It was almost absurd.
The tiebreaker scenarios for the men’s half of this week’s A-Sun tournament at Mercer took up three pages. The women’s scenarios filled seven.
And that was entering Saturday’s action, when the conference office couldn’t seed the men until about 10 p.m., about an hour after being able to seed the women.
“In my memory we’ve never had a men’s race that came down like this,” A-Sun commissioner Ted Gumbart said. “It was so competitive all the way through.”
The tournament begins at Mercer’s University Center at noon on Wednesday with top-seeded East Tennessee State facing eighth-seeded Stetson in women’s play. Mercer’s women play at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday against North Florida while the men face Belmont at 9 p.m. on Thursday. Wednesday and Thursday’s action is available for free on ASun.tv. CSS-TV will broadcast the semifinals and women’s championship while the men’s final is on ESPN2.
Belmont’s men rolling past Kennesaw State in the final game of the day Saturday allowed for a little head start to the seeding process.
The women’s scenario was indeed complex, with one full set for East Tennessee beating Jacksonville, and everything that trickled down after that.
There was also another set for Jacksonville pulling off the upset, and whatever followed, so that added up to 32 scenarios.
ETSU and Mercer had locked down the top two seeds, with the Lady Bucs also taking the regular-season championship for the second time in three seasons. But after that, it was like rush hour on the Atlanta perimeter.
Belmont and Campbell were tied, a game ahead of Jacksonville, which was a game ahead of Kennesaw State, which was a game ahead of North Florida and Stetson.
“We did have a year with the women where we had a four-way tie for first,” Gumbart said, thinking back to 2003-04. “And they were all 14-6 that year, too. It’s the magic number for us.”
That season, Lipscomb was tied with Georgia State, Belmont and Central Florida.
For the men, there were 16 scenarios with letters A-P in the conference’s chart, regardless of the outcome of ETSU-Jacksonville. The Dolphins were playing for the outright regular-season title as well as the top seed, while the Bucs sought momentum and a big win, since they were set for the fourth or fifth seed.
ETSU, however, denied Jacksonville an outright repeat of the regular-season title with a 64-62 win in Saturday’s first men’s game. Jacksonville will share it with Lipscomb, Belmont and Campbell. Lipscomb got the top seed with a 4-2 record against the other three teams tied for first.
As it turned out, letter F scenario was what developed for the men.
The men from Lipscomb, Belmont and Campbell had the biggest roller coaster rides of Saturday. The Camels were out of the race for the top seed but could have finished anywhere from second to fifth. The range for Lipscomb and Belmont was first to fourth.
“The seedings changed so much,” Gumbart said. “For Campbell to be playing for a share of the championship and then tell them, ‘By the way, you’re in the 4-5 game,’ that kind of talks about the quality that we’ve had in the league.”
It was possible for four teams to be 13-7 or 14-6. Of the 16 scenarios, Jacksonville was the top seed in 10, Lipscomb four and Belmont two.
The women’s side was cluttered with six teams involved. Kennesaw State and former Jones County standout Brandi Jones had the most suspense.
The Owls could have finished from fifth to eighth, which was the difference between getting the top seed or a team that was around .500 overall. Kennesaw State’s game Saturday against Belmont was all about seeding, and the Owls came up with the win.
Now, Macon will host the third Jacksonville men’s city championship when No. 7 North Florida faces No. 2 Jacksonville at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Mercer and Belmont’s men played last Thursday and will play again this Thursday.
Four women’s teams who played each other on the final weekend open up tournament play against each other. Campbell played Jacksonville on Thursday and Belmont and Kennesaw State finished the regular season against each other in Nashville.
“If I’m a 7 (seed) or 8, I’m not looking to win three games in one day, I’m just looking to win one game,” Gumbart said. “That’s what makes tournament basketball so much fun. Every possession, every minute that ticks off, that could be the end of your season.”
No. 1 Lipscomb vs. No. 8 Kennesaw State, 2:30 p.m.
No. 2 Jacksonville vs. No. 7 North Florida, 9 p.m.
No. 4 Campbell vs. No. 5 East Tennessee State, 2:30 p.m.
Men: No. 3 Belmont vs. No. 6 Mercer, 9 p.m.
Lipscomb-Kennesaw State winner vs. Campbell-East Tennessee State winner, 6:30 p.m.
Jacksonville-Kennesaw State winner vs. Mercer-Belmont winner, 9 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.
No. 1 East Tennessee State vs. No. 8 Stetson, Noon
No. 2 Mercer vs. No. 7 North Florida, 6:30 p.m.
No. 4 Belmont vs. No. 5 Kennesaw State, Noon
No. 3 Campbell vs. No. 6 Jacksonville, 6:30 p.m.
East Tennessee State-Stetson winner vs. Belmont-Kennesaw State winner, Noon
Mercer-North Florida winner vs. Campbell-Jacksonville winner, 2:30 p.m.