Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Scary Stuff: Worst Case Scenario

Halloween is time to consider what scares you. The things that make you nervous. The things that make you wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

I'm not saying basketball should make me scream like the dream where the wolves have learned how to turn doorknobs and are breaking down my door, but I am saying that sometimes I do have nightmarish feelings about the outcome of the Mocs season.

So here it is- in a nutshell. Injuries are not allowed to be brought up here, because obviously any injury to any player is a nightmarish situation.

1) Farad Cobb takes significantly longer to develop than expected. The Mocs need a point guard. With Dontay Hampton out (sorry- one injury mention), the Mocs are in need of the point guard to step into the role quickly. Cobb is the one that has to step into that role. If he doesn't, this team could really struggle.

2) Early poor performance leads to fan unrest. I've been on the record saying that the Mocs have a set of critical games that could make or break the Mocs. In reality, they are important, but the Mocs should be much better by January and February than they are in November. But last year, the negative feelings around the program seemed like a noose around the team's neck. When the Mocs lost to Kennesaw State, the pressure got ratcheted up another notch, and the team seemed to wilt under that pressure. This is a new group of players. But if they start 2-4, the fans will become uneasy. If the fans become uneasy, the same pressure could take root. If the same pressure takes root, the team may be too young to overcome that pressure. (Basically, this is my plea to the fan base to take a deep breath and relax early in the year. If things go poorly, relax. Brighter days are ahead after New Years. If things go well, relax. There will be ups and downs this year. I think I need to set this to come up on my phone at the conclusion of every game so that I remember it too.)

3) The lack of big men leads to poor rebounding. I love rebounding stats. But, even for the SoCon, the Z Men (Drazen Zlovaric and Z Mason), Lance Stokes, Jared Bryant, and Sam Watson are not overly big. That means that these Mocs could struggle on the boards. Since that is one of the things that Coach John Shulman's teams traditionally do very well, if that goes poorly, the whole thing could fall apart.

4) Team falls in love with the three- forgets to pound it inside. An interesting thought, since the last blurb says they aren't overly big. But the Mocs get in trouble when they fall in love with the three and forget to get the ball to the Z Men, Bryant, and Watson. Last year, this seemed to be a common problem. If they do not get the ball inside this year to open up the outside threes, this offense could be stagnant and struggle. Off balance threes early in the shot clock? Uh-oh. Here we go again.

Overall, this would be a disaster for the Mocs. It's scary. I have visions of no points inside, guys throwing up threes from half court, and Cobb not being anywhere near as good as I think he will be, and the fans turning on this team really early in the year.

I broke out in a sweat just thinking about it.

To make up for it, tomorrow we'll have our best case scenario vision.


The Citadel Preview: Hope on the Hardwood?

Each day from October 23-November 3, there will be a blogger/fan previewing their team in this space. For previous previews and the future schedule, click here
The Citadel was 6-24 last season, 3-15 in the Southern Conference. Thus, it surprised no one that in the SoCon preseason polls (media and coaches) the Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the South division of the league. Indeed, The Citadel received fewer votes than any team in the league, in either division.

The last time The Citadel finished dead last in both preseason polls was prior to the 2008-09 season. The Bulldogs had gone 6-24 the previous year, in head coach Ed Conroy’s second season at The Citadel. More of the same was expected, but instead the Bulldogs won 20 games for only the second time in school history, 15 of them coming in league play. It was the finest season on the hardwood for The Citadel in 30 years, and one of the best in school history.

Just like Ed Conroy in 2008-09, Chuck Driesell is entering his third season in charge of the Bulldogs after enduring a 6-24 campaign. Conroy brought in eight scholarship freshmen for his second season; so did Driesell.

However, there are differences between then and now. Conroy’s batch of freshmen included a player who would be named Freshman of the Year in the Southern Conference, Cameron Wells, and another (Zach Urbanus) who finished the year as a solid contributor. None of the freshmen who played last year for The Citadel (two were redshirted) had a season as good as Wells’ initial campaign for the Bulldogs.

That isn’t to say that significant improvement can’t be made. I suspect it will. However, the same can be said for the Southern Conference in general. I expect the league to be better than it was last year, as many of the better players from last season are returning in 2012-13.

It’s only one statistical category, but I couldn’t help but notice that ten of last season’s top thirteen SoCon performers in Ken Pomeroy’s “offensive rating” system (minimum 20% possessions used) are back this year. That group of ten doesn’t even include established performers like Trevis Simpson, Lucas Troutman, Trent Wiedeman, and a couple of Cochrans (Wofford’s Karl and Davidson’s Nik).

The league is going to be tough this year. Can the Bulldogs hang in there? If they are going to do so, they must first address some obvious shortcomings.

The Citadel was a very poor defensive team last season. Mike Groselle was the only consistent rebounder on the squad (though he was good enough to lead the league), and only three teams in all of Division I allowed opponents to shoot a higher percentage inside the arc (55.7%) than the Bulldogs.

That carried over into league action, although The Citadel wasn’t the worst defensive outfit in the conference in SoCon play, in part thanks to opponents’ three-point shooting (only 30.3%). Three league teams allowed more points per possession than did the Bulldogs in conference games.

However, the Bulldogs struggled on the offensive side of the court in conference play more than any other SoCon team, and by a wide margin, scoring only .907 points per possession in 19 league games (18 regular season matchups plus the first round of the SoCon tourney). The Citadel shot just 31% from outside the three-point line in league action and also had the worst turnover rate in the conference.

One positive: when the Bulldogs did score, it often came as a result of good team passing (The Citadel was second in the league in its ratio of assists to made baskets).

Mike Groselle had an outstanding season in 2011-12. Groselle led the league in rebounding and was second in scoring, being edged for the SoCon scoring crown by UNCG’s Trevis Simpson (who attempted 151 more shots from the field). Groselle was a very efficient performer (59.1 eFG%), and persevered despite being the focus of every opponent’s game plan.

He did everything well, basically, and made the 10-man all-conference team selected by the league coaches. However, Groselle did not make the media’s All-SoCon first team, an omission that was not easy to understand.

For the Bulldogs to improve this year, Groselle is going to need help. Will he get any?

