Who gets Atlantic Sun basketball honors?

Macon TelegraphMarch 4, 2013 

   

 

            Right before conference tournaments start, we get the all-conference teams and assorted individual honorees.

            That comes Monday or Tuesday for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

            The right people often get honored. The right people often get shafted.

            In the A-Sun, it's safe to say Torrey Craig won't repeat as player of the year.

            His successor? Good question.

            (And this was crafted a week ago, and updated Monday; little has changed except stats).

            Craig will get votes, but USC Upstate went backwards despite the return of a fair number of players from a 20-win postseason tournament team.

            Our standard in this discussion is conference play, so conference stats.

            Let's note that of the top 10 scorers, four come from the top three teams: No. 6 Adam Pegg and No. 7 Chris Perez of Stetson, No. 8 Sherwood Brown of Florida Gulf Coast and No. 10 Bernard Thompson of FGCU.

            Brown's scoring average dropped the past week, and his ranking from third to eighth.

            Brown is eighth and Pegg ninth in rebounding. Pegg is seventh in field goal percentage, Brown sixth in steals and seventh in 3-point accuracy.

            Mercer's Travis Smith needed a stronger scoring finish, but note he's in the top 12 in scoring, is second in 3-point and free-throw accuracy and is a clutch yet not flashy player.

            Pegg is worth consideration. He's in the top 10 in field goal percentage and also hits about 37 percent of his threes.

            But Brown has good numbers for a guard and good numbers for a forward, and has been huge in Stetson making such a turnaround in the standings.

            The guess here is that it's Brown.

            And a shot in the dark at the first team: Brown, FGCU; Pegg, Stetson; Travis Smith, Mercer; Craig, Upstate and, yeah, let's see. The final spot goes to either Stetson's Willie Green, Kennesaw State's Markeith Cummings – whose position in his coach's doghouse may influence coaches – or ETSU's Jarvis Jones.

            The next five: the other two of the aforementioned three for No.5, FGCU's Bernard Thompson, Mercer's Langston Hall and Northern Kentucky's Eshaunte Jones.

            The A-Sun doesn't, among other things, have classes listed on the stats page like it used to, so a top-of-the-head freshman team is a stretch.

            The women's side offers a debate as well.

            As for MVP, it's either FGCU's Sarah Hansen or Stetson's Victoria McGowan, and that's it.

            They first and third in scoring, sixth and 10th in rebounding, 6-7 in shooting, 3-4 in steals

            They're in the top 15 in about 95 percent of the stats.

            As good as Hansen is, FGCU could still succeed more without her because of the system. McGowan is 5-4 and in the top 10 in rebounding. That's big. She's all over the court, and is the reason Stetson went from six wins to contending.

            This nonexistent vote goes to McGowan by a nose.

            The other three spots on the first team: Mercer's Precious Bridges, FGCU's Brittany Kennedy and USC Upstate's Tee'Ara Copney

            Second team: ETSU's Destiny Mitchell, KSU's Sametria Gideon, Stetson's Sasha Sims and Shanasa Sanders and Mercer's Kendra Grant.

            Bridges has keyed Mercer's shocking turnaround, and is second in scoring. She'll be an MVP candidate next year if she develops more on defense and improves her accuracy, but she's a spark.

            Kennedy is 17th in scoring, second in assists and assist-turnover, first in steals and solid at the line. That's mighty versatile. And Copney is a problem to deal with on offense and defense.

            FGCU is so balanced and disciplined, it doesn't have players racking up stats, thus Stetson getting three on the first two teams. The Eagles are deep and consistent.

            The Eagles will be more than content to take home more hardware with less representation. That has become FGCU's standard.

 

            The final weekend was to seal the coach of the year for either Andy Enfield of Florida Gulf Coast or Casey Alexander of Stetson. Or not.

FGCU got hot late last year and reached the A-Sun tourney final where the newbies were competitive with Belmont before losing by 14. The Eagles were picked to finish third this season, but have been pretty much in the top two all season.

The preseason polls had Stetson sixth (how did North Florida get first-place votes in the coaches and media polls?), and the Hatters followed a slow start with some quality wins, on the road, and finished solidly in third, entering the final weekend in the hunt for second.

The Hatters don't really have any quality wins, and lost six straight – including to Bethune-Cookman – as conference play beckoned, but then won at ETSU and Upstate. They wobbled with three straight in-state losses, two by a total of six points, have swept pesky Northern Kentucky – which Mercer and FGCU can't say – and ended with four wins in the final five games.

Because Stetson was a much bigger mess when Alexander took over than when Enfield got the FGCU job, the vote here goes to Alexander.

But, of course, one can't count out Mercer's Bob Hoffman, who could be the tiebreaker. It's awfully tough to be the preseason pick, then win the regular-season championship. And Mercer, with peaks and valleys, did that.

Politics and stuff are always part of the equation. But frankly, it's just about impossible to argue with any of the three.

On the women's side, it shouldn't even be close.

While FGCU hardly flinched when highly touted recruit Whitney Knight was lost for the season, the Eagles have a system that renders that no surprise. Nor is it a shocker that they popped Stetson twice.

But Mercer's Susie Gardner should walk away with it, and one needn't be Perry Mason, Matlock or Ken Nugent to argue the case.

Mercer won eight games the past two seasons, and yes, probably should have won more.

Nevertheless, Mercer was picked to finish last or next to last this season. The reality was that 10 wins was a reachable goal, and that finishing near .500 would be a quality turnaround.

Especially when considering that they opened the season without big-time scorer Briana Williams for the season, and starters Ry'van Buchanan and Alex Phillips for awhile (Phillips led Mercer in rebounding last year and missed the season), and had eight players for awhile.

            They had a winning streak longer than that two-season win total, an FGCU-like streak. They maybe should have won 20 games. Mercer almost should get a multiplier, making that about 25 wins most anywhere else.

FGCU rolled over Mercer again, and Stetson won the battle for second place.

But Mercer being in the conversation for a top-three seed? Despite the conference again being weak - nobody else, other than newcomer Northern Kentucky, even sniffing a .500 season? - it's a big-time turnaround that nobody expected.

That should be more than enough.

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