Monday, March 17, 2014

ETSU Preview: The CIT Is Now

The Mocs thought their season may be over last Saturday following a disappointing loss to Georgia Southern in the first round of the SoCon Tournament. Instead, they got a second life and get the chance to play in the CIT and compete for a championship this postseason.

Not only that, the Mocs get to play ETSU, a former archrival and team who is joining the SoCon again next year. The Mocs and Bucs are both expecting to contend for the SoCon title next year. This is a match-up between two reasonably young teams, and will be a chance to set the tone as they head into the offseason.

The Bucs ae one of the fastest teams in the country. They are 26th in the country in terms of adjusted tempo. They fly up and down the floor offensively. They also score a lot of their points from the free throw line and three point range. They rank 324th in the country in percentage of points scored from two point range. They also give up a lot of threes on the defensive side of the ball. They also foul more than most teams.

The Bucs have two senior starters. Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard is 6-6, 250 pounds. He is averaging 10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and three assists per game. Hunter Harris is averaging 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Harris is 6-7.

That means that the Bucs have some height that could challenge the Mocs. Of course, the Mocs have done a good job against height this year, despite being so undersized. Z Mason, Casey Jones and Lance Stokes will have their hands full against the Bucs big guys. Gadsden-Gilliard and Harris will be tough to handle.

Rashawn Rembert is the team's leading scorer. He's averaging 16.8 points per game. He is making 43.1% of their threes. He is a 6-3 junior. He will make a ton of shots if he is left open. But he is not one to drive the basket particularly well. That is a key against the Mocs. The Mocs are not good against those types of guards.

AJ Merriweather is more likely to drive the ball. He is only 6-2, but he is averaging 9.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. He is a small forward, but he is the player that I think is most likely to hurt the Mocs overall.

PREDICTION

Whew. This should be a very good game between two teams that may not appear to deserve a postseason, but both are threats to win the CIT if they can get things rolling. These are two pretty interesting teams who will be conference rivals next year. They are old rivals too. This game will get plenty of excitement from both fan bases, and it should be a ton of fun. I think the Mocs match-up reasonably well with the Bucs and will take advantage of their second chance. I think that Rico White and Martynas Bareika will actually knock down a couple of threes. I think that the Mocs will control the Bucs inside, with Z Mason making a couple of huge plays down the stretch, as the Mocs come up with the slight upset. It will be an up and down game, and will be a fun watch for everyone, just getting everyone ready for next year. Mocs 78, Bucs 75.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wofford Goes to the NCAA Tournament

Wofford survived a furious rally from Western Carolina and advanced to their NCAA Tournament in the last five years.

The Terriers played so well in this tournament. They did not win a ton of games this year against the elite SoCon competition, but sometimes when you get into a tournament, that doesn't matter. That was the case here, as the Terriers played a team fresh off an upset in every game of the tournament.

That is not intended to take anything away from the Terriers. They won against the competition put in front of them. Tonight, they won by playing aggressive defense, which was their calling card for much of the year. They did not play super-efficient offense, which had been a key to their tournament run so far. The Terriers only shot 39.6% from the floor. But they protected the basketball, turning it over just four times in the whole game.

But the Terriers held the Catamounts to 35.1% shooting from the floor and just 3 of 18 from three point range. That defensive intensity and effort is what won this game, because the Catamounts outrebounded the Terriers.

Lee Skinner had 11 points and eight rebounds, while Karl Cochran scored 23 (including five threes), had five rebounds and four assists. Spencer Collins did not make a basket for the Terriers.

The Terriers are guaranteed a 16 seed, just about. Their current RPI is 152. They beat almost no one of note this year out of conference. Their best win is probably the road win over Elon. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. The question really is if the Terriers are going to get out of the First Four or not. I tend to think they will. But I may be wrong about that. I think they would win in a game in Dayton, but can't imagine that they would give any real challenge to any #1 seed. They just aren't good enough offensively to expect to beat a #1 seed.

As for the future for these two schools, Wofford looks like they will be the favorite in the SoCon again next year. Chattanooga will be right there with them, but the Terriers will likely be the preseason favorite. They graduate just one senior- Aeris Smith. The Terriers will return all the key pieces to this year's team. Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins, Lee Skinner and Eddie Garcia, not to mention some of the other key pieces, all come back. This team may be better next year. In the new look SoCon, that could mean big things for the Terriers.

Western Carolina, on the other hand, is graduating a lot of seniors. James Sinclair will be the focus of the team. He is the best returning player and he will likely be able to carry the team at times. But in reality the Catamounts are likely to struggle a bit next year. Trey Sumler, Brandon Boggs, Tawaski King and Tom Tankelwicz will all be gone, and this team just won't be the same. They will not be pushovers, by any means, but it's hard to imagine this team being better. If they aren't better, they will likely finish at last in the middle of the pack, and may wind up in the lower half of the SoCon. They will be back, but probably not next year.

Tourney Challenege has a victor!

Congratulations to Jerry Love on his Tourney Challenge victory!

He was one of just two people to pick Western Carolina to advance to the championship game. He was also one of just two people to pick Wofford to advance to the championship game. The other people had Western Carolina playing Chattanooga and Wofford playing Davidson.

Jerry has clinched the championship with 9 points!

Both people that had Western Carolina in the championship picked the Catamounts to win (John S and Jerry Love).