When I watched The Citadel’s freshmen in action last year, I came to the conclusion that while several of them had promising skill sets, they just weren’t strong enough to handle the adjustment to Division I hoops. There is a chance that a year of physical maturity (and a lot of work in the weight room) will improve the Bulldogs’ rebounding numbers and alleviate some of the turnover problems that plagued the team last year.

C.J. Bray is a good example. The 6’7″ Bray is athletic enough to have been offered a football scholarship to Arkansas, and he can present matchup problems with his ability to float outside and hit the three-point shot. I thought he showed good instincts on the boards, too, but he wasn’t able to corral every rebound chance that came his way.

That may change this year. If he can also provide solid post defense, he will be a great help to Groselle. Bray started more games than any other Bulldog freshman last season (18). Another rising sophomore who goes by his initials, 6’8″ P.J. Horgan, saw limited action last year and may also be a factor in the frontcourt rotation.

Lawrence Miller shot 42% from three-point land last season, better than his overall field goal percentage (39%). He will probably get first crack at the 2-guard spot for the Bulldogs. Ashton Moore, who started 14 games last season and played more minutes than any other freshman, will also be in the mix. Moore is capable of putting the ball in the basket (30 points against UVA-Wise) but needs to be more consistent.

The point guard for The Citadel will be Marshall Harris III, who started the final 11 games last season. Harris must cut down on his turnovers to succeed in that role, and it’s key for the Bulldogs that he do so. There is no other obvious candidate to play the point, as DeVontae Wright transferred to USC-Aiken this summer. Moore could be an option, and one of the freshmen may get a look.

Wright was one of three underclassmen to transfer after last season. Jordan Robertson, a forward who showed flashes of potential last year, is now at Davidson County Community College. He was the only one of last year’s group of freshmen to leave. The third player to transfer, Barry Smith, moved on to Bethune-Cookman.

The two seniors on last year’s team, Cosmo Morabbi and Bo Holston, both graduated. Holston had one year of athletic eligibility remaining, and elected to play as a graduate student at Anderson. In all, players no longer on the roster accounted for 42% of the minutes played last season.

There are seven players on this year’s roster who have yet to appear in a Division I game — four incoming freshmen, two redshirt freshmen, and a fifth-year transfer student.

The most heralded of the “knobs” is Matt Van Scyoc, a 6’6″ wing player who led the state of Wisconsin in three-point shooting last year. Van Scyoc averaged 24.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game his senior season and was an all-state selection in Wisconsin’s Division 5 high school classification.

His fellow classmates include 6’3″ swingman Raemond Robinson, a Goose Creek product who was also an outstanding high school football player. Robinson is used to winning, both on the gridiron and on the court; perhaps he can bring that kind of positive energy to The Citadel’s hoops squad (much like John Brown did during that aforementioned 2008-09 campaign).

Janeil Jenkins and Quinton Marshall each signed late in the spring. They are both guards, but of markedly different sizes; Jenkins is 5’10″, while Marshall is 6’5″. Chuck Driesell mentioned Marshall in a recent interview with Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier as someone who might get to play early.

Two of the eight freshmen from last year did not see any action in 2011-12. Dylen Setzekorn is a 6’7″ wing on the slender side (194 lbs., per The Citadel’s website). 6’9″ forward Michael Hundley is even thinner (180 lbs.). It is easy to see why both were redshirted.

Hundley has a reputation as a shotblocker. If he could get on the court with that skill, it would be a huge boon for The Citadel, which hasn’t had a true shot-swatter since Kirill Misyuchenko patrolled the lane for the Bulldogs in the late 1990s.

The final player on The Citadel’s roster is something of a wild card. Stephen Elmore is a 6’6″, 220-lb. graduate student who saw limited action at Princeton…as a baseball player. The 2012-13 campaign will be his first (and last) taste of college basketball, at least as a player.

He is the son of Len Elmore, the well-known college basketball commentator who was an outstanding college player at Maryland (and who had a solid NBA career as well). Driesell described Stephen Elmore as “a power forward who can shoot the three-pointer”. I have no idea what kind of impact (if any) he will have for the Bulldogs.


The Citadel’s non-league slate is about what you would expect for a team that only won six games a year ago and includes two games against non-Division I competition. The Bulldogs will open the season by hosting the All-Military Classic, which also features VMI, Army, and Air Force.

The Citadel squares off with VMI in its first game, on the same day the Bulldogs play the Keydets in football — in Lexington, VA. It’s a scheduling quirk that I think is unfortunate.

There are no home games in December, which is a little strange. The Citadel is playing “guarantee games” against Georgia Tech, Clemson, and…St. Bonaventure. I’m not sure why the Bulldogs are making the trip to Olean, New York, but at least Andrew Nicholson has moved on to the NBA.

In what I believe is a first, The Citadel is participating in Bracketbusters this season. Other out of conference games include a home contest against Radford and road games versus Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb.


I will be curious to see how Chuck Driesell handles tempo this season. Driesell prefers a faster pace than that implemented at The Citadel by Ed Conroy, but he was forced to slow things down last season in an effort to stay competitive. In that respect, he succeeded. The Citadel’s two late-season victories over Chattanooga and Appalachian State featured fewer possessions than any other games the Bulldogs played during the season.

I think a slower tempo is generally what works best for The Citadel, but it’s obviously not a style Driesell really enjoys, and I don’t know what his approach will be this year. His best player (Groselle) is probably best suited for games with a more restrained pace.

It’s just one of many things that makes this season for The Citadel a very interesting one. I’m not predicting a year like the 2008-09 campaign, but I believe the Bulldogs are going to surprise some people. The team has to make the leap from being competitive to winning games. It’s a difficult transition, but I think the talent is there to make that jump.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blue & Gold Thoughts

I wasn't there. I didn't get to see it.

But I did follow the Twitter feed and have looked at the final stats.

The word on the street is that the Mocs pounded the ball inside. Z Mason's eight points are used to prove that. That's not quite accurate. According to the Twitter feed of the game, he made two threes. Drazen Zlovaric did score ten points.

That's a total of 18 points. That's pretty solid stuff.

Eric Robertson and Gee McGhee combined for 19 points. That's very good.

Farad Cobb scored 9 points, had three assists and two steals. He plays like that, the Mocs will be a good team. Rico White had eight points.

