Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hiatus

Taking a hopefully brief hiatus from this. I'll let everyone know when I am up and running again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Daily Starter- November 24

The Slate

Western Carolina at Oakland, 7:00
ETSU at Winthrop, 7:00

So, What's the Story?

After some slightly disappointing performances by the SoCon over the weekend, the SoCon gets an opportunity to come up with a couple of wins against mid-majors on Monday evening. The SoCon teams are likely to be underdogs in both games, but they have a chance to win both games as well. Both of these are on the road, so it will not be easy. The SoCon so far this year is 9-11 against mid-major competition. It would sure help the SoCon's cause to come up with another win against a mid-major.

Game of the Day- ETSU at Winthrop

Jalen Riley, Rashawn Rembert and the rapidly improving Ron Giplaye will be on display as ETSU tries to take out Winthrop in a big game for the SoCon. Winthrop, in a true shocker, upset Clemson, but followed that up with a loss at Savannah State. Against Clemson, Keon Moore scored 18 points with five rebounds. Keon Johnson came off the bench and scored 19.

The Eagles will be at home, where they have been just once this year. That was a non-D1 win. This is an opportunity for the Bucs to pull the slight upset, but they will have to be ready to play because the Eagles are a very good bunch capable of playing a great game.

Daily Dribbles- 11/23/14

--A preview of the Western Carolina-Oakland game over on Purple & Gold.

--Talkin' Terriers sums up the Terriers win on Friday night.

--Runnin' the Block thinks that VMI might be in for a long season based on the way things have gone so far.

--The Sports Arsenal takes a look at The Citadel's early returns.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tennessee Tech 69, Chattanooga 67

This should have happened. This should not have happened.

The Mocs forced 17 turnovers, shot 48% from the floor, allowed Tennessee Tech to just shoot 44% from the floor and the Golden Eagles made just three threes.

The Mocs were up by 17 points at halftime on the road...and blew it.

Ouch.

The Mocs turned the ball over seventeen times. Tennessee Tech's size dominated the offensive glass with fourteen offensive rebounds. The Mocs only were able to get eight offensive boards.

The Mocs have now lost three straight. What do they have to do to get back to winning?

For one, they need to play teams that allow some of their big guys to get some boards. The combination of Justin Tuoyo, Duke Ethridge, Chuck Ester and Lance Stokes combined for nine rebounds. That's not going to work in the long run for this team. These guys have to get rebounds.

Of course, against three pretty large teams, they have been challenged. Robert Morris and company won't be nearly as difficult. In some ways, they may not play another team as big as the teams they have already played, so things will get better.

The Mocs are also turning the ball over too much and not knocking down enough threes. When they turn the ball over seventeen times and have just ten assists, the Mocs are going to struggle. When they only knock in five threes, they are going to struggle.

Yes, I like to see teams not shooting a bunch of threes, but they didn't make a single three in the second half. Of course, the Mocs made five threes in the first half and zero in the second half. Is it appropriate that the Mocs jumped out to a 17 point at halftime and were outscored by 19 in the second half? The Mocs did only take one three in the second half, so there you go.

The Mocs will get better as the season progresses. These three games this week are critical. They will play two games in Chattanooga on Wednesday and Thursday and a critical game at Kennesaw State on Saturday. This is a huge week, particularly after the very difficult way the Mocs lost this one.

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.