T-Dog, who is currently in second with 7 points, had Wofford in the championship game, but had Davidson winning.

No one picked Wofford to win the tournament prior to the tournament.

Your humble scribe/blogger- dead last with just one point.

Yep- no one should take my championship pick too seriously.

Thanks for playing!

SoCon Championship Preview: Wofford vs. Western Carolina

It all comes down to this for the SoCon.

After the last year of changing tides in the SoCon, with College of Charleston, then Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, then Elon, and then Davidson leaving for other conferences and Mercer, VMI and ETSU being asked to join the conference, none of the schools leaving the conference are participating in the SoCon Championship Game. In other words, it really worked out for the conference members that are staying. With Mercer also winning the Atlantic Sun automatic bid, there is guaranteed to be two conference champions in the SoCon next year. That's something to promote.

In the mean time, with the top two seeds both being upset, the number three and number five seeds square off for the right to represent the SoCon in the NCAA Tournament.

The Terriers have beaten The Citadel (who upset UNCG) and Georgia Southern (who upset Chattanooga) to reach the championship game. Their calling card is their defensive intensity. Karl Cochran is one of the best defensive players in the conference.

But the secret to the Terriers midseason turnaround has been their offensive efficiency. When they play efficient offense, they are nearly unbeatable. They have been shooting the ball very well in this tournament. Cochran and Spencer Collins, along with Eric Garcia, are shooters that need to shoot the ball effectively. When those guys are shooting well, this Terriers team becomes nearly impossible to beat.

As the season has progressed, while Cochran is the superstar, it has become more and more clear that Lee Skinner is the heart and soul of the team. He is the one that does all the muscle work in the paint. He rebounds and gets points when necessary. He played spectacularly against the Eagles in the semifinals.

The Catamounts are a senior laden club that has been shooting for this season for the last couple of years. Trey Sumler is the teams best player. But in this tournament, Brandon Boggs and James Sinclair have each played better than Sumler. Boggs has been making all the necessary plays for this team

Much like Skinner for the Terriers, it is Tawaski King that seems to be the heart and soul of the Catamounts. He is such a critical player. He does not always put up huge numbers, but he seems to always make the biggest play when it is needed most. King is a very good rebounder and scores when he needs to. Skinner against King will be the match-up to watch on the floor. The one who wins that match-up could easily win the game.

The Catamounts also a good defensive team. This team, with all their senior leadership, also never give up. They trailed by twelve against both Elon and Davidson and came back and beat both teams in the SoCon Tournament. That shows incredible heart. They truly believe they are never out of a game in Asheville. Even if Wofford jumps out to an early lead don't turn this one off. This one is NEVER over.

PREDICTION

In some ways, this is about as good as it gets in terms of championship game in the SoCon. The two teams hooked up once earlier this year. Western Carolina was 4-0 in SoCon play at the time and Wofford was 2-3. Wofford won by eleven on their home floor. King had just two points and six rebounds. Skinner had eleven points and eleven rebounds. Cochran and Collins combined to go 13 of 27 from the floor and scored 38 points. I expect this to be a low scoring game. Western Carolina is probably the slightly better team, but I truly do not see how Western Carolina can come back after beating Elon by two in dramatic fashion and beating Davidson by two in overtime in dramatic fashion. They will just be too emotionally spent. Western Carolina will not get to their first NCAA Tournament since 1996. Wofford will go to their first NCAA Tournament since 2011.  Terriers 68, Catamounts 63.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

SoCon Tournament Semifinals Review

Western Carolina 99, Davidson 97 (OT)

Key Stat:  Western Carolina 45.5% OR. The Catamounts came up with fifteen offensive rebounds and Davidson had just eighteen defensive rebounds. When you combine that with the Catamounts shooting over 50% from the floor and Brooks having four fouls (along with Droney and Gibbs fouling out), and everything broke right for Western Carolina to win this one.

Player of the Game: James Sinclair. Boggs and Sumler both played well. Sinclair scored 26 points with six rebounds and three steals. Sinclair was 10 of 15 from the floor and four of six from three point range. He also made two of three from the free throw line.

What It All Means: Western Carolina advances to the championship game with all of these seniors. This was this teams shot to win the SoCon. They are not going to be among the favorites next year, but the team is coming together at the right time. It will be anyone's championship game tomorrow, after a dramatic win tonight. The Catamounts played very well. For Davidson, this is a bittersweet way to leave the conference. They played so well for so much of this year, but couldn't put it together at the end of this one. Their defense, rebounding and Brooks foul trouble was their undoing. The Wildcats are likely to struggle for at least a couple of years in the Atlantic 10 and not be a real threat to win the conference and get to the NCAA. That makes this loss extra tough for the Wildcats.

Wofford 71, Georgia Southern 54

Key Stat: Terriers 49.1%. The Terriers shot very well from the field. When  the Terriers shoot that well, they are nearly impossible to beat. It's been that way for most of the year. This is yet another game where the Terriers showed offensive efficiency.

Player of the Game: Lee Skinner. Skinner came up with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists. He did it all tonight for the Terriers. He had six offensive rebounds and shot 6 of 12 from the field. Skinner was everything the Terriers needed him to be tonight.

