Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seed Wars: Predicting Where Every Team Would Be Seeded

Every team dreams of going to the Big Dance, the NCAA Tournament, March Madness. Only one likely will from the SoCon (I suppose there is some world out there where for some reason the committee decides to take Wofford even if they lose in the SoCon Tournament, though that seems very unlikely).

This time of year, every team can dream. Every team can hope. It's the beauty of college basketball and the conference tournaments. Everyone is just between nine and twelve wins from the national title.

So, it is with this in mind, that we take our annual look at where each team would be seeded if they managed to win the SoCon Tournament in Asheville this weekend. If your team raises the trophy on Monday evening shortly after 9:00, you will start asking, "What seed do you think we get?" This is your answer. Or your best guess, given that we don't know ANY winners of any other conference or how other teams around will finish up yet. But this is the best guess, in alphabetical order.

Chattanooga

When looking at the Mocs RPI and where it would fit into the overall picture, it seems pretty safe to predict that the Mocs would get no lower than a 15 seed, and possibly as high as a 13 seed. A Mocs championship would put them at 23-9 against D1 teams, and give them at least one win versus a Top 100 team and possibly a second (depending on if they play Wofford again). Their RPI would likely be in the Top 90 at least, maybe as high as into the 70s. That could be enough to squeak into a 13 seed if everything broke right and should be good enough for a 14 seed. A 15 seed is possible, but unlikely.

ETSU

If the Bucs manage to win the SoCon Tournament, they would be 17-13 against D1 schools. Their RPI wouldn't be a total disaster (probably in the 120s), and they have beaten North Carolina Central, who is unbeaten in their conference and in the Top 100. They could also have beaten Chattanooga and Wofford to get their, which could be two more Top 100 wins. It seems that the Bucs would likely avoid Dayton, but would not be able to avoid the number 16 seed. It is hard to imagine them getting a 15 seed. However, they should be able to avoid Dayton.

Furman

The Paladins would be 10-21 against D1 competition if they raise the trophy on Monday night. While it would be a tremendous run by the tenth seed in the SoCon Tournament, it would not do anything except for put them in Dayton. Regardless, Stephen Croone is a great player and may present a challenge in the First Four to whoever they play. Still, it seems very unlikely they would win, and no number one seed would be shaking in their boots seeing the Paladins.

Mercer

The Bears leave you scratching your head. After all, this is the same team that beat Duke in the tournament last year. Yes, they lost almost everyone, but the coach is the same, and many of the players were around the program a year ago. However, they would just be 18-14 against D1 competition if they won the SoCon Tournament. They have only beaten one Top 100 at this point and that's Chattanooga. If they beat the Mocs again, the Mocs may not be a Top 100 win anymore. To get any, they would have to beat Wofford in the championship game. No number one seed wants to see their name pop up with Mercer opposite them on Selection Sunday. Yet, if Mercer wins the SoCon Tournament, that is likely what they would find. Would the Bears be in Dayton? Maybe, but I doubt it. More than likely, this team would be a 16 seed. There is an outside chance the committee gives them a 15, or puts them in Dayton, but odds are they avoid Dayton and get a 16.

Samford

The Bulldogs would be 16-18 against D1 competition if they won the SoCon Tournament and almost certainly would find themselves in Dayton. Still, their style of play could cause a huge problem for an opponent in the First Four, and would not be a pleasant foe for a number one seed, though they probably are not quite ready yet for that challenge.

The Citadel

The Bulldogs would be 12-18 against D1 competition and it is hard to imagine that they would be participating in anything except for in Dayton. The Bulldogs RPI would probably be in the Top 280 at that point, but there is no way that they find their way any higher. It is also very unlikely that the Bulldogs would be competitive against a one seed. It also seems unlikely that they would win in Dayton, but hey- to finally get to their first NCAA Tournament would make up for any other problems.

UNCG

The Spartans would be 11-21 against D1 competition if they find their way to the NCAA Tournament. That being said, UNCG has talent. Still, this club would definitely find itself playing in Dayton, with a chance of winning there. The Spartans are playing well enough to wind up winning in the First Four, but highly unlikely to provide any real threat to a one seed.

VMI

The Keydets would be 12-18 against D1 teams if they managed to win the SoCon Tournament. This is a team that number one seeds would not really want to play because of their style of play, but VMI has struggled for much of the year. Still, a hot shooting VMI would be dangerous. However, they would almost certainly be in a play-in game.

Western Carolina

The Catamounts would be 15-16 against D1 teams if they wind up winning the SoCon Tournament. If everything broke right, they could get out of Dayton, but it would take some serious upsets in other conference tournaments. It seems very likely that a Western Carolina SoCon champ would be playing in Dayton, and a team that could win there with their shooters playing well. After all, this team played Alabama very close earlier this year.  

Wofford

The Terriers could wind up with their RPI in the Top 40 if they win the SoCon Tournament. If they beat Chattanooga in the championship game, that could be a fifth Top 100 win. That kind of resume looks like an 11 seed possibly. It would seem a 12 seed would be lowest they could get, but I suppose that the committee may not value wins over Sam Houston State, Chattanooga, Iona and North Carolina State as truly quality Top 100 wins. So they could go as low as giving them a 13 seed. I suspect that the Terriers will get an 11 or 12, with a slightly better chance of  a 12 than an 11.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Scanning the SoCon- The Tournament Questions


This is the fourth season of Scanning the SoCon, and hopefully we are getting bigger and better every year. People from around the conference answer questions regarding their team and other issues around the SoCon. This week, our tournament preview.

What do you think are the most important qualities for a team to possess to win a tournament championship (regardless of league or size of tournament) at this time of year?

Chattanooga- I think the ability to defend and rebound with a mix of senior leadership are the most important things at this time of year, especially for smaller conference teams. Bigger conference teams can get away with senior leadership if they have enough talent, but the smaller conference teams need guys who are older and leaders stepping up. Defending and rebounding is how you win tight games like these tournament games so often turn into.

Furman- Defense and depth are the two most important factors to winning a Southern Conference Tournament, Ultimately, by the semifinals and finals, you will inevitably need both. 