It sounds like the guys had fun. That's good.

Sounds like there may be some scorers on the team. That's good too.

In thirteen days, the Mocs will open against Tennessee Temple. I am really looking forward to getting a good look at Cobb and hoping that the Z Men can show that they are ready to dominate inside. Truthfully, the game against Tennessee Temple will probably not be quite as good as the competition these guys faced tonight. But count me excited about the first game. I'm ready.

It's time.

Appalachian State Preview: Growing Pains Yet Again

Each day from October 23-November 3, there will be a blogger/fan previewing their team in this space. For previous previews and the future schedule, click here.

Going into the 2012-13 basketball season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers find themselves once again as one of the most mysterious teams in the league. A team rife with turnover struggled last season with a senior-laden crew that had gone through two coaching transitions in their time. It's safe to say that last season was a colossal disappointment. Omar Carter, the preseason SoCon Player of the Year didn't even make the first, second or third team all-conference. Ike Butts never fully realized his potential and JUCO's Mitch Woods and Petey Hausley didn't contribute much.
This year's motley crew come in with little expectations and an embattled leader. The gamble that was the hiring of Jason Capel in April 2010 has came up snake eyes so far. After a 16-15 opening season with Donald Sims, a team with seemingly more talent and more expectations faltered to a 13-18 finish. Now after two seasons of constant upheaval, Capel has a team of players he brought it minus Nathan Healy.


The Mountaineers only return five players from last year's squad in seniors Nathan Healy and Jamal Trice, junior Brian Okam and the sophomore guard duo of Tab Hamilton and Mike Neal. Out of those five, Hamilton, Neal and Trice were starters and in the top five on the team in PPG. Healy is the leading returning rebounder, with 3.5 per game last season (fourth overall) and Neal was the overall assist leader last season with 3.1 per game.


There are ten new faces to the ASU team this year, nine of whom are eligible to play this year. Dustin Clarke, transfer from Hartford, has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. The highlight of this group is Xavier transfer Jay Canty (more on him later). The departures of underclassmen GJ Vilarino and Rodney Milum created extra holes to a team already in transition. The additions of JUCO transfer Tevin Baskin and former Radford player Tommy Spagnolo (both juniors) should add a much-needed post presence. Baskin scored 23, had four blocks and two steals in the Black and Gold Scrimmage to lead all scorers and Spagnolo grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. Out of the group of six freshmen joining the team, Michael Obacha, originally from Nigeria as is Okam, showed the most promise in the scrimmage before going out with an ankle injury.

The other new freshman are undersized guard Chris Burgress, 6'8” forward Rantavious Gilbert and guards Bennett Rutherford and Frank Eaves. Then you have 21-year-old red-shirt freshman Jonathan Frye, whose tale I chronicled earlier this month.


This schedule was clearly made for a team not expected to do a lot. Only three D1 non-conference home games in High Point, Duquense and Presbyterian. So as they were two years ago, this team will be on the road a bit. After the High Point home opener (I'm not counting Montreat due to their sub-DI status), the team faces a week of challenges at Campbell, East Carolina and Virginia Tech. At this point, winning one of those would be a good step. Then after the home against against Duquense, the Apps travel to face Mizzou, where we all know what is expected to happen there. Then comes an   interesting one-game foray into SoCon play with a trip to WCU the following weekend. In my opinion, you either do two December conference games or none. After that, the team stays on the road with trips to UMKC and then USC (East), both potential winnable games. After the seasonal game against Presbyterian, the Apps enter the wonderful world of conference play (there's a game against NAIA Milligan in there, but again it doesn't count).

This is a team that will take some lumps in the early season and has potential to improve by the time conference play starts. Out of the South Division teams, ASU gets the cream as they play Davidson and GSU twice and travel to CofC. After a brutal late January/early February stretch, the home stretch could be favorable with most North Division games left plus The Citadel and Furman at home.


1) Will Jay Canty live up to the hype?

After the unmitigated failure that was Gonzaga transfer GJ Vilarino, this year brings in Xavier transfer Jay Canty. After his dominant performance in the first half of the latest scrimmage (he was held back in the second half), he looks like the best player on the team. Canty could be that spark that the team needs to make big runs and take a game over, but it remains to be seen if he could be that player who prevents the big slumps that happened last year.

2) Will Brian Okam go from being a project to a contributor?

Speaking of transfers, Rutgers transfer Brian Okam enters his second season with the Black and Gold with a lot of eyes on him, and not just because he's seven-feet tall. With the graduation of Ike Butts, Okam finds himself as the only true center on the squad. Word is that Okam has put in a lot of hard  work in the off-season but most people remain skeptical. His clunky play was the main reason he only appeared in 15 games last season and maintained his “project” status. His physical gifts will primarily be used on defense and he should be a contributor there but it remains to be seen if he is a liability on offense. In the last scrimmage, he started out rough but finished strong. If it's clicks for him mentally, there's no ceiling to his potential.

3) Can this team show any consistency?

Perfect example of the inconsistencies was in Asheville last March with the Apps scoring 60 points in the second half over CofC and then not making a shot in the final 10 minutes the following day against UNCG. Another example is the fact that last year there were 13 different starting lineups took the court in ASU's 31 games. In Capel's first year, he had the benefit of inheriting Mr Consistency Donald Sims who helped the team to the level they were expected to be at. Last year he had a group of seniors that showed no consistency at all with a lot more potential that went unrealized. Capel wants his teams to be a tough and physical but knows that they have to have consistency in order to navigate this long season, especially in a conference that is looking better this year.


38-0, SoCon Champs, NCAA Champs. The seismic rift caused by this turn of events creates a fault which Dick Vitale falls in. The explosion of volcanoes upon the end of the 90-43 victory over NC State in the National Championship sends Teddy Valentine into orbit somewhere around Jupiter. The meltdown of Jay Bilas' brain triggers a meteorological event so massive that it melts the polar ice caps and sends the planet into an immediate ice age and thus the Appalachian State Mountaineers are the last ever NCAA champs. As it turns out, the Mayans were only off by four and a half months.

