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2014-15 SWAC Post-Mortem

by - Published August 21, 2015 in Columns, Conference Notes
swac

The Southwestern Athletic Conference has for some time been devoid of a signature basketball program. It now may have one. Or two.

Last year we documented the SWAC’s search for a true heavyweight program, a team to beat every season. We presented Southern, after the Jaguars had won a conference tourney championship and a regular season title in the previous two years.

We could just as easily now tout Texas Southern to take the Jaguars’ place. The Tigers have now won two straight SWAC tournament titles to make two straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. TSU also won the regular season championship this year to sweep both titles and lay its claim as the league’s top program. And the Tigers also have a regular season title from 2012-13, giving them two regular season and two tourney championships in the last three years.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Saturday, March 14, 2015

by - Published March 14, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

March is always a magical month, where so many things happen that seemingly defy logical explanation. The way games end falls into that category as much as anything else, and Friday showed that again.

We start in Brooklyn at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, where Davidson trailed for most of the game, but rallied. Still down by one, they had a play in the final seconds to win it, and Tyler Kalinoski put it up near the basket and got it to drop as time expired. Ray Floriani has more on this.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, January 6, 2015

by - Published January 6, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

While they are fun to follow-and yes, they do matter to some extent, even if not necessarily for NCAA Tournament selection-normally we won’t make much note of the release of the weekly top 25 polls on Monday, but this week is an exception.

Old Dominion jumped into the Associated Press Top 25 yesterday for the first time in school history. This was notable for one because it was surprising that ODU has never been in the AP poll before given some of its excellent teams in the past, dating all the way back to some very good years in the then-powerful Sun Belt in the 1980s.

More pertinent to today, it is worth noticing because of what a job Jeff Jones has done in just two years with the program. The Monarchs were a disaster in 2012-13, finishing 5-25 with the departure of head coach Blaine Taylor during the season. The program wasn’t as bad as that overall-Old Dominion lost at the buzzer to eventual national runner-up Butler in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament-but it still wasn’t good.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, November 11, 2014

by - Published November 11, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-orange

On this Veteran’s Day, looking ahead at a couple more conferences as the season is now just three days away:

The Northeast Conference is wide open, with a number of teams sustaining significant player losses. When in doubt, go with Robert Morris, the most consistent program over the last five years. The Colonials have built some toughness, as evidenced by NIT wins over Kentucky and St. John’s the last two years.

Murray State featured maybe the best-kept freshman secret in the country last year in Cameron Payne, a brilliant talent helped Murray State get back near the top of the Ohio Valley. The Racers return Payne and three other starters and are the league favorites, though Steve Prohm’s club will be challenged by fast-improving Morehead State and always tough Belmont.

… Continue Reading

2013-14 SWAC Post-Mortem

by - Published June 30, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
swac

It has been some time since the Southwestern Athletic Conference has had a true heavyweight program, but Southern University may be on the verge of changing that.

Not since Davey Whitney won three regular season titles in four years from 1999-2002 in the second stint of his brilliant career at Alcorn State has the SWAC had a consistent year-in, year-out team to beat. Under coach Roman Banks, though, Southern has won a SWAC tourney title and a regular season title in the last two years. The latter came this season, when the Jaguars won the league by three games despite returning just two starters from the team that nearly shocked Gonzaga in the round of 64 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
… Continue Reading

North Carolina-Kentucky lives up to the hype

by - Published December 4, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

The matchup between North Carolina and Kentucky lived up to its billing. It was a well-played game that came right down to the wire, and was close throughout. The eighth-largest crowd in Rupp Arena history saw it, and even more watched on television. And it’s possible that the game will mirror the teams’ seasons.

Kentucky probably has the most talent of any team in the country, but the Wildcats’ youth hasn’t been hard to see. Their freshmen have had their share of growing pains, from Marquis Teague’s early struggles taking care of the ball to Anthony Davis learning how physical the college game can be. It’s for exactly that reason that senior Darius Miller has never been more valuable than much of the early going this time around.

North Carolina is right up there with the Wildcats, but this is an older and more mature team. Whereas the Wildcats start three freshmen, the Tar Heels only played two freshmen yesterday and both came off the bench. But they start a senior, two juniors and two sophomores, and on the whole this is a team quite a ways from its ceiling just like Kentucky.

