The Southern Conference basketball championships return to Asheville this weekend. Both the men's and women's tournaments will be played at the ExploreAsheville.com Arena at the U.S. Cellular Center. The women's tournament starts Thursday with the championship game taking place Sunday at noon. The men's tournament begins Friday and ends with the championship game Monday evening at 7 p.m. That game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. (View brackets for both tournament's by clicking here)
It’s the twentieth year the tournament has been held in the city. Explore Asheville CEO Stephanie Brown says the annual event is a well-timed shot in the arm for the local economy. “From a tourism perspective, it means about 32-hundred room nights that are generated with millions and millions of dollars in economic impact," Brown says. "So it’s a big influx of visitor spending with our local businesses at a time of year that historically has really needed a big influx of revenue.”
The men's tournament is headlined by the regular season conference champion Wofford. The Terriers are ranked 22nd nationally in both the latest Associated Press and Coache's polls. Wofford went through regular season conference play undefeated, and would likely receive an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament even if the Terriers do not win the automatic berth by winning the conference tournament. Defending conference tournament champion UNC Greensboro is the number-two seed. Western Carolina is the number-nine seed, and will play the first game of the men's tournament Friday at 5 p.m. against VMI. The winner plays Wofford Saturday at noon.
The women's tournament starts Thursday morning at 11 with top-seeded Mercer facing eight-seed Western Carolina. Mercer won last year's tournament, landing the Bears their first ever berth in the NCAA women's tournament.
BPR's Helen Chickering contributed to this story