Playing in Southern Conference's First Four has some benefits

Playing in Southern Conference's First Four has some benefits

March 6th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Southern Conference

MEN'S TOURNAMENT

U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.

All games on ESPN3.com; championship game on ESPN or ESPN2

Friday

• Game 1: (8) Wofford vs. (9) Georgia Southern, 11:30 a.m.

• Game 2: (5) Samford vs. (12) Furman, 2

• Game 3: (7) UTC vs. UNC Greensboro, 6

• Game 4: (6) Western Carolina vs. (11) The Citadel, 8:30

Saturday

• Game 5: (1) Davidson vs. Game 1 winner, noon

• Game 6: (4) Appalachian State vs. Game 2 winner, 2:30

• Game 7: (2) Elon vs. Game 3 winner, 6

• Game 8: (3) College of Charleston vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30

Sunday

• Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6

• Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 8:30

Monday

• Championship game: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7

WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

Kimmel Arena, Asheville, N.C.

Friday

• Game 1: (8) Georgia Southern vs. (9) Western Carolina, 11:30 a.m.

• Game 2: (7) Furman vs. (10) UNC Greensboro, 1:45

• Game 3: (6) Samford vs. (11) Wofford, 4

Saturday

• Game 4: (1) UTC vs. Game 1 winner, noon

• Game 5: (4) Appalachian State vs. (5) Col. of Charleston, 2:15

• Game 6: (2) Davidson vs. Game 2 winner, 4:30

• Game 7: (3) Elon vs Game 3 winner, 6:45

U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.

Sunday (on ESPN3.com)

• Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, noon

• Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 2:30

Monday (on ESPN3.com)

• Championship game: Game 8 winner vs Game 9 winner, 2:30

It could be Davidson in the field or Dayton as the first destination for the Southern Conference in the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Davidson (23-7, 17-1) is the clear favorite to win this week's SoCon tournament, coaches said on the weekly league teleconference Tuesday. Elon and the College of Charleston are the next most likely to win the automatic bid to the national event.

If it's another school, commissioner John Iamarino likely would pack his bags for Dayton, Ohio, to watch the SoCon representative play in the First Four matchup for the first time since the NCAA began playing games before Thursday of the NCAA tournament's first weekend. That started in 2001.

"I'm not sure we're going to Dayton if Charleston or Elon wins," Iamarino said. "If Davidson wins, I think there are a couple of options. It depends on what happens elsewhere."

There are benefits and drawbacks for the SoCon having a team play during the opening round in Dayton.

The big benefit is that it could be lucrative if the SoCon team wins there, garnering another unit of the purse that is worth about $1.4 million dollars over six years. The conference also could claim that it won an NCAA tournament game, but that's superficial. The final benefit is the national exposure of being the only NCAA basketball game on national TV at that time.

"Everybody strives hard to get the best possible seeds in the NCAA tournament," Iamarino said. "You want the champion to get a decent seed with a chance of winning games. That's what happens when you get a 12, 13 or 14. When you get a 15 or 16, you get a monster opponent."

The drawback of Dayton is having the stigma of being a "First Four" team and irrelevant in office pools because most brackets are due at noon Thursday when the field is at 64 teams.

The scarlet letters "First Four" aren't as glaring as they used to be.

"A couple years ago, it seemed you almost were not in the tournament," Elon coach Matt Matheny said on the teleconference. "If the SoCon is represented in the First Four this year, we will get incredible exposure.

"I think it's an honor to make the tournament no matter where you're seeded."

The SoCon is ranked No. 27 out of 31 in conference RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com. Davidson's Wildcats own a No. 76 team RPI -- a major factor the selection committee uses for seeding -- followed by Charleston at 150 and Elon at 177. The next best is Wofford at 238.

"Davidson has been the favorite all year," Charleston coach Doug Wojcik said. "I think we're dangerous. I think Elon is dangerous. The RPI, there's not a whole lot we can do about that."

John Becker's Vermont team won the America East title last year and learned on Selection Sunday that his Catamounts would be in the First Four.

"It was a little bit of a letdown to our guys," Becker said. "But when you look at it, it's a chance to play a winnable NCAA tournament game."

Becker's bunch did win, 71-59 over Lamar in Dayton. They took an NCAA charter flight to Greensboro, where they lost 77-58 to No. 1 seed North Carolina.

Would he prefer to be a No. 16 seed who waits to open or in the First Four? The Catamounts are seeded second in the American East tournament this year.

"I don't know. I go back and forth," Becker said. "Either way I'd be happy. I'm sure our league office would want us in Dayton to maybe win another $1.4 or $1.5 million for the conference."