In reality, the prognosis is that this team could be like Western was last year. A losing record going into February and then getting on a hot streak at the end and gaining confidence going into the next year. This team could take some lumps early in the season and will show their character going into conference play. The team has to play disciplined basketball and not let it turn into a streetball game where they rack up fouls and are prone to long scoring droughts. For Capel, he has the hottest seat in the conference next to Shulman goinginto the third year of his four-year contract. For his sake, there needs to be improvement this year. Otherwise it'll be another desolate season in the Holmes Cavern for men's hoops and patience is already running thin.
By T-Dog,

For a full list of the SoCon message boards and bloggers, click here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mocs Get Back To Work

After the closed scrimmage with Belmont over the weekend, the Mocs were set to go back to work today. Shulman said the scrimmage went "exactly like we wanted it to."

That's very interesting. Belmont is a very good program and one that is well respected nationally. The Mocs may or may not have been able to go toe to toe with Belmont (after all, the scores aren't allowed to be reported on), but the fact the Shulman feels positive about is nothing but good. Shulman also has talked about how he feels like he was too high strung last year. He probably was- then again, the whole program was high strung last year.

Is there a chance that this more laid back approach that Shulman says he plans on taking will be good for the Mocs?

Maybe. After all, a common complaint on MocFans is that Shulman is too controlling of the team and doesn't let them play loose and the way they are most comfortable playing. If Shulman really is looser, then maybe this helps the team play looser and therefore perform better. Maybe there will be fewer sets on offense. Maybe there will be more aggressive defense. This can't be a bad thing- especially after watching them get bogged down offensively last year, and many times in recent years.

So there is plenty to work on- there's no doubt about that. Freshman always have plenty to work on. I'm starting to feel a wave of optimism run through the program. That's a nice feeling. There is real excitement about this team and the youth that is coming with it.

Can the Mocs build off that excitement? They could.

Tomorrow is the Blue-Gold game, and thirteen days after that comes the first game against Tennessee Temple.

It's time. Plenty of growth opportunities. Plenty of excitement. Plenty of exciting moments going ahead this year.


Wofford Preview: Will Youth Be Served?

Each day from October 23-November 3, there will be a blogger/fan previewing their team in this space. For previous previews and the future schedule, click here.
After back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, the experts expected Wofford to take a sizable tumble in the 2011-12 season due to heavy graduation loses. But Mike Young guided the team to a respectable 19-14 overall record, including 12-6 in the SoCon. That was good for second place in the SoCon's South division. Wofford played in the CBI postseason tournament. The team was lead by senior guards Brad Loesing and Kevin Giltner, who both played about every minute of every game, and senior center Drew Crowell. But now Young and his Terriers will face another tough challenge as those three players, who provided the lion's share of Wofford's scoring last season, are all now playing professionally in Europe. The only returning full-time starter is reigning SoCon freshman of the year Karl Cochran. This incredibly athletic 6-1 So. guard averaged 11.1 points and 4.7 rebounds and was tops on the team in both blocked shots and steals. Other key returnees include So. F Lee Skinner, a physical 6-6 inside player who lead the team in rebounding. Junior 6-7 F Aerris Smith, who started 19 games last season, continues to improve steadily and may be poised for a breakout year. Very athletic 6-6 So. F Jarrell Byrd showed flashes of brilliance in limited minutes last season and the Terriers think his ceiling is very high. Rounding out the returnees are 6-1 G John Swinton, who may see significant minutes at PG this season, and 6-3 G Taylor Wagener, a shooter and the team's only senior.

The fortunes of the 2012-13 Terriers will depend largely on the development of the many newcomers to the team. The Terriers are very high on 6-4 G Indiana Faithfull from Australia, who will have a chance to be a major contributor at PG. Faithfull is a So. as he was ruled ineligible for his freshman year. Faithfull has been a winner as his high school record was 54-4. Another potential stud at guard is 6-2 Bryan Harris from the Baltimore area. Harris averaged 24 PPG at Massanutten Military Academy (VA) last year, and Wofford feels extremely fortunate to have landed him. Also competing for minutes at guard will be 6-4 sharpshooter Spencer Collins, who averaged 20.3 PPG and 7.6 rebounds at Easley (SC) High, including a 44 point performance in the playoffs.

There is no shortage of new forwards that will be competing for playing time. The Terriers have 6-8 redshirt freshman Kevin Hickson and true freshmen 6-8 Zac Grossenbacher, 6-7 C.J. Neumann, and athletic 6-6 Justin Gordan. These four guys will all be vying to help the Terriers' inside game. One of the three true freshman forwards may be redshirtted. 5-11 G James Long and 6-6 F Zach Korkowski, a pair of freshmen walk-ons, will round out the roster.

The 2012-13 schedule is a bit less daunting than some previous Wofford schedules, perhaps due to the team's youth. Road trips to Colorado (the season opener on November 9), Xavier, and Virginia highlight the non-conference slate. Winthrop and Gardner-Webb will visit Spartanburg, and the Terriers will participate in The Classic in Wilmington, NC. Wofford will have an early opportunity to see how they stack up in the conference as they must travel to league favorite Davidson for an early SoCon game on December 8.


1. How will this young team's players develop throughout the year?

Of the 15 players on the team roster, 8 are freshmen and 5 are sophomores. So this is obviously a team without a lot of experience. But it is also a team with a lot of talent and potential, as many of the guys have a very strong upside. How fast can these guys develop, improve, and reach their potential? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining if Wofford can be a contender in the SoCon.

2. How well will the new guards fill the void left by Loesing's and Giltner's departures?

Make no mistake, these two guys are huge losses for Wofford. Both averaged 38 minutes a game and were tremendous leaders. They were very smart guys who were excellent shooters and passers, excellent free throw shooters, and very cool and dangerous in the clutch with a game on the line. Their presence will be very difficult to replace. The only proven backcourt commodity is Karl Cochran, and he must guard against a sophomore slump. Young guys like Swinton (who saw very limited minutes last season), Faithfull, Harris, and Collins will have to develop quickly. Can one or more of these newcomers step up and contribute right away? The Terriers will have to have that happen in order to be a factor in the SoCon.