UNCG- If a team is going to win 3 or 4 games in as many days, they have to possess the ability to play great defense. There is going to be a night when points are hard to come by. On that night, if you are going to gut out a win, your team will have to get down and really guard the other team. Defense wins championships.

VMI- Every team needs several factors to work in their favor to win a tournament championship. Things like bench depth, stamina, venue location (neutral/home/road), and a sprinkle of luck certainly play a part. But most of all, you need defense, especially at the college level. Offense is important as well, but a suffocating defense takes pressure off your shooters and also minimizes the ability of opposing teams to go on large runs, thereby halting their momentum (another critical yet unquantifiable factor come tournament time). Take Wofford, for example. Last year, the Terriers won three games to claim the SoCon crown, giving up an average of 53.7 points per game. They also allowed opponents to shoot a mere 36.8% from the floor and a remarkable 12 of 47 (25.5%) from behind the arc. They didn't score a ton, but it didn't matter. A good defense beats a good offense in the postseason every time.

Western Carolina- Team cohesion and consistent scoring.  Players on the team with experience winning a conference tournament is also huge.  

Wofford- To be a contender in this league, it’s imperative for your outfit to execute smoothly on defense and stay in the game for a full forty minutes. Expanding on that, you have to bend without breaking – especially against the SoCon’s fierce and motivated adversity. No mental lapses, no gaps in coverage; however, if something unsatisfactory occurs, you absolutely have to push it far from your mind and stay focused. Another way to ensure success is selflessness, both with and without the basketball. If your players understand that they’re playing for a team, and not for the sake of personal statistics, you’ve got a solid program.

Which of the top three seeds do you think is most likely to be upset in the quarterfinals?

Chattanooga- I guess I could say Mercer, but VMI over Mercer seems to be the obvious choice. I would be really nervous if I was Wofford. The way UNCG and Samford are playing, the winner of that game against Wofford is more deserving of being a semifinal game than a quarterfinal game. If Wofford doesn’t come out ready to play, they could be stunned right off the bat.

Furman- I think probably Mercer. The Bears are one of the most inexperienced teams in it, and VMI has been playing well as of late, and played Mercer well during the regular-season, an upset here would not shock me at all.

UNCG- I would say Wofford due to how they tend to fall behind early. They will be playing someone who already has a game under their belt. If they don't come out ready, they mat find themselves in too big of a hole. Having said that, I think if they win 1 they'll win all 3.

VMI- I'd like to think Mercer, not so much because they aren't great but because the two teams ahead of them have few if any weaknesses. Both Wofford and Chattanooga will play their quarterfinal games against teams on short rest. There's zero chance that Wofford loses to Samford or UNC Greensboro, and Chattanooga is white-hot to the point that I see them winning the whole thing, much less a quarterfinal game against Furman or The Citadel. Mercer, on the other hand, has gone 6-5 in league play since getting out to a 6-1 start, including a 3-3 mark down the stretch. Albeit they lost to Wofford twice in very close games, and suffered a road setback against the streaking Mocs, but the Bears are definitely the weakest of the top three squads. And of course, they are playing VMI, who can upset anyone at any time because of their style of play. But that could also help Mercer if they defend the perimeter well. We'll see how it all plays out.

Western Carolina- Mercer.  The Bears have the toughest opening game of any of the top three seeds. If VMI is hitting their threes, Mercer will be in for a long night.

Wofford- It’s tough, but I’m going with Mercer because VMI will be a good opponent and likely more rested, compared to Wofford and Chattanooga’s opposition (UNCG/Samford, The Citadel/Furman), which have an extra game to play.

Which of the bottom four seeds do you think has the best chance to make a run to the finals?

Chattanooga- I’m going to go with the UNCG-Samford winner, obviously (based on what I said above). I’ll take UNCG for now. They have enough talent to be in the finals of this tournament, they just haven’t played like it most of the year. Now things have started to turn around for them and I think they are a very dangerous team. Not much bench, which could prove a problem in the second and third game of this tournament.

Furman- Maybe Samford with the way they play, and their Talladega press can give foes some headaches. Furman has shown the ability to play close to pretty much anyone and have to be one of the more scary bottom seeds in the history of the tournament. 

UNCG- I honestly don't think any of the bottom 4 can go that far. They all have serious issues that will be exposed at some point in their first few games.

VMI- I like UNC Greensboro largely because of RJ White, who is averaging 12 points on 57% shooting overall and 7 rebounds per game. White is the definition of a rim protector and is certainly a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. On top of that, you have guys like Kayel Locke (12.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG), Tevon Saddler (13.6 PPG, 4.1 APG), and sharpshooter Nicholas Paulos (10.7 PPG), who can hit from outside as well as attack the basket. The Spartans are the dark horse in this tournament

Western Carolina- Both Samford and UNCG have greatly picked up their play late in the conference season, so it's unfortunate they play each other in the opening game. It's also unfortunate the winner plays the next day against the #1 seed, Wofford. Look for either team that meets the Terriers, to take them to the last minutes of the game.  

Wofford- Probably The Citadel. They seem solid enough to give Chattanooga a good shot, considering they defeat Furman. However, this is a touchy subject – they all look tough, and were neck-and-neck against each other. For that matter, we might just have to look out for Samford on the other side of the bracket.

Which potential semifinal match-ups do you think would be most interesting?

Chattanooga- As a fan of good basketball, I would love to see Chattanooga and Mercer play again. They have played two great games so far, and it would be very entertaining to see them hook up a third time. On the other side of the bracket, Wofford against either ETSU or Western Carolina is interesting, but I’ll take Western Carolina. After all, the Catamounts always seem to play well in Asheville, and sprung the upset on Davidson a year ago in the semifinals. Who is to say they can’t do it again? It would also be a rematch of last year’s final.

Furman- If seeds hold, I like the Chattanooga-Mercer clash,,,Two pretty matchups during the regular season and it's a matchup between two of the most athletic clubs in the league. Ike Nwamu provided one of the dunks of the year in the first matchup between the two, which the Bears survived in overtime, 75-72.

