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Southern Conference Notebook

December 18, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Southern Conference Notebook

by David Smotherman

Early Season Surprises Abound in the SoCon

With college basketball knee deep in the middle of the “OOC” – that’s the out of conference schedule to the uninitiated – it is time to take a look at the surprises of the SoCon.

Some of the surprises have been pleasant while others have been a bit disappointing. On the pleasant side of the ball we have Davidson, Charleston, and Chattanooga. All three schools shared in their respective division titles last season and the Wildcats played Ohio State to the wire in the NCAA’s. Davidson lost five players who ended up signing pro-contracts in Europe, Chattanooga lost four of five starters and an under-achieving head coach, and Charleston returned a good nucleus, but also had the question mark of a new coach with a vastly different style of play.

Well, surprise, surprise. Halfway through the OOC the Wildcats, Mocs, and Cougars are a combined 18-3, with the three losses all coming on the road. Davidson lost a competitive game at Duke, Chattanooga lost at C-USA member Alabama-Birmingham, and Charleston lost at Central Florida.

On the more disappointing side of the ball you have the play of the four pre-season picks to finish first or second in the North and South division.

In the North, East Tennessee State and UNC-Greensboro have fallen below pre-season expectations. While both schools have played most of their games against top-tier competition, few would have thought the Bucs and Spartans would be a combined 6-8 at this point of the season. This being said, both schools have the depth and talent to win the division crown and East Tennessee is still the favorite to win the North.

In the South, pre-season favorites Georgia Southern and Furman have also fallen below expectations. With a combined record of 9-9, the Eagles and Paladins only have four wins against D-1 competition and Furman is already a game behind in the South division after a 17-point loss to Chattanooga. Both schools were picked due in large part to their depth of returning starters. If either squad is to compete for the South division title, these experienced players must step-up to the level of 2001-02 when the Eagles shared the division title and Furman made the SoCon tournament finals before losing a close game to Davidson.

Also notable: The Wofford Terriers, who have play the toughest OOC in the SoCon, have shown very well in all of their road losses. After opening the season with an 18-point loss at Auburn, the Terriers have played close games at Clemson (79-72), West Virginia (79-69), and South Carolina (70-59). Wofford also claimed a win at Virginia Tech (79-77). With remaining road contests at North Carolina State and Virginia, Wofford should have played enough “money” games to fund the program for the next couple of years. Playing well in hostile environments will also help greatly in the SoCon portion of the schedule. Wofford could be a surprise in the South division.

Weekly Recap

Chattanooga moved up two notches in the power rankings, and both College of Charleston and UNC Greensboro suffered the biggest drops.

1. Chattanooga (6-1)
The Mocs dispatched NAIA member Milligan College 107-57 on Saturday and took the early SoCon South division lead on Monday with a 17-point victory over Furman 66-49.

Next up: Dec. 18th vs. Kent State (5-0) and Dec. 21st vs. Samford (4-4)

2. Davidson (5-1)
The ‘Cats staged a great second-half comeback to defeat a good St. Bonaventure team at home 77-72.

Next Up: Dec. 21st vs. Washington and Jefferson

3. Wofford (3-4)
The Terriers continue to play well against major conference competition on the road. This week saw Wofford play West Virginia close before losing 79-69 and leading at South Carolina in the 2nd half before ultimately losing by 11 points, 70-59.

Next Up: Dec. 21st vs. King College

4. Appalachian State (3-2)
The Mountaineers waste little time in dispatching Greensboro College 80-47.

Next Up: Dec. 22nd at Georgia (4-3)

5. College of Charleston (7-1)
That big bulls-eye on the ‘Cougs back finally caught up with them at Central Florida, with the Golden Knights handing Charleston their first loss on the season 82-64. However, the ‘Cougs were able to rebound quickly with a close 66-64 win at Stetson.

Next Up: Dec. 20th vs. American (3-3) and Dec. 23th vs. UNC-Wilmington (3-3)

6. East Tennessee State (3-3)
The Bucs were able to take out some of their early season frustrations in a 36-point win over Virginia-Wise, 106-70.

Next Up: Dec. 20th vs. Coastal Carolina (3-3)

7. Furman (4-6)
The Paladins made short work of Methodist College (83-29) on Saturday and earned the school’s 1,000th win in the 90-year history of the program. In their SoCon opener at Chattanooga, the Paladins suffered a 17-point loss, 66-49.

Next Up: Dec. 19th vs. Sewanee and Dec. 22nd at Louisville (4-1)

8. UNC-Greensboro (3-5)
The Spartans were thumped at Syracuse 92-65 and lost a close home decision to Elon 58-57.

Next Up: Dec. 19th at Delaware (2-3)

9. Virginia Military (4-3)
The Keydets, lose an OOC rematch at Liberty 77-69, before whipping Eastern Mennonite (not to be confused with Western Mennonite) 100-57.

Next Up: Dec. 20th vs. Mary Washington

10. The Citadel (3-3)
The Bulldogs were off for exam week. Their last game coming on Dec. 9th with a 95-55 win over Oglethorpe.

Next Up: Dec. 18th vs. Southwestern and Dec. 21st vs. South Carolina State (1-4)

11. Georgia Southern (5-3)
The Eagles earned an exam week victory over Spring Hill, 66-41.

Next Up: Dec. 21st vs. Wagner (2-3)

12. Western Carolina (3-3)
The Catamounts struggled early before taking a 15-point win versus North Greenville. The road gets decidedly steep this week.

Next Up: Dec. 18th at West Virginia (5-1), Dec. 20th at Marshall (4-1), and Dec. 23rd at Tennessee (3-1)


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