In the first half, North Carolina led by as many as nine and was the better team. They were hot from long range, going 6-9 from behind the arc in the opening frame. But Kentucky scored seven in a row at the end of the first and start of the second half, momentarily grabbing the lead and then staying right with the Tar Heels until they took the lead for good on a Davis jumper with less than eight minutes to play.

The Tar Heels had one more chance after Teague missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21 seconds left. They got the ball to John Henson, known more for his shot-blocking than scoring, and in a length-versus-length matchup, Davis got a hand on his short jumper and the Wildcats were able to run out the final seconds for a 73-72 victory.

It’s a game that many would love to see a rematch of, and considering that both teams are a ways from their respective ceilings, no one would be surprised if it materialized in the month of March.

While that was the best matchup of the day, there were a few other teams, conferences and player of note.

 

Marquette

Winning at the Kohl Center is hard for visiting teams to do, but Marquette pulled it off on Saturday and did so without their starting point guard. Before the game, the Golden Eagles announced that Junior Cadougan was suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules. Wisconsin has lost two straight, but neither is a bad loss as they lost to North Carolina earlier in the week. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, are 7-0 with a blowout win over Ole Miss and Saturday’s win at Wisconsin.

 

Xavier

Xavier is becoming quite the second-half team. On Monday, they trailed by ten in the second half before rallying to beat Vanderbilt in overtime in Nashville. But yesterday they did themselves one better, as they trailed Purdue by 11 at the half and 19 in the second half before coming back to edge the Boilermakers 66-63. In the last 10:44, Xavier outscored Purdue 30-8.

 

Illinois

It seems like Bruce Weber has been on the hot seat forever in Champaign, but let’s acknowledge not only the job he has done thus far but especially what he is doing this season. After an 82-75 win over Gonzaga on Saturday, the Illini are 8-0 with wins over Richmond and at Maryland as well. Neither of those two is a big NCAA Tournament resume win, but they are worth noting because the Illini haven’t beaten up on a slew of terrible teams and could be 12-0 when they take on Missouri on Dec. 22, though they will have to get by UNLV at home before then. Saturday was the first time all season Gonzaga did not have at least four players score in double figures.

 

Brigham Young

No Jimmer, no problem for Brigham Young. After Saturday’s 79-65 win over Oregon in Salt Lake City, BYU is 6-2 with a win over Nevada included and the only losses being at Utah State and against Wisconsin. Granted, this isn’t the Oregon team we all thought we would see before the season with the departures of Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron, but the Ducks aren’t pushovers.

 

Head-scratching in the CAA

A number of conferences have their opening games this weekend before teams resume non-conference play for a little while longer. Perhaps none has had results that might leave one scratching their head as much as the Colonial Athletic Association, where three teams won on the road and preseason favorite Drexel lost to Delaware by 11 (albeit on the road). The Dragons have had a rough go of it thus far, but Chris Fouch is back so they’re closer to having their full team together. Still, Fouch was 0-9 yesterday and the Blue Hens won the battle on the glass by a 40-32 margin over a Drexel team that routinely beats up opponents on the boards.

The one other score that jumps out is Georgia State thumping William & Mary 66-34 in Atlanta. The Tribe didn’t look to be far from being a good team last season, but they’re struggling mightily out of the gates and Saturday may be the low point thus far.

 

We go coast to coast with other news from the college basketball nation

  • Ohio State didn’t miss a beat despite Jared Sullinger being out with back spasms.
  • College of Charleston lost a wealth of talent and experience from last season’s team, but the Cougars are 7-1 overall and are one of four teams that went 2-0 in early Southern Conference games this weekend. Chattanooga, who the Cougars beat last night and was picked to win the North Division, is 0-2.
  • Connecticut got a big lift from Ryan Boatright with 23 points and six assists in his home debut.
  • UCLA is now 2-5 after a home loss to Texas that saw them blow an 11-point lead.

 

Some of Sunday’s Key Matchups

Sunday is a day full of interesting matchups of teams that we’re trying to find out something about. None of these are like North Carolina-Kentucky, but they will be worth keeping an eye on.

  • Baylor at Northwestern
  • UNLV at Wichita State
  • California at San Diego State
  • Dayton at Murray State
  • North Carolina State at Stanford
  • Notre Dame at Maryland
  • VCU vs. George Washington (BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center)
  • Kansas State at Virginia Tech

College of Charleston Has Personnel, Intangibles For Success

by - Published November 14, 2010 in Columns

WORCESTER, Mass. – Bobby Cremins has been coaching long enough to have a good feel for a team. He’s had enough success to know what a good team looks like. So when he tells you he has a good team, you can believe him, especially if his team’s offensive showing in Saturday’ 93-84 win at Holy Cross isn’t convincing enough.

