Southern Conference (conference rank: 13th)
All games at Asheville, N.C.
kPOY: TJ Cromer, East Tennessee State
Regular season champ: Furman (preseason #220 / 5th SoCon, current #106, UNC Greensboro (preseason #176 / 3rd SoCon, current #121), and East Tennessee State (preseason #182 / 4th SoCon, current #69)
Overachiever: East Tennessee State
Underachiever: VMI (preseason #266, current #327)
The SoCon is the feel good conference story of the season, achieving a rank of 13th which ties their highest since 2002. The other season that happened was 2008, when Davidson went 20-0 in league play and ended up a bucket from the Final Four despite being a ten-seed.
This season has no Davidson, obviously. The program itself left for the Atlantic 10 three seasons ago and there’s no potential Final Four team in the league. It’s just got a lot of solid mid-major programs. Eight of the ten teams improved on their preseason rating, with East Tennessee State, Furman, and Samford massively outpacing their preseason projections.
That makes this tournament one of the more wide-open events in the first week. Besides the two military schools and Western Carolina, the other seven teams are all capable of a run. There was a three-way tie for the regular-season title but the tiebreakers sent what appears to be the conference’s strongest team, East Tennessee State, to the three-seed. The Bucs led the conference in both two-point percentage offense and defense during SoCon play.
No matter, it’s not like home-court advantage was at stake. All games are played at the decidedly neutral U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville which is a good way to decide the conference crown when there’s this much parity.
Qtrs Semis Final Champ 3 East Tennessee St. 100 71.2 48.5 33.4 1 UNC Greensboro 100 86.1 43.1 17.5 2 Furman 100 67.2 28.6 15.9 4 Chattanooga 100 59.5 35.1 15.7 5 Wofford 100 40.5 19.8 7.1 6 Mercer 100 28.8 13.3 6.1 7 Samford 84.5 31.3 9.5 4.0 9 The Citadel 59.8 8.4 1.2 0.1 8 Western Carolina 40.2 5.6 0.8 0.07 10 VMI 15.5 1.5 0.1 0.02