The Southern Conference regular season race is all but wrapped up as we head into the final two weeks. Chattanooga leads by two in the loss column over every team in the conference, and has four games which they are favored to win each by double digits and teams currently with losing records in conference play.
So, while the regular season title is probably out of reach for any team not named Chattanooga, there is still plenty to play for in the rest of the conference during the final two weeks of regular season play.
The two through five seeds. ETSU, Furman, Wofford and Mercer are all tightly packed. Furman and ETSU each have four losses, while Wofford has five and Mercer has six. The schedules have many match-ups between these teams in the next two weeks. ETSU plays Wofford, Furman and Mercer. Wofford also plays Furman. That means that Mercer plays the easiest schedule down the stretch, so even though they have the most losses now, they have a chance to move up. ETSU has the toughest schedule, meaning that even though they are tied for second in losses, they may stumble. What's the difference in all the seeds? Glad you asked. The difference between the two seed and the three seed is that the two seed will be playing a team in the quarterfinals coming off of a game, while the three seed will be playing a team coming off a bye. The difference in the four and five seed and the three seed is not only that they will be in the same half of the bracket with Chattanooga (more than likely), but they will also have to possibly play three top five teams on their way to the championship. The bracket sets up to where the four plays the five, then possibly the one, then possibly either the two or three. Given the clear dividing line in the SoCon between the top five and the bottom five, that is a big difference.
The battle for the six spot. No team has won the Southern Conference Tournament by winning four games in four days. It just isn't done. While Furman came tantalizing close last year, it is just very difficult to do. That puts a lot of importance on reaching the six seed, and oh is it a battle right now. UNCG and Western Carolina are tied for the six seed, each at 6-8 in conference play. They have split the season series, but Western Carolina owns the tiebreaker because of their win over Chattanooga. UNCG does play Chattanooga and can turn that around with a win over the Mocs in Chattanooga. UNCG has won two in a row against D1 competition just once all year. They go to Samford and Chattanooga before hosting The Citadel and Mercer. Western Carolina goes to Mercer and The Citdael before hosting Furman and Wofford. I believe UNCG has the slight scheduling advantage. This is going to be a tight race down to the very end. It is also very important.
The Mocs battle for an at large/better seeding. The SoCon has never received an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Chattanooga is hoping they don't test that and win the SoCon Tournament in Asheville. However, if they do not, the Mocs may be able to secure an at large bid. If the Mocs are able to win their final four regular season games (two against last place VMI, and at home against 8th place Samford and at home against currently 7th place UNCG), they would be 27-4 heading into the SoCon Tournament. If the Mocs won their first two games prior to losing in the conference championship game to a good SoCon team (Mercer? ETSU? Furman? Wofford?), the Mocs would be 29-5 with wins over Dayton and Georgia. This is a really good team that may or may not make the NCAA Tournament. The Mocs can also get a very high seed in the tournament if they keep on winning and wind up 30-4. That could be enough for as high as a ten seed, and they will be a team that no one wants to play in the Big Dance.
Last chance to watch Croone. Stephen Croone has been a special talent for Furman and his final days are coming in a Paladins uniform. He has been a joy to watch as a SoCon fan. He wraps up the season with three road games, at Wofford, Western Carolina and ETSU. This is a critical time for the Paladins, but let's not forget to just to take pleasure in watching Croone play. He may win the SoCon Player of the Year this year (and he may not, because Justin Tuoyo, Tre McLean and Stephon Jelks among others may have a claim to make on that title) and he should be enjoyed before it is too late.