While Cremins and senior leader Andrew Goudeluck both talked about the team’s need to improve defensively – and indeed, they didn’t exactly put on a clinic there as Holy Cross shot 51.5 percent from the field – there was no concern about the offense. The Cougars shot 63.6 percent for the game, going 9-16 from long range (7-8 in the first half) and had five players score in double figures. They had 20 assists on 35 made field goals. … Continue Reading

Southern Preview

by - Published November 7, 2007 in Conference Notes



Southern Conference 2007-08 Preview

by Phil Kasiecki

The Southern Conference has been getting its share of national attention this off-season, and it has come largely because of one team that many have high expectations for. It’s safe to say that the prohibitive favorite this season is Bob McKillop’s team at Davidson.

There is good reason for the attention. With a young team consisting of eight freshmen and sophomores and just two seniors (both walk-ons), the Wildcats won a school-record 29 games last season and rolled to a 17-1 conference mark. They entered the season with just 30 collegiate starts between all of their players, with only one Division I school having fewer. Meanwhile, Stephen Curry raked in the accolades, and now is receiving many preseason ones in light of his terrific freshman year.

It’s safe to say that everyone else will be chasing the Wildcats this season, as they bring back every scholarship player. They have one of the best backcourts in the country, as Curry’s backcourt mate Jason Richards is also the conference’s top point guard and a good scorer and passer. There is good depth in the frontcourt, and McKillop is perhaps the most underrated coach in America.

While Davidson is getting plenty of exposure, the conference is also home to another star that isn’t well-known outside the local landscape. UNC Greensboro senior Kyle Hines was the conference’s Player of the Year last season and has gone from someone known primarily for blocking shots to a complete player who could average a double-double as a 20-10 player this season. With Davidson being the focus of the conference nationally, Hines may still fly under the radar while potentially leading his team to a North Division title.

Curry is also not the only sophomore who has already shown plenty of potential, which bodes well for the conference’s future. Western Carolina sophomore Nick Aldridge had a big freshman year last year and could have three classmates starting alongside him this season. Curry’s teammate, William Archambault, was a key reserve last season, and UNC Greensboro sophomore Kendall Toney shot the ball very well from long range last season.

No teams changed head coaches this past off-season, making it one of four conferences that could claim that. Helping that is the fact that a number of teams have changed coaches in the previous two off-seasons. There is some stability in the ranks, and that bodes as well as the young talent does for the conference as a whole.

Preseason Awards
Player of the Year:
Stephen Curry, Davidson
Top Newcomer: Antwaine Wiggins, College of Charleston
Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Hines, UNC Greensboro
Best NBA Prospect: Stephen Curry, Davidson

All-Southern Team
Nick Aldridge, So. F, Western Carolina
Stephen Curry, So. G, Davidson
Louis Graham, Sr. F, Georgia Southern
Kyle Hines, Sr. F, UNC Greensboro
Jason Richards, Sr. G, Davidson

North Division

UNC Greensboro Spartans (16-14, 12-6 Southern)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Dwayne Johnson (4.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.9 apg)
So. G Kendall Toney (6.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Sr. G Kevin Oleksiak (6.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.7 apg)
Sr. F Kyle Hines (20.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 1.4 spg)
So. F Ben Stywall (5.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: A December 1 date with Kent State is the highlight of three non-conference home games. The Spartans open the season at Georgia Tech, then play in the Missouri State Classic, while also traveling to play Virginia Tech and Atlantic 10 contender Fordham. In Southern Conference play, much of January is marked by a five-game road stretch, while they finish the regular season with three straight at home.
Outlook: Hines is arguably the best player in the conference, but might not repeat as Player of the Year depending on the team’s success. The Spartans lose their top outside scoring threat in Ricky Hickman, but there isn’t a shortage of candidates to move into the role of primary outside weapon. Toney and Oleksiak are joined by Mikko Koivisto among the options, with Toney likely to start full-time after starting just over half of last season’s games and shooting 43.5 percent on three-pointers. Three freshmen provide depth behind them and Johnson, the steady floor leader who might be asked to score more. Stywall joins Hines in the frontcourt and should continue to support him primarily with his rebounding, although it wouldn’t hurt if he scored more to take some attention off Hines. Little-used sophomore Pete Brown is the only veteran in the frontcourt, so additional depth will likely come from junior college transfer Michael Mitchell. Only two teams turned the ball over more last season, so taking better care of the ball is likely to be one priority this season.

