March 6-9 Mercer University (Macon, Ga.) | Bracket
Mercer was selected to host the event, and Mercer won the regular-season title anyway, so we're all good on homecourt advantage. The top two teams in the league, including Florida Gulf Coast (best known for beating Miami this season and for having former Johns Hopkins Blue Jay shooting legend Andy Enfield as its head coach, says the guy who went to Hopkins for a year) are significantly better than the rest of the field and chances are we'll see a rubber match of the season series in the final. The two teams each won the home leg of the regular-season series, with Mercer winning in overtime and FGCU winning by three. A tiebreaker would be a dandy way to settle this on the Bears' home floor.
Key Matchup: No. 4 Jacksonville vs. No. 5 South Carolina-Upstate
This one is weird. USC-U is the "better" team even though the Dolphins are the higher seed. What's more, Mercer handled the Spartans pretty comfortably in both meetings, but split with Jacksonville in a pair of low-scoring games. Whoever advances to the semifinal game (ostensibly) against the Bears could have a decent impact on what the final might look like. It would be an upset if either took out Mercer at home, but based on small evidence sets, Jacksonville appears to be a more dangerous matchup.
Team to Watch: Stetson
The 3-seed is a very good shooting team that doubled as an atrocious defensive team for much of the season, but they have been considerably more effective at stopping people down the stretch. They split the season series with FGCU, so on a neutral floor, they may be a threat to topple the Eagles and make for a different kind of final.
Hottest Storyline: Complete the transition
FGCU stunned Mercer in this gym in last season's semifinal and came within a game of dancing for the first time in school history (albeit as a .500 team). They are significantly better this season, but will they be able to seal the deal against last season's CIT champs? Mercer likely hasn't forgotten what happened last season, either, although with the way these teams match up, motivation won't be an issue.
The Pick: Florida Gulf CoastJust a hunch. Mercer would be a modest favorite in a final, but FGCU has scored well enough against their stingy defense to think they could steal a final on the road. FGCU's path to the final may end up being a touch easier, too, but we'll see.