What It All Means: The young Terriers advance to the title game, and will be the favorites in the championship game. They played well offensively again, but really dominated defensively. The Terriers are a very good defensive team, and when they've been offensivley efficient, they've been nearly impossible to beat. This team has peaked at the right time, and faced a team coming off an upset in each game of the tournament and this is the first time they will be playing another team that received a bye.  For the Eagles, next year they will have both Hewitt and Eric Ferguson. They could make some noise in the Sun Belt next year. It's a shame the SoCon won't get to enjoy that display.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Four Factors: Georgia Southern

eFG%
Eagles- 45.9%
Mocs- 46.8%
Advantage- Mocs

TO%
Eagles-
14.6%
Mocs- 23.5%
Advantage- Eagles

OR%
Eagles- 25.8%
Mocs- 29.0%
Advantage- Mocs

FTRate
Eagles- 51.0%
Mocs- 34.0%
Advantage- Eagles

Steals
Eagles- 3
Mocs- 4
Advantage- Mocs

3P%
Eagles- 20.0%
Mocs- 20.0%
Advantage- Even

Possessions: 61

SoCon Tournament Saturday Review

Davidson 77, Samford 54

Key Stat: Tim Williams 6 points, 4 rebounds. Samford fans wonder why some hesitate to include Tim Williams in their top five players in the SoCon. The reason is that he strangely comes up with games like this right when Samford needs him most. Just six point and four rebounds? He only took six shots? Why did the offense not revolve around him? Yes, Davidson's defense had a lot to do with that, but Williams needs to step up bigger in the big moments.

Player of the Game: DeMon Brooks. Brooks scored 26 points and twelve rebounds while Tim Williams was struggling. He made 9 of 17 from the floor, 6 of 8 from the free throw line and came up with five offensive rebounds. That's why he was the SoCon Player of the Year. That's why the Wildcats count on him.

What It All Means: Davidson advances to the semifinals, and they played a complete game today. The worry has been about the defense, but the defense came through today very nicely. The Wildcats will need to keep on knocking down shots and playing good defense. If they do, they will win the SoCon Tournament. Obviously. They are the best team in the tournament, and this was a very good first game in the tournament for them. For Samford, there are real questions about this team as we head into the offseason. In a lot of ways, they underachieved. They should have been better than they were. How will that translate into the new SoCon next year? That remains unclear. With the Williams' and Raijon Kelly, they should be one of the top teams in the SoCon next year. But they did nothing but raise questions with their performance this year.

Western Carolina 66,  Elon 64

Key Stat: Catamounts 18 offensive rebounds. Western Carolina is not a big team. Elon is a pretty big team. Yet, it was the Catamounts that pounded the offensive glass in this one. That is one of this team's calling cards, and they used it to their full advantage in this one.

Player of Game: Tawaski King. It's tempting to go with Rhett Harrelson, who knocked down the two biggest threes of the game, but King wound up with 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the floor and ten rebounds, six of them on the offensive end. King is such a competitor, and he always seems to play his best games in Asheville. If he puts together two more games like this one, the Catamounts might just be the SoCon Champs.

What It All Means: Western Carolina won in surprising fashion, showing that the Catamount continue to win games at US Cellular in unusual ways. This was a really great comeback, and they are a dangerous team tomorrow against Davidson in the SoCon semifinals. They have the talent, the senior leadership and the seeming home court advantage in it. They really established themselves. For Elon, this was nothing short of a disappointing season. In the end, despite having all those seniors and the team that finished third in the SoCon and knocked the Phoenix out of the conference tournament leave the conference, the Phoenix finished lower in the regular season standings and got knocked out of the tournament earlier. Next year, they move to a tougher conference. I'm not sure how they survive in the CAA. It could be ugly for a few years.

Georgia Southern 62, Chattanooga 55

Key Stat: Chattanooga 4 of 20 from three point range. The Mocs have lacked shooters all year. They simply did not have the shooters to shoot Georgia Southern out of their 2-3 zone in this one. Z Mason made 3 of 5 from three point range. The rest of the team? 1 of 15. That's not good.

Player of the Game: Tre Bussey. Bussey has scored 17 points along with two rebounds and three assists. He made 7 of 15 from the floor and three of four from the free throw line. Bussey did not make a three, but he made two massive shots down the stretch that put the game out of reach.

What It All Means: Georgia Southern played an excllent game against a team they match up well against. The Eagles guards controlled the game after halftime. They played great defense throughout the contest. The Eagles will be a dangerous team in the semifinal. They have Jelani Hewitt and Bussey. They can win tomorrow. Can they win Monday? That's hard to imagine. For Chattanooga, this was a very disappointing loss. The Mocs have now not won a SoCon game in four straight tournaments. Next year,  the Mocs should be significantly better than they were this year. They will miss Z Mason tremendously, but will be a better team overall. Next year will probably be a good year, but winning a SoCon Tournament game remains elusive to this team.

Wofford 68, The Citadel 51

Key Stat: Wofford 52.1% from the floor. The Terriers, when they play well offensively, are so difficult to beat. The Terriers were very good tonight on offense. If the Terriers play like that on offense for the rest of the tournament, they could easily win this whole thing.

Player of the Game: Eric Garcia. Yes, Karl Cochran probably deserves this. However, Garcia scored 19 on 7 of 9 shooting. He also had four assists. Garcia is an underrated player for the Terriers and deserves to be recognized. He earned it in this one.

