A-Sun Conference title race too close to call

Monday, February 22, 2010 at 10:45pm
Adnan Hodzic leads the Atlantic Sun in scoring. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

Lipscomb’s pursuit of the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season basketball title has attracted the attention of television.

The conference office announced Monday that Saturday’s game between Lipscomb and Mercer at Allen Arena will be broadcast live on Comcast Sports Southeast (Comcast Ch. 27). It will be the final telecast of season as part of the A-Sun’s contract with the regional sports network.

To accommodate television, the start time for the game was moved from 4:15 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“It would be awesome to be able to (win the conference championship),” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “Obviously, that’s a goal that’s still available to us.”

In order to do so, the Bisons must win their final two games, get help from at least one other team and then get the nod based on a tiebreaker.

The conference enters the final week of play with four teams separated by one game atop the standings. Campbell and Jacksonville are 13-5 in league play and they face each other on Thursday. Lipscomb and Belmont are each 12-6. Campbell has climbed to the top with six straight victories.

Saturday’s contest will feature four of the conference’s top 10 scorers, Lipscomb juniors Adnan Hodzic (first, 21.9) and Josh Slater (fifth, 17.5), and Mercer seniors James Florence (third, 18.4) and Daniel Emerson (seventh, 15.4), and the two highest scoring teams in the conference.

Slater was named the conference Player of the Week on Monday. He averaged 22.5 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and 3.5 steals as the Bisons won twice and moved to within one game of the conference lead. He narrowly missed the first triple-double in school history when he had 19 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and three steals Thursday at Florida Gulf Coast.

“They let me in (on the pursuit of a triple-double) right near the end of the game, but obviously it was not something I was thinking about,” Sanderson said. “He played real well all weekend.”

Lipscomb also hosts Kennesaw State on Thursday (8:30 p.m., Allen Arena). Belmont is at home Thursday against Mercer and again Saturday against Kennesaw State (both games at 8:15 p.m., Curb Event Center).

If Lipscomb wins its two remaining games, Belmont cannot win the title regardless of what it does by virtue of the fact that the Bisons won both installments of the Battle of the Boulevard this season. The Bruins’ only real chance to claim the title is to end up tied with Campbell, which they defeated twice.

If the winner of Thursday’s game between Jacksonville and Campbell also wins on Saturday, that team will win the title outright.

“The league is pretty evenly matched,” Sanderson said. “It doesn’t surprise me one bit that the race is this close.”

A look at some other possible scenarios and what effect they will have on the final Atlantic Sun standings:

• If Lipscomb and Belmont win both of their remaining games; Jacksonville beats Campbell on Thursday; Jacksonville loses and Campbell wins or loses on Saturday:

1. Lipscomb
2. Jacksonville
3. Belmont
4. Campbell

• If Lipscomb, Belmont and Campbell all win their two remaining games, and Jacksonville wins on Saturday:

1. Campbell
2. Lipscomb
3. Jacksonville
4. Belmont

• If Lipscomb, Belmont and Jacksonville all win their two remaining games, and Campbell wins on Saturday:

1. Jacksonville
2. Lipscomb
3. Belmont
4. Campbell

• If Lipscomb, Belmont and Campbell all win their two remaining games, and Jacksonville loses its two remaining games:

1. Campbell
2. Lipscomb
3. Belmont
4. Jacksonville