Appalachian State Mountaineers (25-8, 15-3 Southern)
Projected Starters:

So. G Ryan Abraham (2.5 ppg, 1.1 apg)
So. G Kellen Brand (6.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Sr. F Donte Minter (11.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.2 bpg)
Sr. F Jeremy Clayton (10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.7 bpg, 1.2 spg)
Sr. C Davis Bowne (5.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Schedule Highlights: The Mountaineers have three home games in a challenging non-conference slate, highlighted by a visit from Wichita State and a BracketBusters game. Early on, they go to Middle Tennessee for three games in the First Shot Exempt Tournament. The toughest road games look to be at Arkansas and Atlantic Sun favorite East Tennessee State. When Southern play begins in earnest in January, they start with three straight on the road before coming home for three straight.
Outlook: The Mountaineers still have a good team, but their departures hit hard in that they come in the backcourt, leaving a pair of sophomores as likely starters there. At the very least, Abraham has good options to get the ball to in Brand, who showed some promise last season, and forwards Minter and Clayton. Minter could make a nice jump with his scoring numbers, while Clayton can do a little of everything inside and together they make a solid forward tandem as part of a unit that has good size. With that unit, they should improve on their positive rebounding margin last season. Freshmen Donald Sims and Donterious Hughes could each get significant minutes in the backcourt. The Mountaineers will be hard-pressed to lead the conference in scoring again, so improving defensively will be important to staying in contention.

Western Carolina Catamounts (11-20, 7-11 Southern)
Projected Starters:

So. G Brigham Waginger (3.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg)
So. G Brandon Giles (6.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.4 apg)
Sr. F Arnold Gore (9.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg)
So. F Nick Aldridge (18.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.7 spg)
So. F Jake Robinson (8.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: A challenging non-conference schedule features four home games and opens with an in-season tournament. To start the season, the Catamounts travel to Cincinnati for the Peggy Cronin Classic, where they play Bowling Green, the host Bearcats and Atlantic Sun contender Belmont. In mid-December, they play at Indiana and Illinois two days apart, and close out 2007 with a trip to North Carolina State. When Southern Conference play begins in earnest, they start with three of four on the road, including the oddity of playing both games against Furman within a week.
Outlook: Larry Hunter has a young team with some potential that might be a year away from seriously contending, as the core of the team is the sophomore class. Aldridge and Robinson are already a solid forward combination, while Waginger and Giles have potential in the backcourt. Giles also gives the backcourt good size at 6’6″ and might move to the wing from time to time, though senior Negus McKenna is better suited to there than shooting guard. The frontcourt also gets more size with the recruiting class, as three of the four freshmen are 6’8″. The Catamounts had the best turnover margin in the conference last season in part from forcing over 16 turnovers per game, but when they didn’t do that opponents scored often. Only three teams in the conference allowed opponents to shoot better than the nearly 46 percent clip the Catamounts allowed.

Chattanooga Mocs (15-18, 6-12 Southern)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Kevin Bridgewaters (6.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.8 apg)
Jr. G Keyron Sheard (junior college transfer)
Jr. F Nicchaeus Doaks (10.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Jr. F Khalil Hartwell (4.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Jr. C Qavotstaraj Waddell (junior college transfer)
Schedule Highlights: Six home games are on top in a non-conference schedule that features two in-season tournaments. Highlighting the home games are visits from Atlantic Sun favorite East Tennessee State and Tennessee, and they also host the Dr. Pepper Classic to close out 2007, where they could play Atlantic Sun contender Belmont. After playing at Indiana early on, they travel out west for three games in the Anaheim Classic, opening with Southern Illinois. In Southern Conference play, they close the regular season with five of six on the road.
Outlook: With just two seniors and seven juniors on the roster, the Mocs might be a year away from contention. Two of the juniors figure to start right away in Sheard, who could run the show from the outset, and junior college teammate Waddell, who adds more size to a front line that also includes 6’10” sophomore Matt Gwynne and 7’1″ redshirt freshman Jeremy Saffore. Doaks is one good forward, while Hartwell could be displaced from the starting lineup by one of the aforementioned big men. In the backcourt, another junior newcomer, South Carolina transfer Stephen McDowell, will figure into the mix and could eventually start. The Mocs held their own on the glass last season and should again this year with the size they have. The big area for improvement is taking care of the ball, as only one Southern Conference team turned the ball over more last season.