UNCG- UTC and Mercer played a couple of good regular season games. A Sunday night game in Asheville between those 2 teams would be fun to watch.
 
VMI- Of course I'd like to see my Keydets get to the semifinals where they would more than likely play Chattanooga. The Mocs blew out VMI earlier in the year at the Roundhouse, but last Thursday the two teams fought a barn burner in Cameron Hall, with the Mocs coming out on top in double-overtime, 86-82. For VMI, it would be a great opportunity to avenge that heartbreaking loss against a stingy Chattanooga defense. If they can hit three-pointers, who knows how far they can go? Similarly, if Justin Tuoyo continues to play like he has as of late on defense, and if Casey Jones keeps up his torrid shooting, there is no stopping the Mocs. For the second matchup, I think it'd be interesting to see Wofford play East Tennessee State. The Terriers beat the Bucs in two fairly close contests this year, and certainly ETSU will be out for revenge. Jalen Riley, a potential SoCon Player of the Year, will be looking to go out with a bang in his senior season, as will Reshawn Rembert. The Bucs average about 74 points per game (second in the league only to VMI), so I'd like to see how their efficient offense pans out against Wofford's relentless D.

Western Carolina- VMI vs. Chattanooga will be a very interesting game, look for the #6 seed to pick up the first major upset of the tournament.  

Wofford- I have to go with Mercer/Chattanooga here. I know the Bears would love another shot at 1) taking the season series with the Mocs and 2) possibly getting a rematch with Wofford.  The third thing, getting back to the dance, is implied. 

Who do you think lifts the trophy on Monday night?

Chattanooga- I’ll take (nervously) Chattanooga. I think the Mocs are playing as well as anyone right now and that they are rebounding and defending at as high of a level as anyone. They don’t have much positive tournament experience on their roster, and that is the biggest drawback.

Furman- Chattanooga--I believe the Mocs' depth is impressive and they are one of the few teams in the league that can play either tempo. They can adapt to the opponent and then beat them at their game, as evidenced by the Mocs' 56-46 win at Wofford. 

UNCG- I'm picking the Chattanooga Mocs to win the whole thing. Their combination of length and shooters makes them a tough out.

VMI- I'll go with Chattanooga in an upset over Wofford. Tuoyo has been a beast around the boards lately, and the Mocs are hotter than anyone in the league, riding a 6-game win streak which was spurred by a surprising victory over Wofford on the road. Clearly, we know the Mocs are capable of beating the Terriers, but it certainly won't be easy. The Terriers are still 26th in the nation in allowing just under 60 points per game. They are also 60th in the country in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, while the Mocs languish at 161st. Lee Skinner, arguably Wofford's most vocal leader, scored 17 in the regular season finale at Furman and has scored in double-figures in each of his last four games. Look for him to be a huge factor. But Wofford still slipped up against The Citadel earlier in the season and has won several very close games that they should have won much more handily. The Terriers are very good, but not infallible. This is mid-major basketball, folks; anything can happen.

Western Carolina- Barring a major upset on their first night of play, I see Wofford going back to Spartanburg with the championship trophy.  If Wofford wins their first game of the tournament, they breeze on through to the championship game, based on their experience, and having been there and knowing what it takes to win the championship.  

Wofford- Call me what you will, but I believe there’s really nothing – apart from their own play and response to the tournament opposition – to stop the Terriers from hoisting the trophy for a second consecutive season. It’s not the “Cinderella story” anymore, but there’s three seniors looking to go out on a high note and an entire program and fan base behind them, ready to aid in the effort to get there.

 

 

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Scanning the SoCon Awards Edition

As voted on by our regular cast of characters.

POWER RANKINGS

1) Wofford
2) Chattanooga
3) Mercer
4) ETSU
5) Western Carolina
6) VMI
7) Samford
8) UNCG
9) The Citadel
10) Furman

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Rico White, Chattanooga

Others Receiving Votes: Spencer Collins (Wofford), Christen Cunningham (Samford), RJ White (UNCG), Casey Jones (Chattanooga)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Karl Cochran, Wofford

Others Receiving Votes: Casey Jones (Chattanooga), Stephen Croone (Furman)

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Christen Cunningham, Samford

Others Receiving Votes: Geoff Beans (Furman)

COACH OF THE YEAR

Bob Hoffman, Mercer

Others Receiving Votes: Mike Young (Wofford), Will Wade (Chattanooga)

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Justin Tuoyo, Chattanooga

Others Receiving Votes: Karl Cochran (Wofford), Phillip Anglade (VMI)

GAME OF THE YEAR

VMI 113, Western Carolina 111 (2OT)

Others Receiving Votes: Wofford 68, Chattanooga 64

FIRST TEAM ALL SOCON

Karl Cochran, Wofford
Casey Jones, Chattanooga
Ashton Moore, The Citadel
Jalen Riley, ETSU
James Sinclair, Western Carolina

SECOND TEAM ALL SOCON

Stephen Croone, Furman
Ike Nwamu, Mercer
Tevon Saddler, UNCG
Justin Tuoyo, Chattanooga
RJ White, UNCG

THIRD TEAM ALL SOCON

Mike Brown, Western Carolina
Julian Eleby, VMI
Tyler Hood, Samford
Rashawn Rembert, ETSU
Lee Skinner, Wofford

Others Receiving Votes: Phillip Anglade (VMI), Spencer Collins (Wofford), Christen Cunningham (Samford), Justin Gordon (Wofford), Rhett Harrelson (Western Carolina), PJ Horgan (The Citadel), Darius Jones-Gibson (Samford), Phillip Leonard (Mercer), Kayel Locke (UNCG), Tim Marshall (VMI), Darious Moten (Mercer), QJ Peterson (VMI), Devin Sibley (Furman), Rico White (Chattanooga), Lester Wilson (ETSU)

ALL FRESHMAN TEAM

Geoff Beans ,Furman
Christen Cunningham, Samford
Daniel Fowler, Furman
Devin Sibley, Furman
Jake Wright, The Citadel

Others Receiving Votes: Desonta Bradford (ETSU), Cameron Jackson (Wofford), Jestin Lewis (Mercer), Jordan Strawberry (Mercer), Tucker Thompson (Western Carolina)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

SoCon Tourney Challenge!

