Saturday, November 22, 2014

Daily Starter- November 22

The Slate

Cal State-Northridge vs. Samford, 2:00
South Dakota vs. Wofford, 5:00
Bob Jones at The Citadel, 6:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
UNC-Asheville at ETSU, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Chattanooga at Tennessee Tech, 7:00
UNC-Wilmington at VMI, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
UC-Davis at Furman, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
UNCG at Eastern Michigan, 7:00



So, What's the Story?



It is as big of a day as there has been all year in the SoCon and maybe as big of an out of conference day as there will be. The SoCon plays seven games against other mid-major conferences. If the SoCon has a good day, they could certainly move up in the RPI rankings. If they struggle, they could fall like a rock. This is as important as it gets for the SoCon.


Wofford was on the road yesterday against Fairfield, but today gets a slightly better team on a neutral floor. UNCG has their toughest game of the weekend. It would certainly be nice for the SoCon to get off to a good start and see Samford beat Cal State-Northridge.


Again, this is the biggest day maybe of the whole year for the SoCon. The RPI is going up. Can the SoCon keep the positive momentum going?


Game of the Day- UNC-Wilmington at VMI


UNC-Wilmington took out one SoCon team already this week. Will they be able to take out a second one? VMI is hoping to run up and down the floor and simply outscore the Seahawks. UNC-Wilmington is hoping that Craig Ponder will keep on scoring. He is averaging 20.0 points per game through two games. Against the Spartans, he made 9 of 11 from the floor and scored 26. He also had six assists and four rebounds against the Spartans.


A VMI win is very possible, though. The Keydets have been a high scoring team for years. This would be an important win for the SoCon and the Keydets.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Daily Wrap- November 21

Results


Longwood 81, UNCG 79
Wofford 54, Fairfield 36
Western Carolina 72, Hiwassee 53


So, What Happened?

The SoCon avoided the completely embarrassing loss when Western Carolina, who was up just two at halftime, beat Hiwassee. But the SoCon went just 1-1 against mid-major D1 competition. The SoCon could have really used the 2-0 night that we were all hoping for. At 5-5, there is still not a problem, but it puts a little more pressure on things going on later on this weekend. The SoCon needs to continue winning games this weekend.

According to Live-RPI as of 10:00 on Friday evening, the SoCon conference RPI is up to 22. This is  not bad if they can maintain that record. What is needed to maintain it? Winning games. This weekend is huge. There are still ten more games against mid-majors. If the SoCon can go 5-5 in those games, they will probably be able to come close to maintaining that spot. We'll see.

Game of the Day- Longwood 81, UNCG 79


Both teams blew solid leads late in the contest. Longwood was up by four with less than a minute left in regulation, but Tevon Saddler drained a three to force overtime. In overtime, UNCG was up four with less than a minute left. Longwood scored the last seven points to beat the Spartans. The Lancers came up with the huge win in the first game of the EMU Showcase.

Clay Byrd drained six of eleven threes for the Spartans. Saddler and RJ White both finished with nineteen points. The Spartans did a lot of things well, but against the much smaller Lancers, they only outrebounded them by four. They need to dominate the inside right now, because they have a lot of problems at the guard spots.

Player of the Day- James Sinclair, Western Carolina

Sinclair scored 25 points and had nine rebounds against Hiwassee. He made 9 of 14 from the floor and six of eight from the free throw line. Sinclair was again brilliant and continues to be a dominant force for the Catamounts. They needed him more than they thought they would tonight as Western Carolina had a tougher time with Hiwassee than expected.

Tennessee Tech Preview- This is Where It Begins

Prior to the season beginning, the Mocs were the heavy favorites against Hiwassee and the pretty substantial underdogs against Wisconsin and Butler.

This was the first game on the schedule that was truly a toss up. The Mocs and the Golden Eagles are two teams that are both searching to prove that they belong in their conference title chase. This is the Mocs opportunity to make an early statement.

Tennessee Tech pounded Piedmont Internationl in the opener by the score of 83-29. Then the Golden Eagles went on the road against USC and lost 70-58.

The Golden Eagles big front line is going to present a challenge to the young Mocs front line. Justin Tuoyo, Duke Ethridge and Chuck Ester are going to be playing just their fourth D1 basketball game. Lance Stokes is the other inside presence. This team needs to get solid performances out of these guys because the Tennessee Tech bigs are coming.

Dwan Caldwell is averaging 16.5 points and five rebounds per contest. Charles Jackson is averaging eleven  points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Caldwell and Jackson are tall and large. They are going to be very difficult for the Mocs to contain. If the Mocs can't take care of them in the paint, they will have a difficult time winning.

Of course, the most impressive thing about what Tennessee Tech has done so far this year has to be when they held Piedmont International to 15.1% shooting. Not that Piedmont is a good team, but that is almost unheard of. They also held USC to 44.7% shooting. With how much the Mocs have been struggling shooting the ball, this is going to be a second very difficult challenge for the Mocs to undertake against the Golden Eagles.

Tennessee Tech struggled shooting against USC. They shot 1 of 18 from three point range against the Trojans and made just 33.8% from the floor. They only made 26.7% from long distance against Piedmont and 45.85 from the floor.

Shirmane Thomas has not made a three this year, but made 43.5% a year ago. He may need to knock in a couple of threes in this one to stretch out the defense.

What gives the Mocs problems typically? Quick guards that can exploit their pressure defense. That does not seem to be what Tennessee Tech has. They are a solid team, particularly on the inside and on the defensive end of the ball. Casey Jones, Tre McLean and Rico White will need to cause some Chaos in the backcourt.

PREDICTION

The Mocs will have trouble inside and could have problems scoring the ball. This is going to be a tough offensive match-up for the Mocs. But this is a game they are prepared to win. They will force the Golden Eagles into some turnovers that will lead to some easy baskets and that's the key that will the Mocs to a nice road win. Mocs 61, Golden Eagles 56.

