Trojans look to join the ‘madness’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 28, 2002

Sports Columnist

All for Troy State stand up and holler!

Hopefully, today at 1 p.m. (noon Central our time) in Orlando, Fla., we’ll have a good crowd rooting our team as Troy State plays Jacksonville State in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Basketball Tournament.

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Ironically, only five days ago TSU beat their arch-rival 79-60 in Jacksonville behind the 33-point scoring effort of senior Lemayn Wilson.

TSU is the No. 2 seed in the tournament behind No. 1 Georgia State. That means that the two teams will play in separate brackets and could, if both win their first two games, play each other in the championship.

Last year, Georgia State beat TSU in the finals, which were televised by ESPN, and got the then-TAAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA’s 64-field national tournament. The finals, again will be televised by ESPN at 2 p.m. on Saturday and this year all eight teams stand a chance.

Again, this year Troy State has gained a good draw and should advance to the second round and play the winner of the FAU-Jacksonville game on Friday night at 8:15 p.m.

But they better be ready to play when they tip it off against Jax State. No one in the world would rather knock off the Trojans then the Gamecocks. They always say that it’s awfully hard to beat a team three times in a season.

Hopefully, the Trojans will play like it’s no tomorrow, which there is no tomorrow because the season is over for the team that loses.

Two of Troy State’s starting players, seniors Robert Rushing and forward Donnie Pemberton, can look back to two year’s ago in Jacksonville, Fla., when the Trojans, outright TAAC champions that year and a No. 1 seed, lost to No. 8 Mercer 79-75 in the opening round.

Just like this year, the Trojans played in the first round of that tournament, but were not ready to play. They say you want a team to be playing its best basketball come tournament time and I believe this to be the case right now with the Trojans.

Two huge wins on the road last week, at Samford 64-52 and at Jacksonville 79-60, has to have given our Trojans a lot of confidence going into today’s game.

Right now, the Trojans are shooting very well and if that trend continues they could be in the finals on Saturday. If they don’t shoot well, then they’ll have to scratch and claw their way against Jax State. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you’ve got to play good defense and rebound the basketball to win, especially if you don’t shoot well.

Georgia State, on the other hand beat TSU twice during the regular season. But they had to battle Saturday night to beat their first round opponent Belmont 69-67 in Atlanta, Ga.

So GSU’s journey to the finals could be tough. If they beat Belmont, and they should, they’ve got to face either the host Central Florida Golden Knights or the Samford Bulldogs, who love to slow it down. That game will be played at 6 p.m. on Friday night.

Here’s how I see it! Central Florida will beat Samford today and upset the mighty Georgia State Panthers and meet our Trojans in the finals. I know you’ve got to play each game one at a time, but I think the Trojans will play for the title at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The Trojans have beaten UCF twice this season so the percentage should favor the Golden Knights, because it’s so hard to beat a good team three times in a season, especially when you’re playing them on their home floor.

For some reason, the Trojans have matched up well with UCF the last two or three seasons and seem to have their number.

I say Troy State wins the biggest game in school history Saturday afternoon on national television and receives the A-Sun’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

It’s "March Madness", baby! And we’ll be in it!