Southern Conference basketball fans can only hope that the 2013 postseason tournament offers the kind of excitement last year brought. It was truly a tournament that captivated basketball fans with the culmination being the title game between favorite Davidson and Western Carolina.
The game would go through two overtimes before Davidson eventually held on to garner the SoCon's automatic bid with the 93-91 title-game victory over the Catamounts. It's that kind of excitement that league administrators were hoping, and it wasn't just the title game that proved to be a good matchup. There were other matchups within that 2012 tournament weekend that had fans on the edge of their respective seats.
Five of the 11 games in last year's tournament were decided by 10 points or less, and this year's tournament could be just as exciting if regular-season play is any indication as to how tournament play will go.
Below is a note from the Southern Conference notes package for the tournament that gives an indication of just how exciting the 2013 event could be.
"The Southern Conference has played 96 league games through Feb. 24. Twenty-eight games (29 percent) have either been decided by one possession or gone into overtime. Last season 32 of 108 conference games (30 percent) were either decided by one possession or went into overtime (Southern Conference Release, Feb. 26, 2013)."
New Tournament Format
Unlike previous seasons, the Southern Conference basketball tournament field will be seeded 1-12 rather than according to how each team finishes in their division, which was how the league tournament had been conducted in the past.
The tournament field will now be based on SoCon order of finish 1-12, rather than the old format which seeded teams according to divisional finish. The top four seeds will receive byes, and that is determined by conference winning percentage.
The Big Three
The top three seeds at the 2013 Southern Conference Tournament have 20 or more wins, and are the only three teams heading to "The Land of the Sky" with winning records. Elon, Davidson and College of Charleston have combined to go 65-26 on the campaign.
Last Dance With C of C, One More Time To...
The College of Charleston has enjoyed a pretty nice run as a member of the conference, but some will feel that running as a league perennial title contender is a bit short, as the Cougars will be moving on to the Colonial Athletic Association following the 2013 Southern Conference Tournament, bringing a 15-year stint as a league member to an end.
For as much success as Charleston has enjoyed in the league, the Cougars have only hung one Southern Conference title and subsequent NCAA Participant banner during their league membership, despite posting one of the most successful 15-year stints among the league's all-time conference membership in the rich history of the conference.
If anything, the Cougars will be remembered as one of the best regular-season Southern Conference clubs, as the Cougars have won 20 or more games, five out of the last six seasons entering the 2013 tournament. During their time as a league member, the Cougars have posted a (182-72) regular-season record against league foes, while posting 11, 20-win seasons.
After winning its first 22 games against Southern Conference competition (including tournament play), it would be Davidson that would hand College of Charleston its first home loss, 71-58, on Jan. 15, 2000. The Cougars went 34-4 against SoCon foes, which included tournament play, in their first two seasons as a league member.
During that remarkable first season as a member, the Cougars put together one of the best runs through the league in conference history, going wire-to-wire unscathed in SoCon play. The Cougars did something no other team in the previous 78 years of SoCon basketball had done—go unbeaten in league and tournament play. Only one team since has completed that gauntlet, as the Elite Eight Davidson club did in 2007-08.
When the college joined the Southern Conference, it seemed to be a marriage made in heaven. However, what looked good on the surface has now apparently become unraveled, as one of the three non-football members of the league is set to join the Colonial Athletic Association effective 2013-14.
Why are the Cougars jumping ship from a conference they have not dominated in basketball over the previous 14 years, but were highly successful?
Let's take a look back at some of the moments the Cougars over the past 14 years.
The Cougars have been a beneficial member of the conference in their short membership, and when they joined the league from the Trans-America Athletic Conference (Now the A-Sun), the college was certainly riding a crest of momentum under former legendary head coach John Kresse.
The team put forth a sensational run in the 1997 NCAA Tournament, which saw them defeat ACC power and No. 15 Maryland (75-66) in one of the upsets of the tournament, before eventually being eliminated by national champion, No. 22 Arizona (73-69) in the round of 32, as the Cougars had the Wildcats on the ropes for much of the game until getting into foul trouble late.
The Cougars would play one more season in the TAAC before joining the SoCon in 1998-99.
That 1998-99 College of Charleston squad, which featured veterans (F) Seddric Webber, (G) Shane McCravy, (G) Jermel President, (F) Carlos Thomas and newcomer (C) Jody Lumpkin, was able to go a combined 19-0 in the regular-season and in the postseason tournament en route to easily taking its first Southern Conference title in the Cougars' first season as a full member after moving into the league.