Elon Phoenix (7-23, 5-13 Southern)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Montell Watson (redshirt)
Jr. G Brett James (12.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.5 spg)
So. G Devan Carter (5.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.6 apg)
Jr. F Ola Atoyebi (5.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
So. F Scott Grable (4.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Phoenix will play four non-conference home games, including a BracketBusters game. They open the season at Virginia Tech, then later head to Georgia, VCU, Penn and Virginia. In a scheduling oddity, they play four conference games before the new year, three of them at home. Starting in late January, they play five consecutive road games.
Outlook: The young Phoenix will have some growing pains this season with just two seniors and three juniors on the roster. Watson returns after a foot injury kept him out of last season, giving them an experienced floor leader to go with James, the top scoring option, and Carter, who looked promising last season. Senior Brian Waters and sophomore Jon Ogolo should also be in the mix. The frontcourt has two players in Atoyebi and Grable who should get better, with Grable being counted on to give them more after starting 11 games last season and seeing his minutes increase in conference play. Sophomore Adam Constantine should see good minutes up front as well, and freshman Daniel Watts adds more size with his seven-foot frame. This season is a building one for the Phoenix, and if Watson can help the younger guards and make the younger players on this team better, the season will be a step forward.

South Division

Davidson Wildcats (29-5, 17-1 Southern)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Jason Richards (13.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.5 spg)
So. G Stephen Curry (21.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.8 spg)
Jr. G Max Paulhus Gosselin (4.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.2 spg)
Sr. F Boris Meno (11.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 1.0 spg)
Sr. F Thomas Sander (13.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 spg)
Schedule Highlights: The non-conference schedule is one that fits a team like this, as it has plenty of challenges. Only three games are at home, with the big ones being on the road or at a neutral site. North Carolina and Duke come to Charlotte at Bobcats Arena, and they play UCLA at the John Wooden Classic. True road games of note are at MAC favorite Western Michigan, Charlotte, North Carolina State, and a BracketBusters game. Early in Southern Conference play, they play six of seven on the road.
Outlook: The Wildcats are getting plenty of attention, and deservedly so. With just about everyone back from last season’s 29-win team, expectations are sky high. Curry gets plenty of attention, but as one would expect of a team that won as much as they did, he has plenty of help. Richards is the best point guard in the conference as he can score and pass, while Gosselin is a solid role player who can hit from long range. Sophomore Bryant Barr is a sniper off the bench as well, in much the same way that classmate William Archambault is from the forward spot. Archambault plays behind solid seniors in Meno and Sander, who play well together and are solid at both ends of the floor. There is plenty of depth up front, with junior Andrew Lovedale and sophomore Stephen Rossiter joining Archambault off the bench. The Wildcats will be tough to beat, so the conference looks to be theirs for the taking and they will have a chance for wins that could earn them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should someone shock them in the conference tournament.

Georgia Southern Eagles (15-16, 7-11 Southern)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Dwayne Foreman (9.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.2 spg)
Sr. G Anthony Marshall (3.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Sr. F Matt Fields (6.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Sr. F Louis Graham (14.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
Sr. C Ryan Hynes (2.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Eagles will play in two in-season tournaments as part of a non-conference schedule that has just three home games. Early on, they play in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, taking on UAB along the way. They close out 2007 in the Flint Hills Resources/Islander Invitational in Corpus Christi. Among their challenging road games are trips to Florida State and Florida, as well as a BracketBusters game.
Outlook: The Eagles could be a sleeper team, as they struggled out of the gate last year but could put five seniors starters on the floor year. It starts with the excellent inside-outside combo of Foreman, who was second in the conference in assists, and Graham, a solid inside force. Foreman should break into double figures, while Marshall and Fields will be counted on for more with the departure of Donte Gennie. Antoine Johnson could also nab the starting spot alongside Foreman on the perimeter, and there is some depth with freshman Willie Powers and Julian Allen leading a guard-oriented group of newcomers. Hynes is the incumbent in the middle after starting 17 games last season, but junior college transfer Trumaine Pearson and freshman Jared Collins should push him. The Eagles were second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and third in rebounding margin, so concerns aren’t big defensively, but although they were second in field goal percentage, they led the conference in turnovers. Taking better care of the ball could mean another winning season and contention again.

