs on Friday night. Can London step up and continue to be that kind of a presence? If he plays with poise and aggression, this Mocs team is much better. He has enough talent to put a team on his back and carry them, which he did on Friday night. He also can sink a team if he shows up flat. For ETSU, this game is all about Peter Jurkin. He is a physical inside presence, something the Mocs lack. If Jurkin is a force in the paint, the Bucs could stroll away with another easy win. If Jurkin is controlled or is not playing his best basketball, the Bucs can be beaten by this Mocs club.

Prediction: ETSU lost 4 of 5. Their lone win of the bunch was against Western Carolina, the most undersized team they played during that stretch. The Mocs are also undersized. That should help the Bucs find themselves a bit and help propel them to a good win. It will not be without some scary moments, but the Bucs get the job done. Bucs 74, Mocs 63.

(3) Furman vs.(6) Western Carolina
Time:8:30 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: Furman beat Western Carolina by 23 and 34 points this year, including by 23 in Cullowhee just last weekend. Western Carolina always seems to be good for an upset or two during the tournament. Could they possibly get it going in Asheville? They have been ice cold lately, so turning it around in Asheville against this opponent would be a surprise.

Key Players: The Catamounts absolutely need Mat Halvorsen to be knocking down the three. He’s a 34% three point shooter, but capable of much bigger nights. He will need to be on fire to complement Mike Amius in the paint. The Paladins will want Matt Rafferty to do Matt Rafferty like things. He will need to control Amius in the paint and score some points on the offensive end.

Prediction: This is just a disaster for Western Carolina. They’re playing a team they lost to by an average of 28.5 points per game in the first game. It seems hard to believe the Catamounts are going to turn things around now. The Paladins will come up with a dominating performance and roll to the semis. Paladins 79, Catamounts 61.

Recap Of Day One at the SoCon Tournament

Game of the Day
Chattanooga 89, Samford 79

Both games were competitive late, but this one seemed close the entire way, as neither team ever got a double digit lead until the very end for the Mocs. The Mocs got Rodney Chamtan back and the offense looked much better than it had in recent weeks. Four Mocs were in double figures. Four Bulldogs were in double figures as well, as the Bulldogs had the pick and roll working like they in their first meeting for much of the first half, but the Mocs figured that out in the second half and played much better defense in the second half.

Player of the Day
Makinde London

London finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. That’s some mighty fine basketball. When London plays focused and aggressive, he is among the five best players in the SoCon. The problem is he does not play that way all the time. He played that way tonight. He’ll have to do it again tomorrow to give the Mocs a chance.

Team of the Day
The Citadel Bulldogs

VMI looked so good early, but the Bulldogs fought back and took a halftime lead, and then pulled way ahead, by as many as 16. Then VMI fought back and cut the lead to 3 with under three minutes left. But the Bulldogs held on. As a team that was playing without one of their best players in Kaelon Harris against a rival that they had lost to twice, this was an impressive showing.

What’s Ahead for the Winners?

The Citadel will face off with UNCG and the Bulldogs have proven to be dangerous in their performances against ETSU. The Spartans better be ready to go, because with Kaelon Harris back, the Bulldogs should be playing inspired basketball. This is a dangerous game.

Chattanooga squares off with ETSU for a third time. The Bucs easily won each of the first two meetings. There are questions about how well ETSU is playing heading into the tournament. If the game is close late, the Mocs have folded under pressure for a lot of the year, but seemed to thrive on it in this one. The Bucs had played well under pressure all year, but folded in those three home games to wrap up the season. These two old rivals square off one more time this year.

Looking Ahead for VMI

They have Bubba Parham and a whole lot of freshman. This team is almost entirely freshmen and sophomores. The Keydets should absolutely improve next year. They will be significantly better a year from now. What does that look like? It’s hard to say. To think they could contend for a bye is anything but ridiculous. They may be able to contend for a conference title in two years, but next year is the first step towards that.

Looking Ahead for Samford

Oh- what might have been. Wyatt Walker might be back with a medical redshirt. Josh Sharkey, Triston Chambers, Justin Coleman all will be back. Demetrius Denzel-Dyson is gone. There are pieces here to be much better than this year. That being said, this was supposed to be their year and it passed them by. They could be good if Walker is back. If he’s not, it’s hard to imagine them being much improved.

SoCon Tournament Day One Preview

It’s the first day of the SoCon Tournament!

No- none of these teams are particularly good. It would be possibly even more surprising than usual if one of these teams actually could get all the way to Monday night and cut down the nets.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t intrigue.

You’ll get to see First Team All SoCon performer Zane Najdawi.

You’ll get to see two teams (Samford and The Citadel) who both wonder what might have been if key pieces hadn’t gone missing before the calendar turned to 2018.

You’ll get to see two of the youngest teams (VMI and Chattanooga) in the entire conference, if not the entire country.

