Monday, March 10, 2014

Wofford Goes to the NCAA Tournament

Wofford survived a furious rally from Western Carolina and advanced to their NCAA Tournament in the last five years.

The Terriers played so well in this tournament. They did not win a ton of games this year against the elite SoCon competition, but sometimes when you get into a tournament, that doesn't matter. That was the case here, as the Terriers played a team fresh off an upset in every game of the tournament.

That is not intended to take anything away from the Terriers. They won against the competition put in front of them. Tonight, they won by playing aggressive defense, which was their calling card for much of the year. They did not play super-efficient offense, which had been a key to their tournament run so far. The Terriers only shot 39.6% from the floor. But they protected the basketball, turning it over just four times in the whole game.

But the Terriers held the Catamounts to 35.1% shooting from the floor and just 3 of 18 from three point range. That defensive intensity and effort is what won this game, because the Catamounts outrebounded the Terriers.

Lee Skinner had 11 points and eight rebounds, while Karl Cochran scored 23 (including five threes), had five rebounds and four assists. Spencer Collins did not make a basket for the Terriers.

The Terriers are guaranteed a 16 seed, just about. Their current RPI is 152. They beat almost no one of note this year out of conference. Their best win is probably the road win over Elon. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. The question really is if the Terriers are going to get out of the First Four or not. I tend to think they will. But I may be wrong about that. I think they would win in a game in Dayton, but can't imagine that they would give any real challenge to any #1 seed. They just aren't good enough offensively to expect to beat a #1 seed.

As for the future for these two schools, Wofford looks like they will be the favorite in the SoCon again next year. Chattanooga will be right there with them, but the Terriers will likely be the preseason favorite. They graduate just one senior- Aeris Smith. The Terriers will return all the key pieces to this year's team. Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins, Lee Skinner and Eddie Garcia, not to mention some of the other key pieces, all come back. This team may be better next year. In the new look SoCon, that could mean big things for the Terriers.

Western Carolina, on the other hand, is graduating a lot of seniors. James Sinclair will be the focus of the team. He is the best returning player and he will likely be able to carry the team at times. But in reality the Catamounts are likely to struggle a bit next year. Trey Sumler, Brandon Boggs, Tawaski King and Tom Tankelwicz will all be gone, and this team just won't be the same. They will not be pushovers, by any means, but it's hard to imagine this team being better. If they aren't better, they will likely finish at last in the middle of the pack, and may wind up in the lower half of the SoCon. They will be back, but probably not next year.

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