Tuesday, February 27, 2007

From Charleston Post & Courier

SoCon tourney expected to be highly competitive
Bobby Cremins has marveled all season at the competitive challenges throughout the Southern Conference. Then Georgia Southern on Saturday handed the Cougars their first SoCon loss to a lower-division team and added a fresh coat of unpredictability to Cremins' postseason outlook.
"The SoCon Tournament ought to be something," said Cremins, the veteran coach in his first season at the College of Charleston. "I know Appalachian State and Davidson are the favorites but there's a lot of teams in this league that are going to have a lot to say. This could be one of the best tournaments they've ever had. I hope we're in the mix."
The fun begins Wednesday at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Starting at 3 p.m., No. 8 Chattanooga plays No. 9 Wofford, No. 7 Western Carolina plays No. 10 Elon, and No. 6 Georgia Southern plays No. 11 The Citadel.
The top five seeds have first-round byes.
No. 1 Davidson will face the Chattanooga-Wofford winner Thursday at 2 p.m., followed by No. 4 UNC Greensboro vs. No. 5 Furman.
No. 2 Appalachian State will play the Western Carolina-Elon winner Thursday at 7 p.m. followed by No. 3 Charleston against the Georgia Southern-Citadel winner at approximately 9:30 p.m.
Davidson went 17-1 in SoCon regular season play, losing only to Appalachian State.
"I think there is pressure once conference play starts, the pressure to earn a bye starts right off the bat," Davidson head coach Bob McKillop said. "And the pressure we've had on us, I think that our team has become used to that."
Georgia Southern is among the upset-minded teams lurking beneath the top seeds. The Eagles, on a SoCon Tournament collision course with the Cougars, had their way with Charleston in Statesboro, winning 74-65. A veteran team that played in the National Invitation Tournament last March finally is healthy with point guard Dwayne Foreman and forward Matt Fields recovered from injuries.
"I certainly feel like we've come together at the right time," Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Price said. "We have to prove that when we get over to Charleston, but there's no question our team is back now. We haven't had a complete team together really all season. Hopefully, we'll be a team people don't want to play in the tournament."
Charleston is boosted by the return of sophomore guard Marcus Hammond, who was the Cougars' third-leading scorer (9.8 points per game) over the first 17 SoCon games of the season. Hammond missed five games with a torn meniscus in his left knee but returned Saturday and scored 9 points in 16 minutes at Georgia Southern.
"He's an absolutely remarkable young man," Cremins said. "I'm shocked that he's out there. I mean, this kid had surgery two and a half weeks ago."
Cremins said he would decide today or Tuesday whether to use the 6-3 Hammond off the bench or as a starter, with freshman Tony White Jr. returning to a reserve role.
"I definitely feel like I'll be 100 percent for the tournament," Hammond said. "I wanted to get some game experience in, get cutting and moving and see how I felt, and it felt pretty good."

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