3. Will the big men be able to provide a strong inside presence?

Key returnees Lee Skinner and Aerris Smith must continue their development at a good clip as both are projected starters. Both must also improve from the foul line as the each shot less than 60% from the stripe last year. Newcomers Grossenbacher and Neumann will likely compete for minutes at center and will need to contribute right away to fill the void left by Drew Crowell's departure. Will they be up to it? It's a big question for the Terriers.


This is obviously a very young and inexperienced team. Mike Young will get the absolute maximum from them. But with youth comes many ups and downs. And this team may well struggle from the charity stripe at times, which is never a good thing when you are in a close game. I expect this team to win some games no one expected them to win but also lose some games that they are favored in and end up somewhere in the middle of the SoCon pack. But regardless of the outcome of games, this will be a very fun and interesting team to watch and these guys will grow and develop as basketball players with each game. So I hope to see some good crowds at the Benjamin Johnson Arena this season to get behind these young pups.

By Cody Cooper/woffordgrad94,

For a full list of the SoCon message boards and bloggers, click here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Western Carolina Preview: Looking For A Championship

Each day from October 23-November 3, there will be a blogger/fan previewing their team in this space. For previous previews and the future schedule, click here.

Under eighth year head coach Larry Hunter, the Catamounts return a total of seven players from last season’s squad that won seven-straight games in making a run at the Southern Conference Basketball Championship title before falling in the thrilling double-overtime loss by 2 points to Davidson at the US Cellular Center in Asheville last March. 

All-tournament selections Trey Sumler, 6-2 / 175 (red shirt junior - guard) and Tawaski King, 6-8 / 245 (junior - post) return, as well as four of the top six leading scorers from last season return to Cullowhee, led by Sumler (13.5 points per game) and Brandon Boggs, 6-5 / 190 (junior – guard -10.0 ppg). 

Absent of any seniors on this year’s team, the large returning junior class of  Trey Sumler, Tawaski King, Brandon Boggs (guard), Preston Ross, 6-5 / 190 (forward), Tom Tankelewicz, 6-4 / 180 (forward) are both talented and athletic.  James Sinclair, 6-3 / 180 (Sophomore – guard) and Kenneth Hall, 6-7 / 210 (sophomore – forward) round out the returning seven.

New Faces

Mike Brown, 6-3 / 175 (freshman - guard) from West Charlotte HS.  Brown scored 775 points in his first three high school seasons including a career-best 512 as a junior, helped guide West Charlotte to the North Carolina 4-A State Championship with a 28-2 overall record in 2011, earning Most Valuable Player honors.

Rhett Harrelson, 5-10 / 170 (freshman – guard) from Enterprise Alabama. Finished high school career with 2,322 career points, a 16.0 point per game average. All-time leading scorer in Alabama 6-A history and 16th best in state history at all levels, ranking fourth best in career free throw percentage (87%), seventh-best in single-season free throw percentage (88%) and eighth-highest career 3-point percentage (38%), also averaging five assists and 3.5 steals per game.

Torrion Brummitt,  6-7 / 240 (freshman – forward) from Columbus, Georgia. Averaged 12.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a junior for the Raiders and head coach Anthony Jenkins ... As a sophomore, was named Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP.

Brandon Littlejohn, 5-11 / 175 (freshman – guard) Two-sport athlete that plays for the WCU football team and is expected to join the men's basketball squad after the season.

Justin Browning. 6-4 / 175 (freshman – forward) A two-star recruit by, Browning has averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game through his first three years as a prep, adding a 1.5 assist per game and three steals per contest average and claimed the state 5-A high jump championship as a junior with a leap of 6-foot,4-inches

Josh Mendenhall (junior forward)  Sat out the 2011-12 season after transferring to Western Carolina in the fall prior to the season. Took a redshirt and enters 2012-13 as a redshirt junior with two years of eligibility.

2012-13 WCU Basketball Schedule

In the upcoming season, the Catamounts will play 13 games in the friendly confines of the Ramsey Center, where the Catamounts have an 82% winning percentage.  The 2012-13 schedule includes hosting an ESPN BracketBuster game, as well as, road trips to the likes of Tennessee, Georgetown & Illinois.

Seven 2012-13 opponents saw action in post-season play last year, five in the NCAA tournament, and one each in the NIT and College Basketball Invitational.  The Catamount non-conference schedule also includes four games against teams that make their home in Western North Carolina, including a home and home with mountain-rival UNC Asheville.

Playing in the "Mayan Division," the Catamounts open in the 2012 Cancun Challenge by visiting Wichita State (Nov. 15) and Western Kentucky (Nov. 17) on the road before traveling to Mexico for two additional games tournament. Once in Cancun, the Catamounts will play Austin Peay on Nov. 20, and will face either Howard or Gardner-Webb the following day.

"We have assembled another top-notch and challenging schedule for our players and fans," said head coach Larry Hunter, talking about the 2012-13 schedule. "The start of the year should be as exciting as any we have had in recent years. We need our students, faculty, season ticket holders, alumni and supporters to quickly get fired up about basketball because our rivalry game with UNC Asheville (Nov. 9) and home-opener two days later tip-off our season." He added, "This is a schedule that will afford our team room for growth and development as we prepare for the rigors of the Southern Conference season."


1. What effect, if any, does not having any senior leadership have on the team? Can the large and talented junior class step-up and provide the leadership that  Harouna Mutombo and Keaton Cole provided for last years team?  This role will probably fall to Trey Sumler and Tawaski King.

