Teams heading to town for shot at NCAA tourney

Teams heading to town for shot at NCAA tourney

February 28th, 2011 by David Uchiyama in Sports

The standings set the bracket.

And Southern Conference basketball coaches and players had been watching the results and standings in anticipation of the SoCon tournament bracket.

The tournament winner achieves a dream.

It goes to the NCAA tournament.

It has a chance, and an opportunity, albeit against long odds and bigger, stronger and more talented teams, to reach the Final Four and potentially win a national championship.

And only the winner has that chance from a one-bid league such as the SoCon.

"There's noting like being undefeated again," said Georgia Southern coach Charlton Young whose team had one SoCon win in the regular season. "Everybody has a chance at this thing. It's good to have a new wave of hope.

"It's about match-ups. Anything can happen."

Davidson won the SoCon and became an national darling in 2008 when it reached the Elite Eight. A last-second shot missed the mark and the Wildcats fell to eventual national-champion Kansas.

If Jason Richards had hit a difficult 3-pointer, the history of college basketball would have been altered for at least the 2008 season.

Davidson had to win the SoCon tournament to get that opportunity.

The opportunity awaits again for the 12 men's teams and 11 women's teams who will gather in McKenzie Arena late this week to determine the SoCon's representatives in the Big Dances.

"You get a little nervous, a little excited, and a little tight this time of year," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. "If you want to play somebody at this time of year, then you're crazy. Every game is a war. I'm just thankful we earned a bye and don't have a first-round matchup.

"When you play do-or-die games, crazy things happen."

Already, through the course of the SoCon season, craziness has already occurred. Both the North and South Division championship will be shared. UTC and Western Carolina tied for the North Division title while Wofford and College of Charleston tied in the South.

Tiebreakers determined the top seeds to be WCU and Charleston. UTC and Wofford earned first-round byes.

Every other team needs to win four games in four days to advance to the Big Dance. A few teams have come close including two years ago when the College of Charleston lost to UTC in the finals.

"You don't have to beat all 12 teams, you only have to beat four," said Young, whose team has the longest odds to win it all. "When you run into teams with a bunch of guys with nothing to lose, they're dangerous.

"Charleston, Wofford, Western, even Chattanooga, they feel like they're supposed to win. But if things aren't going their way, they're going to get nervous, and if we're having fun, it could be a problem for them.

"I've played in this league, I've coached in this league, and our tournament is going to be exciting."