Daily Starter- November 21

The Slate

UNCG vs. Longwood, 4:30
Hiwassee at Western Carolina, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Wofford at Fairfield, 7:00

So, What's the Story?

This is the beginning of a huge weekend of SoCon games. There are twelve games over the next three days against mid-majors. UNCG and Wofford play three games this weekend alone. It all starts here. UNCG is playing in Ypsilanti, Michigan in the EMU Showcase, and opens today against Longwood. Wofford plays at Fairfield this weekend and this is a massive game.

Wofford and UNCG will be two of the key players this weekend as the SoCon tries to boost their RPI higher than where it currently stands (the mid-20s). That's good in one sense (Wofford is very good), and scary in another sense (UNCG is completely unpredictable).

Here we are at the beginning of the weekend that will be. Get ready. It really matters.

Game of the Day- Wofford at Fairfield

The Stags are not expected to be one of the better teams in the MAAC, but Wofford just did beat the conference favorite in Iona by 13 in Spartanburg on Tuesday morning. So this is a chance to find  out how Fairfield stacks up with the MAAC favorites by way of common opponents.

So far this year, Marcus Gilbert, a 6-6 junior, leads the Stags in points and assists and is second in rebounds. He is averaging 18.0 points per game, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Admittedly, it is just two games in, but still, he has been very good so far.

Fairfield is not a particularly high scoring team. Wofford is not either, despite what they showed against Iona on Wednesday morning. Should be interesting to see what the Terriers offense looks like on Friday night.

Wofford should be able to come up with a win in this game. They are the favorite. But it will be a tone-setter for the weekend for the SoCon. If Wofford can't win this one, then the weekend will get off on the wrong foot right from the beginning. This is the one game the SoCon needs to win that is a true road game.

Daily Dribbles- 11/21/14

--Are you ready for Longwood-UNCG in Ypsilanti? Here is Dash answering questions on the Lancers blog. Here is Parks answering questions on the Spartans blog. Finally, here is Dash's full preview of the game on Palmetto & Pine. Really, an incredible job by these two on getting this game that they predict will have 47 people in attendance fully covered.

--For those that didn't know, this weekend is absolutely critical to the SoCon. There are twelve games against D1 mid-major opponents this weekend. That makes this a critical weekend. Wofford and UNCG each play three games, two of them on neutral sites and one on the road for each. That's a full six of the twelve games. It opens tonight with Fairfield hosting Wofford and UNCG battling Longwood in Ypsilanti. (Wait- what was that second game?) This is a weekend that may stick with the SoCon in March, as the RPI will be adjusting based on this game.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Daily Dribbles- 11/20/14

--The SoCon went 4-0 on Wednesday evening, including 3-0 against D1 opponents. That puts the SoCon at 4-4 on the year against mid-major D1 competition. That's a big start. Big days coming up on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

--No games today for the SoCon. Going to be a quiet night. I invite everyone to spend some time checking out replays you might have missed on the SoCon Digital Network. I must say, I'll be doing some catching up tonight as well.

--A recap of UNCG's loss to UNCW on Tuesday night from Dash himself. You won't find a better read on UNCG basketball.

--An interesting question posed by Runnin' the Block about playing lower levels of big time basketball and the ethics of it.

--Talkin' Terriers talks about the contribution of the freshman to Wofford's basketball team.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Daily Wrap- November 19

Results

The Citadel 71, Toccoa Falls 58
Mercer 74, Kennesaw State 66
Furman 84, Appalachian State 65
Samford 68, Austin Peay 67

So, What Happened?

The SoCon had their best day so far of the college basketball regular season. The SoCon went 4-0, and 3-0 against D1 competition.

The Citadel just played OK in their win, but it was never really in doubt. Mercer was in control for most of the night against Kennesaw State. Furman got Stephen Croone back and completely dominated Appalachian State in his return. Finally, Samford was in control for much of the first half against Austin Peay, but then had to make a last second shot to come up with the dramatic win.

The SoCon is now 4-4 against teams from the non-power 8 (American, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC) conferences. That's a solid mark. Of course, six of those games have been at home so far, and the SoCon is 4-2 in those games, while going 0-1 on the road and 0-1 on a neutral court. It is maintaining an above .500 record in these games that is the key to the SoCon raising the profile of the conference and helping their overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, it is the team more than conference RPI that matters, but to deny the importance of the conference RPI would be a mistake.

As I write this, the SoCon conference RPI is 22. That doesn't mean much right now, as it can change on a dime. But I don't think the SoCon RPI was that high at any point this late in the year a year ago. Expected RPI is in the ballpark of 26 or 27. That is a huge step up from the 30th that the conference finished a year ago.

No doubt- this was a huge day for the SoCon.

Game of the Day- Samford 68, Austin Peay 67

Evan Taylor knocked down a jumper with just three seconds left and the Bulldogs beat the Governors by one. Samford had been up by eleven at halftime, but watched the lead slowly dwindle. Freshman Christen Cunningham, fresh off winning the Freshman of the Week, lead the Bulldogs with 14 points. He also lead the team with five assists, including the game winner. He also had two steals. He is clearly starting to look like a star in the making for the Bulldogs.

Tyler Hood did not score and shot 0 for 7 from the floor and from three point range. That's one rough night. The Bulldogs need Hood to perform better. Michael Bradley scored eight points and collected nine rebounds, which was one of the keys to the game. Bradley needs to be a star for Samford.

Things starting to look better for Samford. It looked like they were in trouble preseason. Now, it looks like they may be OK. They are moving up in the SoCon race.