2.  Can Hunter replace Mutombo and Cole?  Most likely Mutombo & Cole’s role on the team will be filled again by Sumler and King.  According to reports, King has made great strides in this game during the off season. The play of Sumler and King will be the key to the Catamount success this season

3. Which freshman steps up for another “freshman of the year” type season?  In the last five seasons, the Cats have produced two freshmen of the year (Mutombo & Sumler), is there another on waiting in the wings? Freshman Rhett Harrelson has the potential for an outstanding season, however the new face on the team that may make the most noise this season in the Catamount line up just may be junior transfer Josh Mendenhall.
Head Coach Larry Hunter is entering his eighth season guiding the Catamounts and is excited about the prospects of the upcoming season. Over the last five seasons, the Cats are 42-9 at home - an 82.4% winning percentage - including 32 of its last 39 SoCon games  Coach Hunter has succeeded in making Cullowhee one of the most difficult places in the SoCon to pick up a win by visiting teams. 
 "We have good basketball players in our program. Skill wise, athletically, they are very strong.” Hunter said. "We're excited to have some potential depth on our team, and hopefully it can all come together and we can play some solid basketball."  "Even though we are not exceptionally big, we have a lot of talent, experience and character on our team. It will be fun to see how it all comes together during the season," added Hunter.
By Jerry Love, Purple & Gold
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Saturday, October 27, 2012

UNCG Preview: Spartans Look to Build on Success

Each day from October 23-November 3, there will be a blogger/fan previewing their team in this space. For previous previews and the future schedule, click here.
Last season UNCG found itself as one the biggest "feel good" stories in all of college basketball. A mid-season coaching change became the catalyst to a 7 game winning streak, a division title and a trip to the conference tournament semifinals for the first time since 2008.
UNCG's 11-5 finish to the season lead to the hiring of Wes Miller as full time head coach and sent a charge of excitement throughout the fan base. Now comes the hard part ... keeping the excitement going.
The Spartans bring in a new coaching staff that includes 3 former major college players. Mike Roberts (Indiana), Duane Simpkins (Maryland) and Jackie Manuel (UNC) all bring a wealth of playing experience to the table. Also, UNCG returns a veteran good group of players from last season's team. Four of five starters will be back, including 2012 SoCon leading scorer Trevis Simpson and one of the best 6th men in the SoCon in Derrell Armstrong. Armstrong's good play coincided with UNCG making a run through the SoCon. Those are the two guys that everyone already knows about. However, it may be just as important for the Spartans can get a healthy version of senior Brian Cole. The Spartans really lack a lot of size on this roster and it would be a big boost if Cole could come back after playing very little due to injuries in his junior season. In his first two season's in Greensboro, Cole showed good range to go along with his height. He could be able to create match up issues if he's able to contribute good minutes.
The Spartans added three new freshmen and two transfers to the roster for this season. However, only one of the transfers will be eligible to play this season. Arizona State transfer Kyle Cain will have to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. Delaware graduate student transfer Kelvin McNeil (6'-8" 230 lbs) should be able to step in help right away. Injuries put McNeil behind younger players at Delaware. But with size issues in Greensboro, he should find plenty of playing time. Also, the Spartans added a late signee big man in RJ White (6'9" 280 lbs) and a Kyle Hines-esque player in Kayel Locke (6'-6" 240 lbs) to help down low. Also, all-state Ohio PG Jordan Potts joins the team. Potts spent several years dishing out assists to high school teammate Jared Sullinger. He should see plenty of playing time backing up starters Drew Parker and Korey Van Dussen.
This year, UNCG has dialed back the schedule quite a bit. Only 3 ACC members appear on the schedule. Instead the Spartans will play local and regional mid majors like NC A&T, East Carolina, UNCW, High Point and James Madison. Also in SoCon play, UNCG only faces south division powers Davidson and College of Charleston once apiece. All-in-all it's the type of schedule that could allow the Spartans to top the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2001-2002 (also the last time UNCG played in a postseason tournament).
1. Can this team handle success?
The Spartans hadn't won many games the previous 3 seasons and weren't really expected to win many last year. All of a sudden they catch fire and now there are expectations. They are picked to win the north and contend for a postseason appearance. How will this group handle last year's success and these new expectations.
2. Can this team beat mid-majors on the road?
For the non-conference portion of the schedule to be considered a success, UNCG will have to win games at UNCW, High Point, James Madison and East Carolina. The schedule is set up to work out great for the team, but they will have to go into hostile gyms and get W's.
3. Will not having a tested big man be a problem?
With front court players like Aloysius Henry and Aaron Brackett gone, UNCG will have to depend on a combination of untested rookies, transfers and reserves to fill in the gaps. Players like (the above mentioned) Cole and Taylor Hoffer are going to have to play much greater roles for the Spartans to be successful. Any kind of foul trouble could spell disaster.
While it may be a season away from being a legitimate contender for an NCAA bid, this is an important season for UNCG. A manageable schedule and some amazing play makers could allow UNCG to push teams like Davidson and Charleston. The Spartans will have to overcome their size limitations, though. Also star players like Simpson and Armstrong are going to have to show a bit better shot selection that they did at times last season. Both are blessed with the ability to get to the basket almost at will. However, at times last season they settled for long jump shots. If they can stay healthy and efficient this could be a great year in Greensboro.
By Dash at UNCG Basketball Fan Blog
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Davidson Preview- A Special Season?

Each day from October 23-November 3, there will be a blogger/fan previewing their team in this space. For previous previews and the future schedule, click here.

First, many thanks to Chattanooga Mocs fan John Roberts for hosting the Scanning the SoCon feature again. I'll be representing the Davidson angle again this season.

Davidson returns nearly 95% of the minutes played from last year. We say goodbye to AJ Atkinson, Frank Ben-Eze, and Will Reigel. Everyone else is back. The five starters last year (Brooks, Cohen, Cochran, Kuhlman, and Czerapowicz) averaged between 23 and 32 mpg, between 10.1 and 15.7 ppg, and they all shot at least 34% on 3-pointers. De'Mon Brooks earned one of the POY awards in the conference last year. He led the Wildcats in points, rebounds, and steals. He did that in just 22.8 mpg. As a junior this season, he'll probably be able to focus his enthusiasm a bit better and avoid some of the foul trouble that limited him last year. The other POY award went to Jake Cohen. He barely trailed Brooks in points and rebounds. He was the Southern Conference leader in blocked shots with 55. Jake played 24.8 mpg as a junior. Kuhlman and Cochran are senior guards. They led the Wildcats in mpg. Cochran played just under 30 mpg, had 10.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, shot almost 89% at the line, and had an assist/TO ration over 2.1. Kuhlman played 31.9 mpg, scored 10.8 ppg, had 3.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, and had an assist/TO ratio of 1.86. The fifth starter last year was Chris Czerapowicz. He played 25.1 mpg, scored 10.1 ppg, and had 4.9 rpg. He had some surgery in the off-season and is expected to be at full strength soon. Clint Mann played in 31 games last year. He played his best basketball at the end of the season and is poised for a strong senior season. Tom Droney has often started for the Wildcats. He averaged 21.2 mpg last season. He is a large guard who handles the ball and rebounds well. He worked hard to improve his shooting this summer and looked very good at Davidson's recent scrimmage. Tyler Kalinoski had a solid freshman season. He played 17.4 mpg and scored 155 points. He's a well-rounded guard, posting impressive numbers of rebounds, assists, and steals. He'll give Cochran and Kuhlman another very capable backup. The other four returners are Mason Archie, Clay Tormey, Ali Mackay, and Youssef Mejri. They combined for just 77 minutes last year, but all are capable players. Ali Mackay is particularly intriguing to Davidson fans. He's 6'11, has played a good bit of international ball for Scotland and Great Britain, and has added significant muscle in his time on campus.

