A look at GS’s possible success

Colin Ritsick

Georgia Southern earned the No. 2 seed and a bye into the semifinals in the Sun Belt Championships because of its 14-6 conference record, but that does not guarantee success.

Since the tournaments inception in 1977 the No. 2 seed has reached the conference finals only 20 times in 38 years, or about 52 percent of the time. The No. 1 seed, which belongs to Georgia State this year, has made it to the finals 63 percent of the time.

14 Sun Belt tournaments have seen neither the one nor the two seed reach the finals.

Postseason tournaments are set up to give the best regular-season teams the easiest path to the finals. The Sun Belt goes a step further and gives its top seeds a higher advantage than almost every other conference in the country – a double-bye for the No. 1 and No. 2 seed.

So the fact that over one-third of all Sun Belt championship games didn’t feature a one or two seed is surprising.

According to head coach Mark Byington, that can just be chalked up to the nature of the beast that is postseason basketball.

“Tournament basketball is different…whether it’s Southern Conference or [Sun Belt] conference, it’s still pressure basketball. It’s win or go home,” Byington said.

The Eagles finished last year with a 15-19 mark, but were a win away from the Southern Conference finals. They weren’t a top team in the SoCon last year but they got hot when they needed to.

In this year’s Southern Conference, Furman played Wofford in the championship game. Wofford was the undisputed heavyweight of the league with a 25-6 record. Furman was the undisputed worst team in the league coming into the tournament with an 8-21 record.

But like Byington said, tournament basketball doesn’t play by the rules. Furman rattled off three wins in a row and almost downed Wofford, barely losing 67-64.

Basically, all of that to say that a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed can be beaten by anyone in the league who gets hot during the tournament.

A top seed guarantees nothing other than extra days of rest. The Eagles’ biggest advantage in this tournament is that whoever they play on Saturday will have just finished playing a game about 14 hours prior.

Georgia Southern plays the winner of tonight’s matchup between No. 3 UL Monroe and No. 6 South Alabama. Tip-off is set for 3:30 CT/4:30 ET on Saturday on ESPN3.