The team completed their successful 19-game run through league play by posting a 77-67 win over Appalachian State in the Southern Conference championship game at the Greensboro Coliseum.
It appeared the Cougars would be a dominant force in the SoCon and in the league's postseason tournament for years to come. That did not happen, as the Cougars would make it to the SoCon Tournament title game four more times, with three appearances coming under the direction of Bobby Cremins (2006-12), as C of C has gone 0-4 in league title games since winning the tournament in its first season as a member.
In the second season as a member, the Cougars lost their first of four SoCon title matchups, dropping a 68-56 decision to Appalachian State in 1999-00 at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville.
Despite the loss in the title game, College of Charleston had a bevy of talented players once again in the league, with the likes of SoCon All-Freshman Team picks Jeff Bolton and Leighton Bowie, while sophomore sensation Jody Lumpkin again wowed crowds as a one the league's premier shot-blockers and offensive post players, garnering First-Team All-SoCon honors.
Despite losing in the tournament championship to the Mountaineers, C of C was an astounding 34-4 in its first two seasons as a league member.
Bolton, who would go on to have one of the best careers of any Cougar guard during College of Charleston's tenure as a league member, would see his life tragically cut short by pneumonia on March 24, 2004, as he was just 24. At the time of his graduation, Bolton was the fifth-leading scorer in school history.
Coach Kresse would step down as the head coach of the Cougars basketball program following a 44-43 semifinal upset loss to upstart Furman at the North Charleston Coliseum in the 2002 tournament.
In recent seasons, the Cougars made it to the championship game in 2007, '09 and '11 under the direction of Bobby Cremins, losing to Davidson (72-65) in '07, Chattanooga in '09 (80-69) and Wofford (77-67) in '11.
The Cougars have been involved in a pair of epic semifinal contests that will not soon be forgotten by SoCon basketball fans. They won a 91-89 overtime game against a 25-win Appalachian State club in 2007, which was highlighted by a 38-point performance former All-SoCon guard Dontaye Draper, while it was Goudelock pacing the Cougars to an epic 59-52 win over Stephen Curry and Davidson in the SoCon semifinals in Chattanooga.
If the Cougars are going to come full circle in Asheville this weekend, first-year head coach Doug Wojcik will need the club that beat Baylor and Boston College in the pre-league slate and not the one that was blown out on its home floor by nationally-ranked Louisville (80-38) and Division II-power Anderson (65-49).
The Cougars will need to continue getting big-time minutes from their talented backcourt, which includes Andrew Lawrence (13.0 PPG, 3.9 APG), who starred for Great Britain in the Olympics this past summer, as well as Anthony Stitt (10.9 PPG, 3.3 APG). Lawrence's 55 triples this season leads the club. After a wrist injury Stitt last season, standout point guard Demontez Stitt has really come into his own this season.
One of the biggest strengths of this basketball team is its front court—in particular, rebounding the basketball. Sophomore post Adjehi Baru (9.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG) has really come into his own this season on the interior for the Cougars after being somewhat of a project player in his first season.
Baru's 8.4 RPG leads the SoCon, and that has helped the team post a league-leading +6.2 rebounding margin this season to lead the conference. The athletic Anthony Thomas (8.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and dependable Willis Hall (7.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG) will round out a talented starting trio in the paint for the Cougars in Asheville.
A Glance At The Seeds
No. 1 Davidson (23-7, 17-1 SoCon/South Division Champions)
With the top overall seed, the Wildcats have already garnered an automatic bid to the NIT should they not defend their title from a year ago.
The Wildcats will face the winner of the No. 8 Wofford vs. No. 9 Georgia Southern matchup in the quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. on March 9.
No. 2 Elon (20-10, 13-5 SoCon/North Division Champions)
Elon enters the tournament off its best season as a division member, and the Phoenix have posted the program's most wins since the 1987-88 season. The team is headed by coach Matt Matheny, who is in his fourth season at the helm at Elon.
The Phoenix will play the 6 p.m. quarterfinal on March 9 against the winner of the opening round matchup between No. 7 Chattanooga vs. No. 10 UNC Greensboro.
No. 3 College of Charleston (22-9, 14-4 SoCon/2nd South Division)
It's the last year as a member of the Southern Conference, and the team leads the nation in road victories this season. First-year head coach Doug Wojick is hoping that trend carries over to the "Land of the Sky," where the Cougars lost in the opening round to Appalachian State last year.