Player of the Day- Stephen Croone, Furman

Look- without Croone, Furman was crushed by College of Charleston at home. With Croone, Furman cruised by Appalachian State. His stats weren't brilliant- just 12 points, and three rebounds to go along with seven assists. But Croone was the difference in the Paladins. He is one of the best players in the SoCon, and without him the Paladins looked terrible. With him, the Paladins look decent. He is a difference maker. No questions, asked.

Butler 70, Mocs 48

The Mocs were frustrated offensively against Butler in a 22 point loss that was closer than that for most of the night.

In fact, for much of the first half the Mocs were in the lead. The Mocs truly controlled the action for much of the first half despite the massive foul trouble the team experienced. In the end, the Mocs cold shooting, all the foul trouble and the difficulty protecting the ball was just too much to overcome.

Tre McLean fouled out, Casey Jones has three fouls and sat much of the first half. Justin Tuoyo had four fouls. Greg Pryor and Rico White each had three fouls, and even Eric Robertson had four. They got called for 26 fouls, but the Bulldogs wound up with just sixteen. That was the biggest difference in the basketball game. Butler made 21 of 34 from the free throw line, while the Mocs made 10 of 16.

The Mocs were hurt by not being able to get into an offensive flow because of the foul problems. Of their five starters, only two played more than half the game. Tuoyo played 37 minutes and McLean played 25. Chuck Ester only played 18, Jones played 17 and Pryor only played 19. Eric Robertson played 26 minutes and knocked down four threes. Rico White played 28 minutes.

It's hard to imagine the Mocs want to consistently have that kind of minute distribution. Yes, those guys, along with Duke Ethridge and Lance Stokes are expected to play double digit minutes, but I would think the minutes would be distributed a little differently.

Regardless, the Mocs were winning for so much of the first half, but let Butler take the lead on a three in the final fifteen seconds of the half. That was a major momentum swing and could have changed the course of the game.

The Mocs were outrebounded by Butler. The Bulldogs outrebounded them by seven. The Mocs, who hope to get a lot of offensive rebounds this year and pride themselves on being able to do that, collected just three against Wisconsin and six against Butler. That's not good rebounding for this club. That's something that has to get fixed soon for the Mocs to start winning.

The Mocs were much better against Butler, but right now, they have nine offensive rebounds in two games to go along with 92 points. Those numbers could be achieved in one game by a good offensive team. I think the Mocs are going to get there eventually, but they clearly are not there yet. I figured these were the two toughest games to win on the Mocs schedule prior to the season starting. Now they are over.

Let's move on to Tennessee Tech and hope we can leave the offensive struggles behind.

Daily Dribbles- 11/18/14

--James Sinclair of Western Carolina was named the SoCon Player of the Week. That was through Monday's games, which is why he won. He will certainly be one of the favorites for next week's Scanning the SoCon Player of the Week.

--Here is a look from SoCon John at the first week of SoCon play.

--VMI utterly dominated Johnson & Smith. Runnin' the Block has a look at the contest and the dominance that happened.

--Today should be another interesting day in SoCon action as the conference could come up with a couple of out of conference wins tonight.

--For those that didn't wake up at 7 AM, Wofford and Iona played an interesting game that the Terriers eventually pulled away in. As is the norm, Wofford won, which meant that Skinner came up with a bunch of rebounds and Collins and Cochran were over 50 percent on eFG%.

Daily Starter: November 19

The Slate

Toccoa Falls at The Citadel, 6:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Appalachian State at Furman, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Kennesaw State at Mercer, 7:00 (ESPN3)
Austin Peay at Samford, 8:00 (SoCon Digital Network)

So, What's the Story?

The easy story here is that there are three possible D1 wins for SoCon teams at home. This is not a terrible set of opportunities to come up with a win for the SoCon.

The other story is teams taking on old conference rivals. Mercer and Kennesaw State use to play in the Atlantic Sun and this year get to battle in an out of conference game. Furman and Appalachian State used to be SoCon foes, now they battle in an out of conference game. So these teams, while playing out of conference, are very familiar with each other. That ought to present some different challenges than what you normally get in out of conference play.

This ought to be one of the most fun days so far this year in SoCon out of conference games. Lots of interesting match-ups. Enjoy.

Game of the Day- Appalachian State at Furman

Sorry, App, I just can't stop you. After all those years of watching Appalachian State play in the SoCon, I just can't reject this game out of hand, even if this isn't a SoCon game. Yes, Mercer-Kennesaw State might feature more talent, but this game is interesting to me. The Paladins looked awful against College of Charleston, but of course, Stephen Croone did not play. If he plays in this one, that will be a huge advantage for the Paladins. Tommy Spagnolo is the Mountaineers best player. Of course, that's a team that just lost by 26 at Ohio on opening night.

Last year, Furman won by fifteen points at home against Appalachian State. Appalachian State is not a great team. Neither is Furman. This game will be an interesting battle between two teams and the Paladins need a big win to quiet some of the fan base over the way the team looked in the opener.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Daily Wrap- November 18

RESULTS

Wofford 86, Iona 73
ETSU 111, Virginia-Wise 66
VMI 124, Johnson University 42
UNC-Wilmington 84, UNCG 72
Butler 70, Chattanooga 48

So, What Happened?

VMI completely dominated, leading 28-0 before Johnson even scored a point. ETSU was pretty much equally as dominant, even if it wasn't quite that bad.

Good for them. That's the sort of performances that are expected against the non-D1s on the schedule. Now the SoCon needs to start winning against other mid-majors. Wofford collected one of those wins, but UNCG could not get one. That means the SoCon went 1-1 against out of conference D1, mid-major opponents. That puts their record on the year at 1-4 against D1 teams not from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, American Athletic, Big East or Mountain West. They really need to get more out of conference wins against those teams.

