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Southern Notebook

December 10, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Southern Conference Notebook

by David Smotherman


SoCon off to a strong start

The schools of the Southern Conference have gotten off to a great start in the 2002-03 basketball season, proving that last years finish in the upper echelon of the mid-major conferences was quickly becoming the rule, not the exception.

While the conference as a whole has had a few lop-sided “money game” set-backs, the play of the SoCon in general has been no less than inspired. Shining brightest of the bunch as to be the play of College of Charleston.

Charleston headed off to the wilds of Alaska with new head coach Tom Herrion. An overall change in team philosophy and playing style after the retirement of long-time legend John Kresse had many CofC fans wondering what to expect from the first-time head coach and former Virginia assistant. It didn’t take long to find out.

In the opening game of the Great Alaska Shootout, the ‘Cougs got out of the gate quickly and surprised Mountain West contender Wyoming 81-72. Charleston then proceeded to knock off Big 12 power Oklahoma State 66-58, setting up a nationally televised GASO title game versus Villanova.

Charleston got off to another quick start against Villanova, who had upset 10th ranked Michigan State to make the finals, eventually leading 22-7 mid-way through the first half. ‘Nova responded with an 11-3 run and the half ended with the score 29-22 in favor of Charleston.

Villanova continued their run into the second half and took a 37-35 lead with 13 minutes remaining. It would be their only lead. While the ‘Cougs could not pull away, they managed to keep a slim lead until ‘Nova’s Derrick Snowden tied the game with 42 seconds remaining. With the game on the line and the clock running down, Charleston guard A.J. Harris responded with a driving lay-up that clinched the title. It was Harris’ only points of the game.

While Charleston’s play has garnered the most national attention, the ‘Cougs are not alone in the SoCon when it comes to playing strong in the out of conference schedule…

Team Capsules and Rankings

1. College of Charleston (6-0)
The ‘Cougs avoids a post-Alaska slump with a 91-59 thumping of non-D1 SC-Aiken.
Next Up: Dec. 12th at Central Florida (4-2) and Dec. 15th at Stetson (0-4)

2. Davidson (4-1)
The ‘Cats made some noise of their own by playing very well against Duke at Cameron. The Blue Devil’s lead was only six with a few minutes remaining. Davidson also looked impressive in a convincing 75-56 win over Charlotte.
Next Up: Dec. 10th vs. St. Bonaventure (2-4)

3. Chattanooga (4-1)
The Mocs could be considered the biggest surprise of the conference. For a team with a new head coach and returning no true starters from last season, Jeff Lebo and company have already managed 3 road wins (equaling last year’s road total for the entire season). Starting with a double-dip in Birmingham which saw the Mocs win at Samford (68-66) and lose at UAB (92-81), Chattanooga spent the next weekend on a swing through Illinois, managing to sweep Missouri Valley members Bradley and Illinois State. The Mocs are the first team to pull that feat since Tubby Smith’s Tulsa team in 1992.
Next up: Dec. 14th vs. Milligan (TN) College and Dec. 16th vs. Furman (3-5)

4. Appalachian State (2-2)
Long suffering Mountaineer fans got their best early season win in years by pulling off an upset of Charlotte 103-100 in triple overtime. App State has also endured tough road games against South Carolina (71-56) and 10th ranked Marquette (101-78).
Next Up: Dec. 10th vs. Greensboro (NC) College

5. UNC-Greensboro (3-3)
The Spartans started the season off with a home win in the Pre-Season NIT over Wagner (84-65) and have also posted good home wins over American (80-79 OT) and Middle Tennessee (70-58). Unfortunately, the road has been less kind, albeit against top-shelf competition. Greensboro followed their opening round win in the NIT with a 105-66 loss at then 2nd ranked Kansas and also had a serious set-back at 4th ranked Alabama (89-61). The men of “G” bounced back with a much better effort at West Virginia, actually leading at the half, before an eventual 64-54 loss.
Next Up: Dec. 10th at Syracuse (3-1) and Dec. 15th vs. Elon (3-1)

6. Wofford (3-2)
The Terriers have what could be considered the worst schedule in D-1. In part because they play NO D-1 teams at home and in part because they play nothing but major conference schools on the road. It is a no win situation either way. However, Wofford has managed to beat Big East member Virginia Tech (79-77) on the road and played well at Clemson before losing 79-72. The only glaring loss was an 81-63 set-back at Auburn. The “money game” road continues this week…
Next Up: Dec. 14th at West Virginia (4-1) and Dec. 16th at South Carolina (4-2)

7. Furman (3-5)
The Paladins, a pre-season contender for the South Division title, have struggled so far this season. They opened with a 1-point win over Alabama State in the Guardians Classic, but since have only managed a win over IUPUI (70-62) and a non-D1 St. Mary’s (MD). Most of the road losses have been to pretty impressive squads, including set-backs at Creighton (82-57), on a neutral court to 15th ranked Notre Dame (75-50, and at Memphis (72-55).
Next Up: Dec. 13th at Methodist and Dec. 16th at Chattanooga (4-1)

8. East Tennessee State (2-3)
There is a little grumbling going on in Johnson City when high pre-season expectations have collided with a 2-3 start. While relatively close losses at South Carolina (71-66) and Vanderbilt (86-75) are acceptable, what really gets under the skin of Buc fans is the seemingly lethargic effort in a 21-point loss at UNC-Wilmington (78-57). Not to worry, the Bucs are still a favorite to win the North Division and looked much better in a decisive home win against Big South favorite UNC-Asheville (87-69).
Next Up: Dec. 14th vs. Virginia-Wise

9. Virginia Military (3-2)
The Keydets have played relatively well in home games against Liberty (68-54) and St. Francis (PA) (76-59), and also played well in a road loss at Virginia Tech (71-66). But the “Runnin Roo’s” looked out-manned in a humbling defeat at Tennessee (88-56). Looks like VMI will probably only go as far as Jason Conley can carry them which can win games against weaker opponents, but not against the better schools of the SoCon.
Next Up: Dec. 10th at Liberty (3-2) and Dec. 14th vs. East Mennonite

10. The Citadel (3-3)
The young Bulldogs were expected to struggle this season and unfortunately, they have not disappointed. Road losses at Navy (57-51) and a shellacking at the hand of Maryland (97-49) were expected, but a 12-point loss at home to Charleston-Southern (68-56) was a surprise. However, the Citadel did bounce back with a solid win over Big South contender High Point (82-67).
Next Up: No games this week

11. Georgia Southern (4-3)
Things are not looking very good for the team picked to win the South Division title. While the overall record doesn’t appear to be too bad, the high-flying Eagles have feasted on a lot of bottom rung and non D-1 schools and have been clipped by better teams. After starting the season with two wins in Maine, the Eagles were dominated in a 36-point loss at Vanderbilt (96-60), lost by 8 at Mercer (70-62) and by 14 at home to the Air Force Academy (70-56). Their only D-1 wins have come against Maine and Savannah State whose combined record is a dismal 2-11.
Next Up: Dec. 16th vs. Spring Hill

12. Western Carolina (2-3)
The good news for the Catamounts is that at 324 in the RPI (out of 327), there is nowhere to go but up. Western is living proof that a one-man team, aka Kevin Martin, can’t win against D-1 competition, even if Martin is 4th in the nation in scoring. The Catamounts only wins have been against non D-1 schools. The three losses have been to Big South members Coastal Carolina (77-72), UNC-Asheville (77-72), and Liberty (66-63).
Next Up: Dec. 12th vs. North Greenville

     

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