Davidson brings in 3 freshmen. Connor Perkey is a forward from Atlanta and son of former Wildcat Rich Perkey '80. Jake Belford is a 6'9 forward from Washington state. Jordan Barham is a 6'4 guard from Cleveland, OH. I haven't seen Belford play. We hear that he is battling tendonitis right now. I saw the other two in summer games and at the recent intrasquad scrimmage. Both will contribute. Barham looks like a potentially outstanding player. The other new player is transfer Brian Sullivan. He'll sit this season and have 3 years left. There are two other new faces on the bench. Ryan Mee has replaced Landry Kosmalski on the coaching staff. The Wildcats also have a new trainer after miracle worker Ray Beltz left to take a new job.
Last season's schedule was the 6th best in the country by non-conference strength of schedule according to Ken Pomeroy. This year looks similar. We have road games at UWM, New Mexico, Drexel, and Richmond. OOC home games are Emory, Charlotte, UNCW, a BracketBuster, and a Charlotte game hosting Duke. The Wildcats have 3 games in an early tournament in Orlando and have drawn Vanderbilt as the opening opponent. Next would be Marist or West Virginia. Gonzaga is the top team in the other bracket. There are excellent opportunities for the team to get better by the start of conference play.
How good can this team be? The Wildcats were 25-8 last season and 19-2 against conference opponents. Beat the #4 team in the Pomeroy, lost to the #271 team. Rolled in the quarters and semis in Asheville, needed 2 OTs to seal the final. The Wildcats were #1 in the conference in scoring offense, scoring margin, FT% (and were #9 in the nation), FG%, and rebound margin. They were #3 in blocked shots and #2 in assist/turnover ratio. One guy mentions the possibility of a National Title game appearance. That is clearly some irrational exuberance. Several national publications mention the possibility of a deep run in the Big Dance. There are whispers of an at-large bid and discussions of whether or not this team is better than the 2007-08 Wildcats. Wildcat fans need to be patient and let this team develop. They are deep, experienced, and talented. We also need to remember that the '07-08 Cats didn't win a single OOC road game until a BracketBuster throttling of Winthrop and needed two near miracles to get past Gonzaga and Georgetown. A post-season bid is expected. The Wildcats played in the NIT in 2005 and 2009, the NCAA in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012, and the CBI in 2011. That's six real tournaments, and seven total, in the last 8 years. Every freshman who has entered Davidson since 1994 has seen the team go to the Big Dance at least once.
How will the Wildcats be in the post? Lindy's preseason mag says Cohen is the #8 center in the country and Brooks is the #18 power forward. They played 24.8 and 22.8 mpg respectively. Jake was #52 in the nation in fouls drawn/40 minutes. De'Mon was #89. Those are amazing numbers for guys who spend a fair amount of time on the perimeter. Jake made 87.6% of his free throws, De'Mon made 72.1% If these two guys are a little better at avoiding foul trouble and continue to shoot like that at the line, the Wildcats could be dominant in the paint. Clint Mann played his best basketball late in the season. If he continues that into his senior year, we could be special. Czerapowicz has enough size to play very effectively in the paint. Mackay, Belford, and Perkey can all contribute as well.
How about the backcourt? The returning players look bigger and stronger. Cochran and Kuhlman seem ready for big senior seasons. Droney and Czerapowicz are juniors now and have already developed as solid contributors. Kalinoski had a good freshman season and could see more court time, especially if his shot starts falling. Mason Archie didn't play much as a freshman. There are a number of experienced players ahead of him. But he's a talented guy who can step in to the game and play well. Freshman Jordan Barham looks like a special player. He'll find his way into the lineup. This much depth should mean fresher players and more options for the coaches.

 Here's what David Scott wrote in the Charlotte Observer--- “We’re very experienced, very deep – not just in playing time, but in winning and having been teammates together for a few years,” said McKillop, whose team begins practice Friday and opens the season Nov. 9 against Emory at Belk Arena. “But we’re not taking anything for granted. There are no assumptions about what we will accomplish this season.”

That sounds right. Barring injury, this could be a special season for Davidson. It'll definitely be interesting. And it all starts next week.

By David Sink,

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Eureka Bareika!

Martynas Bareika is currently a potential starter for the Mocs.


I really did not see that coming. Bareika played OK in spurts this year. Can he be a spark at the three spot? It's possible, of course.

I am really excited to see the freshman this year, and to see how Rico White, Jared Bryant and Lance Stokes have developed.

Drazen Zlovaric and Z Mason have been the players I've been most excited about seeing all along. The Z Men. Can't wait to see them on the floor at the same time.

But Bareika? Truthfully, I had kind of put him on the back burner, until this artilce from David Uchiyama.....

Is this really what is going to happen? I'm surprised. Bareika has been around and could be good. I'm hoping he has developed as much as it appears. It's mentioned here that he's tough, and there's no doubting that. He's as tough as they come. That's great.

What am I hopeing to see out of Bareika? I'm hoping he can be a solid performer. We'll see if he turns out to be the starter. I'd be a little surprised if he was the starter by January. But you never know. Could happen. Will that be a statement about the disappointing freshman or that Bareika has come around?

I'm hoping that we'll all be saying, "Eureka!" all year long.


Samford Preview: New Faces Lead Transition Year

Each day from October 23-November 3, there will be a blogger/fan previewing their team in this space. For previous previews and the future schedule, click here.
(1)    New Faces: We got ‘em, so let’s start there.