Of course Chattanooga did not do their part and come up with an upset against a Big East team in Butler. They hung around for a while, but in the end, Butler was too much. The Mocs clearly need to get better at putting the ball in the basket, but the foul trouble that plagued the Mocs on Tuesday night certainly did not help that any.

Game of the Day- Wofford 86, Iona 73

The final score is not completely deceiving, but the truth is that the first 28 minutes of this game were as close as they could possibly get. They went back and forth and back and forth, before finally the Terriers started pulling away.

To beat Wofford, you have to play good defense. They are not a great offensive team, but if you let them shoot a high percentage, you are going to lose. Wofford made 53.6% of their shots from the floor and 52.9% from three point range. Lee Skinner also collected nine rebounds.

The most pleasant surprise to me was Justin Gordon. He played very well, scoring thirteen points with four rebounds. If Gordon is going to be that kind of player, the Terriers will be that much tougher to beat.

Player of the Day- Lee Skinner, Wofford

Skinner collected fifteen points and nine rebounds against the Gaels. He made six of seven from the floor and three of four from the free throw line. He got three offensive rebounds. He also came up with one assist.

When Skinner comes up with that many rebounds, the Terriers are difficult team to beat. He played very well against the Gaels, and was the Terriers second leading scorer. It was a solid performance from Skinner.

Daily Dribbles- 11/18/14

--Nadi Beciri, a 6-7 freshman, has announced that he is leaving The Citadel for personal reasons. This hurts the Bulldogs overall depth on the inside.

--Scanning the SoCon- Week Two is here. It's a daily late, but still full of good information on the SoCon one week in.

--This morning, Wofford plays at 7 AM against MAAC favorite Iona on national television (ESPN2). Everyone should watch.

--This day will start defining the SoCon in a major way. Will the conference win some out of conference games today?

--Dash has a wrap up of the UNCG win over Chowan. Interesting read that will really give you a good recap of what happened in the Spartans opener if you didn't see it.

--Palmetto & Pine has the Top 10 from the SoCon, Big South and Atlantic Sun after the first weekenf of action.

--Wofford announced plans to build a new arena. Read all about it at the link provided.

Daily Starter: November 18

The Slate

Iona at Wofford, 7:00 AM (ESPN2)
UNC-Wilmington at UNCG, 7:00 PM (SoCon Digital Network)
Johnson C. Smith at VMI, 7:00 PM (SoCon Digital Network)
Virginia Wise at ETSU, 7:00 PM (SoCon Digital Network)
Chattanooga at Butler, 9:00 PM (FoxSports2)

So, What's the Story?

The SoCon has two very good shots at out of conference D1 wins today. One is first thing in the morning in a nationally televised contest for the SoCon favorite Wofford against the MAAC favorite Iona. The other is UNCG at home against in-state rival UNC-Wilmington.

The conference needs to certainly avoid the bad losses today for VMI and ETSU, but if that happens and the other three teams, including Chattanooga at Butler, come up with two wins, this will be a wildly successful day for the SoCon. That's the story of today- the SoCon's desperate quest to come up with solid out of conference wins and raise the profile of the conference on the whole.

Game of the Day- Iona at Wofford

The Gaels are going to be a tough out for the Terriers. David Laury, the 6-9 245 pound senior, is going to be a beast for the Terriers to deal with. Lee Skinner is a solid big man, but his hands will be full with Laury. How will the Terriers handle that?

Isaiah Williams is a 6-7 guard and will present a major match-up problem for any mid-majors the Gaels will play as well. This game will be at 7 AM, so guys like Spencer Collins and Karl Cochran will need to get going early and be early birds.

This is a great match-up between two very good mid-majors. As you get up to start your day, be sure you catch as much as you can of this one. This game may have an impact on NCAA Tournament seeding down the road as both teams could be in the NCAA Tournament fighting over their seed. That's the critical importance of this game.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Daily Wrap: November 17

RESULTS

Alabama 80, Western Carolina 74


So, What Happened?

The SoCon still is winless in SoCon play, but something more interesting may have developed. With the way Western Carolina has played against two SEC schools, it is easy to say that Western Carolina may be the best team in the SoCon based on their play so far.

The Catamounts were expected to be rebuilding but they hung tough on the road with two SEC schools. Admittedly, it was not like they were playing Kentucky and Florida, but still it was two SEC schools. The Catamounts did very well in those two games and I think it is fair to say that they are a legitimate contender in the SoCon this year. The depth of the SoCon may be even better than expected, because Western Carolina may be better than we all thought (except maybe Dean Keener).

With Hiwassee, Oakland, Georgia State and Chicago State coming up in the next ten days, I think it is safe to say the Catamounts will not be winless much longer, and may even with three of those games.


Game of the Day- Alabama 80, Western Carolina 74

Western Carolina was so close, but so far away. After the Catamounts jumped out to a six point lead at 67-61, it looked like the Catamounts had a real shot to pull off the upset. But in the end, Alabama's length and all the foul problems were just too much for Western Carolina.

James Sinclair was not playing well in the first half, but exploded in the second half and ended up setting a career high in points. That was a good performance from him. Tucker Thompson looked pretty good as well as a true freshman starting his first game. Rhett Harrelson looks like he might be one of the best pure shooters in the SoCon.

There were 42 free throws taken by Alabama, and they made 32 of them. That was the difference in the game.


Player of the Day- James Sinclair

Sinclair scored 31 points, had five rebounds, three assists and three steals. He made 10 of 18 from the floor and four of ten from three point range to go along with five of seven from the free throw line. Sinclair was an absolute monster in the second half. He couldn't seem to miss. He will be a major handful for any team to handle in SoCon play. Sinclair was unreal.

Butler Preview: Hey- They're Not Wisconsin!

The best thing that I can say about the Wisconsin game is that it is over and the Mocs will not have to play a team of that caliber again until the NCAA Tournament, if the Mocs happen to get that far.

