- Ky McKeon
3MW’s All Conference Team:
Player of the Year: Matt Rafferty, Sr., Furman
Coach of the Year: Mike Young, Wofford
Newcomer of the Year: Lew Stallworth, R Sr., The Citadel
Freshman of the Year: Kevin Easley, Fr., Chattanooga
1. God Loves a Terrier
Before we go any further, if you haven’t seen Best in Show, please click this link to watch the “God loves a Terrier” song. Wofford brought back the 19th highest percentage of its minutes from 2017-18 and that continuity paid off in a major way. The Terriers smashed through a tough SoCon, notching a perfect 18-0 record and (almost certainly) locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Led by senior studs Fletcher Magee and Cameron Jackson, the Terriers rank 10th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom and 22nd in the basketball data guru’s overall rankings. Their 14th NET rating and 3 wins against Q1 competition has them hovering between a 7-9 seed currently, and if they succeed in capturing the conference tourney title that seed line could go even higher.
2. The Overshadowed Others
Wofford’s brilliance this season took attention away from three VERY good SoCon teams in UNC Greensboro, Furman, and East Tennessee State. The trio won 15, 13, and 13 games in conference play, respectively, far out-pacing the 5th place Chattanooga Mocs (7 wins). Furman made headlines earlier this year when it snuck into the top 25 following wins at Villanova and Loyola. Since then the Paladins, led by 3MW SoCon POY, has proven their early season success wasn’t a fluke, knocking off both ETSU and UNCG and playing Wofford close in two games. UNCG was great in pretty much every game it didn’t play against Wofford (lost by 29 and 30), while ETSU, a team featuring eight newcomers, nearly clipped the Terriers in OT in Johnson City.
3. Are you Stepping to Me?
Samford finished with the same conference record as last year (6-12) but was a DRASTICALLY improved team from the dumpster fire of 2017-18. Scott Padgett’s bunch improved their KenPom rank nearly 150 spots from last season and earned some tough wins before succumbing to late season struggles. By far the most memorable moment though, was when a referee charged at Padgett, prompting the 6’10” head coach to ask if he was “Stepping to him”. Laughs were had, t-shirts were made, and SAM had its 15 seconds of fame.
All ten teams in the Southern Conference are eligible to compete in the conference tournament. The top six teams receive a first-round bye. All tournament games will be played at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, NC from March 8 through 11.
Best Team and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed
The sky is the limit for Wofford. The Terriers are the odds on favorite to take the postseason conference crown, and if they do would have potentially one more Q2 win (ETSU) and one more Q1 win (Furman). Given this resume, the Terriers could earn as high as a 5 or 6 seed if they snag the auto-bid. If Wofford falls, expect to see the Terriers around the 10 or 11 seed line.
Furman is on the bubble as an at-large squad and likely wouldn’t make the Dance without snagging the auto-bid. The Paladins would likely be a 12 or maybe even an 11 seed if they won the SoCon Tourney, UNCG and ETSU would similarly be around a 12 if they take the auto-bid.
Call me crazy, but if you gave me Wofford versus the Field, I’m taking the Field…
Dark Horse Team
Samford is a good flyer to bet on out of the teams not already named. The Bulldogs took Wofford and ETSU to OT this season, beat Furman on the road, and hung tough in two bouts with UNCG. If not them, Mercer is another squad that could make waves and The Citadel is capable of getting toasty from deep. I’m not really a believer in Chattanooga despite the Mocs’ 5th place finish - but I love what that team could be next season. VMI and Western Carolina are not on the radar.
(8) VMI over (9) Western Carolina
(7) Samford over (10) The Citadel
(1) Wofford over (8) VMI
(4) ETSU over (5) Chattanooga
(2) UNCG over (7) Samford
(3) Furman over (6) Mercer
(4) East Tennessee State over (1) Wofford
(3) Furman over (2) UNCG
(3) Furman over (4) East Tennessee State
Let’s introduce a little CHAOS to the NCAA Tournament. This scenario gives the people what they want - a 2-bid SoCon. Furman deservedly gets a shot at the Big Dance and Wofford falling in the semis becomes a media circus to take ESPN’s attention off Duke for a split second.