It's that time of year again!

Here are the rules:

1) Pick each game of the bracket, picking the winner of all nine games in the tournament.
2) Pick a player for a tiebreaker.
3) Points will be awarded as follows:
     a) In first round and quarterfinals, each correct pick is worth one point.
     b) In semifinals, each correct pick is worth three points.
     c) In the championship, a correct pick is worth five points.
4) If there is a tie, the player involved in the tie with the most points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks combined in the tournament will be declared the winner.

The winner will earn....NOTHING BUT PRAISE! But hey, that's something!

Prove you know more than me about the SoCon (it's not hard- I never come close to winning this thing).

Simply e-mail me at MocsBasketball97@yahoo.com or reply to this post and I'll track all the picks.

Good luck!

SoCon Reviews- February 28

Samford 80, VMI 69

Player of the Game: Christen Cunningham is one of the SoCon's top freshman and scored 22 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. He made 10 of 16 from the floor. Cunningham completely controlled the game.

Stat of the Game: VMI had 22 turnovers. Yes, the Bulldogs had a ton as well, but VMI can  not turn the ball over that much and expect to win too many games. Excellent job by the Bulldogs defense in this one.

What It All Means: In some ways, VMI shot the ball well today. They did not make a bunch of threes or shoot well from the free throw line, but they shot 47.3% from the floor. The Keydets also forced 23 turnovers from the Bulldogs. It wasn't enough. They turned the ball over too much, and allowed Samford to shoot the ball really well. VMI did still get the final bye and they will wind up playing Mercer in the quarterfinals. This team is capable of beating anyone if they shoot the ball well enough, especially from three point range. Samford finally started playing like they did during their win streak. They forced a ton of turnovers, shot the ball exceptionally well, and just really played solid all around basketball. They match up with UNCG on Friday at 6:00, and if they win that, they have a date with Wofford in the quarterfinals. This team can be dangerous to anyone. Two players did account for 53.8% of their points. Tyler Hood played really well, scoring 21, to go along with Cunningham. This team will be much improved next year.

Western Carolina 67, The Citadel 54

Player of the Game: James Sinclair had 17 points, 7 rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block. He played the full 40 minutes and made 8 of 15 shots. Sinclair is the Catamounts most important player and he filled up the stat sheet on Saturday afternoon.

Stat of the Game: Western Carolina shot 58.7% from the floor and, as if trying to prove me wrong that they liked to shoot threes, shot just nine. They took the ball inside and pounded The Citadel's defense, which is ranked the worst in the country by Pomeroy. This performance came just days after not even shooting 30% in a loss to Furman.

What It All Means: For The Citadel, this loss stings a little because of the momentum they had built up by beating ETSU on Thursday. However, due to other results, they still wound up with the seven seed, which is the best they could have hoped for heading into Saturday. This team struggles defensively, and only shot 35.6% on Saturday. When those two things combine, they are not going to win too many games. Brian White and Jake Wright had solid games, but Ashton Moore was not on his game. The Bulldogs will square off with Furman at 8:30 on Friday, with the winner getting Chattanooga in the quarterfinals. Western Carolina, who had been in a bit of a free fall heading into the game as losers of three in a row, righted the ship for the moment. The win did not truly impact their seeding (they wound up the four seed, and a loss would have put them at the five seed), but it did change the feeling surrounding the team heading to Asheville. This team has made runs before in Asheville, and with shooters like Sinclair and Mike Brown, they can do it again. First, they'll have to get by ETSU in the quarterfinals, who has beaten them twice this year.

Wofford 62, Furman 60

Player of the Game: Lee Skinner had 17 points and  7 rebounds. He made 9 of 10 from the free throw line and collected four offensive rebounds.

Stat of the Game: Furman 5 of 12 from the free throw line. Wofford made 19 of 28. That fourteen free throw difference was the massive difference in this two point game.

What It All Means: For Furman, they played without an injured Stephen Croone and still lost by just two to the best team in the SoCon. Sounds interesting. In some ways, Furman has played two of their best games this week. Yes, they still finished last in the conference. But they get to play The Citadel on Friday night at 8:30 with the winner playing Chattanooga in the quarterfinals on Saturday. John Davis III played brilliantly, and Kendrec Ferrara got into double digits. There is reason for hope from this performance. Wofford did not play their best game, but having wrapped up the regular season title, there was not much to get fired up about. Were they unfocused? Hard to know. They did not shoot the ball particularly well, and they won this game the hard way. However, they got the job done and now wait the winner of UNCG and Samford in the first quarterfinal on Saturday. Hard to know if this is the beginning of another streak of Wofford playing  mediocre basketball, or just a one game thing.

Mercer 69, ETSU 64

Player of the Game: Stephon Jelks. A very unexpected source has now scored 14 points in back to back games. He scored 14 and collected a team high six rebounds in this win over the Bucs. He made 5 of 11 from the floor.

Stat of the Game: ETSU made just 32.8% of their shots. This is a team that needs to be knocking down shots to win consistently and they just couldn't get it done in this one.

What It All Means: The Bucs nearly outrebounded Mercer again. Amazing. This is a small team that has rebounded with Mercer both times they have played them. Rashawn Rembert is still struggling, scoring just five points. However, Jalen Riley poured in 24 points. This ETSU team has lost three in a row, but is actually playing decently right now. They played OK in Chattanooga and now played pretty well at Mercer, leading both at halftime. They will battle Western Carolina at 2:30 on Saturday in a quarterfinal match-up. Mercer got the job done in the second half of this one and came up with the win. This win did not impact Mercer's seeding, but after losing to the Bucs in Johnson City earlier this year, the Bears wanted to come up with this one. Ike Nwamu did not play well, but Darious Moten played well and TJ Hallice put together a nice performance. The Bears will need to put together a good game on Saturday as they are squaring off with VMI in the final quarterfinal game at about 8:30. That will be a tough way to start the tournament.

