Atlantic Sun Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

Ryan Dunn in the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

News and Notes

The wild and wacky year in the A-Sun will continue as we head into the tournament which will take place March 3-6 at the University Center in Macon, Georgia (Mercer’s home arena).  The tournament takes the top eight teams in the league.  There was never a clear-cut leader in the league through most of the regular season and we were thinking that perhaps a team or two would separate from the rest of the league; however, that never happened and instead got even more jumbled after the last weekend of the regular season.

Campbell led the league through the first half of the regular season but then fell back a few spots after a tough road swing in January.  The Camels got back in the thick of things after winning six straight that catapulted them to the top of the league once again.  But a loss at Jacksonville on Thursday night looked to end Campbell’s hopes of winning a league title until the Dolphins turned around and lost to ETSU in the season finale on Saturday.  With Lipscomb and Belmont winning their final two games of the regular season, both found themselves tied for the league’s number one spot when play concluded on Saturday night.  With that, four teams tied for the regular season championship (Lipscomb, Jacksonville, Belmont, and Campbell).  After all of the tiebreakers took place, Lipscomb earned the #1 seed, Jacksonville #2, Belmont #3, and Campbell #4 for the upcoming A-Sun tournament.  ETSU earned the #5 seed, Mercer #6, UNF #7 and Kennesaw State #8.

With the parity of the A-Sun this season, I have a feeling that there will be some extremely exciting games in the upcoming tournament.  There are no clear favorites; however, I will say that playing on Wednesday can be an advantage because the winners on Wednesday will get to have a much valuable day off before playing in the semifinals on Friday.  So I would give a very slight advantage to Lipscomb and Jacksonville just for that reason.

Final Atlantic Sun Standings

  1. Lipscomb (17-12, 14-6)
  2. Jacksonville (18-11, 14-6)
  3. Belmont (19-11, 14-6)
  4. Campbell (19-10, 14-6)
  5. ETSU (17-14, 13-7)
  6. Mercer (14-16, 10-10)
  7. UNF (13-17, 8-12)
  8. Kennesaw State (12-19, 7-13)
  9. USC Upstate (6-23, 6-14)
  10. Florida Gulf Coast (8-21, 5-15)
  11. Stetson (7-22, 5-15)

Atlantic Sun Tournament Schedule (March 3-6 at the University Center, Macon, Ga.)

Wednesday, March 3 (Quarterfinals)

  • #8 Kennesaw State vs. #1 Lipscomb (2:30)
  • #7 UNF vs. #2 Jacksonville (9:00)

Thursday, March 4 (Quarterfinals)

  • #5 ETSU vs. #4 Campbell (2:30)
  • #6 Mercer vs. #3 Belmont (9:00)

Friday, March 5

  • Semifinal #1 (6:30)
  • Semifinal #2 (9:00)

Saturday, March 6

  • Championship (6:00) ESPN2

Game Notes

#1 Lipscomb vs. #8 Kennesaw State – The Bisons tied for the A-Sun regular season title and won the tiebreaker scenarios to earn the #1 seed in the tournament.  The Bisons will take on a very young and athletic Kennesaw State squad in round one.  The two teams split their season series with each team winning on its home floor.  Kennesaw State took game one with a 97-91 victory before Lipscomb came away with a 74-66 less than a week ago.  The Owls seem to be wearing out as they have lost seven straight games heading into the tourney.

Key Players

  • Lipscomb.  Adnan Hodzic (22.5 ppg (Leads League), 8.8 rpg, 60% FG), Josh Slater (17.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.3 apg)
  • Kennesaw State. Markeith Cummings (17.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Kurtis Woods (12.5 ppg, 35% 3-point)

#2 Jacksonville vs. #7 UNF – The River City Rumble will be played for the third time this season as the two schools from Jacksonville will do battle in round one of the tourney.   JU swept the season series in regular season play.  The Dolphins won at home 62-55 and defeated the Ospreys on the road 73-61.  Both teams play an opposite style as JU will want to run and gun and UNF will want to hold the ball and keep the score as low as possible.

Key Players

  • Jacksonville.  Ben Smith (19.5 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2.1 spg), Lehmon Colbert (11.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
  • UNF.  Jerron Granberry (9.0 ppg, 84% FT, 37% 3-point), Matt Sauey (8.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 54% FG)

#3 Belmont vs. #6 Mercer- These two teams have had some very close battles during the regular season but Belmont swept the two games.  BU won 94-90 in overtime at Mercer before defeating the Bears 77-73 at home just last week.  Should be an interesting matchup with Mercer playing with the homecourt advantage, but the Bears are extremely banged up and have lost three games in a row.

Key Players

  • Belmont.  Ian Clark (14.8 ppg, 77% FT, 40% 3-pt), Mick Hedgepeth (11.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 56% FG)
  • Mercer.  James Florence (18.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 1.7 spg), Daniel Emerson (15.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg (Leads League), 54% FG)

#4 Campbell vs. #5 ETSU- The two teams have split the season series with each winning on its home floor.  ETSU won game one of the series 72-57 before Campbell earned a 79-57 blowout victory on senior night less than two weeks ago.  Both teams play similar pressing styles on defense so this one should be an interesting matchup on a neutral court.  ETSU has won three straight after that loss at Campbell.

Key Players

  • Campbell.  Jonathan Rodriguez (17.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 78% FT), Junard Hartley (6.1 ppg, 5.9 apg (Leads League), 2.6 spg (Leads League))
  • ETSU.  Tommy Hubbard (13.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.5 spg), Justin Tubbs (12.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 34% 3-pt)

Tournament Prediction

  • #1 Lipscomb def. #3 Belmont 74-67 to earn automatic bid

All-Conference Teams

With The All-Atlantic Sun teams yet to be released here are my picks for league accolades:

  • A-Sun Player of the YearJosh Slater (Lipscomb)
  • Defensive Player of the YearJunard Hartley (Campbell)
  • Newcomer of the YearIan Clark (Belmont)

First Team All-Conference

  • G- Josh Slater (Lipscomb)
  • G- James Florence (Mercer)
  • G- Ben Smith (Jacksonville)
  • F- Jonathan Rodriguez (Campbell)
  • F- Adnan Hodzic (Lipscomb)

Second Team All-Conference

  • G- Ian Clark (Belmont)
  • F- Daniel Emerson (Mercer)
  • F- Tommy Hubbard (ETSU)
  • F- Markeith Cummings (Kennesaw State)
  • F- Lehmon Colbert (Jacksonville)
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