That's why this game is nice. The Mocs expectations went down to many observers after their performance against Wisconsin, but the Badgers are that good. They really are. It would have been nice if the Mocs kept it closer, but they didn't and it is time to move on and try to beat a Butler team that has a big name nationally, but their current team doesn't quite match the name brand.

Butler is led by the return of Roosevelt Jones, who missed all of last season with a wrist injury. He was named to the preseason All Big East Honorable Mention team. Jones is a decent ball handler, but is tough and the player that could guide this team to a surprising, successful campaign. He averaged in double figures two years ago and over five rebounds per game. He will be the key to a lot of games during this season for the Bulldogs. He scored fourteen points with nine assists in the opener.

Kellen Dunham was named to the preseason All Big East First Team. He averaged 16.4 points per game a season ago along with four rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest. Dunham shot under 40% from the floor for the year last year, and over 80% from the free throw line. Dunham scored 18 points in the opener. Dunham made five of seven from long range in the opener.

Alex Barlow made two of two from three point range in the opener. He had six rebounds and six assists to go along with his six points.

Remember how Wisconsin struggled shooting the ball in the opener and then were red hot in the game against the Mocs? Well, a little bit of the opposite could be at play here. Butler shot over 71% from the floor in the opener, including 50% from three point range. The Bulldogs are not that good of a shooting team, but Maine was woefully undermanned inside.

The Mocs are not quite as woefully undermanned on the inside, even if the Badgers exploited them there in the last game. Justin Tuoyo, Chuck Ester, Duke Etheridge and Lance Stokes give the Mocs some inside presence. If the Mocs can slow down the Bulldogs red hot shooting and compete on the boards, they could hang around in this one.

On top of that, the Mocs will need to force some turnovers out of the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have not always handled pressure defense as well as they could. If the Mocs athleticism shows up and forces some turnovers, they could certainly keep this one close.

Casey Jones needs to get going again as well. He played pretty well against Wisconsin, and there is no reason to think he can't succeed in this one as well. Rico White also was hot against the Badgers. It would be nice if he continued that hot streak on this road trip.

PREDICTION

Remember last year's blowout loss to UCLA? Remember how it was immediately preceded by a crushing loss to Nevada? That just goes to show that sometimes when a team plays twice in three days against decent competition, one can be a blowout and the other close. The Mocs have played close in games like this early in the year in the past. They nearly beat Kansas at Kansas two years ago and almost had Nevada last year. I think this game may be closer than Butler fans are expecting. The Mocs are probably not quite as good as Butler and the Bulldogs will pull away in the end. But the Mocs will hang around all night. Bulldogs 73, Mocs 62.

Scanning the SoCon Week Two

Each week, a blogger/fan from each SoCon school participates in a set of polls and questions from around the conference. This is our fourth year of doing this, and hopefully, the most enjoyable year yet.
 
SCHEDULE
 
Monday
Western Carolina at Alabama, 9:00 (SEC Network) (CBE Hall of Fame Classic)
 
Tuesday
Iona at Wofford, 7:00 AM (ESPN2)
UNC-Wilmington at UNCG, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Johnson C. Smith at VMI, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Virginia Wise at ETSU, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Chattanooga at Butler, 9:00 (FoxSports2) (Battle 4 Atlantis)
 
Wednesday
Toccoa Falls at The Citadel, 6:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Appalachian State at Furman, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Kennesaw State at Mercer, 7:00 (ESPN3)
Austin Peay at Samford, 8:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
 
Friday
Longwood vs. UNCG in Ypsilanti, Michigan, 4:30 (EMU Showcase)
Hiwassee at Western Carolina, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Wofford at Fairfield, 7:00
 
Saturday
Cal State-Northridge vs. Samford in Little Rock, Arkansas, 2:00 (Maui on the Mainland)
South Dakota vs. Wofford in Fairfield, Connecticut, 5:00
Bob Jones at The Citadel, 6:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
UNCG at Eastern Michigan, 7:00 (EMU Showcase)
UNC-Wilmington at VMI, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
UNC-Asheville at ETSU, 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Chattanooga at Tennessee Tech, 7:00
UC-Davis at Furman, 7:30 (SoCon Digital Network)
 
Sunday
TBA vs. Samford in Litte Rock, Arkansas, TBA (Maui on the Mainland)
Youngstown State vs. UNCG in Ypsilanti, Michigan, 12:00
Sam Houston State vs. Wofford in Fairfield, Connecticut, 12:00
Mercer at Colorado State, 6:00 (CBS Sports Network)
 
POWER RANKINGS
 
  1. Wofford 74 (7)
  2. Chattanooga 70 (1)
  3. ETSU 59
  4. Mercer 54
  5. VMI 51
  6. Western Carolina 50
  7. UNCG 33
  8. Furman 19
  9. The Citadel 16
  10. Samford 14
     
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
 
QJ Peterson, VMI- 5 votes
 
Others Receiving Votes: Jalen Riley, ETSU (2 votes), Ikw Iwamu, Mercer (1 vote)
 
GAME OF THE WEEK
 
Iona at Wofford- 3 votes
 
Others Receiving Votes- Appalachian State at Furman (2 votes), Kennesaw State at Mercer (1 vote), Chattanooga at Butler (1 vote), UNC-Wilmington at UNCG (1 vote)
 
Sum up your team.
 
ETSU- It was a rough start for the Bucs on the road against Valpo, but not an entirely unexpected one. Some rough periods are likely as we look for front court answers. Right now 6’6”, 250 pound Ron Giplaye is the most promising- he only got 13 minutes but produced as a decent rate with six points and five rebounds (would have been a double-double if he played 26 minutes). We’ll know a lot more in about four weeks.
 