You’ll get to see two lower seeded teams that are a combined 3-1 against their higher seeded opponents.

You’ll get to see two really good natural SoCon rivalries.

So is the night worth watching? Well, it’s not exactly the semifinals on Sunday, but these two games both hold their own special charm.

Game of the Day
(8) The Citadel vs.(9) VMI
Time: 5:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: The Citadel beat ETSU once and nearly beat the Bucs the other time, exposing the Bucs to some degree. However, the Bulldogs were swept by VMI this year. The Keydets, led by freshman Bubba Parham, are a team that is improving and showing signs that they may be a tough out in the years to come. The Citadel was beaten soundly twice by UNCG this year, while VMI nearly beat them in Lexington.

Key Players: Let’s hit on the two stars. Zane Najdawi and Bubba Parham both had huge games in their match-ups this year. Najdawi is a big man and the Keydets struggle to slow that type of player down. Parham is a guard, but really played well against The Citadel, scoring 24 and 25 against the Bulldogs. If Parham scores in the 20s again, the Keydets will have a very good chance to get a third win.

Prediction: The Keydets played games the way they wanted to against the Bulldogs earlier this year. Should The Citadel be surprised if they lose a third time? Absolutely not. They are so up and down there is no telling what might happen here. The Keydets will bring the effort and Parham will respond with another big game in Asheville as VMI comes up with a nice win. Keydets 79, Bulldogs 74.

(7) Samford vs.(10) Chattanooga
Time:7:30 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: The Bulldogs are one of the most disappointing teams in the conference, though it is hardly their fault with Wyatt Walker and Christen Cunningham and others missing a lot of time due to injury. The Mocs are the youngest team in the entire country and lost a lot of close games this year. One team will see their season continue into Saturday when they will get to face off with ETSU, who blew both of them out twice this season.

Key Players: These two teams both do not have dominant big men. Josh Phillips for the Mocs is their most physical presence and if he can step up and play over his head, then the Mocs will have a very good chance to win. Against the Mocs the first time, Justin Coleman went off and dominated. In the second match-up, he did not. If Coleman can play like he did in the first match-up, the Bulldogs will be almost unstoppable.

Prediction: This is a total toss up. In games not against military academies this year, the Bulldogs are 2-12. Since they were 3-1 in conference play, Samford has not beaten a non-military academy, going 0-11 during that time not to VMI and The Citadel. Can the Mocs spring the upset? The Mocs have been struggling lately as well. Can Phillips and Nat Dixon get the job done? Or will Coleman dominate again? Will Demetrius Denzel-Dyson get rolling? Mocs 68, Bulldogs 67.

What Seed Would Your Team Receive?

The traditional article.

What seed would your SoCon team receive if they were to win the whole tournament in Asheville this week?

We’ll roll through the teams alphabetically and see what we’ve got.

Projected Seed: First Four.

The Mocs would be 11-22 with four wins in four days. So much youth. Of course, if this happened, Makinde London would get to go back to Ohio where he began his college career. If the young Mocs could figure out how to win some close games in Asheville, maybe they’d even win a game in Dayton. Not happening.

Projected Seed: 13.

There is a chance they fall to a 14 seed, but three wins would make them 24-8. So they could rise to a 12. Remember when they almost beat Xavier? Will the committee? Will they punish ETSU for the four losses in five games, or reward them for getting back on the right side by winning three straight games. There is no telling. My gut feeling is that ETSU (with their 97 RPI at the moment) would get a 13 seed- which is about right for them all things considered.

Projected Seed: 13.

Furman has an RPI of 93 right now. Three wins would make them 23-9. That might be enough to get up to a 13 seed, particularly if things go right for them and they face off with ETSU in the semis and UNCG in the championship and add two Top 100 wins. The Paladins need quality wins. At the moment, clearly their best win is at ETSU last weekend. That close lose to Tennessee looks better and better though.

Projected Seed: 15.

They have a current RPI of 165. With three more wins, they would probably jump into the top 120. With Wofford, UNCG and ETSU as possible wins that would be three more quality wins. They could wind up a 16 seed, but I think would probably rise up a bit from that and beating some quality tournament teams and being in the 16th ranked conference in the RPI.

Projected Seed: First Four

Oh how ironic this would be. The Bulldogs were a preseason favorite in the SoCon but were undone by injuries. If the Bulldogs made a run all the way through the Tournament with four wins, they would be 12-21. But they would suddenly find themselves heading to the NCAA Tournament, which is what they hoped they could do to begin with. So- four days to make this season right. And head to Dayton, of course.

The Citadel
Projected Seed: First Four

The Bulldogs would only be 11-20, but hey, they would finally be in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, so they’d take it. With how well the Bulldogs have played at times this year, it is not totally ridiculous to think they could make this run and if they did that they would be a dangerous team in Dayton. Zane Najdawi deserves this kind of attention.