On March 13, 2012, Jimmy Tillette was dismissed as head men’s basketball coach of the Samford Bulldogs. Gone with Tillette were the assistants and staff members who led Samford basketball, for the most part, since 1997. The program had decent success under Tillette (NCAA Tournament appearances in 1999 and 2000, 2006 OVC Tournament Finals, 229 wins) for a mid-major with little winning history (Samford has played basketball since 1901, but is 223 games below .500 when not coached by John Brady or Tillette). The program’s sad recent years never reached that previous success (the tragic death of Jim Griffin two weeks before the 2009-‘10 season, three conference moves and six losing records in ten years, 19+ losses for the last three seasons). Even so, you knew what to expect with Samford basketball: good student/citizen players, Princeton offense, matchup zone defense. No longer; Samford has even run out of Merritts—Jeffrey, the third of three brothers to play at Samford, finished his eligibility with a loss to Furman in the first round of the 2012 SoCon Tournament. The Merritt brothers started 301 combined games, scored more than 3300 total points, accounted for the University’s first All-American award, and had at least one brother on the roster every season since 2002.

On April 4, 2012, Bennie Seltzer—originally from Birmingham, most recently an assistant to Tom Crean at Indiana—was hired to replace Tillette. Seltzer hired a completely new staff, most of whom have high-major and pro credentials, including assistant coaches Scott Padgett (Kentucky, NBA), Yasir Rosemond (Oregon, international pro), and Jake Headrick (Ole Miss), and DOBO Anthony Saccoccia (Indiana, Michigan St.). Since Seltzer was hired, six new players were added to the roster. Those likely to make immediate contributions are Russell Wilson (Fr. PG, 5-11/170), a lockdown defender who was the Florida 5A Player of the Year; Clide Geffrard (Fr. F, 6-5/215), the Florida 7A Player of the Year; Jaylen Beckham (Fr. G, 6-0/160), the #11 PG in the country as a HS sophomore, but had a “well-travelled” HS career; and Tim Williams (Fr. F/C, 6-8/210), a two-sport star in HS.

(2)    Returning Players: Got a few of those too.

Samford returns approximately 50% of its scoring and rebounding, and 40% of its assists, but returns a team leader in only two categories (FT% and steals). Samford lost its two best players to graduation (Merritt) and transfer (Drew Windler, the most skilled offensive player on the team, left for Belmont). Three starters, with a combined 75 starts last season, return: Raijon Kelly (So. G, 6-4/175; 2012 SoCon All-Freshman Team), Tyler Hood (So. F, 6-6/210; 2012 SoCon All-Freshman Team), and Will Cook (Jr. G, 6-4/185). Gregg Wooten (Jr. G, 6-2/195), the presumptive starting PG before preseason practice in 2011, returns from a year-long recovery for an Achilles injury. Connor Miller (So. G, 6-3/170) showed flashes of skill after returning from a preseason knee injury, and his perfect shooting day at home against Davidson was a catalyst to the best win of his freshman season (and, frankly, the best win for Samford in five years). Brandon Hayman (So. G, 6-3/190) defends well, but is limited offensively. Hood and Kelly are the two best players on the team that anyone has seen before.

In case you haven’t noticed, that’s not a towering rotation. It’s possible that length will be provided by Levi Barnes (Jr. C, 6-10/205), a career bit player behind Windler. Barnes has played in 17 total games over two years—never more than 19 minutes in any game—but he’s got some bounce, is a fluid athlete for someone that gangly, and is a natural shot blocker. At this point, however, his ability to compete and contribute is totally unproven.

(3)    Schedule: It’s hard.

Samford, KenPom’s #271 rated team in 2011-12, has the most difficult pre-conference schedule in the SoCon. The Bulldogs play in the mainland part of the Battle 4 Atlantis (all of the beatings, none of the Bahamas). They visit preseason #2 Louisville (2012 Pom # 15), #3 Kentucky (’12 Pom #1), #16 Memphis (’12 Pom #8), and #21 Wisconsin (’12 Pom #5). For the third year of a four year contract, they play UT-Arlington (’12 Pom #116), who has most of its roster back from a team that finished 15-1 in conference, won the Southland regular season title, and went to the NIT (before realigning to the WAC). Other pre-conference games include Florida Gulf Coast (’12 Pom #170), who some believe may challenge Mercer in the A-Sun; Bowling Green (’12 Pom #136); Sam Houston State (’12 Pom 293); and Samford’s former OVC brethren Austin Peay (’12 Pom #219) and UT-Martin (’12 Pom #334). Yes, they have scheduled only one D1 team worse than SU was last year.
Charleston and Citadel are Samford’s home-and-home opponents from the South Division, and they host Georgia Southern in the early SoCon game on December 1—the Eagles likely will be farther along developmentally than the Bulldogs at that point. Samford also plays at Davidson (where they have not been competitive since joining the SoCon). The Bulldogs host three North Division games when the students are out on JanTerm (Chattanooga, WCU, Appalachian St.), and their weekend road trip to the mountains is the final week of the regular season, after which they will bus back home and then turn around and bus back up to Asheville for the tournament the next week. Very unkind schedule.
(4)    Three Questions I Want Answered:
Question 1: Are we better? Samford transitions from a niche, offense-first outlook to a defense-first philosophy this year, so growing pains are expected. Having said that, you can win a lot of basketball games by defending well and creating easy buckets.
Question 2: Are we good? If Samford is “better,” the next question is whether they are objectively good. Not likely, but not impossible. And this must be the goal going forward.
Question 3: Are we competitive? The SoCon is a decent league and should be better at the top than last season, but Samford theoretically can be competitive in its division. This was an objectively bad team last year that played five freshmen heavy minutes, but was only a Karl Hess blown call away (obvious missed travel late against Greensboro) from leading the North in late February. If SU can establish an identity, improve its team defense, and create opportunities for easy buckets, then it can compete in the North. Hopefully, we can compete for a division title before such a thing no longer exists.
(5)    Final Analysis:
The pre-conference schedule will be painful. Samford will be more competitive in conference, but likely will not contend for a bye in the tournament. It’s the start of a new era in Samford basketball, and this year will be mostly transitional.

By AP from

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