clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Wofford is too good to be a true Cinderella in March Madness

New, comments

The Terriers have been incredible all year.

Wofford entered the championship game in the Southern Conference tournament with a peace of mind no team in the history of the league has ever had before. Regardless of whether or not the Terriers beat UNC-Greensboro, they would be in the field of 68 when it was announced on Selection Sunday.

The Southern has never had multiple bids to the big dance before, but Wofford would have been a been a lock for an at-large. Of course, Wofford won anyway, because that’s the only thing Wofford knows how to do.

Wofford has not lost since Dec. 19, when it fell to a then-ranked Mississippi State team. Wofford did not lose in the Southern the entire season, finishing a perfect 21-0 after running through the conference tournament. This is the fifth time in the last 10 years Wofford is going dancing, but there’s something different about this run.

The Terriers start this tournament in a rare position for a mid-major: as the No. 7 seed in the Midwest, Wofford is a 2.5-point favorite against Seton Hall in their opening round game. If they win, the Terriers have a chance to shock the world in the second round against Kentucky.

Wofford has all the markings of a perfect Cinderella with one major exception: they’re way too good for the distinction. To think of Wofford as such is to admit you haven’t seen them play.

Wofford passes every resumé test

The Terriers are one of college basketball’s best teams by every conceivable metric: they’re No. 13 overall in the NET rankings and No. 21 on KenPom. The RPI is out as a tool for the selection committee, but Wofford is a top-15 in that, too.

Wofford’s is currently sitting at 29-4 overall with all four losses coming to power conference teams that have spent time ranked in the top-25. That includes a season-opening defeat to North Carolina, and road losses against Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mississippi State.

Wofford will enter the tournament 3-4 against Quad 1 opponents and unbeaten against everyone else, including 6-0 in Quad 2 games. They’ve done it by building one of the best offenses in the country.

Wofford can score with anyone

The Terriers are a true offensive juggernaut. They’re ranked No. 13 in the country in offensive efficiency, scoring 118.6 points per 100 possessions.

Wofford thrives by launching threes. Three-pointers make up 43.5 percent of their field goal attempts, which ranks top-60 in the country. When they shoot, they rarely miss: as a team, Wofford shoots 41.6 percent from behind the arc, the second best mark in America.

When Wofford does miss, they can crash the glass, top-60 in offensive rebound rate and No. 30 in defensive rebounding. With fifth-year big man Cameron Jackson (6’8, 250 lbs) and front court mate Keve Aluma (6’9, 230 lbs), the Terriers have more size inside than most mid-major teams.

Jackson in particular has been brilliant, averaging 14.6 points per game and providing a necessary inside scoring complement to the Terriers’ three-point attack. Don’t jump with him:

Jackson’s emergence this season has given Wofford an interior complement to their three-point barrage. For as brilliant as he’s been this season, the Terriers have another star who steals the show.

Fletcher Magee is a true superstar

With apologies to Marquette’s Markus Howard, the best shooter in college basketball plays in the Southern Conference. That would be Fletcher Magee, the senior guard who is poised to break the DI record for three-point makes in the NCAA tournament.

Magee is two three-pointers behind former Oakland guard Travis Bader for the all-time record. Magee shoots 43.8 percent for his career. He is known for knocking down off-balance threes, darting around screens and hopping into his shooting motion while still being able to drain shots with deep range while falling away from the basket. He is poised to be one of March Madness’ breakout stars.

Wofford tested the NBA draft waters last season, but ultimately returned after a handful of private workouts. All he did this year was win conference player of the year for the second straight season and continue to build an argument he’s the greatest three-point shooter in the history of college basketball.

Don’t hold his conference against him. Remember, a guy named Stephen Curry once played in the Southern, too.

The Southern was legit all year

Only five years ago, the Southern ranked No. 30 out of 32 DI conferences according to KenPom. Then Davidson, College of Charleston, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Elon all departed for greener pastures.

The SoCo could have sunk to the depths of a low-major league, but a big investment from the league’s schools helped turn things around. This season, the Southern ranked as the 11th best conference, around of the Atlantic 10, Conference USA, Missouri Valley, and more.

Wofford didn’t just run through a weak conference slate, they went undefeated against a tough schedule that included multiple other teams that have a case for an at-large bid. Furman, who finished 24-6, had non-conference wins against Villanova and Loyola-Chicago. UNC Greensboro (26-5) was named a No. 1 seed in the NIT after losing the conference title game to Wofford.

We can’t wait to watch Wofford in the NCAA tournament

Magee’s shooting ability could make him a March Madness folk hero. Jackson is a rarity for mid-major, a legitimate big man with size and athleticism who can finish above the rim and clean the glass. There’s also a solid cast of three-and-D players around them.

Wofford has every ingredient to become a March Madness darling. Just don’t call them a Cinderella.