Furman- Furman looked very lost in its opener against College of Charleston, and it was tough treading without starters Stephen Croone, Geoff Beans and Aaron O’Neill sidelined due to injury or suspension. I think once this young team gets comfortable with one another, they will be pretty good, but it’s going to be a long process.
 
VMI- VMI began the first round of the Military Classic on Friday with a thrilling win over The Citadel. Down by two with under twenty seconds to play, sophomore forward Trey Chapman nailed a three-pointer and the defense made a final stop to beat the Bulldogs, 66-65. Although the win was thrilling, it definitely should not have been that close. On Saturday against Army, we played better and certainly had our chances to win. After taking a one-point lead into halftime, Army went on a 19-4 run to go up by 14. The Keydets combated that with a 20-2 run of their own, and went up by as many as six points with three minutes to play. Unfortunately, the Black Knights valued each possession more and held us to three points the rest of the way to claim a 92-86 victory and win the fourth and final All-Military Classic. It was terribly disappointing, but we have an opportunity to get back on track with a win over DIII Johnson University this Tuesday.
 
Western Carolina- Western Carolina payed a visit to Mississippi State on Friday with a realistic shot to pick up a win over the SEC school in the season opener for both teams.  In the first half, even though the Bulldogs shot 52%, thanks to 12 turnovers by MSU, and 5 for 10 three point shooting, the Cats went to the locker room down only one point, 31-30. However, the undersized Cats could not contain the inside game in the second half, sending the Bulldogs to the charity strip for 37 attempts, making 28 points from the free throw line.  The final score was 56-66, with senior James Sinclair leading all scorers with 20 points and Rhett Harrelson adding 14. 
 
What team surprised you (either positively or negatively) this weekend?
 
Furman- I had a chance to watch most of the Wofford-Stanford game and I was a little disappointed that the Terriers didn’t make more of a game of it with the Stanford Cardinal after playing pretty well for three quarters of the opening half of play. In the end, Stanford proved that teams that are physical will have a shot against the Terriers this season. But I still think Wofford is an elite team and the team to beat in the SoCon this season.
 
VMI- QJ Peterson's torrid start to the season (22 PPG) did not surprise me at all. I was surprised with the play of sophomore guard Julian Eleby, who in the game against Army recorded a career-high 20 points along with four rebounds. As a team, our rebounding was excellent given our complete lack of height, but defensively opponents are shooting well above 50% against us. That needs to change. I was also disappointed with the play of senior guard Brian Brown, who scored only 6 points against Army, going 0 for 4 from long-range. We need some guys to step up.
 
Western Carolina- I'd say VMI is my surprise team.  While the Keydets went 1-1 in the All-Military Classic, I didn't see the scoring I'd expected from this team. 66 points against the Citadel and 86 versus Army is not quite the scoring machine I was expecting from VMI.
 
Wofford plays Iona on ESPN2 at 7 AM in the 24 Hour Tip Off Marathon. What do you think of playing at that time?
 
Chattanooga- I love it. It’s brilliant. The students can get up and go to the game in a pajama party and if the school pulls it off properly, I think it really is smart. It’s a sign that you have a solid program for the smaller schools, because they only pick the top notch teams to be in this. It is a sign of respect and I think it’s great. What will I be doing during the overnight games? Catching a little shut eye while watching as much basketball as I can. This 24 hour marathon is great and with Wofford in it, it only makes it that much more exciting to me.
 
Furman- I don’t have a problem with Wofford playing at this time. It’s a really intriguing clash between two mid-major programs that have done well over the past few seasons. If fans show up, they can play whenever. But that might be a problem because of work for most people. However, it’s a chance to grab the ESPN spotlight and that’s important for the SoCon and for Wofford no matter what time the game is.
 
VMI-I absolutely despise it. Who on earth is going to watch a college basketball game at 7 in the morning, let alone on a Tuesday? People have to go to work. Kids have to go to school. I would feel incredibly frustrated if I were a Wofford fan. It's even worse for High Point; they play at Hawaii at 5 o'clock in the morning (and that's midnight local time). All in all, this 24 Hour Marathon is a radical idea. I would think it has a detrimental effect on the players (they should miss most or all of the school day) as well as the coaches and staff. Not a fan to say the least.
 
Western Carolina- I think I'd have taken a pass on playing in the Tip Off Marathon. I don't think any meek publicity the team gained from playing in the marathon at 7 am, would be with the disruption in the teams normal schedule that an early morning game would create.  
 
What are your reactions to the SoCon Digital Network so far?
 
Furman- The SoCon Digital Network is a huge plus because you get to see any game most any time and that’s important to know how the league stacks up this season, and it is especially helpful during the non-conference portion of the slate.
 
UNCG- I love it. It's been a long time coming too. The Socon has definitely been behind other conferences in getting it up and running. I will say that I've enjoyed watching all of the sports on it this fall. Now hopefully everyone will join Mercer in getting up to ESPN3 compatible. 
 
VMI-From a design standpoint, the SoCon Digital Network is excellent. The layout is aesthetically pleasing and it's incredibly easy to navigate. My only concern is with poor camera work at many of the schools that I have watched video on. This may an issue with the schools' broadcast teams themselves, but I'd like to see it fixed. The video feed is about a minute or so delayed, which is a bit frustrating, but other than that it is a decent network. What I'd really like to see now is a universal on-screen scoreboard that the SoCon should implement on all broadcasts. It is again frustrating to have to follow the live stats when certain schools don't have a scoreboard installed on the video feed.
 
Western Carolina- In my opinion, this is the best thing that's happened in the Southern Conference that I can remember.  Giving the average fan free access to all home football, basketball, etc. games will pay huge dividends for the conference and each individual team in the long run. The SDN will give the conference exposure like we've never had in the past.  As the public learns about the ability to see games for free, this asset will only grow in scope.
 

