Keondre Kennedy, UNC Greensboro, SoCon Tournament Preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The SoCon Tournament.

The SoCon may not have had quite the depth of quality teams that folks are used to seeing, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a fun time in Asheville. Furman, Samford, and UNC Greensboro enter the tournament with legitimate claims for making a run at the league’s at-large bid. However, each of those squads slipped up to lesser league opponents this season, leaving the door open for a Cinderella to make a run.

2023 SoCon Awards

Player of the Year: Jalen Slawson, Furman

Freshman of the Year: Jackson Paveletzke, Wofford

Transfer of the Year: Tre Jackson, Western Carolina

Coach of the Year: Bucky McMillan, Samford

First Team:

  • G: Tre Jackson, Western Carolina (15.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 43.5 3P%)
  • G: Keyshaun Langley, UNC Greensboro (14.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 42.9 3P%)
  • G: Mike Bothwell, Furman (17.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 52.5 FG%)
  • F: BJ Mack, Wofford (16.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 50.1 FG%)
  • F: Jalen Slawson, Furman (15.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 38.2 3P%)

Second Team:

  • G: Jordan King, East Tennessee State (15.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 SPG)
  • F: Jermaine Marshall, Samford (12.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 38.0 3P%)
  • F: Jalyn McCreary, Mercer (15.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 55.2 FG%)
  • F: Stephen Clark, The Citadel (16.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.8 BPG)
  • F: Tyzhaun Claude, Western Carolina (15.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.9 BPG, 51.5 FG%)

SoCon Tournament Simulation

First Round – Friday, Mar. 3

8. Mercer (13-18, 6-12) vs. 9. The Citadel (10-21, 5-13) – 5 p.m. on ESPN+

Both teams come in sliding, with Mercer having lost five of their last six and The Citadel having lost 9 of their last 10. However, the only win for Mercer during that time was a 22-point win over The Citadel in the last game of the season. The Bears swept the Bulldogs on the year and have the talent to earn one more victory.

Matt’s Pick: 8. Mercer

7. Chattanooga (15-16, 7-11) vs. 10. VMI (7-24, 2-16) – 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Chattanooga finds themselves playing on opening night in Asheville after having to learn to live without Jake Stephens. The Mocs went just 4-7 without their star big man after looking like a league title contender early on. He may be back, but even if he’s not, taking down the league’s worst team shouldn’t be a problem.

Matt’s Pick: 7. Chattanooga

Quarterfinals – Saturday, Mar. 4

1. Furman (24-7, 15-3) vs. 8. Mercer – Noon on ESPN+

Furman captured the SoCon Tournament top seed after knocking off Samford in their regular-season finale. Their path won’t be easy, starting with a Mercer squad that pushed them to the brink just a little over a week ago. However, the duo of Slawson and Bothwell won’t let the Paladins go down this early.

Matt’s Pick: 1. Furman

4. Western Carolina (17-14. 10-8) vs. 5. East Tennessee State (12-19, 8-10) – 2:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the SoCon this season came in the form of Western Carolina. While the Catamounts were clearly a step behind the top of the league, they created their own separation from everyone behind them. Meanwhile, ETSU played true up-and-down basketball throughout the season. WCU’s ability to take care of the ball better pays off here.

Matt’s Pick: 4. Western Carolina

2. Samford (21-10, 15-3) vs. 7. Chattanooga – 6 p.m. on ESPN+

Samford looked like the team everyone forecasted in the pre-season after a rocky finish to non-conference play, sharing the SoCon title with Furman. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they line up with a Chattanooga team that they defeated by a combined seven points in two match-ups this season. The Bulldogs struggle to defend from beyond the arc, while the Mocs live and die by that shot. This game will be won at that spot on the court.

Matt’s Pick: 7. Chattanooga

3. UNC Greensboro (20-11, 14-4) vs. 6. Wofford (16-15, 8-10) – 8:30 p.m. on ESPN+

The match-ups between these two have been intense, with UNCG coming from behind for an overtime win just a few weeks ago. Wofford is very young, and it shows with how this group shows up for some games and looks rough in others. On the opposite side, UNC Greensboro is arguably the best defensive team in the league, and as the adage goes, defense wins championships.

Matt’s Pick: 3. UNC Greensboro

Semifinals – Sunday, Mar. 5

1. Furman vs. 4. Western Carolina – 4 p.m. on ESPNU

These two groups split the season series, but it’s definitely a tale of two games. WCU won its home floor by 12 way back on New Year’s Eve while Furman returned the favor by 34 points on Feb. 11. The Paladins have been on a roll heading into the tournament and have players that know how to win close games.

Matt’s Pick: 1. Furman

3. UNC Greensboro vs. 7. Chattanooga – 6:30 p.m. on ESPNEWS

UNC Greensboro won both meetings between these teams by double-digits, even when Stephens was present for Chattanooga. The Spartans were able to hold the Mocs to just around 39 percent shooting in each game, with Chatt relying heavily on the three-point shot in the second game. If Stephens isn’t playing, then the Mocs’ hopes and dreams may fall with the deep shot just as much as it got them to this point.

Matt’s Pick: 3. UNC Greensboro

Championship – Monday, Mar. 6

1. Furman vs. 3. UNC Greensboro – 7 p.m. on ESPN

In a twist of fate, UNCG’s win over Furman came in a high-scoring game, while their loss to the Paladins was in a more defensive battle. This game will ultimately come down to who can make more big plays. That includes playing aggressively on both ends of the court. Furman wants to exorcise last season’s demons of losing on a buzzer-beater while UNC Greensboro looks to show that their defense can lock down one more time. It’s the Spartans that come up with big stops in the end.

Matt’s Pick: 3. UNC Greensboro