The Cougars will face the winner of the first-round matchup between No. 6 Western Carolina and No. 11 The Citadel in a quarterfinal contest at 8:30 p.m. on March 9.
No. 4 Appalachian State (14-15, 10-8 SoCon/2nd North Division)
Appalachian State closed out the season with wins over Samford (70-67, 2OT) and Chattanooga (86-60) to get its first, first-round bye since the 2009-10 tournament. That season, players Kellen Brand, Isaac Butts and Donald Sims helped the Mountaineers make it all the way to the championship game before eventually losing to Wofford.
The Mountaineers will face the winner of the No. 5 Samford vs. No. 12 Furman matchup in a quarterfinal contest slated for 2:30 p.m. on March 9.
No. 5 Samford (11-20, 9-9 SoCon/3rd North Division)
The first of the "non-bye seeds" is Samford, which under first-year head coach Bennie Seltzer did something no other Samford team was able to do since joining the league in the 2008-09 season—win nine SoCon games. The Bulldogs' first-round opponent will be 12th-seeded Furman, who defeated Samford in last season's opening round. The Bulldogs and Paladins will play on March 8 at 2:30 p.m.
The winner plays No. 4 Appalachian State in the quarterfinals.
No. 6 Western Carolina (13-18, 9-9 SoCon/4th North Division)
Last year, Western Carolina was the SoCon's Cinderella Story, as the Catamounts nearly did the unthinkable by taking the top-seeded Davidson Wildcats to the brink, eventually dropping a 93-91, double-overtime decision in maybe the most riveting game of championship week. Larry Hunter's Catamounts will have a similar route this season, once again opening the tournament against No. 11 The Citadel on March 8 in a contest slated for 8:30 p.m.
The winner will face College of Charleston in the quarterfinals March 9.
No. 7 Chattanooga (13-18, 8-10 SoCon/5th North Division)
The Chattanooga Mocs enter the SoCon Tournament as the seventh seed, and they will face the No. 10 seed UNC Greensboro Spartans in an opening round contest slated for March 8 at 6 p.m. Chattanooga has claimed 10 Southern Conference crowns, which ranks second among the 12 league members. The Mocs will be playing in the opening round for the second year in a row, after dropping a 76-70 decision to Georgia Southern last season.
The winner will play against the No. 2 Elon Phoenix in the quarterfinals.
No. 8 Wofford (13-18, 7-11 SoCon/3rd South Division)
The Terriers have entered the tournament as an unseeded club since the 2009 tournament in Chattanooga. They will face off against a familiar foe in the opening round, as Wofford will take on the No.9 Georgia Southern Eagles in the first game of the tournament at 11:30 a.m. on Mar. 8. The Terriers took both regular-season matchups between the two schools.
The winner of this matchup will take on Davidson in the quarterfinals.
No. 9 Georgia Southern (13-18, 7-11 SoCon/4th South Division)
Georgia Southern has never been past the semifinal round of the Southern Conference Tournament, and the Eagles head into the 2013 tournament as the No. 9 seed. They face No. 8 Wofford, in the opening game of the tournament, slated for 11:30 a.m. on Friday, March 8.
The winner of that matchup will move on to the quarterfinal round to face Davidson.
No. 10 UNC Greensboro (8-21, 6-12 SoCon/6th North Division)
UNC Greensboro was the preseason pick to win the Southern Conference's North Division, and it was the Spartans that garnered an opening-round bye before getting a quarterfinal win over Appalachian State (65-55) last season, eventually losing to Western Carolina in the SoCon semifinals. This season, the Spartans will face No. 7 Chattanooga in an opening round matchup slated for a 6 p.m. on March 8.
The winner will take on Elon in the quarterfinals March 9.
No. 11 The Citadel (8-21, 5-13 SoCon/5th South Division)
The Citadel last claimed an opening-round win in the Southern Conference postseason tournament back in 2009 with a 65-53 win over Samford. This season, the Bulldogs will open the tournament the same way they did in 2012, against No. 6 Western Carolina, in a matchup slated for 8:30 p.m. on March 8.
The winner of this battle will advance to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 seed College of Charleston.
No. 12 Furman (6-23, 3-15 SoCon/6th South Division)
Furman heads into the Southern Conference Tournament having lost its final 10 regular-season games, and the Paladins have lost a litany of players to injury throughout the season. Furman will face No. 5 Samford in a 2:30 p.m. opening-round tilt on March 8. The Furman-Samford contest is a rematch of last season's opening-round victory for the Paladins.
The winner of this season's contest moves on to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 4 seed Appalachian State.