College of Charleston Cougars (22-11, 13-5 Southern)
Projected Starters:

So. G Tony White, Jr. (6.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.6 apg)
Jr. G Marcus Hammond (7.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.7 apg)
Jr. F Jermaine Johnson (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Jr. F Dustin Scott (junior college transfer)
Fr. F Antwaine Wiggins
Schedule Highlights: The non-conference schedule has just three home games on tap, two of which come in the Cougar Classic at the end of December. Early on, they travel for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they begin with Arkansas and then play either Temple or Providence in the second of three games. Later trips include Atlantic 10 contender Fordham, Florida State and South Carolina.
Outlook: The Cougars have a new look this year, as Hammond, White, and Johnson have the most experience by far. Hammond has started before, so he needs White to make a smooth transition into the starting lineup. Freshmen Andrew Goudelock and Donavan Monroe should each get plenty of time early on. The frontcourt was stung by Josh Jackson’s transfer in the summer, making Johnson the only returning start. Much will be expected of Scott, while freshman Jeremy Simmons figures to at least provide rebounding and a defensive presence. Wiggins comes with a good reputation as well and could play right away, though he needs to get stronger. The Cougars were the best defensive team in the conference last year, and repeating that will be necessary with the offense they have lost.

Wofford Terriers (10-20, 5-13 Southern)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Drew Gibson (12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.4 apg, 2.2 spg)
Sr. G Shane Nichols (15.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.8 apg)
Jr. G Matt Estep (5.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg)
Fr. F Noah Dahlman
Jr. F-C Tyler Whatley (7.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Terriers’ non-conference slate is challenging, and it includes four home games, none of them against Division I teams. They open the season at Arkansas, then later go to Wisconsin and close out 2007 in the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic, where they first play at Alabama and at Purdue before two games in Las Vegas. Southern Conference play will see an early test for them, as just over a week into January they start a stretch with Appalachian State and Davidson at home followed by three straight on the road. They also play three straight on the road in February before the regular season finale is at home.
Outlook: It’s safe to say that guards rule the Terriers, as they have no shortage of them and depth won’t be a problem, and they helped the team turn the ball over less than any other Southern team last season. The senior tandem of Gibson and Nichols makes this team go, with Gibson running the show and playing well at the other end of the floor. Estep could grab the third perimeter spot to give them a little more size, but don’t be surprised if sophomore Junior Salters starts often after he showed a lot of promise as a freshman. If they want even more size, they can go with 6’8″ sophomore Corey Godzinski, who started nine games last season, on the wing. Whatley is the only returning frontcourt player who played significant minutes, which means there will be plenty of opportunity for freshmen Dahlman, Drew Crowell and Terry Martin. The Terriers allowed the most points in the conference and were next-to-last in field goal percentage defense, so those are concerns, but with Whatley surrounded by inexperienced frontcourt players, it appears that rebounding will be the biggest concern as they were by far the worst team in that category last season.

Furman Paladins (15-16, 8-10 Southern)
Projected Starters:

So. G Tony Anderson (4.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.7 apg)
Fr. G Bryson Barnes
Sr. F George Brozos (3.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Jr. F Stanley Jones (5.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Jr. F Alex Opacic (6.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: Just two non-conference home games are on tap, both coming back-to-back in November. On tap for road games are trips to Clemson, Saint Louis, and two consecutive in-season tournaments. The first is the Gossner Foods Holiday Classic at Utah State, where they play Northern Arizona and either Utah or host Utah State, then they go to St. Mary’s for the Shamrock Office Solutions Classic against Big West contender Cal State Fullerton in the first game.
Outlook: The Paladins are starting over this season, as four starters are gone and several reserves have left as well. Anderson might have the best chance of staying in the starting lineup, as none of the holdovers have done much but Anderson has experience at the important point guard spot. Brozos is the only senior on a squad that has six freshmen, with Barnes having the best chance to start right away with his size at the point guard spot. This young group will be tested right away, as the non-conference schedule is not easy. By the end of the season, they should look a little different than they do at the beginning.