What It All Means: For Wofford, they survived a real challenge for the Bulldogs, despite what the final score says. This was a good first test for the Terriers in this tournament. They get another team fresh off an upset in the semifinals, which means they are just moving along, and starting to feel a little like a team of destiny. Can the Terriers play like this offensively every game? If they do, they will win this tournament. Of course, the Bulldogs lack of a great defense may be part of the reason the Terriers offense looked so good. The Bulldogs have something to build on as they move on to next year. They won three straight games before this one, and should feel pretty good as they move into the offseason. They may be able to build on this solid play next year and do something with it.

SoCon Tournament Semifinals Preview

Davidson vs. Western Carolina, 6:00 PM

The Wildcats and Catamounts played a very memorable game in the SoCon Tournament Championship Game two years ago, and I can't help but think that we could be heading for another one in this game. Davidson has the advantage inside with DeMon Brooks, but the Catamounts Tawaski King is a difficult challenge for the Wildcats inside man. The Wildcats will rely heavily on the shooting of Brian Sullivan, Tyler Kalinoski and Tom Droney. The Catamounts will need Trey Sumler to play better in this one than he did in the quarterfinals. Brandon Boggs and James Sinclair also will need to have big games for the Catamounts. This is an uphill climb for Western Carolina. The Catamounts lost by five at home to Davidson earlier this year. That being said, in Asheville, weird things seem to go in Western Carolina's favor. If this is one of those moments, Western Carolina could easily pull off the shocker. They are going to keep it very close, but come up short in the end with Sullivan making the big shots. Wildcats 82, Catamounts 78.

Wofford vs. Georgia Southern, 8:30 PM

The Terriers and Eagles will battle inside. Lee Skinner of the Terriers and Marvin Baynham of the Eagles will be matched up in a very interesting battle. Baynham is not a great offensive force, but has played very well in this tournament. Skinner is the heart and soul of the Terriers. I'll be very interested to watch this battle inside. The two sets of guards are also very interesting. Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins and Eric Garcia have all played well. Going against Jelani Hewitt and Trey Bussey will make this interesting. The Terriers beat the Eagles twice this year- once by ten and once by thirteen. The Eagles are playing very well, though, in Asheville. Can the Eagles win one more and get to the Championship Game before leaving the Southern Conference? Or will Wofford advance to Monday night? Look for Wofford to get the job done, thanks to solid guard play and Skinner winning the inside battle. Terriers 73, Eagles 65.  

Tourney Challenge Standings Through Day One

1t) BigMocs 2
1t) Bill Casey 2
1t) T-Dog 2
1t) GeauxWolfpack 2
1t) Jerry Love 2
1t) DC 2
1t) Ron Jenkins 2
8t) John S 1
8t) rbarney 1
8t) Steve P 1
8t) NGR 1
12t) JohnMoc1 0
12t) SoConJohn 0
12t) MJR 0

Two picked The Citadel. Ron Jenkins and Bill Casey each picked the Bulldogs to pull the upset.

On Saturday, Davidson is picked in 100% of the games. Elon and Western Carolina are picked by seven each. Chattanooga was picked in 13 games. Georgia Southern is picked once.

Wofford is picked in eight games. The Citadel is picked in zero. UNCG is picked six times.

UNCG was picked by one person to advance to the SoCon Championship Game. That was the only team that played today and lost today that anyone picked to advance to the championship game.

Good luck!

Georgia Southern Preview: Here We Go Again

The Mocs and Eagles hook up for the second time in seventeen days. Seventeen. That's one more
point than the Eagles beat the Mocs by the first time they hooked up.

The Mocs have not won in three years at the SoCon Tournament. They will look to change that under Will Wade.

The Mocs did not compete or put in the effort necessary to win the first time these two played. That's what Coach Will Wade said following the game. That was the only game the Mocs lost at home in SoCon play. The Mocs lead 29-17 with about five minutes left in the first half and then it all fell apart.

Jelani Hewitt and Tre Bussey combined to score 49 points. They shot 55.9% from the floor and were 57.1% from three point range to go along with 100% shooting from the free throw line. There were four steals, six assists and six rebounds. The Eagles outrebounded the Mocs 37-30. The Eagles also shot 52.5% from the floor as a team. The Mocs are a bigger team than the Eagles, which has been unusual for the Mocs this year. Still, the Eagles outrebounded the Mocs in that game. That was one of the surest signs that the Mocs were being outhustled. The Eagles are a decent rebounding team considering their size, though.

Z Mason played well the first time, shooting 7 of 9 from the floor and scoring 21 points to go along with 7 rebounds. He and Greg Pryor were the only two Mocs in double figures. Pryor scored ten. Casey Jones scored 7 with five rebounds and four assists. Gee McGhee had seven points and Rico White scored eight.

So what can change in this one?

The biggest key in this one is if the Mocs play with energy necessary to compete. If they do that, they will likely be in this game all the way. Early in the game, the Mocs forced turnovers and were running. The Mocs were moving quickly, but were under control. Gee McGhee looked very good, Casey Jones looked good and Z Mason was playing great. Then, suddenly, it all went away. The Eagles stopped turning the ball over, started making shots, and were rolling. The Mocs will need to try to force turnovers and run. The Eagles deployed some half court pressure against Furman that caused them problems on Friday afternoon, and will probably do the same thing against Chattanooga on Saturday.