Daily Dribbles- 11/16/14

--SoCon Weekly Primer is here. Enjoy the look ahead at the coming week.

--Stephen Croone being out with concussion symptoms put a serious damper on Furman's chances of beating College of Charleston on Friday night. The Paladins lost by 35. Until Croone gets back, expect more beatings for the Paladins.

--Here's Dash's take on the UNCG-Chowan game. UNC-Wilmington is coming for the Spartans....

--Here is Talkin' Terriers take on the late night Friday/early morning Saturday loss to Stanford.

--Purple & Gold has a preview of the Alabama game up.

--When you play two games in two days over the weekend, you get two links on Monday morning. Here you go- Runnin' the Block has a look at VMI's win over The Citadel and the loss to Army.

--Scanning the SoCon should be out tonight. Look for it then.

Daily Starter: November 17

The Slate

Western Carolina at Alabama, 9:00 (SEC Network)

So, What's the Story?


The story so far this year for the SoCon is that they have not won an out of conference D1 game. Is this the day?

It seems unlikely as Alabama is an SEC team and hosting the Catamounts. But the SoCon wins should be coming. For those that have been reading these every day, I've been saying all along that Tuesday and Wednesday were the days to wait and see how the SoCon was doing to come up with some wins.

But this is one of the SoCon's better chances to come up with a win so far, especially if Western Carolina and all those new guys learned anything from their trip to Mississippi State on Friday night. The Catamounts hung with the Bulldogs all night. We'll have to wait and see what happens in this one.

Game of the Day- Western Carolina at Alabama

With one game, of course, it is Western Carolina's trip to Alabama. The game will be televised on the SEC Network for everyone to watch.

Alabama was up just nine at the half against Towson, but dominated the second half. It was all the turnovers by Towson that did them in, with 22. Levi Randolph sored 15 points, had 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Randolph really was impressive.

James Sinclair scored 20 for the Catamounts on Friday night and Rhett Harrelson stepped up with 14 points. Those two will be relied on heavily this year for the new look Western Carolina team.

If Western can limit the turnovers, they may be able to hang around with Alabama on Monday evening. This is a chance for Western to pull an upset, even if Alabama is the clear favorite.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Moving On: Chattanooga-Butler Thoughts from a Butler Fan

Dirkus Callahan from ButlerHoops.com took some time out to answer some questions for me regarding the Mocs upcoming game against the Bulldogs, and about Butler in general. Consider this the first bit of a Butler preview.

1) Butler shot nearly 72% from the floor against Maine. Are the Bulldogs really that good of a shooting team or were they unusually hot on Saturday night?

A lot of it was taking advantage of a Maine team that didn't have a lot of size to begin with and had a couple of their bigger guys get hurt during the week of practice leading up to the game. Thirty four of Butler's 55 field goal attempts (62%) were within five feet of the basket and they made 30 of them (88%). I definitely don't expect anywhere near those numbers going forward, but at least initially this year they look like a better passing team than last year's group. Though without seeing them against tougher competition, it's tough to say.

2) Roosevelt Jones is back. How much does he mean to Butler?

While I think some of it is the rest of the team making itself better and some upgrades in their personnel in a couple of spots over last season, there is no doubt that Jones will have a bigger impact on how many games this team wins than anyone else on the roster. He's essentially a shorter version of Z Mason with no jump shot and better ball handling. He improves their defense significantly because of his versatility and offensively if he can avoid turning the ball over, he helps collapse the defense to space the floor for Barlow and Dunham to get open jumpers.

3) How do you think the Mocs can keep it close or pull an upset on Tuesday night?

Chattanooga can pull the upset or keep it close by generating turnovers on their press. Wade was an assistant at VCU when they absolutely destroyed Butler 2012-13, and the primary ball handlers (Jones and Barlow) from that team will still be the primary ball handlers this game. Rebounding-wise I don't anticipate that Butler will dominate the glass the way that Wisconsin did against the Mocs. Even in their DIII exhibitions, their offensive rebounding rate was only in the neighborhood of 30-34%, which would just place them slightly above average for all D1 teams in games played so far. Butler also doesn't have much in the way of guard depth, and will likely have even less after Jackson Aldridge sprained his ankle in the Maine game, so if Chattanooga can push the pace up, come the second half, Butler's guards may start to run low on gas.

4) After back-to-back championship game appearances, Butler has made the tournament just once in the last three seasons and were knocked out in the third round (round of 32) the other time. How did the two championship game appearances change expectations for Bulldog fans and how difficult have the last three years been after those magical runs?

Obviously after the National Championship game appearances, the rise in expectations from Bulldog fans was steeper than the train that goes up Lookout Mountain. The area of the program that had the biggest rise in those expectations was in recruiting, where some fans figured that Butler would all of a sudden start getting 4-5 star players because of the runs and the success would go on in perpetuity. That didn't happen, and now three years and two coaches later, some feel like it was nothing more than an opportunity wasted. Additionally, some now feel that Butler is in danger of falling to the other end of the spectrum of success in the Big East, so more than the disappointment of 2011-12 and 2013-14 campaigns (I think the majority of fans consider the 2012-13 team that was a whisker away from the Sweet Sixteen a successful year with a disappointing ending), there is concern for this team and this program.

5) What do you think is the best case scenario for Butler this year? What do you think the floor is?

I'd say their best case scenario is a finish in the top half of the Big East and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but a lot of things will have to go right for that to happen in my opinion. Their floor would be a similar finish to what Butler fans saw last season, but I'd expect somewhere in the neighborhood of a 6th or 7th place finish in the league and an NIT tourney appearance, which honestly, after what happened last year, I think would be pretty successful, given their depth issues and no true big man on their roster.

Wisconsin 89, Mocs 45

The Mocs did not shoot the ball well and Wisconsin was lights out from the floor. End of story. There's really nothing else that needs to be said. On top of that, the Mocs collected just three offensive rebounds and were beaten on the glass by an incredible, 49-21.

