Monday, November 4, 2013

Scanning the SoCon: Week One

Welcome to Scanning the SoCon. Each week. We've scoured the internet hunting down fans from around the SoCon. There are people from school newspapers, message boards and bloggers. We've come together once again to try to provide a weekly comprehensive look around the SoCon. This is our third year of Scanning the SoCon. Hopefully, it will be the best year yet.


The Citadel at VMI (All Military Classic) (ESPNU)
Covenant at Chattanooga
Appalachian State at North Carolina State (Global Sports Shootout) (ESPN3)
Davidson at Duke (ESPNU)
Wofford at Georgia
High Point at UNCG
Wittenberg at Western Carolina
Sewanee at Furman
Washington & Lee at Elon
Columbia International at Georgia Southern
Martin Methodist at Samford
Army/Air Force vs. The Citadel (All Military Classic) (ESPN3)
Elon at Marist

Davidson at Duke- 6
The Citadel at VMI
Wofford at Georgia

1)      Who is your preseason SoCon Player of the Year?

Appalachian State- I’ll go a different route and say Trey Sumler of WCU. His leadership can lead the Cats to a top three finish and can be the guy to a run in the SoCon Tournament.

Chattanooga- De’Mon Brooks, Davidson. Brooks is the best player in the conference. While I think there are contenders to Brooks’ throne, I don’t see how you can pick anyone but him to start the season.

Davidson- De’Mon Brooks, Davidson. I think he’s the best player on the best team. He’s won the conference tournament MVP twice and has been the POY already. He comes into the season with 1263 points and 574 rebounds.

Elon- Lucas Troutman, Elon.

Georgia Southern- De’Mon Brooks, Davidson. Brooks gets the award based on the theory that the award is his until somebody takes it from him. With Jake Cohen gone, this is the year where Brooks could put up big numbers and run away with the award. But with that being said, due to the high number of very good players in the SoCon this year, Brooks will have to earn this award, if he does in fact win it at the end of the year. In my opinion, Tim Williams starts the season right on Brooks’ heels.

Samford- Trey Sumler, Western Carolina. He’s a scoring machine and scoring machines win player of the year.

The Citadel- De’Mon Brooks, Davidson. He should have a chance to improve his numbers from last season with Cohen gone.

UNCG- De’Mon Brooks, Davidson. For Davidson to be successful, they will need Brooks to be at the top of his game most night. I think that will happen.

Western Carolina- Trey Sumler, Western Carolina. A redshirt senior guard, Sumler played nearly 38 minutes per game last season, averaging 18.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Trey scored in double figures 29 times, 14 times with 20 or more points to lead the SoCon. He ended the season on an eleven game double figure streak and was top ten in five SoCon stat categories.

2)  What team do you think will be the biggest disappointment?

Appalachian State- Elon. They are picked to win the conference by the coaches and media over Davidson. I don’t think they can win it as Beaumont, Isenbarger and Troutman are all kind of the same player and don’t have a record of consistency.

Chattanooga- At this point, I’m leaning towards Elon, even though I picked them to finish second. I think there is a chance that they will not finish anywhere near that high. Elon is senior-laden, but I would argue that talent-wise, they are not way ahead of the rest of the SoCon. They have never dealt with expectations like this. It is a lot to put on a program to say, “NCAA Tournament or Bust,” and that is exactly the pressure that the Elon fans have been applying to this team. Can they survive and win the SoCon? I just think the pressure gets to them and they don’t live up to expectations.

Davidson- I’m going with Elon as the biggest disappointment. Seven of the coaches picked them to win the conference. I think they’ll be second or third. Not bad at all, but for a team picked to win and returning all five starters, anything short of a title is going to sting.

Elon- Appalachian State.

Georgia Southern- Due to the fact they return less than any of the other ranked preseason teams, I’m going to have to go with Davidson. Simply put, they have the most question marks. Fair or not, with their level of expectations, Davidson could have what most teams would consider a good year but still be considered a disappointment to them.

Samford- Elon-Since everyone is picking them to be on top, anything less than a conference championship has to be a disappointment.

The Citadel- Elon. In my opinion, no team in the league employed the bump-and-grind style of defense to greater effect more than Elon. If officials actually start calling fouls (not a given, of course, particularly with SoCon officials involved), Elon will have to adjust, and I’m not sure it can do so and remain a title contender. I suspect Will Wade’s attempt to institute “Chaos” at UTC may prove to be problematic (at least this year) for the same reason, but UTC doesn’t have major expectations in 2013-14. I’m also less than convinced that Appalachian State is a team that can finish in the 4th-5th range of the league, but that’s mainly because I am less than convincd when it comes to Jason Capel.