The Eagles will need their guards Hewiit and Bussey to continue their superb play. Marvin Baynham played well against Furman. So did Angel Matias. Those two inside players both need to play well against Chattanooga.

PREDICTION

The two best quarterfinals are Western Carolina-Elon and this one. This one should be a very close game the entire way. Z Mason is going to be tough for the smaller Eagles to handle inside. I expect to see the Mocs, who have played with much more energy and enthusiasm in the three games since the Georgia Southern game despite losing one of them, play hard throughout this one. The Mocs were embarrassed at home and have been looking to get revenge for that performance. The problem is that the match-up may not be favorable. The Eagles guard play is good and that has been a problem throughout the year for the Mocs defensively. Can the Mocs beat the Eagles? Is it a match-up they can win? If it is, the Mocs will come up with the win in this one. They will bring the energy. If it is a match-up that is simply so bad for the Mocs that it is going to be a real challenge to win it, the Mocs will probably not win, but lose a close one. I'm not sure which one this falls under. I'm taking the Mocs....apprehensively. Mocs 78, Eagles 74.

GO MOCS!

SoCon Saturday Tournament Preview

Davidson vs. Samford, 12:00 PM

The Davidson Wildcats are lead by DeMon Brooks, and Brooks has been unbelievable. He is the best player in the SoCon. However, Tim Williams of Samford is the sort of player that can give Brooks trouble- more so than a guy like Z Mason (Chattanooga). Williams may not be quite as good of a player as Mason, but he presents more challenges to the Wildcats. The Wildcats also score a lot of points. Brian Sullivan is a hot shooter and can score plenty. The Wildcats scored a ton of points at Samford just a few weeks ago. The problem is that Samford also scored a ton of points. Raijon Kelly and Isaiah Williams are very good players. Michael Bradley also played very well against Appalachian State on Friday, and that was a significant change for the Bulldogs. If Bradley continues playing well, Tim Williams scores, and Kelly along with Isaiah Williams can hit some shots, this team will score points. Truthfully, I think Samford will score points on Davidson's defense. Will Davidson be able to score to keep up with them? I think that will depend on if Sullivan and Tyler Kalinoski and Tom Droney are knocking down their shots. This is a very dangerous quarterfinal game for Davidson. Still, I think Davidson does knock down enough shots to come up with the win. Wildcats 86, Bulldogs 75.

Elon vs. Western Carolina, 2:30 PM

The Phoenix and Catamounts are the two most senior-laden squads in the SoCon. That makes this game very intriguing. Which group of seniors will lead the way? Lucas Troutman for Elon will need to controlled by Tawaski King of Western Carolina. King will need to keep Troutman under control if the Catamounts are going to win this one. He can score, but can not put up massive numbers. Tanner Samson scored 15 points in the second match-up (which the Phoenix won) but was held scoreless in the first one (which the Catamounts won). Samson and Ryley Beaumont will need to each play well for the Phoenix. On the other side, Trey Sumler is no secret. He's one of the best players in the SoCon. Brandon Boggs and James Sinclair need to play well as well. Can Tom Tankelwicz make some shots? These two teams matched up twice during the year, each winning relatively easily on their own home floor. They have not played since January 30. Both teams have been pointing to this year for several years as the year that they were going to be great. One is about to have their season end in the massive disappointment of losing in their first SoCon Tournament game. This is a total toss up, and I have no idea who wins. Since the Catamounts have been playing slightly less well down the stretch, I'll take the Phoenix. Barely. Phoenix 70, Catamounts 69.

Chattanooga vs. Georgia Southern, 6:00 PM

The Eagles hammered the Mocs in Chattanooga just two weeks ago. They won despite the Mocs leading by 12 late in the first half. They did not just win- they won by 17 points. The Mocs have struggled with teams with superb guard play all year. We all know that Georgia Southern has that, with Jelani Hewitt and Tre Bussey. The Mocs are actually bigger than the Eagles, but both teams are small, even by SoCon standards. The Mocs will need to work hard and play hard, something they did not do in the first meeting between the two schools. Z Mason and Gee McGhee looked very good early in the contest the first time these two teams met. Marvin Baynham can be a very important player for the Eagles. This game should be a very interesting game. But I think the Mocs have been hoping for this game so they can avenge their earlier loss. If the match-up is such that the Mocs are capable of beating the Eagles, they will. Mocs 78, Eagles 74.

Wofford vs. The Citadel, 8:30 PM

The Bulldogs have suddenly won three straight games. Quite suddenly. Matt Van Scyoc and Ashton Moore both have been playing so well, and they played excellent basketball against the Spartans on Friday afternoon. PJ Horgan is playing better and better . This team is playing with so much confidence right now. Let's not forget that the Bulldogs actually took the Terriers to overtime in Spartanburg earlier this year. They then lost by 21 in Charleston. So, what can the Bulldogs do here? They can only hope to match-up with the Terriers and try to keep it close and hope for a chance to win at the end. Lee Skinner is an important Terrier player in this one. He is a better offensive player than any of the Bulldogs inside player. Obviously, Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins are the biggest scoring threats for the Terrier offense. When Cochran is making shots, the Terriers offense can be dynamic. When he's not, the Terrier offense isn't nearly as good. Cochran needs to be on. With how good the Bulldog offense has been lately, the Terriers will likely need to score in this one. I think the Terriers will win, but this one may be closer than Terrier fans are hoping for. Terriers 76, Bulldogs 69.

