Posted on: February 28, 2011 9:55 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 1:51 pm

Atlantic Sun tournament preview

The Atlantic Sun conference has been a two-horse race for a while now. Central Florida was the last team not named Belmont (19-1) or East Tennessee State (16-4) to win the league’s auto-bid. UCF did it in 2004 and 2005 before decamping for C-USA. ETSU has had the misfortune of facing No. 1 seeds in back-to-back seasons most recently, but the three years before that were all Belmont.

6-foot-9 Mick Hedgepeth raises Belmont's profileThis is notable because the Bruins may have played in one of the most memorable losses in recent tournament history. On March 20, 2008, juniors Alex Refroe, Matthew Dotson and Andy Wicke combined for 43 points in a 71-70 loss to the No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils. It took a full-court driving layup by Gerald Henderson with 12 seconds left to stave off what would have been only the fifth 15 over 2 upset in tournament history.

This year, the top of the A-Sun standings look pretty familiar. Belmont has been one of the more consistent teams all season long, losing just three non-conference games (to Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee again) and going 19-1 in league play. With 6-foot-9 Mick Hedgepeth (right) and 6-10 Scott Saunders up front, the Bruins don’t look like your typical mini-major team. Add in the extreme loyalty of head coach Rick Byrd – he’s been at Belmont since 1986 – and you’ve got a recipe for consistent championship basketball.

The most obvious threat to Belmont’s run to the Big Dance are the ESTU Buccaneers. Coached by Murry Bartow -- son of legendary Memphis (State) coach Gene Bartow – the Bucs had a respectable 16-4 conference record that nonetheless contained a pair of ten-point losses to the Bruins.

You may be wondering which team in the league did manage to blemish Belmont’s record. The Lipscomb Bisons (12-8) hold that distinction. The only other team that seems like a threat is the Mercer Bears (11-9), if only because the tournament is being staged on their home court in Macon, Georgia.

Of the 11 teams in the A-Sun, only the top 8 qualify for the tournament. Florida Gulf Coast finished seventh, but was ineligible to participate as a condition of their recent re-classification to D-I. The Stetson Hatters and South Carolina-Upstate Spartans will also watch from home.

See the A-Sun tournament bracket



  1. Adnan Hodzic: Lipscomb
  2. Mick Hedgepeth: Belmont
  3. Mike Smith: East Tennessee State

Conference RPI:

Kenpom.com Conference Rating:  20

Sagarin Conference Ranking: 21


NCAA Tournament Locks:  None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams:  None 


Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

Belmont Bruins: 2008 (71-70 loss to Duke)

ETSU Buccaneers: 2010 (100-71 loss to Kentucky)

Jacksonville Dolphins: 1986 (61-50 OT loss to Temple)

Lipscomb Bisons: Never

Mercer Bears: 1985 (65-58 loss to Georgia Tech)

North Florida Ospreys: Never

Campbell Fighting Camels: 1992 (82-56 loss to Duke)

Kennesaw State Owls: Never

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 2:46 pm

Snow day delays A-Sun seeding process

These two teams will play Wednesday, but may swap partners sometime this evening

Posted by Eric Angevine

We know the Atlantic Sun conference tournament starts on Wednesday. We know that the Belmont Bruins, one of the most dominant regular-season champions in any conference in America, will be the No. 1 seed. We also know that East Tennessee State will be the No. 2 seed. Both will play on the first day of the tourney.

What we don't know yet, even at this late date, is who they will be playing.

The A-Sun only lets the top eight regular-season finishers into the postseason, and the current standings look like this:

1. Belmont (19-1)
2. ETSU (16-4)
3. Jacksonville (13-7)
4. Lipscomb (12-8)
5. Mercer (11-9)
6. North Florida (10-10)
7. Florida Gulf Coast (6-13)
8. Campbell (6-14)
9. Kennesaw State (6-14)
10. Stetson (6-14)
11. USC Upstate (4-15)

Looking at that, you'd think it would be Florida Gulf Coast vs. ETSU, and some sort of tie-breaker to decide which 6-14 dog gets another chance to be eaten by a bear. But it's not that easy. Sherri Booker, the A-Sun's Senior Associate Commissioner for Championships, explained the situation to me via email this morning:

We had a men’s and women’s contest (FGCU at USC Upstate doubleheader) that was postponed in January due to the Upstate campus being closed due to over 8” of snow. The games are being played today (women-5:00 ET; men-7:30 ET). Based on the outcome of the men’s contest, we will be able to finalize the men’s #7 and #8 seed later tonight and will post it on the A-Sun website. The women’s seeding have been finalized.
With an FGCU win, Campbell will secure the No. 7 seed and Kennesaw State will secure the No. 8 seed. With a USC Upstate win, Kennesaw State will secure the No. 7 seed and Campbell will secure the No. 8 seed.
There's actually a little more to this byzantine situation. FGC would have been the No. 7 team, except that the Eagles are ineligible for postseason play due to their fairly recent ascension to D-I status. The same is true of Upstate. It's like a play-in game by proxy.

So, with the league tourney just two days away, two ineligible teams playing a makeup game will determine the first-round matchups. Even more ironcially, a conference named for its preponderance of southern sunshine has been put in this unusual situation by a completely atypical dumping of snow.

Yet another reason to enjoy every minute of conference tournament time.

Photo: US Presswire
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Category: NCAAB
Tags: A-Sun, Belmont, ETSU
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