The No. 24 Wofford Terriers (25-4, 17-0) are one win away from a perfect regular season in the Southern Conference. After demolishing the Chattanooga Mocs, 80-54 on Thursday night, the Terriers all but solidified a spot in the 2019 NCAA Tournament field. However, they must finish the regular season with a perfect record to remove all doubt from the selection committee in a couple of weeks.
So far, the Terriers’ best non-conference win came against the South Carolina Gamecocks in November. The 20-point win was at a time when the Gamecocks were struggling. However, the Gamecocks are in a four-way tie for fourth place in the SEC.
Unfortunately, the Terriers were unable to produce another major win on their schedule. They opened the season with an 11-point loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Terriers also lost to the Oklahoma Sooners and Mississippi State Bulldogs by 11 points. Their fourth loss came against the Kansas Jayhawks by 25 points. Therefore, it’s not a great look on the resume that each of the four defeats came by double digits. Still, the Terriers were in most of the games at the five minute mark of the second half.
The Terriers haven’t lost consecutive games all season. As long as they avoid that feat, they will be dancing with a relatively high seed. Keep in mind, the Terriers are ranked for the first time in program history. They are likely going to be in an 8-9 seed game, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility the selection committee either raises the seed to a seven or lowers it to a 10. We have seen interesting seeds before and if the Terriers don’t double dip as regular season and conference tournament champs, prepare for them to slide a little on Selection Sunday.
There are four viable SoCon teams capable of winning the conference tournament. In addition to the Terriers, the UNC-Greensboro Spartans (25-5), Furman Paladins (23-6) and East Tennessee State Buccaneers (22-8) all have at least 22 wins this season. Therefore, it is not a foregone conclusion that the Terriers earn the automatic bid. Moreover, the Southern Conference deserves two teams in the NCAA Tournament field regardless of how championship pans out.
If the Spartans were able to pull an upset over the LSU or Kentucky, they would likely be in the field as of today. Currently, their NET ranking is 61. To compare, the Terriers have a NET ranking of 18. The Paladins have a NET ranking of 46, while the Buccaneers are the worst of the four teams with a NET ranking of 65. As a result, if the Field of 68 was based on the NET rankings, all four teams would get into the NCAA Tournament today. Remember, the Paladins defeated the Villanova Wildcats earlier in the season. Despite the Wildcats struggling in recent weeks, that has likely been the best win of the season from a Southern Conference team.
However, the Terriers are more than just a collection of wins. They are led by upperclassmen and freshmen don’t play a major role for the most part. Senior Fletcher Magee leads the terries with 20.7 points per game. In terms of percentage, Magee is not the best 3-point shooter on the team, but he is the most prolific, connecting on 42 percent of his 3-point attempts. Magee also attempts over 10 3-pointers per game. Nathan Hoover and Storm Murphy combine to take 8.5 3-pointers per game. They both shoot over 44 percent from downtown, including Murphy’s scalding 48.8 percent from beyond the arc. In other words, the Terriers are the No. 2 3-point shooting team in college basketball. Overall, they lead the conference in shooting at 50.3 percent from the field. They are going to be a difficult matchup for anybody.
Fellow senior Cameron Jackson has the ability to attack the rim on the dribble drive or in the post. He is scoring 14.8 points per game, while leading the Terriers with 7.5 rebounds per game. He must provide an inside presence if they expect to advance in the tournament. However, the they are not just a two-man team.
Depth will not be a problem for the Terriers if they continue to play at the same pace. Currently, they have nine players averaging over 14 minutes per game. Moreover, Trevor Stumpe returned to the lineup after missing the first 21 games of the season due to back surgery. Stumpe provides more shooting, especially if he can get back to form in March. He also shot over 42 percent from 3-point range last season.
It’s just another weapon for one of the best mid-major teams in college basketball. Now, they will have an opportunity to earn a trip to the Final Four.