Another day, another unsurprising round of GSC Tournament action…here’s the recap:
#1W Delta State 74, #2E Alabama-Huntsville 72
|Eff||110.1||111.5||-1.4||Actual net efficiency|
|-4.3||Predicted net efficiency|
Alabama-Huntsville continued to be better than I ever expected, but that wasn’t enough against 28-1 Delta State, the #1 team in the country. UAH carried a big lead early, and as you can see above, they finished with a higher efficiency rating. Very rarely does the team that wins the efficiency battle lose the game, but this was one of those cases. An untimely turnover or shot could seal the deal, and in this game, it was a game-winning three by Delta State’s Jasper Johnson, who ought to be a front-runner for national player of the year. Johnson had 19 points and 7 rebounds, but he took a back seat to point guard Travis DeGroot, who came out of nowhere to put up 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting. His performance clearly carried the Statesmen in this one.
The Chargers had a heroic effort from guard Jason Smith, who made 8 of 13 three-point attempts en route to 27 points. His six turnovers didn’t help, but that hot shooting kept UAH on top for the entire first half. UAH shot 15-of-30 from long range for the game, but that wasn’t enough to overcome Delta State’s advantages in rebounding and ballhandling. UAH’s usually solid point guard, David Ivey, was nowhere to be found in this game. He played 33 minutes and managed just two shots, missing them both. He finished with 2 points (on free throws), 4 assists, and 4 turnovers.
#1E Montevallo 80, #2W Arkansas-Monticello 71
|Eff||105.9||122.2||-16.3||Actual net efficiency|
|-15.0||Predicted net efficiency|
The Montevallo Falcons, which were #1 for the early part of the season, will get the chance to face the current #1 in the conference championship game. UM blitzed past Arkansas-Monticello to set up the rematch of last year’s title game, which the Falcons won 72-60. The entire Montevallo team was fantastic inside in this game, which bodes well for a good matchup against DSU. Even though they struggled at the line, UM’s true shooting percentage of .630 was top-notch. When you combine that strong inside attack with good ball-handling, it doesn’t matter how well the other team can rebound (UAM was nearly twice as good in that area of the game). James Hall and Marcus Kennedy led the way as 20+ point scorers, but UM had four players reach at least 13.0 in game score, which I don’t believe I’ve seen in a GSC game. This balance will make them awfully hard to stop in the NCAAs, even if they can’t knock off DSU in the GSC title game.
UAM’s shooting stars struggled mightily in this one. Nate Newell and Billy McDaniel combined for 28 points on 9-of-32 shooting, including just 5-of-20 from beyond the arc. J.B. Williams was a non-factor, and were it not for Torre Doty’s excellent game (17 points, 7 rebounds, 8-of-11 from the field), the Weevils would likely have been blown out.
NCAA Tournament Picture
The GSC tourney winner gets an automatic bid into the NCAA-II South Region tournament, which is to be held at the campus of the #1 seed in the region. The Sunshine State Conference (SSC) and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) also get automatic bids into the tournament, leaving five at-large spots. Entering the tournament, here’s how the rankings shaped up (Conference, D-II record and region record in parentheses):
1. Delta State (GSC, 21-1, 19-1)
2. Montevallo (GSC, 21-3, 16-3)
3. Alabama-Huntsville (GSC, 19-6, 13-5)
4. North Alabama (GSC, 18-9, 17-9)
5. Arkansas-Monticello (GSC, 14-5, 13-5)
6. Benedict (SIAC, 20-5, 20-3)
7. Rollins (SSC, 16-6, 15-5)
8. Nova Southeastern (SSC, 17-9, 16-7)
9. West Georgia (GSC, 17-9, 15-8)
10. Stillman (SIAC, 16-8, 16-8)
Now, if it were up to me, I would only give the SIAC one team, no matter what. They don’t play tough non-conference games, nor do they play practically any games against the other two conferences. That would be easy if Benedict could win the SIAC tourney, but they lost to Miles, which will be playing Stillman for the title today.
The SSC probably deserves more than one team, but they managed to beat each other up all season and hurt their team records. They played decently well outside their conference, and Lynn probably has the biggest beef of any school not included in the rankings. At 20-9 and 11-5 in-conference, they probably deserve to be in over Nova Southeastern, West Georgia, and Stillman. Now, unless Barry upsets Rollins for the SSC title, they will probably only get one team in the regional tourney.
The GSC will probably fill all of the remaining spots, so it’s a matter of who goes where. The four teams that reached yesterday’s semi-finals should be safe, since they were all in the top 5 in the rankings going into the conference tournaments. North Alabama didn’t deserve to be ranked #4, and with their quarter-final blowout loss to UAM, they are probably the most likely team to fall out of the NCAAs.
If I were to rank the top 10 entering today’s games, keeping in mind the bias toward UNA and the SIAC teams, the following would be my best guess. Assuming no upsets in the conference title games (that would be Miles or Barry winning the SIAC or SSC), I would expect the first 8 to be in the regional tourney:
1. Delta State
6. North Alabama
10. Nova Southeastern
(12. West Georgia)
Delta State and Montevallo are clearly in, regardless of who wins the GSC title, so they will be playing for hosting privileges in all likelihood. DSU may still get the top seed, even if UM wins, especially if it’s a close game. UAH is probably set as the #3 seed, but Rollins might jump UAM for #4 with an SSC title game win.
Beyond that point, it’s all speculation. Here’s my breakdown of each team’s chances:
Rollins: If Barry beats them for the SSC title, I still expect Rollins to make the regional field as a #6 or #7 seed (with Barry #8), but that’s not certain. A SIAC tourney win for Miles would compound the problem, since they would probably be competing with conference tournament first-round losers UNA and Benedict, as well as SIAC surprise Stillman, for two spots. Rollins should have the upper hand, but any of the four could make it under that scenario.
North Alabama: UNA is in a precarious spot because of their initial unusually high ranking and their GSC tourney QF loss. If both the SIAC and SSC title games are upsets, UNA may be on the way out. However, if Rollins wins the SSC, then they would be a lock for #5, leaving UNA, the SIAC winner, Benedict and Stillman (which could be the SIAC winner) to fend for three spots. UNA will be rooting for Rollins and Stillman today to lock up tournament berths, leaving them one of the final two spots.
Benedict: Benedict is in a similarly tough spot. Had they just taken care of business and won the SIAC tourney, that conference would just get one bid, leaving the door open for a host of other teams in the GSC and SSC. Sadly, they lost their opening-round game, and now there’s a chance that they won’t make it at all. They’re essentially in the same boat as UNA now, hoping Stillman and Rollins can win, which would leave them one of the bottom seeds. One upset, though, and Benedict may be the first team out.
Stillman: It’s pretty simple here. The SIAC automatic berth is clearly their best hope, although a win by Rollins and a change of heart by the voters against UNA or Benedict could give them a chance to get in, even if they lose.
Paine: Since the SIAC tournament is already over, their chances are probably gone. They need to root for Rollins and Stillman and hope that the voters choose them this time over UNA or Benedict.
Nova Southeastern, Lynn: Their losses to Barry in the SSC tourney probably cost them a chance at the tournament, but they are in with Paine as outsiders hoping for a change in the voters’ hearts. Lynn won their first SSC tourney game, but they were behind NSU in the rankings, so both are now in about the same position.
Miles, Barry: As overachievers in their conference tournaments, they both need to win those tournaments today, because the automatic bid is their only hope.
West Georgia: The loss to Montevallo in the GSC quarter-finals likely ended their season, although they can hold out hope that 1-1 in conference tournament play will keep them in consideration. They were already the #9 ranked team, so anything could happen, I suppose.