It all comes down to this for the SoCon.
After the last year of changing tides in the SoCon, with College of Charleston, then Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, then Elon, and then Davidson leaving for other conferences and Mercer, VMI and ETSU being asked to join the conference, none of the schools leaving the conference are participating in the SoCon Championship Game. In other words, it really worked out for the conference members that are staying. With Mercer also winning the Atlantic Sun automatic bid, there is guaranteed to be two conference champions in the SoCon next year. That's something to promote.
In the mean time, with the top two seeds both being upset, the number three and number five seeds square off for the right to represent the SoCon in the NCAA Tournament.
The Terriers have beaten The Citadel (who upset UNCG) and Georgia Southern (who upset Chattanooga) to reach the championship game. Their calling card is their defensive intensity. Karl Cochran is one of the best defensive players in the conference.
But the secret to the Terriers midseason turnaround has been their offensive efficiency. When they play efficient offense, they are nearly unbeatable. They have been shooting the ball very well in this tournament. Cochran and Spencer Collins, along with Eric Garcia, are shooters that need to shoot the ball effectively. When those guys are shooting well, this Terriers team becomes nearly impossible to beat.
As the season has progressed, while Cochran is the superstar, it has become more and more clear that Lee Skinner is the heart and soul of the team. He is the one that does all the muscle work in the paint. He rebounds and gets points when necessary. He played spectacularly against the Eagles in the semifinals.
The Catamounts are a senior laden club that has been shooting for this season for the last couple of years. Trey Sumler is the teams best player. But in this tournament, Brandon Boggs and James Sinclair have each played better than Sumler. Boggs has been making all the necessary plays for this team
Much like Skinner for the Terriers, it is Tawaski King that seems to be the heart and soul of the Catamounts. He is such a critical player. He does not always put up huge numbers, but he seems to always make the biggest play when it is needed most. King is a very good rebounder and scores when he needs to. Skinner against King will be the match-up to watch on the floor. The one who wins that match-up could easily win the game.
The Catamounts also a good defensive team. This team, with all their senior leadership, also never give up. They trailed by twelve against both Elon and Davidson and came back and beat both teams in the SoCon Tournament. That shows incredible heart. They truly believe they are never out of a game in Asheville. Even if Wofford jumps out to an early lead don't turn this one off. This one is NEVER over.
In some ways, this is about as good as it gets in terms of championship game in the SoCon. The two teams hooked up once earlier this year. Western Carolina was 4-0 in SoCon play at the time and Wofford was 2-3. Wofford won by eleven on their home floor. King had just two points and six rebounds. Skinner had eleven points and eleven rebounds. Cochran and Collins combined to go 13 of 27 from the floor and scored 38 points. I expect this to be a low scoring game. Western Carolina is probably the slightly better team, but I truly do not see how Western Carolina can come back after beating Elon by two in dramatic fashion and beating Davidson by two in overtime in dramatic fashion. They will just be too emotionally spent. Western Carolina will not get to their first NCAA Tournament since 1996. Wofford will go to their first NCAA Tournament since 2011. Terriers 68, Catamounts 63.