The Citadel Bulldogs (7-23, 4-14 Southern)
Projected Starters:

Jr. G Jonathan Brick (2.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.3 apg)
Jr. G Jon Heyland (junior college transfer)
Fr. G Andrew Gonzalez
Fr. F Matt Clark
Sr. F-C Demetrius Nelson (9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The non-conference schedule has six home games, highlighted by an early visit from USC and a New Year’s Eve visit from Ivy League contender Cornell. The Bulldogs will travel for games at South Carolina, another Ivy League contender in Penn, and Washington State at the Cougar Hardwood Classic in Seattle. Once Southern play begins in earnest in January, the Bulldogs get some home cooking, as seven of the first eight are at home, including five straight. They follow that with four straight on the road.
Outlook: The struggles continued for this program last season, and second-year head coach Ed Conroy is giving it a facelift in the form of ten newcomers. Seven of the newcomers signed early, indicating that this was a plan all along. Nelson is by far the most experienced player, while Brick could run the team after doing so for most of the conference season as he started 17 of 18 Southern games. Conroy is high on his newcomers, with Heyland bringing a reputation as a shooter and Gonzalez and Clark bringing some size to their positions. The newcomers will play early and often throughout the season as the Bulldogs try to turn the page to more success.

Conference Outlook

The conference is Davidson’s to lose, although there are some good teams to keep an eye on besides the Wildcats. UNC Greensboro should be the favorite in the North, but not by a wide margin, and it wouldn’t be a shock if Western Carolina contends a year early with their core group of sophomores. Meanwhile, a couple of bottom teams are trying to rebuild almost from scratch and will likely have some growing pains.

     

SoCon Notebook

by - Published January 12, 2007 in Conference Notes



Southern Conference Notebook

by Tyler Annett

As we begin 2007 in the Southern Conference, two teams have started out of the gate surprisingly strong both in conference and non-conference play. Appalachian State and Davidson have posted 4-0 records to begin conference play, as the Mountaineers are 12-3 and the Wildcats are 13-3. These two teams will meet January 20th in Davidson, NC, and it looks to be the big match-up in the conference so far.

Each of these teams is a surprise first-place leader at this point in the season. Davidson is coming off an NCAA appearance last season, yet lost four starters to graduation and close to 75 percent of their offensive firepower from a season ago. Despite this the Wildcats lead the conference in scoring at 81.9 points per game, which is 6.5 points higher than the next team in the league, and are currently riding a nine-game winning streak. Led by junior forwards Boris Meno and Tony Sander, Davidson continues to be the offensive juggernaut they have been for the past three seasons in leading the conference in scoring under coach Bob McKillop. The surprise player for Davidson has been freshmen Stephen Curry, the son of former NBA star Dell Curry, who has a provided a spark behind the arc for the wildcats. Curry, who was not heavily recruited out of high school because of his lack of size and unorthodox shot, leads the team in points per game at 19.6 and with his 40 percent clip from long range, and as a freshmen looks like one of the best players in the league already. The Wildcats’ rebounding has also been a key to their success with an average of 40.1 rebounds a game as a team.

Much of Appalachian State’s success has come on the offensive end of the court as well. Appalachian State is second to Davidson in scoring led by senior guard D.J. Thompson (1st-Team All-Conference last season), who is top ten in the conference in points, steals and assists in once again making a bid for player of the year. The Mountaineers also are one of the top five teams in the league in rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Senior guard Nathan Cranford joins Thompson in one of the strongest backcourts in the conference, as Cranford has helped bring stability to a young team. A tough schedule early on out of conference included road games against ACC members Clemson (the last undefeated team in the nation), Virginia Tech and Virginia along with a strong opening to conference play have helped give the Appalachian State a strong RPI (ratings Percentage Index) ranking. Currently the Mountaineers have the No. 9 RPI rating, a chief tool used to by the Tournament Committee on Selection Sunday on March 11th. Yet most analysts believe this ranking will drop as the season continues, so the Mountaineers will need to maintain their momentum to try and win the conference outright. No Southern Conference team has ever received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and a bid this season is highly unlikely.

Both of these teams have positioned themselves nicely for a strong run to the conference regular season title as well as the conference tournament title. We will watch closely as to what these two hot teams do as the season moves along.

Player of the Week: Nathan Cranford, Appalachian State
Cranford scored 30 points and grabbed five rebounds, hitting four 3-point baskets in the first six and a half minutes to help pull off a strong victory against the College of Charleston, who was the pre-season pick by many (including myself) to win the conference. This victory helped push the Mountaineers to 4-0 in the conference and the status of a true contender for the conference title at this early point in the season.