Chattanooga 61, UNCG 58

Player of the Game: Who else? Rico White knocked down the clutch game winning shot. It  looked like it probably should not have counted. Still he made 5 of 12 from the floor. As a senior, White really played clutch.

Stat of the Game: Spartans 13 of 27 from the free throw line. The Spartans did not even knock down 50% of their freebies. That's pretty much unacceptable, particularly in a three point game.

What It All Means: The Spartans left it all on the line in this one. Only RJ White scored in double figures. He scored 14 with 8 rebounds, three steals and four blocks. He was great. He should be getting the ball way more frequently. Still, the Spartans knocked down just 13 of 27 from the free throw line. They rebounded with the Mocs. This team is playing well and playing well enough to win several games in Asheville if they. They did not shoot well, but have gotten so much better. Asad Lamot is the only player that came off the bench for the Spartans and he scored 5 before fouling out. He played well as well. The Spartans will take on Samford at 6:00 on Friday night. The Mocs were far from perfect in this one, and even though it appears Rico White's shot should not have counted, it was a clutch shot that went down. Duke Ethridge scored ten points and had eight rebounds.  They did not shoot well, especially from the free throw line. Casey Jones did not play well, but did score 12 points. They have to rebound well and protect the ball.This team can certainly win the SoCon Tournament in Asheville and are very dangerous. They have probably guaranteed that if they win the SoCon Tournament they are not a 16 seed at this point.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

SoCon Previews- February 28

Game of the Day- Samford at VMI (1:00 PM)

What's The Story: VMI has one objective- locking up the number six seed in the SoCon Tournament. They can do it with a win. A loss could send them slipping to seventh and not getting a bye in the tournament. Samford has a different objective- getting back to winning. They have now lost four straight after their five game winning streak. They are searching to get the best seed they can possibly get. This is a very important and intriguing game, between two of the teams that play full court pressure defense in the conference.

Match-up: The Bulldogs struggles have been highlighted, and they could use another big body. Michael Bradley has been fine, but he is all alone in the paint. VMI has Phillip Anglade in the paint. Anglade against Bradley should be at least entertaining. Which VMI shooter steps up in this one? Julian Eleby? Tim Marshall? Brian Brown? Those guys have taken turns shooting well in recent weeks. How Christen Cunningham handles the pressure for Samford may be the difference in this one. When they played at Samford, the Bulldogs had twenty turnovers, four by Darius Jones-Gibson. Jones-Gibson needs to be a scorer and not commit too many turnovers. Eleby scored 19 in their first match-up and was a major player. The Bulldogs have not been knocking down free throws during this losing streak at the same rate they did during the winning streak. That has been one major difference.

Prediction: Samford is a better team than they showed in the 22  point loss to VMI in December or in the 14 point loss to UNCG on Thursday. They will make this game interesting. How strong will VMI be after playing two double overtime games in a row. That equates to an extra half of basketball. Will they be fresh enough to play their tempo and shoot the ball well? Or will they have tired legs? That may well be the difference in this one. Still, with VMI at home, playing with so much on the line, they get the job done. Keydets 82, Bulldogs 76.

Western Carolina at The Citadel (1:00 PM)

What's The Story: The Bulldogs win over ETSU on Thursday gave The Citadel an opportunity to move as high as the seven seed. In the mean time, Western Carolina lost to Furman in a really ugly performance. The Catamounts are in a free fall and need to stop it before they get to Asheville. This team will be playing in the 4/5 game in Asheville next weekend no matter what, but they would love some positive momentum going in there. The Bulldogs are trying to keep their positive momentum going as they battle this one out.

Match-up: The Citadel matches up well with teams that do not necessarily like to get the ball in the paint. Western Carolina likes to shoot lots of threes. James Sinclair and Mike Brown are both good three point shooters, but Torrion Brummitt is the inside presence that will need to have a big game for the Catamounts to come up with the win. Rhett Harrelson scored 15 that time out, and he has not played that well in a while. In fact, he hasn't scored that many points since that outing. The Citadel needs Ashton Moore to keep on doing what he does. He has become a clutch shooter and an exciting player. Jake Wright is a very good shooter for The Citadel. He makes a bunch of threes. With how cold Western Carolina was shooting the other night, they will have to warm up to keep up with the Bulldogs offense in this one.

Prediction: The Bulldogs are at home and looking to close this out on a positive moment. The Catamounts are really stumbling right now, having lost three straight. The Bulldogs are actually better than the Catamounts right now. Western Carolina may get things going again in Asheville, but it won't happen in this one. Bulldogs 68, Catamounts 60.

Wofford at Furman (4:00 PM)

What's The Story: The Terriers have locked down the number one seed, so there is not much to this one for them...except for beating their rival on the road again. Wofford has dominated the Paladins recently and would love nothing more than to add another loss to the Paladins ledger. The Paladins are currently in last place, but their upset of Western Carolina on Thursday puts them in a position to where they can get out of that position with another upset. The Paladins are not a bad team given that they are in last place and would love to put on hold their recent struggles with their rival for at least one night.

Match-up: The Paladins showed up with a surprising effort against the Catamounts. Kris Acox had 12 points and 17 rebounds, making it his second 17 rebound effort in the last four games. Is Acox going to turn into a consistent threat? Maybe. It is still Stephen Croone's team, though. They need him and at least one other player to step up in a big way in this one. The Terriers will rely on Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins and Lee Skinner. Skinner and Acox (two guys that do a lot of little things on the floor) will be going against each other and that should be entertaining. Each just had two points in their first match-up. It will be interesting to see if Collins can continue to play at the level that he did against Mercer, when he was hot from the floor. If Collins is going to play like that the rest of this season, Wofford just got a whole lot better. He's always been a threat, but on Thursday he was on a different level.

