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Atlantic Sun Notebook

February 26, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Atlantic Sun Conference Notebook

by Kristy Shonka

Down The Stretch They Come

The stage is already set for the Atlantic Sun Tournament heading into the final week of the regular season. Now all that’s left to determine is the dancing order.

Belmont (11-4 A-Sun), Samford (9-6), Jacksonville State (8-6) and Georgia State (6-8) will be in Atlanta from the North Division, while Mercer (12-2), Troy State (12-2), UCF (10-5) and Jacksonville (8-6) will make the trip from the South Division. But Belmont as the No. 2 seed is the only sure thing as teams play their final games.

Belmont clinched the North Division with a two-game lead on Samford and only one game left in its season. If things play out like expected the Bruins will be the No. 2 seed behind South Division leader Mercer.

The Bears are tied with Troy State for the best record in the conference, but hold the tiebreaker over the Trojans. So it looks like TSU will be the third seed with Samford as the fourth seed. Even though it’s possible UCF could finish tied with Belmont for the second-best record in the conference, the highest the Knights could be seeded is fifth because of the way the A-Sun structures its seeding.

From there it gets tricky. If Samford takes the fourth seed, that leaves Jacksonville and Jacksonville State in a tie for the sixth seed with JU holding the tiebreaker. Preseason favorite and host Georgia State would be the eighth seed.

What Has To Happen

For everything to play out as previously explained, Mercer and Troy State have to win their remaining games. Both should win (Mercer and Troy State play Stetson and Jacksonville, respectively), but neither will be a guaranteed a victory. Stetson upset Belmont earlier in the season and Jacksonville beat UCF two weeks ago.

Mercer trailed Florida Atlantic, 40-31, at halftime on Thursday before coming back to win 87-72. The Knights gave both Mercer and Troy State trouble last week, but both came out victorious, as Mercer became the only team to sweep UCF this season.

Belmont doesn’t have to win its game Friday night at home against Samford, but no one wants to go into the tournament riding a loss. The Bulldogs, however, need the win if they want to keep the fourth seed. A loss means they drop all the way to the sixth or seventh seed (depending on whether JU sweeps Troy State and Mercer). UCF has the fifth seed wrapped up unless the Knights fall to Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville sweeps TSU and the Bears.

Jacksonville State should win its games over Gardner-Webb and Campbell, and would take the fourth seed if Samford loses to Belmont. Jacksonville isn’t likely to upset Mercer and Troy State, meaning the Dolphins will probably end up the eighth seed. If Georgia State wins its games against Gardner-Webb and Campbell, and JU loses its two games, the Panthers hold the tiebreaker and would move into the seventh seed.

UCF Loses Control Of Its Destiny

To begin last week, the Golden Knights controlled their destiny on their path to the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. All they had to do was knock off Mercer and Troy State. They lost both games by a combined eight points and had chances to pull ahead in both down the stretch.

But the Knights remain one of the teams to beat in the tournament. As the probably the fifth seed, the Knights will play a North Division opponent in the first round. UCF went 5-1 against the division during the season. The Knights’ only loss came to Belmont, which is the one team UCF definitely won’t be playing to open the tournament.

Games of the Week

With most of the seeding still up in the air, every game counts for somebody. Samford’s game against Belmont has the most riding on it as it means the difference between being the fourth seed and being the sixth or seventh seed.

Jacksonville State and Georgia State hit the easiest part of everyone’s schedule to end the season, drawing Gardner-Webb and Campbell, the two worst teams in the conference. UCF should handle Florida Atlantic, just like the Knights did to open the season, while Stetson and Jacksonville won’t be cakewalks for Mercer and Troy State.

     

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