Team of the Week: The Citadel
Although the Bulldogs are still only 5-10 overall, this week they won two conference games against Elon and Wofford, which matches their conference win total from a year ago with 12 games in conference to go. Both wins came on the road and pushed their conference record to .500 at 2-2. With eight of their last fourteen conference games at home, the Bulldogs have a definite shot to surpass their win total by a couple games from last season.

Upcoming Game of the Week: Furman vs. College of Charleston
Both clubs have not started as well as they hoped, considering they believed they had strong teams this season. The Cougars, at 2-2, were pre-season favorites to take the Conference and need a victory at home badly to stay in the race with Appalachian State and Davidson, while the Panthers at 1-2 would like a get a strong road victory to jumpstart their slow start to the season. Look for this Saturday afternoon matchup to be a low-scoring affair, as neither team averages over 70 points per game or above 45 percent from the field.

     

Southern Notebook

by - Published November 18, 2006 in Conference Notes



Southern Conference Notebook

by Tyler Annett

Star Power

The outstanding play of the returning stars of the Southern Conference led the way in these week’s games as well as new players arriving on the scene to give the league some fresh faces.

Kyle Hines of UNC-Greensboro, a potential player of the year candidate, proved the pre-season speculation true with a career-high 38 points and 12 rebounds against Marshall in an overtime loss. Through three games, Hines is averaging 25 points per game and 9 rebounds per game, both conference highs.

Other returning stars had strong debuts as well with Robby Bostain posting 25 and 26-point nights in wins for Furman, D.J. Thompson leading the way for Appalachian State with 18 points over North Greenville, and Dontaye Draper scoring 19 points for College of Charleston in Coach Bobby Cremins’ debut win with the Cougars.

This week’s play also saw the debuts of unknown players who are quickly making their mark felt in week one. Davidson freshmen Stephen Curry is averaging 22.5 points per game through four games for the Wildcats. Curry, an aggressive forward who was not even expected to start, has helped reignite last year’s NCAA tournament representative. Davidson has also gotten strong play from junior forward Thomas Sander, who averaged only 6.6 points per game last season but has scored 19 or more in three of the first four games. Appalachian State has also seen strong play from freshmen guard Kellen Brand, who scored 19 points in only 18 minutes off the bench. If Brand can continue his stellar, play the Mountaineers could have a solid backcourt with him and Thompson.

Wildcats Got Offense

The second story of the week is the play of the Davidson Wildcats. Yes, it is true that no one should be surprised that they are 3-1 at week’s end. Their three wins were over perennial scrubs, and their one loss came against the only notable team they played (Michigan). Yet the reason their play is worth writing about is the potency of their offense, as Davidson through four games is averaging 85 points a game. This is especially significant with the fact that they lost seven contributing seniors from last season’s squad, including all-conference player Brendan Winters and conference assists leader Kenny Grant.

Coach Bob McKillop’s team was expected by most (including this humble writer) to fall off a bit, as the team is young and full of a lot question marks, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Outside of junior forward Boris Meno, the Wildcats returned nearly no offensive weapons from one of the top offenses in the league last season. Yet so far this season, Davidson is not only seeing increased efficiency from Meno, but others have begun to step up as well. Freshmen Curry is leading all scorers with 22.5 ppg, followed by Sander, William Archambault, and Jason Richards, who are all averaging over 11 ppg. If they can continue this barrage on the offensive end of the court with these five very strong players, Davidson will not see the drop off in which most believed would occur, but rather an explosive team that will contend all season for the conference title.

Summary

Overall the conference went 14-12 overall for the week with no real notable wins, yet no real notable losses either. The conference dominated the lower-tier Division I squads (as well as some non-Division I teams), and lost to the traditional powerhouses. The conference schedule is still a little over two weeks from starting, but the play in this first week will begin to form judgments as to where these teams will stand come the holiday season.

Player of the Week: (Tie) Kyle Hines, UNC-Greensboro & Stephen Curry, Davidson.
Hines started the season off exactly the way everyone expects him to play all year with averages of 25 points and 9 rebounds per game. Curry, a relative unknown freshman, has taken the league by storm with a 32-point performance against Michigan and a four-game average of 22.5 ppg.

Game of the Week: Wofford vs. North Carolina State.
Although the Terriers lost, they gave the Wolfpack and new coach Sidney Lowe a huge scare with only a four-point overtime differential. Wofford made 16 three-point shots through the course of the game and held a halftime lead, but that was not enough in the end. Although a defeat, this game made a statement that the conference can most definitely compete with the likes of the ACC.

     

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