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Atlantic Sun Quarterfinals Preview

March 4, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Atlantic Sun Conference Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Michael Protos

The Atlantic Sun conference tournament starts Thursday and concludes Saturday with the championship game at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. Each game will be played in Nashville, Tenn. Belmont is the host of the tournament. The conference tournament takes the top eight regular season squads of 11 Atlantic Sun teams. Gardner Webb, Lipscomb and Campbell will be watching the tournament from the sidelines. Who else will join them on the way to an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament?

No. 1 Troy State vs. No. 8 Florida Atlantic
The Trojans play Florida Atlantic in the first game of the first round of the Atlantic Sun tournament. Troy State is in the midst of an 11-game winning streak, including two wins against Florida Atlantic. The Owls kept both games relatively close, including a five-point loss at home. To have a chance, Florida Atlantic must slow down Troy State’s fast-paced game. The Trojans average 86.6 points per game and only 11 turnovers per game. The Owls backed into the tournament, losing 10 of their last 11 games.

Prediction: Troy State 98, Florida Atlantic 73

No. 4 Georgia State vs. No. 5 Stetson
The most even first-round match up features Georgia State, which finished 14-6 in conference play, at against Stetson, which reached .500 at 10-10 in conference play. The teams split their regular season games, each team winning on the road. Stetson squeaked by the Panthers 66-65, but Georgia State slammed the Hatters 93-62 on their own court. Stetson does not shoot the ball well, only 41 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc, so the Hatters cannot afford to fall behind by a significant margin. If they can dictate a low-scoring, defensive battle, they can win this game. The Hatters ended the season as losers of three out of four games while Georgia State has won six straight.

Prediction: Georgia State 76, Stetson 68

No. 2 Central Florida vs. No. 7 Jacksonville
The Golden Knights battled with Troy State all season for the conference title but dropped a game late in the season at Georgia State that cost Central Florida a share of the regular season title. The Golden Knights win with excellent defense as only five opponents all season have scored more than 70 points against Central Florida. Jacksonville was not one of those teams, losing both contests by at least nine points. Central Florida has won six of seven games, and the Dolphins split their last eight games of the regular season.

Prediction: Central Florida 71, Jacksonville 65

No. 3 Belmont vs. No. 6 Mercer
Belmont is the host of the conference tournament and is the No. 3 seed. So the Bruins have a great opportunity to make a three-day run to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have only lost three games at home this season, against Vanderbilt, Troy State and Georgia State. Belmont claims wins against major teams like Missouri and Air Force. The Bruins have won 11 of their last 13 games, including an 11-point victory against Mercer. But the Bears handed Belmont one of its five conference losses when Mercer beat the Bruins by two early in the season. Mercer is not a good road team, however, losing 12 of 14 games on the road this season. The Bears have also lost five of their last seven games. The Bears shoot the long ball well, making 38 percent of the team’s three pointers, so if Mercer can hang around long enough to tie or win the game, they have the tools to pull off the upset. But that’s if they stay close.

Prediction: Belmont 82, Mercer 66

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