Friday, March 7, 2014

SoCon Tournament Friday in Review

Samford 70, Appalachian State 56

Key Stat: Samford eight turnovers. A week ago when the Mountaineers beat Samford at their place, the Bulldogs committed 25 turnovers. Today- only eight. That was the main difference between the two games. That's why this went from a loss for the Bulldogs to a relatively easy win.

Player of the Game: Tim Williams. Williams scored 21 points and collected eleven rebounds. He may 9 of 17 from the floor and came up with four offensive rebounds. He also had two steals, one assist and also one block. Williams can be one of the best players on the floor when he's on it. He doesn't always show it, but he needs to continue playing like this throughout the tournament.

What It All Means: For the Bulldogs, they were the team that presented a bigger threat to Davidson. This is a significantly interesting thing for Davidson. This game is much more dangerous for the Wildcats than Appalachian State would have been. If the Bulldogs offense is hitting on all cylinders, they will have an opportunity to advance on Saturday afternoon. For the Mountaineers, they are leaving the SoCon with a heap of questions. This program looks to be in shambles right now. I'm not sure how it gets rebuilt (or how quickly it can get rebuilt) in the more difficult Sun Belt.

Georgia Southern 65, Furman 50

Key Stat: Eagles shot 50% from the floor. When the Eagles shoot well from the floor, they win games. Today, they shot the ball well- exactly 50%. That was the good news for the Eagles, who also dominated on the defensive end for much of the game. This was a solid all around performance.

Player of the Game: Jelani Hewitt. Hewitt scored 20 points, had eight rebounds, five assists and three assists. He shot 8 of 14 from the floor. He played like the best player on the floor- which he was. Hewitt's play will be critical in the upcoming games.

What It All Means: For the Eagles, they have not ended their stay in the SoCon quite yet. They beat Chattanooga in Chattanooga by 17 points just two weeks ago. They get another shot on Saturday evening against the Mocs to beat them for the second time this year. With their guard play, if they shoot well, they will be in that game right to the end if not win it. For Furman, year one of the Niko Medved era is over. It was not particularly successful, but it was also a pretty clear step in the right direction. Can Medved get them turned around? I think eventually, though it will be a few years coming.

The Citadel 86, UNCG 76

Key Stat: Bulldogs 10 of 19 from three point range. The Citadel shot 10 of 19 from three point range on the game and when a team is that hot. The Bulldogs continue to shoot well for the third straight game and seem to be playing with a great deal of confidence.

Player of the Game: Ashton Moore. Moore scored 24 points on 7 of 16 shooting. He made 3 of 6 from three point range, and seven of eight from the free throw line. He had four rebounds and four assists. Moore continues on his late season tear that has been so dominant.

What It All Means: For The Citadel, they have now won three straight games. Surely, surely (!) they can not win against Wofford on Saturday, right? I'm not sure. This team is playing with confidence and energy. That can carry a team a long way. They are not the most talented bunch, but there may not be a team in the conference playing with more conference right now, other than possibly Davidson. This team is starting to intrigue me. The Spartans ended a very disappointing final month of the season. UNCG fell down the stretch, make no mistake. They was so inconsistent this year. This team has the talent to be one of the top teams in the new look SoCon next year. Will they live up to that?

Daily Dribbles- 3/7/14

--Friday previews

--Play the SoCon Tourney Challenge!

--CollegeBasketballTalk has a preview of the SoCon Tournament.

--CBS Sports has a preview of the SoCon Tournament as well.

--This is the final Daily Dribbles of the season. For the last 95 Monday-Friday, every morning at 5 AM, Daily Dribbles has been posted. It's been a lot of fun and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd like to thank all the bloggers out there and other writers out there who have provided articles for links. I've enjoyed this season a lot. This has been our biggest year ever in terms of getting visitors on the site. I have all of you to thank for that. Thank you for all the clicks, retweets, comments (here or on your teams message board) and reads. It's been a great year, and hopefully, we'll just continue to expand and do better next year. Thanks again.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

SoCon Tournament Friday Previews

Samford vs. Appalachian State, 11:00 AM

Appalachian State has beaten Samford twice this year, including once at Samford just a week ago. The Mountaineers may have Jay Canty and Mike Neal- it's a little unclear. Tommy Spagnolo is the Mountaineers best player at this point in time. He plays inside. Ty Toney is a dangerous three point shooter. Michael Obacha is one of the SoCon's better rebounders. Tim Williams is inside the paint for Samford. He is a real force inside and can be really tough for the Mountaineers to handle. Isaiah Williams is a great freshman guard. He can score. Raijon Kelly has not been playing quite as many minutes, but he is a very good player who can drive the ball. This is going to be an interesting match-up. Samford has the worst defense in the whole SoCon. They do a good job of blocking shots, but not much else. But the Bulldogs can score. The Mountaineers are the worst shooting team in the SoCon. Something has got to give. Given how much Samford has struggled at the SoCon Tournament, I'll believe Samford wins one when I see it. I could easily see it on Friday- but I can't pick it. Mountaineers 75, Bulldogs 72.

