Atlantic Sun Tournament: two down, two big ones to go

Macon TelegraphMarch 8, 2013 

                And here we are, in quite rare air at Mercer.

                The women have 20 wins, and are in the conference tournament semifinals.

                The men have 22 wins, and are in the conference tournament semifinals.

                At home.

                This should be a wee bit fun. And loud.

Fun Friday

                FGCU-North Florida women: UNF was the first lower seed to win this week. Hope they enjoyed it. The Ospreys were the most competitive conference opponents for the Eagles, losing by 16 and  and 11.

                But this is March. Add those spreads together, and we're talking.

                Mercer-Stetson women:  Stetson has won by 33 and 14, so Mercer has made progress against one of the top two teams in the conference, which is significant.

                And there's no question the Bears can win the semifinal game.

                But Mercer will get smoked against Stetson if it can't get a higher shooting percentage from Precious Bridges and, frankly, points from point guard Sharnea Boykin.

                That teams don't play off of Boykin and center Teanna Robinson is absolutely remarkable. Boykin has gone scoreless 11 times this season, Robinson seven.

                That Mercer has 20 wins with those figures is mind-boggling, and says less good about opponents.

                Boykin has gone shotless in two games this season, taken only one shot three more times, only two shots in three more. She averages 3.5 shots a game. Why guard her?

                Robinson was a project coming in, and has done a nice job not hurting on offense. She won't shoot, either, and few plays are in the plan for her to shoot.

                Robinson, who is 6-5, averages 2.8 shots a game.

                If Boykin is smart enough to have such a phenomenal assist-turnover ratio and rack up steals, she's usually going to take makeable shots. But she can't get into a groove if it's not in the game plan for the point to get a shot.

                Scoring isn't nearly dimensional enough, and it'll be offense that does Mercer in, not defense. And that's relevant in the ability to come back, which one would expect to be necessary against the Hatters.

                Mercer-USC Upstate men: This could easily be the best game of the tournament, and maybe better than the championship game.

                The Spartans talked Thursday night like they're on a roll, and they're not, unless a two-game winning streak is a roll.

                Mercer is on a roll.

                But Upstate played Thursday like the team picked to finish second in the conference. Won for thefirst time ever on the Hawkins floor. Had five in double figures.

                Peaking? For an inconsistent team, it would appear so. And it's March. Unsteady goes the hand of the favorite.

                FGCU-Stetson men: Ice packs for everybody afterward.

                The Eagles can steal some attention away from FGCU's phenomenal women's team by getting to and winning the championship.

                Stetson? Reaching the championship game would obviously be huge for a team that hasn't even been in the tournament in seemingly forever.

                The teams split this season. FGCU routed 96-35, Stetson maintained 80-71. The hatters are a clear underdog, and have to stay within a few possessions entering halftime. The Eagles can be explosive, and are more athletic.

 Thinkin' Thursday review

                Mercer-Jacksonville women: Mercer took care of upset potential with a steady game in which Jacksonville wouldn't let get too far away. But the Dolphins never could get over the comeback hump and make a real threat.

                Shari Smith had a double rebound game, increasingly common, and Alicia Williams was a spark, increasingly common.

                Stetson-ETSU men: The TV observers kept saying how much better ETSU was playing than Stetson. How far has ETSU fallen? Playing better didn't matter. The Bucs could sustain a lead and got smacked by a roller-coaster set of Hatters, who are mighty capable when most are on the same page.

                North Florida-USC Upstate women: North Florida won the turnover battle 11-18, which was good, since the Ospreys couldn't shoot all that well. Better ball control was the difference in deciding who would be on FGCU's lunch menu.

                USC Upstate-Jacksonville men: Upstate reached .500, but needs a win to assure a non-losing season, and must do so against the home team.

                Oh well, one game under .500 isn't bad. Of course, Upstate showed why it was the No. 2 pick. Inconsistency has been the problem. Can the Spartans do it two straight games?


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