Projected Seed: 13.

This gets overlooked a lot, but UNCG lost to Virginia by 12 and beat North Carolina State. They could easily jump to a 12 seed if they win the SoCon Tournament. They would only be able to play only one Top 100 team- in the title game. Of all of the top five, that is the lowest possible total. So they would do the least to help their resume. Still, their RPI would climb a good 15 spots. That could put them in the range of a 12 seed. I can see a 12-13 for UNCG. I’m going with the lower one for now, but could have my mind changed by the time Monday night’s game ends if they are the champs.

Projected Seed: First Four

Even with four wins in four days, the Keydets would still be 11-20. They are not good enough to win a game in Dayton, either, I don’t believe. This team, much like Chattanooga above, is still a year or two away from being an actual contender in the SoCon. Bubba Parham in Dayton would be fun to see, though.

Western Carolina
Projected Seed: First Four

The Catamounts struggled early in the year and late in the year. In between they were fine, but they still would be just 14-18. That would not be enough to get them out of Dayton and the First Four. Their RPI would be in the Top 200, but their other numbers (KenPom, etc)would not be that good. I don’t see any way they would stay out of the First Four.

Projected Seed: 14

Beat North Carolina, you are at least a 15 seed. They would be 20-11 with three wins in Asheville, and could beat two Top 100 teams in the process (UNCG and Furman/ETSU). Could they be better than a 15 seed? Well, I just projected a 14 seed. But I think that would be the ceiling. I wouldn’t be surprised by a 15 seed at all.olina State.

SoCon Postseason Awards 2018

So, it’s that time of year again. Award season!

John Hooper, Brad and I voted on our awards and without further ado, here are our postseason SoCon Awards. I believe official awards will be announced on Tuesday.

I’ll make a few comments afterwards:

1st Team
Francis Alonso, UNCG
Desonta Bradford, ETSU
Fletcher Magee, Wofford
Zane Najdawi, The Citadel
Devin Sibley, Furman

2nd Team
Mike Amius, Western Carolina
James Dickey, UNCG
Cam Jackson, Wofford
Stephon Jelks, Mercer
Jalan McCloud, ETSU

3rd Team
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson, Samford
Nate Dixon, Chattanooga
Daniel Fowler, Furman
Matt Rafferty, Furman
Marvin Smith, UNCG

Player of the Year
Desonta Bradford, ETSU

Defensive Player of the Year
James Dickey, UNCG

Coach of the Year
Wes Miller, UNCG

Freshman of the Year
Bubba Parham, VMI

Mostly I want these to speak for themselves, and I don’t want to try to explain anyone else’s rationale for the way they voted.

I know that I voted for Miller for Coach of the Year over Bob Hoffman (Mercer) and Steve Forbes (ETSU) because of the extended slumps both of those two teams had. Mercer was not good in January. ETSU was not good when the season was on the line these last couple of weeks. If I was picking a coach for my program, I would probably prefer Forbes or Hoffman to Miller, but Miller did a better job this year, I believe.

I also know that I voted for Parham over Isaiah Miller (UNCG) and Bo Hodges (ETSU) because of how he performed this year on the whole. Parham had more opportunity of course than either. If you asked me who would be better in two years, I would think that Miller or Hodges would be better than Parham. But that’s not the question.

That’s my reasoning. Others may have different reasoning (or different votes altogether). I’ll let them defend their own votes.

Game Previews: Final Day- Still So Many Unanswered Questions

Let’s go through the scenarios:

1) If UNCG wins on Sunday, they get the one seed and ETSU gets the two seed. If ETSU loses, UNCG gets the one seed and ETSU gets the two seed. If ETSU wins and UNCG loses, ETSU gets the one seed, UNCG gets the two seed.
2) If Mercer beats Wofford, Mercer gets the four seed, Wofford gets the five seed.
3) If Wofford wins and Furman loses to ETSU, Wofford gets the three seed and Furman gets the four seed. If Furman wins or if Wofford loses, Furman gets the three seed.
4) If Western Carolina wins or if Samford loses, Western Carolina gets the six seed and Samford the seven seed. If Samford wins and Western Carolina loses, Samford gets the six seed and Western Carolina the seven seed.
5) The winner of VMI-Chattanooga gets the nine seed. The loser gets the ten seed.

And there you have it. Only The Citadel is locked into the 8 seed so far. Things will be much clearer by Sunday at about 6:00 PM Eastern.

