Whether it was because they were dominating or being upset, Davidson has been the story of the Southern Conference Tournament for the past four years. A new era begins today, however, as Stephen Curry is gone, the Wildcats are a middle-of-the-pack squad, and the SoCon has four days of basketball on the horizon that should be as competitive as any you'll find this postseason.
SITE: Bojangles' Coliseum/Time Warner Cable Arena: Charlotte, N.C.
DATES: March 5-8
SET-UP: The SoCon is comprised of two divisions, and the champion and runner-up of those divisions are awarded first round byes into the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams are faced with the unenviable task of having to win four games in four days, beginning Friday.
THE FAVORITE: Wofford (23-8, 15-3)
Regardless of what happens over the next four days, Wofford, which moved to Division-I in 1995 and joined the Southern Conference two years later, has already had the most successful season in program history. Despite the fact that all but one of the top seven scorers on the team are underclassmen, the Terriers have set school records for wins (both in conference and overall) and claimed their first SoCon regular season title. They come to Charlotte riding a program-best 10-game winning streak, and have lost just once (a 70-68 decision at Charleston) in 2010.
Experience is the biggest factor standing between the Terriers and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Wofford has never been past the SoCon semifinals and this year's squad boasts just one senior key contributor.
Appalachian State (20-11, 13-5) claimed its 10th North Division title and will begin its march towards its first trip to the dance since 2000 on Saturday. They've lost just once in their past nine games, a one-point loss at Charleston (the team they'd likely face in the semifinals) on Feb. 17. The Mountaineers are one of the three teams to hand Wofford a conference loss, winning on the road by a point way back on Dec. 7. They're coached by Buzz Peterson, whose wife we hope is every bit as hot as she was when he was the head man at Tennessee.
College of Charleston (20-10, 14-4) owns the second best record in the league and is the only SoCon team to have knocked off both Wofford and Appalachian State. Boasting a three-guard lineup and four players who average double figures in scouring, the Cougars are probably the most fun team in the league from a viewer's perspective. Former Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Cremins has guided CoC to the conference title game in two of his three years at the helm, but has yet to get the Cougars over the hump.
Western Carolina (21-10, 11-7) made national waves when they raced out to a 10-1 start and shocked nationally ranked Louisville on the Cardinals' home floor. They've come back to earth since league play began, and went just 4-5 in the month of February. The Catamounts still managed to hold on to the last of the league's four first round byes, and won't begin their tournament run until Saturday.
Davidson (16-14, 11-7) would likely be even more of a threat if they hadn't been shocked in this tournament a year ago, but the Wildcats are still the league's premier program and carry that confidence-inducing knowledge with them into Charlotte. They open the postseason with an Elon team they beat to end the regular season and are fortunate enough to have the weakest of the four bye teams, Western Carolina, waiting for them in the quarterfinals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Noah Dahlman (Wofford) - The junior forward who earned the coaches' nod for league Player of the Year has scored in double figures 44 straight times and ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage at 59.2%.
Donald Sims (Appalachian State) - Sims led the SoCon in scoring at 20.4 ppg and was the media's choice as the league's top performer. He's the best free-throw shooter in the country, having missed just eight freebies in 159 attempts (95%).
Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston) - Part of the Cougars' run-and-gun backcourt, he ranks just behind Sims in scoring (19.2 ppg) and is the most dangerous three-point shooter in the tournament.
Jake Cohen (Davidson) - The 6-10 conference Freshman of the Year leads the Wildcats in scoring (13.4 ppg).
Brendan McKilliop (Davidson) - The coach's son is the league-leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7:1) and provides invaluable experience in this win-or-go home setting.
WHERE TO WATCH
You can watch every game (for a price) through the league's website.
For everyone else, the semifinals will be carried Saturday night (6, 8:30) on FCS Atlantic, Sport South and ESPN FullCourt. The title game will be carried Monday night at 9 p.m. by ESPN2.
Friday, March 5
Game 1 - (3S) Davidson vs. (6N) Elon, 2:00 p.m.
Game 2 - (4N) UNC Greensboro vs. (5S) Furman, 30 minutes following first game
Game 3 - (4S) The Citadel vs. (5N) Samford, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 - (3N) Chattanooga vs. (6S) Georgia Southern, 30 minutes following.
Saturday, March 6
(2N) Western Carolina vs. Game 1 winner, 2:00 p.m.
(1S) Wofford vs. Game 2 winner, 30 minutes following first game
(1N) Appalachian State vs. Game 3 winner, 7:00 p.m.
(2S) College of Charleston vs. Game 4 winner, 30 minutes following
Sunday, March 7
Men's Semifinal No. 1 - 6:00 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)
Men's Semifinal No. 2 - 8:30 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)
Monday, March 8
Men's Championship, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
COIN-FLIP TOURNAMENT RESULT (Heads is top seed, tails is lesser seed)
Western Carolina over Appalachian State
TEAM I BLINDLY DREW OUT OF A HAT AND WILL THEREFORE SUPPORT
Davidson has a great shot at upsetting Western Carolina in the quarterfinals and I think that whichever team emerges from that tilt has a good shot to upset Wofford in the semis. Ultimately, I'm going with whoever comes out of the bottom half of the bracket to snag the league's bid to the dance.
I'll say: Appalachian State over Western Carolina for the title.