Atlantic Sun Tournament: one down, three to go

Macon TelegraphMarch 7, 2013 

                The opening day of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament offered an impressive rout, a gutty underdog performance, a normal second half by a favorite, and a nice battle between young programs.

                Kennesaw State teased for a bit against Florida Gulf Coast's women, who then won by the requisite 25 or so.

                North Florida didn't have quite enough overall to overcome the FGCU men's athleticism, although both teams gave quite a fun-to-watch effort.

                East Tennessee State's women lose only one senior, and that group of underclassmen kept Stetson on edge until the final couple minutes.

                And Mercer's men absolutely pounded Lipscomb for the second straight game, that left you impressed with Mercer's teamwork and efficiency yet still wondering how Lipscomb let it happen.

                Stetson will not be a nice opponent in a women's semifinals, if logic holds.

                The Hatters struggled to get past ETSU - which as analyzed here would be a tougher out than the record said - and have a day off to fix some things.

                And if the trio of Victoria McGowan, Sasha Sims and Shanasa Sanders go off again, somebody will take a 20-point loss or worse in the semis.

                Head coach Lynn Bria joked about having waited so long for all three to turn in the same high-quality game at the same time. They were loose after the ETSU game, yet know what's ahead.

                Wouldn't want to play them in the semifinals. Of course, I'd rather do that than play FGCU at all.

                But the women's side better pick it up and start challenging the Eagles or lose all respect.

                And that's already happening.


Tournament talk

                Entering Thursday's action, a look at bracketology.

                CBS Sports has Mercer's men facing Southern of Baton Rouge in a play-in game in Dayton, the winner apparently staying in town to take on Indiana.

                ESPN pits Mercer against Kansas in Kansas City. Ouch.

                Mercer had also been pegged against Gonzaga in Salt Lake City in a 1 vs. 16. And let me tell you now, if that happens. watch. Juuuuust watch.

                ESPN has FGCU's women as a 14 playing Tennessee in Knoxville. Frankly, I kinda think that might be more interesting than expected. One reason: LSU, who lost 76-70 at FGCU in December, is down as a 7 seed. And UT beat LSU 64-62 in Baton Rouge.

                FGCU's women would have a better RPI if the A-Sun's women's side hadn't been so bad for so long. As it is, Stetson at 105 has a better RPI than Cheryl Miller's alma mater, Texas, Old Dominion, Boston College, Louisiana Tech, Alabama and Clemson, to name a few.


Thinkin' Thursday

                Mercer-Jacksonville women: Upset alert in a big way. Jacksonville has lost two winnable games to Mercer, won five of its final six, and may have more consistent scoring punch.

                Stetson-ETSU men: It's just really amazing that ETSU has two teams that combined have fewer wins than five of the 20 A-Sun teams. And there are those hoping Stetson can win two games so the conference isn't stuck with only two teams over .500.

                That's not good.

                North Florida-USC Upstate women: Can North Florida not turn it over 18 times? Can Upstate not cough it up 21 times? Ladies, the ball is your friend. Treat it better than that.

                USC Upstate-Jacksonville men: Upstate, see above note about "there are those hoping" because the same goes for the Spartans.


Bouncin' around

                Otherwise in the brain, watching FGCU-UNF men was a reminder that too many folks dismiss mid-major talent. Ditto Lipscomb, even though I watched them get sautéed and fricasseed twice in the last two weeks.

                Remember: FGCU beat Miami, so it has players that big boys could really, really use.

                Was more impressed with Lipscomb's Deonte Alexander, and watch out for big freshman Stephen Hurt for the Bisons.

                Each year, there are players with quality skill. A problem is either coachability or the ability to play team basketball. ...

                Wednesday's night's crowd was announced at 3,527, but it would appear that was the session crowd, including Stetson-ETSU women. The reminder that the University Center was poorly designed is that there are empty seats even with a capacity crowd, so accuracy - as if those doing crowd counts are worried about that - is always debatable. Too many people stand along the railings up top. ...

                As games and players whiz by, one who for whatever reason stands out is Stetson's Sasha Sims. She can play on the block or out by the line, and has carries herself was one of those studette athletes, but doesn't act that way. She's been a huge get, from Fayette County, for Stetson.

                As valuable as McGowan is - and I'll forget her until I watch her play again and then remember how much fun she is to watch - Sims has been of major impact in Stetson's jump from six wins to consecutive 22-win seasons. ...

                The A-Sun has a cheering dilemma.

                Does it pull for FGCU's women to win the tournament and improve their seed? Or does it pull for Stetson, nowhere near an at-large candidate and still in triple digits RPI-wise, to edge the Eagles on a buzzer-beater?

                Does Stetson still have any love from winning the tournament two years ago?

                Because then the debate is FGCU getting an at-large bid, which this conference desperately could use on the women's side.



Around the world

                Talked to ASUn commish Ted Gumbart last week for almost 90 minutes.

                Twas yours truly who brought up some sort of merging/swiping between the A-Sun and Big South. Played around a fwe weeks ago and compiled a couple combinations of teams from both conferences, will share that next week.

                There's a lot of logic involved, and the more you watch all this bad management in college sports, the more realize what a different frequency their mismanagers are on. ...

                And speaking of illogical and a lot of stuff that's going to happen with the Southern Conference ...

                For some of the A-Sun haters regarding RPI, here is the CBS Sports - formerly, just about the NCAA's equal - last five years ranking for the men's side, and where some other notable conferences were:

                2012-13 (as of March 7): No. 26 A-Sun, No. 16 Ohio Valley, No. 24 Colonial, No. 27 Southern, No. 29 Big South.

                2011-12: No. 20 A-Sun, No. 15 Colonial Athletic Association, No. 19 Sun BeltNo. 21 Ohio Valley Conference, No 23 Southern, No. 27 Big South.

                2010-11: No. 17 A-Sun, No 15 Missouri Valley, No. 18 Southern, No. 19, Big South, No. 20 Summit, No. 24 Sun Belt, No. 28 Ohio Valley

                2009-10: No. 24 A-Sun, No. 17 Southern, No. 20 Ohio Valley, No. 21 Summit, No. 26 Big South.

                2008-09: No. 22 A-Sun, No. 20 Ohio Valley, No. 23 Southern, No. 30 Big South.

                2007-09: No. 28 A-Sun, No. 15 Southern, No. 16 Sun Belt, No. 29 Big South, No. 30 Ohio Valley.

                So there's certainly nothing to the A-Sun sucking like some thing, but there is perception. Facts? It's never been as low as the OVC in that span, and the Big South has never been higher than the A-Sun. The Southern has a better peak, but otherwise has been pretty close.

                Belmont didn't really make or break the conference after all. The Bruins were in it when the A-Sun was No. 28, which was two spots better than the OVC.

                So this conference's schools need to quit whining and start getting smarter and more competent and aggressive.

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