There's really nothing else that needs to be said. After all, the Mocs were playing against a team that went to the Final Four a year ago and could be a national title contender this year.

The Mocs knew going in that they would need to play a near perfect game. They simply did not play anywhere near perfect. Honestly, Wisconsin almost did. The Badgers shot 53.3% from the floor and made 44.4% from three point range. How do you compete with that? Well, one way would have been for the Mocs to win the rebounding battle. As was said earlier, that didn't come close to happening.

The Mocs could have forced a bunch of turnovers. Wisconsin turned the ball over just nine times.

Look- not many teams at the Mocs level are going to be able to compete with the size of the Badgers. The Mocs have a lot better size than a lot of teams in the SoCon and with how well Justin Tuoyo has been playing, there is reason to believe the Mocs will have many better days ahead. Tuoyo, not known for his offense, scored in double digits for a second straight game, though he only collected three rebounds in this one. He made two threes.

Rico White also made three threes and led the Mocs with fifteen points. Casey Jones looked like he pretty much belonged against Wisconsin as well. He made five of fourteen from the floor, but showed some decent moves in getting to the basket.

The Mocs need some other people to step up for them to compete in games like this. Greg Pryor and Tre McLean played 45 minutes, going zero for ten from the floor and scored no points.

This game was a measuring stick for the Mocs. They were playing one of the top teams in the country. They got hammered by 44 points. There is no sugar coating this. The Mocs are not there yet. We knew that. The truth is the Mocs will be much better by the time January rolls around and hopefully better by March. The Mocs are at least that far away from being able to compete with the best in the country, and possibly even a full year away.

The good news? No other team on the schedule is that good. Butler, Georgia, UAB, Middle Tennessee and others are plenty good. None are as good as Wisconsin. There should not be another showing like that for the Mocs this year.

We can all hope.

GO MOCS!

Daily Wrap: November 16

RESULTS

Wisconsin 89, Chattanooga 45
Seton Hall 63, Mercer 47
Pittsburgh 63, Samford 56

So, What Happened?

Quite simply, the SoCon was beaten by three better teams on Sunday afternoon. It's not too surprising. These teams were all favored to win. While Mercer was not blown out, they never made a major run at Seton Hall in the second half. Chattanooga had no answer to Wisconsin's hot shooting. Samford was down just five with five minutes left.

The SoCon has still not won a game against a D1 out of conference opponent. Like I've been saying it is still not time to panic about that. After all, the best chance to win for SoCon teams doesn't come until Tuesday and Wednesday. So, try to remain calm about the SoCon. This thing can still start to run around, we just aren't there yet.

Game of the Day- Pittsburgh 63, Samford 56

The Bulldogs came up with thirteen offensive rebounds and the Panthers only came up with seven. Pittsburgh turned the ball over eleven times and Samford turned it over seven times. That's how Samford, despite shooting just 32% from the floor compared to Pitt's 51%, was able to hang around in the game. Samford also made eight threes and Pitt made only three.

Samford hung around for the whole game, including outscoring Pittsburgh in the second half. The Bulldogs were lead by Tyler Hood scoring 21 points. Michael Bradley also scored ten points and had eight rebounds. It is certainly true that Bradley's continued development will be a key part of the Bulldogs team. If Samford is going to contend in the SoCon, Bradley will need to turn into one of the best players on this club.

Player of the Day- Ike Iwamu, Mercer

Iwamu scored 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting for the Bears. He was the only Mercer player with more than seven points. He also had four rebounds. Iwamu has quickly developed into what is clearly the best player on Mercer's team and will quickly become one of the best players in the SoCon. Can Iwamu keep on playing like he has so far? The Bears need him to keep it up....and it wouldn't hurt if some other players joined him.

Daily Starter: November 16

Sunday Slate

Mercer at Seton Hall, 12:00 (SportSouth)
Chattanooga at Wisconsin, 1:00 (ESPNews) (Battle 4 Atlantis)
Samford at Pittbsurgh, 2:00 (Fox Sport South) (Maui on the Mainland)

So, What's the Story?

This is a rough day to be a SoCon team. That's three power conference teams, all on the road, for those keeping score at home.

The SoCon in recent years has gotten into trouble out of conference because they have been playing a lot of games they should win against non-D1s and a lot of games they should lose against power conference teams. This day falls square into the latter category.

The SoCon has got to win games against mid-major competition and not concern themselves too much with losing games to power conference teams if they want to move up in the RPI. The schedule is more balanced this year than in recent years, and that's a good thing.

This day, though, is not. Any win by a SoCon team here would be huge and a major boost to the conference on the whole. Samford and Mercer are both clearly rebuilding, even if Mercer has the talent to contend for a SoCon title. As for Chattanooga, they are not so much rebuilding, but when you play a reigning Final Four team that is ranked in the Top Five in the preseason, it doesn't matter when you play them- it's a huge challenge.

Game of the Day- Mercer at Seton Hall

McDonald's All American Isaiah Whitehead is coming in for the Pirates and will be playing just his second game for Seton Hall. That kind of talent doesn't come along every day. Whitehead headlines a six player freshman class that

The whole backcourt could be vastly improved. In fact, many analysts consider them the best set of guards in the entire Big East. The frontcourt is not particularly good though. That plays right into Mercer's hands. The Bears need to find a way to neutralize the Pirates backcourt while winning the match-up in the frontcourt to keep the game close down to the wire. With all the new players for Seton Hall, they might not have gelled yet, giving Mercer a shot to come up with a major upset road win.

Ike Nwamu scored 22 points against Piedmont and appears to have embraced his role as the new star of the team for the Bears. Can Mercer win behind Nwamu? Can he have a huge game on a national stage>