Prediction: The Terriers are just vastly superior to the Paladins right now. Could Furman pull the upset? Absolutely, particularly since Wofford has nothing to play for. Plus there is always the chance that Croone has a game that reminds us why he was the Player of the Month in December. But this Paladins team needs things to break right for them to win this one. They have shown so few signs of being able to beat Wofford recently, it is hard to imagine that this is the day that changes. Terriers 72, Paladins 57.

ETSU at Mercer (4:00 PM)

What's The Story:
This game has the least on the line of any game this Saturday. Mercer is locked into the three seed. ETSU is locked into the 4/5 game next Saturday. However, both teams had tough losses on Thursday night and would like to get back onto the winning track before heading to Asheville. Also, ETSU won by one point against Mercer earlier this year, inspiring Mercer to want revenge and ETSU goes for the sweep. Which team shows up and plays with passion in this one?

Match-up: ETSU has become one of the harder to predict teams in the league. Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley are good enough that they can score points on anyone. AJ Merriweather has been stepping up in a big way as this season has progressed. But, without any true inside presence, this is a team that is hard to rely on. The Bears will have opportunities with Darious Moten and TJ Hallice to score in the paint. In fact, Hallice should have a pretty solid performance against the Bucs. This is one of the biggest teams in the SoCon against one of the smallest. However, the Bucs kept up rebounding with the Bears the first time around.

Prediction: The Bucs can be dangerous if they are shooting well, but it is hard to figure out how they will guard Hallice consistently. Ike Nwamu's athleticism is also a challenge, but the Bucs are athletic enough on the perimeter to play with anyone. If this is the game where the Bucs get their act together, they may well win this one. That being said, the Bears will find a way to win this one at home on Senior Night. Bears 69, Bucs 63.

Chattanooga at UNCG (5:00 PM)

What's The Story: The Mocs have the two seed locked up and by the time this game tips off, UNCG will know a lot more about their fate. If VMI has won earlier the day, the Spartans will no longer be able to get the final bye. Only three teams in the league have currently won more than one game in a row. One is Wofford. The other two match-up in this one. In the end, these two have a chance to take some real momentum into Asheville, as it could be argued that these are two of the teams playing the best basketball as they go into the tournament. Yes, UNCG could still finish at the very bottom of the league, but the Spartans are playing well. The Mocs are gunning for their 20th D1 win of the season.

Match-up: This is one of the most interesting inside match-ups in the whole league. RJ White is playing so well right now. Kayel Locke is not an easy match-up for anyone. The Mocs have Justin Tuoyo, who is certainly one of the best big men in the conference. That makes this match-up really interesting. The Mocs will need Greg Pryor and Rico White to do a good job on Tevon Saddler and try to force him into some turnovers. Diante Baldwin has become the quiet engine on this Spartans team. Casey Jones needs to be a difference maker in this one. He only had eight points in the Mocs first match-up with the Spartans. Pryor did score 19. The Spartans need more from Nicholas Paulos, who scored just nine the first time around.

Prediction: It is Paulos' Senior Night. How will he handle his emotions on this night? My bet- he scores in double digits and has a solid performance. White is playing really well right now- much better than the first time these two teams hooked up. Stopping the Mocs will be tough for the Spartans, but with how they are playing right now, the Spartans find a way to eek out a close home win. Spartans 73, Mocs 70.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SoCon Reviews- February 26

Wofford 76, Mercer 72

Player of the Game: Spencer Collins poured in 26 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the floor and 8 of 9 free throw shooting. He also made 4 of 6 from three point range. Collins has been kind of quiet at times this year- not Thursday.

Stat of the Game: The Terriers had an eFG% of 64.8. They shot the ball incredibly well in this one, making up for the first time they played the Bears and could not make shots. This was the offensive performance that was expected from the Terriers and it was very impressive.

What It All Means: For Mercer, this one hurts. While they played Wofford close twice, they were unable to finish either time and now are 1-3 against Chattanooga and Wofford, with their one win coming in overtime against the Mocs at home. The offense was much better this time than against Wofford the first time, but the defense was not good. The Bears do not have one scorer that they can rely on to get a shot when they need it, and that can hurt them. They also had no answer inside for Lee Skinner on Thursday, not to mention Collins big game. The Bears are the third seed, but I would say at this point, they look like they are clearly third on that list of three teams. The Terriers locked down the number one seed with this win, and they played well, especially offensively. They were so efficient, and they survived a couple of big runs by the Bears and did what they needed to do to win. The Terriers are the favorites to win in Asheville by a nose. They go to Furman on Saturday to wrap up the regular season. Collins, Skinner and Karl Cochran seem to be getting things going at just the right time for this club.

The Citadel 74, ETSU 73

Player of the Game: Ashton Moore knocked down the winning shot at the buzzer, part of his 21 points, six rebounds and eleven assists. He made 5 of 10 from the floor. Moore has been the Bulldogs best player game after game.

Stat of the Game: The Citadel made 18 of 18 from the free throw line. That was critical for the Bulldogs, as they needed every one of the freebies they could get.

What It All Means: This Bucs team is just so puzzling. They looked great in the first half against Chattanooga and then fell apart. In this one, they just couldn't ever get anything going consistently. Yes, they were ahead thanks to Jalen Riley with just a few seconds left, but it just wasn't enough. Still, if this team wins on Saturday at Mercer, they wrap up the four seed. A loss and a loss by Western Carolina would still get them the four seed. They can go no lower than the five seed. That's good news for the Bucs. This team is too small to be able to win consistently because their shooters have to be on, but they are still a contender because they have great guard play. The Bulldogs came up with the huge win to get their sixth conference win. This team seems to be starting to peak again...and just in time! The free throw shooting was huge, and Moore knocking down two game winners in three weeks shows that this team can win a close game. The Citadel can not get to the six seed because of their two losses to VMI, but they can get the seven seed simply by winning at home against Western Carolina on Saturday. This club has been a bit of a mystery, but they are playing good basketball right now, knocking down shots, which means, just like last year, they could spring an upset or two in Asheville.

Chattanooga 86, VMI 82 (2OT)

Player of the Game: Casey Jones scored 17 points with ten rebounds and three blocks. He made 7 of 14 from the floor. He played 44 minutes and continues to make a push for SoCon Player of the Year.

