Gulf South Men's Basketball

A Peek Ahead To The Upcoming Gulf South Conference Men's Hoops Tournament

A Peek Ahead To The Upcoming Gulf South Conference Men's Hoops Tournament

One of the deepest leagues in Division II will put its automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament up for grabs starting when the GSC Tournament tips off Feb. 28.

Feb 24, 2023 by Ron Balaskovitz
A Peek Ahead To The Upcoming Gulf South Conference Men's Hoops Tournament

As the regular season winds down on college hoops, one of the deepest basketball leagues in Division II will put its automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament up for grabs starting when the Gulf South Conference Tournament tips off Feb. 28.

The GSC sees the best eight of its 13 teams make the field, with opening-round games played at campus sites. The semifinals and final will be played at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

Barring a major shakeup over the last two conference games Saturday, which conclude the regular season, the field of eight is set, with seven spots being guaranteed at the moment.

Here’s a look at the nine teams that have either clinched their spots in the league tournament, or still have a chance to secure a spot.

West Alabama, 21-5 (17-5)

The No. 1 seed from a season ago, the Tigers are back in a familiar spot, tied for the top spot in the GSC standings with last year’s tournament champion, Alabama-Huntsville.

After rattling off seven wins is a row, the Tigers opened the door for UAH to possibly claim the title outright with a loss to Union ahead of the final two league games.

The key for UWA this season has been its defense, limiting opponents to just 61.1 points per game, which is the best in the GSC by five points per game. 

Combine that with an offense that averages over 72 points per night, and you get a league-best point differential of 11.4 per game.

Shardarrion Allen tops the Tigers at 13.9 points per game, while Justin Allison and Terry Durham also have averaged around 13 points per game.

The Tigers are guaranteed a home game in the opening round of the GSC Tournament, and UWA is out for redemption, after being upset in the semifinals last season by UAH, despite being the No. 1 seed.

The loss in the GSC Tournament knocked the Tigers to a No. 6 seed in their regional, where they fell to Embry-Riddle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama-Huntsville, 22-6 (17-5)

The hottest team in the Gulf South, the Chargers of UAH had rattled off seven straight wins just before this writing to surge into a tie for the league lead and the No. 1 seed with West Alabama.

Last season’s defending conference champions, who also won a game in the NCAA Tournament, are in the top 5 in the GSC in both scoring and defense, making for a well-balanced team that can win in any fashion.

The key during the recent winning streak has been defense, which has held six of the seven opponents to 66 points or less, including three straight opponents, at one point, in the 50s.

Chaney Johnson is the top scorer for UAH, sitting eighth in the league at 16.1 points per game and doing a ton of damage at the line with 108 made free throws on the season. He also leads the team in rebounding at seven per night.

Luke Burneett is second on the squad at 13.6 points per game.

UAH has won the Gulf South Tournament five times in its history.

Lee University, 17-6 (16-6)

The Flames are another team that has gotten it done on the defensive end, sitting second in the league in points allowed, while posting the second-best scoring differential behind West Alabama.

Lee sits a game back of the two conference leaders, and barring a lot going wrong over the last two games, should be set to host an opening-round game.

Jayce Willingham has filled it up from inside the arc this season to lead the Flames, averaging just a tick under 17 points per game, despite just 15 made 3-pointers, the fewest of any player among the top 10 in scoring.

He, along with PJ Smith and his 16 points per game, give Lee perhaps the best 1-2 scoring duo in the league.

The Flames were the No. 3 seed last season and fell to Union in the semifinals. They did not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

West Georgia, 16-8 (15-7)

After making the GSC Tournament last season but missing out on a home game by being the No. 5 seed, the Wolves are hoping to lock down the fourth seed over the coming days, currently holding a one-game lead over Valdosta State and two games over Union, both of which could grab the last home game.

That home game would be huge for the Wolves, who are 9-3 at home and 7-5 on the road.

The Wolves rank among the league’s top-5 teams in scoring and defense, and the squad is paced by Michael Zabetakis, who is second in the league in scoring at 19.6   points per game. He has hit 62 3-pointers in just 24 games. 

