As we get closer to the Southern Conference Tournament, there are several matchups that will prove pivotal in deciding the regular-season champion and No. 1 overall seed in Asheville. The games listed below likely will be the ones to decide it.
Western Carolina at UNC Greensboro (Feb. 12)
The Catamounts don’t have much of a shot at the 1 seed, but they could play spoiler for East Tennessee State or UNC Greensboro down the stretch. The good news for the Bucs and Spartans is both face Western Carolina at home, and both won relatively comfortable matchups against them the first time around. The Spartans are currently just a game back of Furman and East Tennessee State, who sport identical 10-2 records atop the league standings. Following a 95-67 win over Samford Saturday, the Spartans moved to 19-6 overall and 9-3 in league play. With Kyrin Galloway now back, it presents a whole different dynamic for the Spartans, making them an even more dangerous team going forward.
Western Carolina at Wofford (Feb. 15)
Wofford suffered a crucial setback Saturday evening, as Chattanooga came to Spartanburg and completed the season sweep of the Terriers. The loss could have seriously hampered first-year head coach Jay McCauley’s club from defending their regular-season title from a year ago, as Wofford fell to 16-9 overall and 8-4 in league play, and are sitting alone in fourth place in the league standings. Western Carolina was able to hang on for an 81-72 win in Cullowhee a few weeks back. The Terriers got a career-high 31-point effort from Nathan Hoover in the loss to Chattanooga the last time out. Wofford will face Mercer Wednesday night (Feb. 12) and their game against the Catamounts will be the third game in a three-game home stand. In their first matchup, Catamount point guard Mason Faulkner led the way with 25 points.
Furman at East Tennessee State (Feb. 19)
It’s likely that this game that will go a long way in deciding the SoCon champion, especially since the Bucs now own the series sweep of UNC Greensboro. Since losing to Mercer at home back on Jan. 29, the Bucs have won three-straight games. The Bucs and Paladins were the first two teams in the SoCon to reach 20 wins this season. Since Furman lost at Wofford, the Paladins have won five in a row. Furman, which is 20-5 overall and 10-2 in SoCon play, won the first matchup with ETSU, 65-56, on Jan. 4.
Wofford at UNC Greensboro (Feb. 19)
In what is part of a crucial two-game stretch for Wofford, the Terriers will be on the road to face UNC Greensboro on the same night Furman and East Tennessee State face off in Johnson City. The loser of this matchup probably loses any realistic shot at the conference title. The Terriers claimed a hard-fought double-overtime win in Spartanburg back on Jan. 4. Wofford had six players post double-figure scoring performances, with Nathan Hoover and Storm Murphy leading Wofford 17 points apiece. Isaiah Miller led all scorers with 28 points before fouling out in the second overtime.
Wofford at Furman (Feb. 22)
Furman will look to avoid the season sweep against the Terriers for the second-straight season. Furman didn’t look so hot in its last appearance in downtown Greenville, dropping an 86-73 contest to UNC Greensboro. Wofford held Furman to its lowest point total in the first matchup of the season as Furman had trouble containing Chevez Goodwin, who led all scorers with 18 points. Nathan Hoover added 17 points in the nationally televised broadcast on ESPNU. Wofford has won 14 out of the past 17 meetings with Furman.
East Tennessee State at Wofford (Feb. 26)
This is the toughest road game remaining for East Tennessee State in its chase for a regular-season title. The Bucs claimed a defensive struggle in the first matchup between the two back on Jan. 1, winning 49-48 at Freedom Hall. A key steal from Isaiah Tisdale late in the game prevented Wofford from getting off a potential game-winning shot. Patrick Good was the lone Bucs player in double figures with 12 points.
Furman at UNC Greensboro (Feb. 26)
UNCG could use some help from Furman a week before this game to keep its title hopes strong; the Paladins face East Tennessee State on the 19th. Then, if the Spartans could beat Furman at Greensboro Coliseum, it could force a three-way title for the Southern Conference title. The Spartans have owned the Paladins of late, having won seven out of the past 10 meetings and six of the past seven. In the first meeting between the two this season, Furman turned it over 19 times, with 16 of those coming from steals. The Spartans had five players in double figures, led by SoCon preseason Player of the Year Isaiah Miller, who poured in 18 points.
Western Carolina at East Tennessee State (Feb. 29)
The final game that could factor in to the Southern Conference title race will take place on the final day of the regular-season, as East Tennessee State hosts Western Carolina. The Bucs won an 85-66 contest last month with all-conference forward Carlos Dotson sidelined with an injury. That game saw ETSU’s Isaiah Tisdale go crazy, scoring 26 points. We’ll see if anything changes this time around with Dotson back in action.