Tuesday, February 27, 2007

From Charleston Post & Courier

Very Upsetting
Davidson and Appalachian State must dodge precedent
This is a Southern Conference Tournament full of emotion and tier drops, and a few big questions:
-- Will the SoCon, for the first time, place two teams in the NCAA Tournament?
-- Will the College of Charleston, 0-4 against league leaders Davidson and Appalachian State, mesh well enough to get to Saturday night?
-- Beyond?
-- Is lurking Chattanooga capable of a surprise or two?
-- Three?
-- And which group of players will be the first to discover a good Chinese restaurant with hotel delivery?
"I never thought this league was going to be this good," College of Charleston head coach Bobby Cremins said. "I had no idea."
Wofford won at Cincinnati and nearly upset N.C. State - only to finish low in the SoCon standings.
Appalachian State has built an NCAA Tournament at-large candidate resume that includes victories over Vanderbilt and Virginia, a Bracket Buster win at Wichita State and a win over Davidson.
Davidson is aiming for an NCAA Tournament seed three or four spots higher than last year. The Wildcats, as SoCon champs in 2006, were a No. 15 seed, but gave No. 2 Ohio State a scare before losing 70-62 in Dayton, Ohio.
Charleston has played well enough to win against every team in the league, except Appalachian State and Davidson.
"There's a lot of balance in this league and people beat people but Davidson, App State and Charleston, if you look at them compared to some of the other teams, their bodies are bigger, they're deep and they have shooters through their rosters," UNC Greensboro head coach Mike Dement said. "In a given night for those teams, it's another guy. The rest of us are trying to get those things. We're trying to recruit bigger bodies, trying to get bigger or even trying to find a third or fourth scorer."
But precedent is a warning for SoCon Tournament favorites. Davidson, 16-0 during the 2005 regular season, lost in the semifinals to UNC Greensboro. Elon and Georgia Southern were the top seeds in 2006 but neither made it to the championship game.
This year, Chattanooga has the motivation and experience to make for a swell darkhorse candidate. Seniors Keddrick Mays and Casey Long and graduate students Ricky Hood and Bernard Lowndes have been part of a program that won the SoCon Tournament in 2005 and got to the championship game in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
"The SoCon tournament is Chattanooga time," Chattanooga forward Nicchaeus Dokes said, even as the Mocs fell out of contention for the North Division title. "No one is going to want to play us."
Dontaye Draper, the College of Charleston's senior guard, agreed.
"They've been to the championship game, what, three of the last four years?" he said. "Those guys know how to win in the tournament."
Then again, Wofford, even without injured star Eric Marshall, handled Elon and UNC Greensboro, both of which defeated Appalachian State, which won at Davidson.
Teams without byes in a top-heavy league need all the Cinderella hope they can scrounge up.

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