SoCon tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info

Bob McKillop led Davidson to yet another regular-season title. (USATSI)
Bob McKillop led Davidson to yet another regular-season title. (USATSI)

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What: Southern Conference championship.

When: March 7-10.

Where: U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C..

Bracket: View tournament field here.

TV: Championship game on ESPN2 (March 10, 9 p.m.). Opening round, quarterfinals and semifinals on ESPN3.

Last year's champ: Davidson (26-8, No. 14 seed)

What matters: For the third straight season, Davidson won the regular-season title. And for the second straight season, the Wildcats lost just one game in Southern Conference play. Davidson was just 3-10 against Division-I teams in non-league play, but the Wildcats turned it on in league play. Only two of their 15 wins were by fewer than 10 points. The four teams that finished second through fifth were separated by just two games, with second-place Chattanooga and new head coach Will Wade the surprise of the conference. Elon and Wofford had each won eight straight SoCon games before stumbling a bit in the final two weeks.'s 

Who matters: Davidson's De'Mon Brooks (18.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has been dominating the league for three seasons, and he was named Player of the Year for the second time this season. He's extremely efficient and is basically an impossible matchup for most teams in the Southern. Z. Mason (18.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg) of Chattanooga might be the best two-way player in the league, as he put up big offensive numbers and also was the league's Defensive Player of the Year. The Mocs were the only team to put two players on the all-league team, as Casey Jones (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) joined Mason. Two other guys to watch are Western Carolina's Trey Sumler (17.9 ppg, 4.4 apg) and Georgia Southern's Jelani Hewitt (20.0 ppg), the league's leading scorer.

Fun fact: 18.0. That's Davidson's scoring margin in its 15 SoCon wins this season. The league is filled with a very solid second tier of contenders, but the Wildcats didn't have much trouble dispatching of their opponents this season. Coincidentally, Davidson's scoring margin in its five wins against teams seeded two through five was also 18.0 points. The lone team to beat them was Elon, by two points back in January. Davidson got revenge on the Phoenix in the season finale, rolling them on the road by 17.

Prediction: Davidson gets to the NCAA tournament for the third straight season. These might not be the Wildcats of the past that seemed to be a popular Cinderella pick every single season, but they are certainly the class of the SoCon. They have dominated most of their opponents throughout the conference season, and are playing at a very high level entering the conference tournament. The Wildcats have by far the league's best offense, leading the SoCon in 3-point shooting and 2-point shooting, while also owning the top-ranked defense throughout conference play. Western Carolina and its six seniors could have been a sleeper if it was on the other side of the bracket, but I think third-seeded Wofford will advance to the title game before falling at the hands of Davidson.

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