Stat of the Game: VMI had an eFG% of 44.1. That's not awful, but it's not good either. They shot under 40% from the floor and knocked down just six threes. The Keydets have been shooting much better during their winning streak, but just could not put the ball in the hoop tonight with enough consistency to come up with the win.

What It All Means: VMI had a shot at the four seed if they could win this one, but now are locked in to no better than the six seed. They could get as low as the seven seed with a loss to Samford and a UNCG win over Chattanooga on Saturday. This club did not shoot the ball well in this one. That can be deadly to this club that relies on knocking down shots. They defended pretty well, though they just forced thirteen turnovers. They did not rebound well and the Mocs did what it took to win the game. Phillip Anglade and Julian Eleby were very good, each scoring over 25 points. VMI is an incredibly dangerous team in Asheville, no matter who they play. The Mocs made just 12 of 24 from the free throw line, and that is the reason this game was close. They rebounded well, did not commit a lot of turnovers, and held VMI to a poor shooting night. Still, it was close. The Mocs got a win, and have the two seed locked up. They showed enough grit and determination to come up with the win as the game continued to roll through regulation and then the first overtime. They have a tough game at UNCG on Saturday that does not matter in the conference standings to the Mocs.

UNCG 81, Samford 67

Player of the Game: RJ White scored 24 points with 12 rebounds. Since he has been coming off the bench, he has been a much better player. He seems to get into the flow of the game better coming off the bench. He looks like an All SoCon type of player right now. He made 10 of 13 from the floor.

Stat of the Game:  The Spartans only turned the ball over nine times against the Bulldogs pressure defense. That pressure defense has been reasonably successful against UNCG this year, but not in this one, as the Spartans did a good job protecting the ball.

What It All Means: Now there need to start being questions about Samford again. That was not a good performance. When they won five straight in the middle of conference play, the Bulldogs seemed to be coming along. Even in these last three losses, they have competed well and looked pretty good, to the point that they were a team people did not want to play in Asheville. But they did not look like that team in this one. They looked quite mediocre in this one. They did not shoot particularly well, did not defend well and did not force turnovers. This was a major disappointment for Samford. They will try to get back on the winning track Saturday against VMI. UNCG kept their chances of the bye alive with this win. They looked good doing it and continue to look like a team that is destined to be trouble in Asheville. This club is getting better all the time. They host Chattanooga on Saturday evening in the final SoCon game of the season. The Spartans have really developed in the last few weeks and are taking more advantage of their size. This club is showing more than just signs of life- they are all out alive.

Furman 53, Western Carolina 49

Player of the Game: Kris Acox scored 12 points with 17 rebounds. He had ten offensive rebounds and made 4 of 8 from the floor. Acox showed off in this one. He was a solid contributor Thursday night. If he continues to play like that and collect double doubles, this team will be tough in Asheville.

Stat of the Game: The Catamounts shot 28.0 eFG% in this one. Yikes. That is horrid. Furman wasn't much better, going 31.5 eFG%. But the Paladins solid defense and the sheer number of free throws the Paladins shot (42 to 18) was the difference in this one.

What It All Means: Western Carolina has to look at themselves and ask some real questions. One point from their starting forwards (Tucker Thompson and Torrion Brummitt) is simply unacceptable. The Catamounts have now lost three straight games after winning at Mercer and looking like they might steal the two or three seed in the SoCon Tournament. Wofford was acceptable. Double overtime loss to VMI is a little less so. This one is a little less acceptable than that. All three together is completely outside of the realm of acceptable. This team is too talented to be playing like this. They have to go to The Citadel on Saturday. The Catamounts are always dangerous in Asheville, but are not looking like a team capable of doing damage right now. Things can change between now and  next Saturday, but wow. Furman had looked like a team ready for the season to be over. Now, they look like a different team. Acox really played great, and like the player I've been wanting to see. Kendrec Ferrara played reasonably well, too. Stephen Croone only knocked down 5 of 11 from the free throw line. That was the reason this game was close to begin with. Furman was the much better team on Thursday night. They are still a dangerous team, after all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

SoCon Previews- February 26

Game of the Day- Wofford at Mercer (7:00 PM)

What's the Story: Mercer is pretty well locked in to the number three seed, though they have a slim chance of still sneaking into the number two seed. Wofford can lock up the number one seed with a win in this one. Mercer really wants to prove that they can beat Wofford and avenge that three point loss in Spartanburg. The Bears need this win, not for seeding, but for confidence heading to Asheville. Wofford is trying to go in and win in Macon, something that is very difficult to pull off. This game should be a very intriguing match-up all the way.

Match-up: The first time these two teams hooked up, neither team shot 40% from the floor, and neither team got to 50. I'm going to say the same thing I said in the preview of that game- these are the two of the most efficient offenses in the conference and they are very good offensive teams. Mercer is an overrated defensive team. Both teams like to slow the game down, which is why they don't score huge points, but it is their offense that really makes both teams go, especially for Mercer. The Bears will need Phillip Leonard playing his best and Ike Nwamu to unleash some of his best play. Darious Moten is the other big scorer. The Terriers have Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins that can shoot from anywhere and Lee Skinner that can score on the inside.

Prediction: This should be tremendous. I am going to call again for two efficient offensive performances, despite the fact that both teams get more credit for their defense. The Bears really want to win this one, probably more than any game they've wanted this year. This should be one of the best games of the conference season, and should be a lot of fun to watch. The Bears will sneak away with a hard fought win, where both teams shoot better and look more like the offenses I expected to see the first time around...and neither team breaks 70. Bears 66, Terriers 65.

ETSU at The Citadel (6:00 PM)

What's the Story: The Bucs are trying to scratch out their seeding, between fourth and sixth. There is a difference there. At the six seed, they would be forced to play likely Mercer but possibly Chattanooga in their first game and possibly the other in the semifinals just to get to the finals. If they are the four or five seed, they would face the other (either Western Carolina or VMI) in the quarterfinals and then likely Wofford in the semifinals. The Citadel has been eliminated from the race for the six seed, but still can finish anywhere from seven to ten. Can the Bulldogs pull an upset over either ETSU or Western Carolina at home to finish up the season? The Bulldogs are looking for a little momentum as they head to Asheville.

