March Madness is here! Today, a few of our writers will be giving their thoughts on the Southern Conference Tournament.
#8 Samford vs. #9 VMI
#7 Wofford vs. #10 The Citadel
#1 ETSU vs. #8 Samford/#9 VMI
#4 Mercer vs. #5 Western Carolina
#2 Furman vs. #7 Wofford/#10 The Citadel
#3 UNCG vs. #6 Chattanooga
Who will win the Southern Conference Tournament?
Aram: #3 UNCG (23-8, 13-5 in the SOCON)
UNCG is 3rd in the conference, but is as talented as the top 2 teams. Isaiah Miller is a straight killer and looks to lead this team back into the NCAA Tournament. They have a tough first game against Chattanooga after just losing to them last Saturday. They were on the road that game though. This time, Chattanooga won’t have that home court advantage with the Tournament being in Asheville, North Carolina.
Pat: #2 Furman (25-6, 15-3 in the SOCON)
ETSU has had a great season and is in the at large bid discussion, but I really like the way Furman closed out the season and I see them upsetting the Buccaneers and taking the automatic bid. The Paladins have a balanced teams and as TJ mentioned, brought most of their key guys back from last year’s historical squad. Furman will head to Asheville with a vengeance and won’t be satisfied leaving with anything short of a conference title.
TJ: #2 Furman (25-6, 15-3 in the SOCON)
Furman had four starters return from a 2018-2019 team that got ranked in the AP poll for the first time in school history and ended up in the NIT so they have my vote. They only have two key departures from last year’s team and that experience will loom large come to the tournament this year as UNCG knocked them out of the semis last year. The real winners of this tournament are the college basketball fans because this Tourney is going to feature some good basketball with Furman, ETSU, and UNCG all with 20+ wins on the year.
Which team is a Dark Horse Candidate to take home the title?
Aram: #6 Chattanooga (19-12, 10-8 in the SOCON)
I know I just predicted that their 1st round winner will win the tournament, but I still think there is a chance that Chattanooga goes on a bit of a run. Four of their starters are upperclassman and they have won 3 of their last 4 games of the season. Over that span, they are averaging 79 points per game. They will give UNCG a run for their money and can shock some people if they get that first win.
Pat: #7 Wofford (16-15, 8-10 in the SOCON)
Going with a real deep sleeper here in the Terriers, who come into this tournament riding a seven game losing streak that dropped them all the way down to the 7 seed. They’re nowhere near as good as last year’s squad, with Fletcher Magee gone, that made it to the second round of NCAAs and took Kentucky to the wire, but they still have some key pieces from that team. Storm Murphy and Nathan Hoover are skilled and confident players who will use last year’s experience to their advantage.
TJ: #5 Western Carolina (18-11, 10-8 in the SOCON)
I’d say look out for Western Carolina. When they get hot, they get really HOT! The Catamounts have put up 75 points or more 9 times since the New Year began and put up 85 or more four times. If they can get going early it’s not unreasonable to think they can do some damage in Asheville. WCU is headlined by Northern Kentucky transfer Mason Faulkner and the 6-1 guard has exploded since arriving in the Tar Heel state. Senior 270 lb big man Carlos Dotson has also averaged a double double on the year and will be a major impact player.
Who is one player that NBA teams should keep an eye on?
Aram: Isaiah Miller, Junior G – UNCG
By now, if you follow basketball then you should know the name Isaiah Miller. The small, but powerful guard for UNCG is a nightmare to deal with on a nightly basis. He’s ferocious on defense and will always cause problems for the opposing primary ball handler. He absolutely needs to make that shot more consistent before he can be considered for a draft pick, but NBA teams should absolutely keep an eye on him.
Pat: Josh Sharkey, Senior G – Samford
The senior point guard has had an incredible season for the Bulldogs. Sharkey leads the conference in scoring, assists, and steals and shoots the ball well given his volume. The Bulldogs are a long shot to make noise in this tournament, but if the lightning quick point guard gets hot and leads an upset or two, he’ll catch the attention of pro teams.
TJ: Noah Gurley, Sophomore F – Furman
Noah Gurley is someone you should tune into see. Standing at 6-8 with good length, Gurley has the opportunity to provide versatility at the NBA level. He is averaging 14.5 PPG and shooting over 40% from the three point line. He has shown some impressive ability to drive to the hoop and use his athletic tools to finish. He could be a real sleeper in the 2021 or 2022 NBA Draft if he can put it all together.