The SoCon is often one of the best mid-major conferences in the country. This year is no different, as some very dangerous teams that nobody wants to see in the NCAA Tournament are seeking out the conference’s lone bid. This is one of those seasons in which there are no obvious contenders for an at-large, so that heightens the urgency for all of the top contenders.
These teams in the SoCon are so different. You get a lot of pace wars. You get teams that live and die by the three and those that are doing more on the defensive end. Teams that shoot a lot of twos and play methodically. Teams that will chuck from anywhere. It is a fascinating conference year in and year out.
This year is no exception and we’ve got a good one to break down in Asheville, NC at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center.
Friday March 5
#8 The Citadel vs. #9 Western Carolina
#7 Mercer vs. #10 Samford
Saturday March 6
#1 UNC Greensboro vs. 8/9 winner
#4 Chattanooga vs. #5 ETSU
#2 Wofford vs. 7/10 winner
#3 Furman vs. #6 VMI
Sunday March 7
1/8/9 winner vs. 4/5 winner
2/7/10 winner vs. 3/6 winner
Monday March 8
Championship Game at 7 p.m. ET
All neutral-site games here at a venue that has hosted the tournament every year dating back to 2012. It has a new name now, but it is still the same venue as the U.S. Cellular Center. The 3/6 winner is at a disadvantage here in the semifinals because of the timing of the games, but not at pronounced as we’ve seen in some conferences.
The Odds from BetMGM Sportsbook
UNC Greensboro +225
Western Carolina +5000
The Citadel +10000
There are some well-defined tiers in this league. Furman, UNC Greensboro, and Wofford are pretty much the cream of the crop here and East Tennessee State, while just 8-7 in league play, has a lot of redeeming qualities as well. Those top four teams stand above the rest.
Furman is the best all-around team and the most balanced, along with a stellar 60.4% 2P% in league action. The Paladins are second in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency in conference games. It is VMI that actually has the highest adjusted offensive efficiency, but they just chuck a ton of threes and have actually made a high rate of them. They are just awful defensively.
UNC Greensboro is the top defensive team by a large margin and also the top team in both TO% on offense and TO% on defense. ETSU is just slightly below Furman’s level both offensively and defensively, but has been heavily reliant on the three-point shot, whereas Furman’s offensive prowess comes inside the arc.
Wofford is the top team in eFG% offense in the conference by being better on threes than Furman. Like I said, all of these teams are strong in one way or another.
The rest are pretty high-variance in nature. Chattanooga is a team that has some fairly impressive stats and takes good care of the basketball, but isn’t the most efficient offense or defense. VMI chucks from anywhere and has actually defended pretty well, but the Keydets just don’t force any turnovers. They’re the scariest team outside of the top four by a pretty decent margin, simply because they can rain threes and actually do a decent job preventing opponents from making them.
Final Thoughts & A Pick
The problem for VMI is that they run into Furman in the 3/6 game and the Paladins are likely the best all-around team in this conference tournament. UNC Greensboro would seem to have the easiest path to the Championship Game as the #1 seed because they’ll avoid Furman or Wofford until the end. If ETSU beats Chattanooga, the Buccaneers would probably provide a stiffer challenge.
Based on the odds, the team that seems to have the best value is Wofford at +600, but it is tough to find a good bet in this league because the conference is pretty top-heavy and that spreads out the prices.