Match-up: The Bucs will have a healthier Rashawn Rembert in this one and that will be huge. Jalen Riley has been tremendous all year, and scored 31 against Chattanooga last time out. Those two will need to play well, but against the Bulldogs that could be easier. The Bulldogs defense has been porous all season long. The Bulldogs need Ashton Moore and Jake Wright to shoot the ball extraordinarily well in this one to keep them in the game. The Bucs like to get up and down the floor, and with Rembert healthy, they should be able to do that better than they did against Chattanooga. The Citadel likes to slow the pace and keep the opposition from getting going. The Citadel shot just 38.6% from the floor the first time around and that is why they lost by eleven. The Bulldogs need to run their offense and shoot better than that this time around.

Prediction: Can The Citadel win in Charleston? Sure they can. However, this game feels like one that the Bucs are going to play well in. They need a solid showing and want to come up with a road win after kind of letting one get away against Chattanooga the last time out. The Citadel is not playing well enough to be able to win a game like this. Bucs 68, Bulldogs 61.

Chattanooga at VMI (7:00 PM)

What's the Story: VMI could still finish anywhere from fourth all the way down to eighth. The Keydets can salt away the final bye with a win in Lexington over the Mocs. This is a huge one for VMI, or else they really risk losing the bye altogether, while they can still get all the way up to the four seed. It would be huge for them to get up to the four or five seed. The Mocs can absolutely clinch the two seed with a win in this one. If Wofford loses at Mercer, a Mocs win would tie them for the conference lead, and give the Mocs a chance to win the conference on the season's final day. These are two of the hottest teams in the conference too, and they look to carry that momentum forward as they go to Asheville.

Match-up: Can VMI's recent hot shooting continue? That has been the difference for this club as they have won three straight games. The Keydets shot just 31% the first time they played the Mocs and  lost by 22 in Chattanooga. The Mocs are a team that turns the ball over at a fairly high rate- 7th in the SoCon. The Keydets force turnovers at the highest rate in the conference. In the first match-up, the Mocs turned it over just ten times, and that was a huge difference in the game. Greg Pryor and Rico White will be critical in this one with their ball handling abilities. The Keydets are one of the worst shooting teams in the conference still, despite their recent hot streak. Can Julian Eleby score 40 points again? What of Brian Brown and Tim Marshall, who had been the hot hands prior to the Western Carolina game? If the Mocs are able to break the press, how will VMI, with their lack of big men, slow down Justin Tuoyo?

Prediction: This is a deeply intriguing match-up. The Keydets are as hot as any team in the SoCon. Hosting a team like Chattanooga is a great measuring stick for where they are as the team heads to Asheville. Still, the Mocs are the better team. If VMI is knocking down shots and forcing turnovers, they can win this game, and possibly win it easily. If the Mocs can keep turnovers down, they should be able to hang around and eventually pull this one out. Based on the first go round, they should do a decent job of that. Mocs 78, Keydets 74.

Samford at UNCG (7:00 PM)

What's the Story: This game would be much more interesting if both teams were only a game behind VMI. Instead, they are two games back of the Keydets with two to play. If VMI wins, then neither team has a chance at the bye. If VMI loses, then the winner of this game will be the only team that can catch VMI for the final bye. Samford plays VMI on Saturday in a winner-take-all game. If UNCG wins, they will need Samford to beat VMI and to beat Chattanooga to earn the six seed. For my money, these two teams are playing as good of basketball as anyone in the bottom half of the conference right now. Samford would love to stop their losing streak, while the Spartans would love to turn in a winning streak.

Match-up: The Bulldogs rely on Tyler Hood to be their heart and soul, while Michael Bradley also guides them. Darius Jones-Gibson only scored five points against Mercer and they will likely need more than that to beat the Spartans on Thursday night. The Spartans rely on their inside presence, with Kayel Locke and RJ White, but they need Tevon Saddler and Diante Baldwin to play well and not turn the ball over against this pressure defense. Saddler turned it over five times the first time they met and the Spartans turned it over 16. That's why even though both teams shot over 50% from the floor, the Bulldogs won by double figures.

Prediction: Samford has hit a bit of a lull and good times are still ahead for this program. That being said, the Spartans are playing really solid basketball right now. They probably do not want to rely on White knocking down four threes again, but the Spartans are capable of winning this game. It will be a close battle all the way around, but UNCG will find a way to come up with the narrow home win. Spartans 72, Bulldogs 70.

Western Carolina at Furman (7:00 PM)

What's the Story:
The Catamounts incredibly disappointing loss at home to VMI last Saturday leads them into a tough place in this one. They are seeking to earn the four seed and avoid the six seed. The Paladins are currently in last place, and not really playing well either. Both teams need to get some positive momentum going as they head down the stretch of the season and head towards Asheville. Furman still has a shot at as high as the seven seed, but more than that, they just need to play better. Western Carolina has been inconsistent throughout the year and they need a quality performance or two down the stretch to feel good about themselves.

Match-up: Wow, Furman was bad against UNCG the last time out. A 35 point beatdown exposed all of their flaws. They have let teams shoot lights out from three recently, and Western Carolina is a team that loves to shoot the three. James Sinclair, Mike Brown and even Rhett Harrelson are all good three point shooters that should be licking their chops based on what recent teams have done to the Paladins. Torrion Brummitt has been a very nice piece for the Catamounts and will certainly be a challenge for the Paladin big men. That may be the most important piece to this game. Stephen Croone can shoot and keep them in it, but can they slow down Brummitt as well?

Prediction: The Paladins still have a chance to do something here, but they are looking more and more like a team that is not going to put it together this year. Will they do it in this one? Possibly. It's not like Western Carolina has been playing great lately. Regardless, with all the threes Furman has been giving up, it's hard to imagine that Brown and Sinclair don't both go off for 20 points. Catamounts 76, Paladins 69.