He and transfer Zawadie Jackson (15 ppg) give the Wolves a potent pair on the offensive end to lean on.

West Georgia has struggled down the stretch, dropping three straight at the time of this writing.

Valdosta State, 18-10 (14-8)

The Blazers are hot on the tail of West Georgia and looking to potentially go from missing the GSC Tournament a season ago, to hosting an opening-round game, one of the bigger turnarounds of the season in the GSC.

The Blazers have done it on the back of a high-octane offense that sees them average 87 points per game, tops in the GSC by nine points per game, and the third-best scoring differential in the league.

Jacolbey Owens is the do-it-all guard who makes it happen for VSU, averaging just under 16 points per game, while sitting second in the league in assists, dishing out 6.3 helpers per night.

Mohamed Fofana (13.2 ppg) and Caden Boser (12.8 ppg) gives the Blazers three potent scoring options and should make them a dangerous tournament team.

Union University, 14-12 (13-9)

Another team still in the running for a home game, but locked into the tournament regardless, the Bulldogs likely will need to run the table and win the GSC, if they’re to return to the NCAA Tournament, where they came within a point of upsetting No. 1-seeded Nova Southeastern in the Round of 32.

The Bulldogs have been in the middle of the pack all season in scoring and defense, despite having perhaps the GSC Player of the Year in Boe Nguidjol, who has posted 14.3 points per game, tops the conference in rebounding at 8.6 per night and is second in the league in blocked shots at 1.3 per game.

Tylandrius Parks leads the team in scoring at 19.3 per game, but after those two, the Bulldogs have trouble with depth scoring.

Auburn Montgomery, 14-13 (12-11)

While hovering around .500 all season, the Warhawks have done it trying to play up-tempo basketball, netting over 76 points per game, which is third in the league. 

That willingness to push through has hurt on the defensive end, where they’re the third-worst at over 78 points per game.

The Warhawks are the final team, which as of writing, has clinched a spot in the GSC Tournament and likely will play on the road against whichever team earns the No. 2 seed. 

Despite the gaudy team totals on offense, it’s a by-committee approach, with Travis Anderson’s 14.7 leading the team. Jalen Gaston, James Graham and Joseph Lanzi each are averaging over 12 points per game, too.

The big issue for AUM, which rebounds well, is turnovers. The squad is last in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and coughs up the ball the second most in the league, ahead of only last-place Shorter.

Mississippi College, 15-12 (11-12)

A handful of games back, the Choctaws looked dead in the water, sitting at 8-12 and outside of the top 8. 

Since then, they’ve rattled off three straight wins. At the moment, they hold the last spot by 1.5 games over West Florida.

While two of those wins did come against bottom-feeding Shorter and Delta State, a win over third-place Lee has the rest of the GSC on notice that MC may be a tough out, should the Choctaws get the eighth seed.

Despite a strong defense that’s third in the league at less than 68 points per game, the offense hasn’t followed, sitting 10th, fourth from the bottom of the league.

Tradavis Thompson leads the Choctaws at 17 points per game and is followed by Galen Smith at 15.6 per night. They are two of the top 11 scorers in the league. 

There’s a big drop after that pair, but guard Miles Miller is tops in the GSC for assists, dishing out 6.4 helpers per game.

West Florida, 13-13 (9-13)

The final team that could make a run at the final spot in the tournament, the Argonauts would need to win out and get help from Mississippi College. 

That’s a tall task, considering UWF’s final two games are on the road at Alabama-Huntsville and West Alabama. But never say never.

The Argos are like most teams fighting for their tournament life. They’re in the middle of the pack in pretty much every category you can think of, with their Achilles heel being rebounding, where they’re 10th in the league at a -2.3 per game.

LaTrell Tate is the standout for the Argos, netting 16.7 points per game and ranking among the top 13 in assists, as well. 

After Tate, Danield Sofield averages over 15 points per game, but UWF has nobody else among the league’s top 30, while the team’s leading rebounder nabs just over five per game.

Gulf South Conference Schedule

Opening Round Games: Feb. 28, times and sites TBD

Semifinals: March 4, Birmingham, Alabama (Samford University)

Final: March 5, Birmingham, Alabama (Samford University)