Georgia Southern vs. Furman, 1:30 PM

The Eagles have beaten Furman twice this year, including once at Furman just a week ago. (That sentence sounds familiar.) The Eagles have very good guard play- lead by Jelani Hewitt and Tre Bussey. When these guys shoot well, they are very difficult to beat. They are not a great defensive team, mainly because of their lack of size. The Paladins have a great guard as well, in Stephen Croone. It will be a pleasure to watch Croone battling Hewitt. Croone is one of the fastest players in the SoCon with the ball. The Paladins also have some height. Kendrec Ferrara is 6-9 and Andonis Rwabigwi is 6-8. They are both big guys that can play in the paint. Charlie Reddick's senior leadership has also been invaluable. The Eagles have shown a lot of improvement this year, but beating a team three times in one year is very difficult. I've been saying for weeks that I thought Furman would win a game in Asheville. I don't see any reason to change my mind now. They will beat the Eagles with their inside game and Croone makes a big play late to win it. Paladins 78, Eagles 74.

UNCG vs. The Citadel, 4:00 PM

The Spartans beat the Bulldogs in overtime earlier this year. Now, having won two straight, the Bulldogs are playing their most confident basketball of the year. The Spartans need Kyle Cain and Kayel Locke to step up in a big way in this tournament. They need to play like the big guys they are. Cain is one of the better players in the SoCon. Tevon Saddler is one of the better freshman in the SoCon. He needs to step up for the Spartans as well. The Bulldogs Matt Van Scyoc and Ashton Moore have really stepped up in recent weeks. Moore has turned into a premier scorer. Van Scyoc has always been one of the key players on this team. The Bulldogs lost so many close games. I said earlier this year that if they ever won a game, they might go on a long winning streak once they learned how to win. Now they've learned. Can the Bulldogs pull off the first round upset? I think this game should be a whole lot of fun. I expect it to be an up and down game that the Spartans hold on and win, but it won't be pretty. Spartans 79, Bulldogs 72.  

Daily Dribbles- 3/6/14

--Team Capsules that give a quick look at each team. 

--Play the SoCon Tourney Challenge!

--The latest, and probably final, Dean's List of the year. Always worth the read for Dean Keener's insights before he spends the weekend in Asheville calling the games.

--Pomeroy has his predictions on the SoCon Tournament. Davidson is favored to win 47% of the time. So there's that.

--Friday is quickly approaching. Today, there will be previews of each of Friday's games. They can't get here soon enough. I contine to maintain that the Friday games are going to be very entertaining and exciting. I can't wait for it to get here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

SoCon Team Capsules

Play the SoCon Tourney Challenge!

You know your team. You know all there is to know about your team. You are a diehard fan. But as you prepare to watch the SoCon Tournament (whether in person in Asheville or on ESPN3, CSS and ESPN2), you may want to know a bit more about all the other teams. This is not meant to be a detailed summary of each team. It is simply meant to be a quick capsule of each team that gives you some players to watch and some basics.

Appalachian State

RPI: 333
Pomeroy: 329
BPI: 322
Batman: Tommy Spagnolo
Robin: Tab Hamilton
Outlook: The Mountaineers are not likely to win the SoCon Tournament in Asheville. Not only would they be the first team to win four games in four days, but to do without Jay Canty or Mike Neal would be amazing. Spagnolo (a walk on) has turned into a nice piece, but he probably is not ready to be a star on a team that wins a conference title. This team can certainly beat Samford, but it's hard to envision a scenario where they upset Davidson on Saturday. If they manage to get beyond that, it gets even tougher to envision.

Chattanooga

RPI: 232
Pomeroy: 261
BPI: 249
Batman: Z Mason
Robin: Rico White
Outlook:  The Mocs may be the two seed, but they are not a team most people believe can win the SoCon Tournament. They have overachieved this year in a big way. If the Mocs win two games, they will win twenty games for the first time since 2005-06. The Mocs have not even won a SoCon Tournament game in their last three years. They are not a very good defensive team, but they play so hard, no team will want to have to play them. While they may be able to sneak a championship run in, the more likely best case is to just get to Monday. They could easily lose their first game with a wrong match-up.

Davidson

RPI: 133
Pomeroy: 116
BPI: 121
Batman:  DeMon Brooks
Robin: Brian Sullivan
Outlook: Davidson is the clear favorite to win the tournament one last time before leaving the SoCon. The Wildcats have the best offense in the league. Their defense has shown flashes, but there have been some really bad defensive games too. The way to beat Davidson is by putting together a great offensive game and hoping that is enough. Sullivan's improved shooting has really made this team a favorite. With the wrong match-up on Saturday, they could be in a dogfight. It's very likely that there will be at least one very close call and maybe even two close calls for the Wildcats. The question is what they do there.

Elon

RPI: 169
Pomeroy: 192
BPI: 188
Batman: Lucas Troutman
Robin: Ryley Beaumont
Outlook: The preseason favorite Phoenix have some very good players on their team and they are the only team to beat Davidson during the regular season. However, this team has underachieved in large part. That being said, they are a very dangerous club. They are the sort of team that can provide real problems to Davidson. The Phoenix would have to get by Western Carolina first, but I doubt Davidson wants to see this team in the semifinals, despite the fact that the Wildcats blew them out on Saturday night. This may be Elon's best chance to ever get to the NCAA Tournament, and they are moving up to the CAA next year. They have a lot of seniors as wel. The Phoenix smell their chance. It's now. No pressure.