Game of the Day
Furman at ETSU
Time: 2:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

Why it matters: You read it up above. ETSU must win and hope UNCG loses to get the number one seed. If that doesn’t happen, they will be the two seed. Furman was win to clinch the three seed. A loss could send them down to fourth. But there is more to it than that. ETSU is in a bit of a free fall at the moment. If they lose their third straight home game and their fourth game in five contests, the Bucs will have no momentum heading to Asheville. On the other hand, if Furman loses, they will be 3-5 against the other top five teams. The Paladins have really struggled against the best teams in the SoCon, and looked dominant against the lower seeded teams in the SoCon. They could use this one to prove that their current hot streak isn’t just schedule related, but an actual turning of the corner.

Key Players: Peter Jurkin vs. Matt Rafferty could well be the deciding factor of this one. Rafferty needs to have a big edge against Jurkin for the Paladins to have the edge. If Jurkin can neutralize Rafferty, that would be huge. Of course, if John Brown keeps on shooting like he is, he could be just the X Factor the Paladins are looking for.

Prediction: How can you pick a side? The Bucs are stumbling and it was supposed to be a product of illness against The Citadel. But that didn’t seem to be the case against Wofford anymore. So are they in a free fall? Maybe. Jurkin will play well as the Bucs find a way to close out the regular season on a winning note. Bucs 76, Paladins 74.

Chattanooga at VMI
Time:1:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

Why it matters: The winner gets the nine seed. The loser is the ten seed. These are the two youngest teams in the league, so it should not be particularly surprising that they are near the bottom. The Keydets can sweep Chattanooga with a win. The Mocs can prove that first loss (a heart breaker at home) was nothing more than a fluke.

Key Players: The Mocs need to find some offense. The most likely source of that is probably Nat Dixon. He will need to knock down some shots. The Mocs need him to do just that. The Keydets need Bubba Parham to be scoring. Parham is the most explosive scorer for VMI and he will need to score some points.

Prediction: Neither team is particularly good offensively and both teams are struggling. With Rodney Chatmon out for the Mocs, the offense is really not good. The defense is still solid, though. Still, in Lexington, VMI will come out and play a good game. This is a game that they are really wanting to claim. The Keydets win a nailbiter. Keydets 58, Mocs 56.

Mercer at Wofford
Time:2:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

Why it matters: If Wofford wins and Furman loses, the Terriers will climb to the three seed. If they lose, they will fall to the five seed. The Terriers, with their win over ETSU, has new hope as they head to Asheville and is looking to keep that momentum going. Mercer is the hottest team in the SoCon, and a win would put them as the four seed, while a loss drops them to the five seed. Not that that is particularly important in Asheville. Regardless, a Mercer win further establishes themselves as one of the teams to beat in Asheville.

Key Players: You all know what I’m going to say by now. Ross Cummings vs. Fletcher Magee should be tremendous shooters. They can both knock down a bunch of shots. I’m all for having a three point shootout to decide this game. No joke. Cummings and Magee should be a ton of fun.

Prediction: Look- I’m back on the Wofford bandwagon. I was off for a minute or two, but I’m back on. That being said, Mercer is the hottest team in the league. Cam Jackson will have his hands full with the Mercer big men, like Demetre Rivers. The Bears will eek out another close win over a top tier team. Bears 75, Terriers 73.

The Citadel at Western Carolina
Time:2:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

Why it matters: Western Carolina needs a win to clinch the final bye in the SoCon and get something resembling a positive thing heading into Asheville. The Citadel could not capitalize on the momentum gained from beating ETSU, but if they beat the Catamounts they could get some of that going again.

Key Players: The Catamounts are really needing Mike Amius to be a star. Amius is good, but maybe not quite to start level. They need him to be that star in this game. The Bulldogs will be relying on Matt Frierson to be hot and shoot lights out from long range. Furman was hot shooting on Friday night against Western Carolina. Frierson would like to keep that trend going.

Prediction: Can Western Carolina beat anyone right now? It’s hard to know. They are really struggling. The Citadel is the most complicated team in the league. Who knows how good they are? Still, the gut feeling is that, despite the game meaning more to Western Carolina, the Catamounts are just not playing well and the Bulldogs pull off the slight upset. Bulldogs 78, Catamounts 73.

Samford at UNCG
Time:4:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

Why it matters: The race for sixth and first could be over by now. Or it could all come down to this game. If ETSU wins and Western Carolina loses earlier in the day, the Bulldogs and Spartans will both have things to play for in this one. UNCG will be looking to be the number one seed for the second consecutive season. Samford is looking to steal the final bye. It matters.

Key Players: The Bulldogs will need to have Demetrius Denzel-Dyson have his best game in a while. He is a key contributor for them and the most talented player on the roster. Against UNCG, they need him to have a huge game. UNCG will be hoping that James Dickey can put up a big game against the Bulldogs. He should have an edge in the paint against the Bulldogs interior defense.

Prediction: The Spartans are such a good home team and playing a team that is not the best right now. With so much on the line, look for the Spartans to play with a lot of passion. UNCG comes up with a pretty easy home win. Spartans 77, Bulldogs 63.