Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sorting Out the North

SoCon North fans all get it. The North has been weaker than the South in recent years and everyone knows it. The North appears to be on par with the South this year, and the race in the North is as interesting as it has been in years.

This Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday will go a long to starting to sort things out.

UNCG and Elon were the preseason top two in the divison. They were the favorites. Currently, Elon is 2-2, and UNCG is 1-3. The Spartans find themselves in last place in the North, somewhere that Elon would be as well, if they had not come back from a halftime deficit at Western Carolina on Monday night.

Those two teams play South Division opponents in the two upcoming games. Both play at home against Wofford and Furman. Both will be favored over the Paladins. Hard to predict where either team is expected to be against Wofford. The Terriers just lost at Furman, but the Terriers are supposedly one of the top teams in the South. We'll see. Those games are really important games for all the teams involved in the race for the bye spots.

The other North teams are playing this week against each other. Western Carolina and Appalachian State head to Samford and Chattanooga. With Samford and Appalachian State tied at 3-1 and Western Carolina sitting at 4-1, this is shaping up as a massive weekend for those three teams. With the Mocs sitting at 2-2, they can get right into the thick of the North race with a couple of wins.

There are three huge personnel issues lingering in the North race. Trevis Simpson of UNCG is battling back from a sprained ankle. Simpson is one of the best players in the SoCon. He has to be great for the Spartans to be good. Tom Tankelewicz of Western Carolina has been declared academically ineligible. His three point shooting had been one of the keys to the Catamounts success this year. The Catamounts are hoping the NCAA will re-instate him, but who knows if or when that will happen. Chattanooga is welcoming back senior Dontay Hampton to a club that was desperately lacking senior leadership. While Hampton is not as good of a player as Simpson, he can be an important player for the Mocs attitude down the stretch.

This is a very interesting race in the SoCon North. With the change in the way the byes are done in the SoCon Tournament (not going to the top two in each division, but to the two division champs and then the two with the next best records), winning the division takes on extra importance. Remember- it was the 1930s the last time a team won four games to win the SoCon Tournament. Getting a first round bye is absolutely crucial in the SoCon.

This weekend will start to sort things out, particularly for the four North teams playing each other. It will be incredibly entertaining to watch it all unfold.

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