Fuman

RPI: 334
Pomeroy: 334
BPI: 331
Batman: Stephen Croone
Robin: Kendrec Ferrara
Outlook: This team is young and only going to get better. They have only won three SoCon games, so to think that they would suddenly win four in a row seems unlikely. That being said, as I've heard people's thoughts on Croone, I've realized that he is highly underrated. Combine that with the growth of Ferrara and Adonis Rwabigwi, along with senior Charlie Reddick, and this team has some decent ability. They have played well against the non-bye teams, despite losing a lot of close games to them. They have been mostly blown out by teams that received a bye. In other words, this team will be a solid club on Friday, and if they escape that one, will be pretty unlikely to win on Saturday. Better days are ahead.

Georgia Southern

RPI:
312
Pomeroy: 301
BPI: 290
Batman: Jelani Hewiit
Robin: Tre Bussey
Outlook: The Eagles are not a big team. At all. Even for a SoCon team, they are small. That does not mean that they do not have good guard play, though. With Hewitt and Bussey, they have some of the best guard play in the whole league. Hewitt is a scorer. This team beat Chattanooga on the road a couple of weeks ago. They also were blown out by The Citadel in their final regular season game. So which team is the real Eagles? Who knows? They have potential rematch with Chattanooga on Saturday looming. If they can get by Furman on Friday, that's who they'll play. They are a threat to get to the semifinals for sure, and could get to the championship game with the right breaks, but it's hard to envision them stealing a championship from Western Carolina, Elon or Davidson.

Samford

RPI: 313
Pomeroy: 318
BPI: 321
Batman: Tim Williams
Robin: Isaiah Williams
Outlook:  Now this is an interesting team. This team has not won a SoCon Tournament game their last four trips to the tournament, including a horrendous loss last year. But this team has more talent than the average non-bye team. With Tim Williams and Isaiah Williams, this team has two very good underclassmen. With Raijon Kelly, they have another dangerous player. This is a very good offense but a terrible defense. With Tim Williams height, if the Bulldogs are knocking down shots, they are dangerous to anyone. I think if they can win on Friday and gain some confidence, they are the type of team that could make a miracle run in this tournament. But they have to survive Friday first, and that's been easier said than done fo this club for a while.

The Citadel

RPI: 346
Pomeroy: 347
BPI: 342
Batman: Matt Van Scyoc
Robin: Ashton Moore
Outlook: Oh those crazy Bulldogs! They had not won any SoCon games until last week, when they won two. Suddenly the confidence of this club could be going up....at just the right time. The Bulldogs have been close all year long to breaking through. Now that they have some confidence and know how to win, can they make a run in Asheville? It seems unlikely. This team still is not overly talented. They still only beat Samford and Georgia Southern in their last two games- not exactly the top two teams in the league. But any team playing them should be nervous right now.

UNCG

RPI:
293
Pomeroy: 309
BPI: 289
Batman: Kyle Cain
Robin: Kayel Locke
Outlook: The Spartans are the most puzzling team in a league full of them. Sometimes they play great. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they lose to Davidson by 33. Sometimes they win at Wofford by two. Sometimes they do those two things on Thursday and Saturday of the same week. So there is no telling what will happen here. With RJ White and Tevon Saddler, two freshman, this team has some young weapons. Cain, Locke and White are solid inside players. They are not a consistent team on offense or defense. As the six seed, they can play The Citadel and a Wofford team they just beat on Saturday to get to the semifinals. Overall, against their half of the bracket, the Spartans went 5-2. Against the other half, they went 2-7. In other words, the match-ups may favor the Spartans and they could be a surprise team playing on Monday. Look out for the Spartans. Then again, who can figure them out? They may lose to The Citadel by 33 on Friday.

Western Carolina
RPI: 241
Pomeroy: 250
BPI: 245
Batman: Trey Sumler
Robin: Tawaski King
Outlook: The Catamounts started the year expected to finish third. They have a bunch of seniors. Sumler is one of the league's best scorers and is dangerous. However, since their 5-0 start in SoCon play, during which they looked like the best team in the league, they have gone just 5-6. The Catamounts are still good enough to go on a run in Asheville. Western Carolina has played well in Asheville before. Can they catch lightning in a bottle again? Perhaps.

Wofford

RPI: 168
Pomeroy: 195
BPI: 190
Batman: Karl Cochran
Robin: Lee Skinner
Outlook: The Terriers have plenty of good players. Cochran and Skinner are the heat and soul of this team. Spencer Collins can also score. The key is how well this team performs offensively. The Terriers are an excellent defensive team. They played really well offensively during their win streak. They need to play efficient offense. If they do that, the Terriers can win the SoCon Tournament. This team went 0-4 against the top two seeds, losing by double digits three times and trailing by double digits late in the fourth game. So can this team beat either one of those teams? They are a real threat to win the tournament, but they would appreciate some upsets to help them.

Daily Dribbles- 3/5/14

--Check out SoCon Tournament Central.

--An article on the seeds each team will have if they win the SoCon Tournament.

--The coaches SoCon Awards were announced.

--The media SoCon Awards were also announced.

--Friday is going to be a fun day of basketball. I expect to see three pretty good games on Friday. This tournament is going to be unpredictable on Friday, and on Saturday, will have a minimum of three at least interesting games (with the possible exception of whoever Davidson is playing). The semifinals are always interesting, and the title game should be a ton of fun as well. This is going to be a pretty good tournament.