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Atlantic Sun Notebook

March 3, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Atlantic Sun Conference Notebook

by Kristy Shonka

Bears, Trojans Stick To Plans

The final week of the Atlantic Sun Conference’s regular season finished without a hitch, as no upsets happened. Mercer and Troy State both beat Jacksonville and Stetson to finish as the A-Sun regular season co-champions. Mercer will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament because the Bears hold the tiebreaker over Troy State.

Troy State (23-5 overall, 14-2 A-Sun) pounded Stetson 117-70 Thursday night before knocking off Jacksonville 94-72 Saturday. The Trojans will be the three seed in the tournament. Mercer (22-5, 14-2) pulled out a 73-63 win over Jacksonville on Thursday and beat Stetson 101-84 on Saturday.

The only game that really affected the seeding for the A-Sun Tournament was the Belmont-Samford game Friday night. Belmont won the game causing Samford to fall from a possible No. 4 seed to the No. 6 seed in the tournament. Belmont had the No. 2 seed whether it won or lost. UCF won its game over Florida Atlantic 82-75 for the fifth seed. Jacksonville’s two losses landed the Dolphins the eighth and final spot in the tournament, while host Georgia State beat Gardner-Webb and Campbell to earn the seventh seed.

The South Wins This Battle

The A-Sun South Division proved to be the better division this year with a combined 54-42 conference record and three teams finishing with 10 or more conference wins. The North Division went 42-54 in the league and only had two teams with double digit conference wins. The South also won in head-to-head competition with the North, winning 24-of-36 meetings.

A-Sun co-champs Mercer and Troy State are both from the South Division and the teams with three of the best four records came from the South.

The Best of the Worst

Of the four teams that did not make the tournament, Stetson wins the best of the worst award. The Hatters had the best conference record of the bunch at 4-12, followed by Florida Atlantic (3-13), Gardner-Webb (2-14) and Campbell (1-15).

The Hatters also upset North Division winner Belmont. The only other upset among this bunch was Gardner-Webb’s win over Samford. The other eight wins in this group came against one another. South Division FAU and Stetson both beat the North’s Campbell and Gardner-Webb, while splitting the series against each other.

Twenty-Something

For the first time in the A-Sun’s history, the conference could have four teams finish with 20 or more wins. Mercer, Troy State and Jacksonville State have already accomplished that feat, while UCF needs just one more win to make league history.

On the other side though, those four teams are the only with winning overall records. Georgia State is at .500, while Jacksonville is the only other team close to breaking even at two games below .500.

Tournament Time

Eight teams will begin competing Thursday for the conference’s one automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Atlantic Sun Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament starts at noon Thursday and runs through Saturday’s noon championship game, which will be aired live on ESPN2 from Atlanta, Ga.

Here’s a look at Thursday’s first-round match-ups:

12 p.m. No. 4 Jacksonville State (20-9, 10-6) vs. No. 5 UCF (19-10, 11-5)

UCF won the regular season game, 68-62, against Jacksonville State on a pair of free throws by guard Ray Abellard with four seconds left. The game was a back-and-forth battle with neither team leading by more than four points. Abellard led UCF with 21 points, while forward Roberto Morentin chipped in 16 points. Guard Poonie Richardson scored 21 for the Gamecocks and forward Omar Barlett recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. This should be a close game, but UCF is hungry after naysayers picked the Knights to finish the season without a tournament appearance. If the Knights are healthy (defensive stopper Marius Boyd injured his ankle Saturday against FAU) they should move on to play the winner of the 2 p.m. game.

2 p.m. No. 1 Mercer (22-5, 14-2) vs. No. 8 Jacksonville (13-15, 8-8)

This will be the second time in three games these two teams have met, as the game is a re-match of Thursday’s game, which the Bears won 73-63. Jacksonville was the preseason favorite in the South Division, but has been very inconsistent this season. The Bears, however, have been very consistent, winning their last nine games. Mercer should have no problem winning this game, which would mean it would move on to play the winner of the UCF-JSU game at 6 p.m. Friday.

6 p.m. No. 2 Belmont (17-11, 12-4) vs. No. 7 Georgia State (14-14, 8-8)

The second seed in this tournament isn’t too good of a deal when you consider the prize is Georgia State on its home court to open the tournament. The teams split the regular season games with each team winning on the road. Georgia State was the preseason favorite to win the tournament, and while that doesn’t seem likely anymore, a first-round upset is a definite possibility. The Bruins have been almost unstoppable on the road (8-1) this season, but in a close game home court advantage should swing the game Georgia State’s way. Whoever wins will play the winner of the 8 p.m. match-up.

8 p.m. No. 3 Troy State (23-5, 14-2) vs. No. 6 Samford (13-14, 9-7)

The Trojans beat Samford back on Jan. 26 by 18 points on their home court. Troy State won 11 of 12 conference games to end the season, and the lone loss came against No. 1 seed Mercer. This game pits the conference’s No. 1 defense (Samford) against its No. 1 offense (TSU). While the old saying goes defense wins championships, the Bulldogs aren’t likely to score enough points to beat Troy State. The winner will play either Belmont or Georgia State at 8 p.m. Friday.

     

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