College Basketball

SAC tournament preview: Another chance to shine in ‘tournament-oriented sport’

Queens basketball coach Bart Lundy.
Queens basketball coach Bart Lundy.

For the Queens Royals, this week’s South Atlantic Conference men’s basketball tournament is an opportunity to get a record-breaking season back on track.

For the Wingate Bulldogs, it’s a chance to stay on a late-season roll and make up for a disappointing finish to last season, a quarterfinal exit in the 2015 tournament

For all the teams in this Division II conference, it means another shot at the league’s powerhouse, Lincoln Memorial (26-2, 22-0), which just finished the first undefeated conference season in SAC history.

Quarterfinal-round games will be played at campus sites Wednesday, with the semifinals and finals moving to Furman University in Greenville, S.C., on Saturday and Sunday.

“Our results haven’t been as good lately, but I don’t think we’ve played terribly,” said Queens coach Bart Lundy, whose Royals (23-5) reached as high as No. 5 in the national rankings before losing their last three regular-season games. They host Catawba on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“I wish we had won them, but I’ve told our players that people will only remember how you finish. This rough patch will be forgotten if we do well.”

Wingate (20-8), on the other hand, has won four of its past five entering Wednesday’s 8 p.m. home game against Carson-Newman.

“Basketball is such a tournament-oriented sport that you have to be sure you’re prepared,” Bulldogs coach Brian Good said. “I’m pleased with what we’ve done in one of the best years ever for this conference. Just to survive 22 (conference) games is something.”

MEN

What’s at stake

▪ The winner gets an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II tournament and a shot at hosting the South Atlantic Regional.

Favorites

▪ Lincoln Memorial: The Railsplitters won the regular season for the fourth straight year, but have won just one of the last three tournaments.

▪ Queens: The Royals came close to beating Lincoln Memorial in last year’s semifinals, but senior-laden team lost to Railsplitters by 26 at home in last regular-season meeting.

▪ Wingate: The Bulldogs are looking to get back to the championship for the first time since they won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

Don’t be surprised if ...

▪ The higher seeds sweep the quarterfinals. Last lower seeds to win in first round were No. 5 Tusculum and No. 7 Catawba, both in 2011.

Three to watch

▪ Keenan Palmore, G, Lenoir-Rhyne: High scoring guard closed regular season with his fourth SAC Player of the Week award of the season. Had 36 points in Bears’ 94-90 overtime upset at Queens.

▪ Daniel Camps, F, Queens: Unsung hero for the Royals this season, averaging 11.5 ppg and leading team in rebounding (7.2 a game). Double-figure rebounder in six of Queens’ last 9 games.

▪ Gerel Simmons, G, Lincoln Memorial: The senior comes up big in the post-season. Hit game winning three-pointer in semifinal victory over Queens last year.

Worth mentioning

▪ The Queens “coaching tree” will be in evidence during the tournament. Lincoln Memorial coach Josh Schertz was an assistant coach for the Royals during Lundy’s first tenure at the school. Wingate coach Brian Good led the Queens program from 2004 to 2008.

▪ Queens hasn’t won a conference tournament championship since the Royals captured the old Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference crown in 1999.

▪ Lundy became the all-time winningest coach at Queens with 169 victories when the Royals won at Catawba on Feb. 17.

Pairings

Quarterfinals (Wednesday at campus sites): No. 8 Tusculum at No. 1 Lincoln Memorial, No. 7 Catawba at No. 2 Queens; No. 6 Carson-Newman at No. 3 Wingate, No. 5 Newberry at No. 4 Lenoir-Rhyne (start time at Wingate 8 p.m., all others 7)

Semifinals (Saturday at Furman): Lincoln Memorial-Tusculum winner vs, Newberry/Lenoir-Rhyne winner, 5:30 p.m.; Queens-Catawba winner vs. Wingate/Carson-Newman winner, 8 p.m.

Final (Sunday at Furman): Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.

WOMEN

What’s at stake

Winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament and a shot at hosting the South Atlantic Regional.

Favorites

▪ Anderson: Trojans lost tournament final but advanced to the Sweet 16 last season. They’ve won eight of their past 10 this season to wrap up the top seed.

▪ Newberry: Winners of the tournament last year, the Wolves love to shoot the three-pointer. Guards Samantha Creed and Nicola Handreck combined for 102 of them.

▪ Wingate: The Bulldogs haven’t lost in a month, winning their last eight regular season games.

Don’t be surprised if ...

There’s a quarterfinal upset. It’s happened for the past five tournaments.

Three to watch

▪ Jennifer Monroe, F, Anderson: Senior averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds a game and was two-time SAC player of the week.

▪ Morgan McGee, F, Wingate: Led a balanced Bulldogs scoring attack, one of three players averaging 10.3 points per game. Also pulled down five rebounds a game.

▪ Bri Johnson, G, Catawba: Junior guard averaged 16.2 points per game and hit 48 three-points. She started her college career at Belmont Abbey.

Worth mentioning

▪ Wingate head coach Ann Hancock is also the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring leader, putting up more than 2,000 points in her playing career from 1988 to 1992.

▪ Catawba’s Angie Morton is also an alumna coaching at her alma mater. She played basketball, softball and field hockey.

▪ Newberry’s team has a strong Australian influence. Wolves coach Sean Page and eight of the 14 players hail from the Land Down Under.

Pairings

Quarterfinals (Wednesday at campus sites): No. 8 Lenoir-Rhyne at No. 1 Anderson; No. 7 Carson-Newman at No. 2 Newberry; No. 6 Catawba at No. 3 Wingate; No. 5 Lincoln Memorial at No. 4 Mars Hill (start time at Wingate 6 p.m., all others 7).

Semifinals (Saturday at Furman): Anderson/Lenoir-Rhyne winner vs. Lincoln Memorial-Mars Hill winner, 12 noon, Newberry/Carson-Newman winner vs. Wingate-Catawba winner, 2:30 p.m.

Final (Sunday at Furman): Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.

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