Thursday, March 2, 2017

Southern Conference tournament preview

This is part 11 of a 32-part series previewing every conference tournament in the country.  We'll detail what you need to keep track of in each tournament and the various stakes for each team.

The standings:
UNC Greensboro 14-4
Furman 14-4
East Tennessee St 14-4
Chattanooga 10-8
Wofford 10-8
Mercer 9-9
Samford 8-10
Western Carolina 4-14
The Citadel 4-14
VMI 3-15

Tournament format:
Friday March 3 to Monday March 6.  Neutral site in Asheville.  Straight-up tournament.

The matchups:
1) UNC Greensboro vs. 8/9) Western Carolina/The Citadel
4) Chattanooga vs. 5) Wofford
3) East Tennessee St vs. 6) Mercer
2) Furman vs. 7/10) Samford/VMI

The stakes:
SoCon sits at RPI, one of their better years.  Chattanooga over Tennessee is their signature win, and they held their own mostly against over low-majors.  Speaking in generalities, there's a lot of conferences ranked below them with champs with very good RPIs.  So seeding this conference champ will be a balance of how highly you rate the conference vs. how highly you rate the individual team.  For example, UNCG is sitting on RPI 100 which says 15 seed; but is sitting in conference #15 which says #13 seed.

Greensboro's got the NIT bid.  They also have 4 top 100 wins, but 3 of those in conference.  ETSU only has 1 top 100 win despite a RPI around 70 (for this reason, their NIT chance is probably low at best).  Furman is meh too.  My instinct says any of them are destined for the 14 line.

Down further, Chattanooga's resume is good enough to make a CBI/CIT, and Samford is eligible for it too, but further down the standings.  Wofford or Mercer need two wins to be eligible.  Someone, somewhere cares, I suppose.  However, Furman and ETSU are very safe bets for these tournaments, at least.

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