UNCG- App State. I’ve always thought their coaching was suspect and I still do. Of all the teams predicted to finish in the top four, the Mountaineers seem like the least solid pick. Davidson, Elon and Western Carolina all return more talent and senior leadership. So I’m picking ASU, not so much because I think they will fail, but because I don’t think the other three will disappoint.

Western Carolina- Elon. The Phoenix is the team with the most expectations, the team that has he bullseye on the their back, the team with the most to lose based on preseason rankings. Anything less than a regular season championship, a tournament championship and the SoCon’s bid to the dance in March will be considered a failure in the minds of Elon fans, as well as the basketball team. That’s a lot of pressure for a team to carry this seasons that’s never been in this situation before. Early season out of conference losses could deflate this teams ego to the point they finish middle of the pack.
3)      What team do you think will be the biggest surprise?

Appalachian State- Chattanooga should be that team. Chaos could reign in the SoCon as there’s a lack of quality point guards which will lead to lots of turnovers and quick points.

Chattanooga- I’m beginning to really think UNCG has a chance to do some things this year, but the team that has the best chance to outplay their preseason rank is Samford. In fact, the more I sit around and look at the conference preseason, the more I think Samford and Davidson may be the two teams most likely to win the SoCon. Williams and Kelly are two of the top players in the SoCon. They are going to be a very tough out.

Davidson- I’ll go with Wofford as the biggest surprise. I’m picking them fifth, just one spot higher than the coaches did. They have excellent coaching and some fine players. I like their chances to grab a bye for the tournament.

Elon- Wofford.
Georgia Southern- I think Georgia Southern has the chance to surprise some people this year. New head coach Mark Byington is big on guard play and that is where GSU is most talented and has one of the best players nobody is talking about in Jelani Hewitt. I don’t think GSU can finish any better than 5th in the conference but I could see them finishing better than the 9th-11th that most are predicting.

Samford- UTC. Chattanooga return its top 3 scorers. Shulman didn't leave the cupboard bare and it appears to have made a competent hire. Picked in the bottom half of the league--the chances of exceeding expectations are there. Credit for this opinion also goes to SUDog03 and AP.

The Citadel- Samford. Michael Bradley may turn out to be a non-factor, but if he isn’t, and he works well with Tim Williams, look out. Samford could win the league (provided it finds another outside shooter to replace Geffrard).

UNCG- I think Samford has the right combination of coaching and talent to really challenge the top of the league this year. With Kelly and Williams, they are a tough match-up for most teams.

Western Carolina- Samford. The Bulldogs are a program on the rise. Second year head coach Bennie Seltzer has four very talented players returning including Tim Williams, last season’s freshman of the year. The Bulldogs also brought in an impressive recruiting class, adding transfer Michael Bradley that adds size upfront, along with two outstanding freshmen in Jordan Capps and Isiah Williams.

4)  Give a storyline for the SoCon you are interested in following this year.

Appalachian State- The last dance of Davidson, Elon, App State and Georgia Southern. This season will meet in Asheville. Next year they will travel to New Orleans, Baltimore and Brooklyn for their conference tournaments. Davidson and Elon are expected to be up there with App State as a dark horse

Chattanooga- I think the new coaches are very interesting. What life do they bring to their programs at Furman, Georgia Southern and Chattanooga? It will be very interesting to see how all three teams perform and develop this year as the season progresses. Because I have never been one to keep things short and sweet, I will add another storyline. Everyone is interested in the leaving and coming programs, and I am too, but I am curious about if there will be a team left to defend their SoCon title next year. Will someone other than Davidson, Elon, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State win the SoCon? On another interesting note, can Mercer or ETSU win the Atlantic Sun and can VMI win the Big South? If VMI wins the Big South, Mercer or ETSU win the Atlantic Sun and some staying team wins the SoCon, the SoCon would have three champions in their conference next year. That’s what I’ll be hoping for.

Davidson- The big storyline all year long will be the addition of ETSU, Mercer and VMI and the departure of ASU, Davidson, Elon and GSU.

Elon- The four departing teams from the Southern Conference after this season: Davidson (leaving for the Atlantic 10 Conference), Elon (leaving for the Colonial Athletic Association), Appalachian State (leaving for the Sun Belt Conference) and Georgia Southern (also leaving for the Sun Belt Conference).

Georgia Southern- I think the biggest story of the SoCon as the season starts is how fans of most teams have a reason to be excited coming into the season. The past couple of years, it’s been Davidson’s league and everybody else was just a sideshow. That should change this year, as I think Elon, Davidson, Western Carolina and Samford all have a legitimate chance at winning the conference this year and several other teams are good enough to play a spoiler role to one of those four teams. Then you have UTC, Furman and GSU, who all have a new head coach this year which always intrigues and rejuvenates a fan base. The SoCon should be exciting from start to finish this year.

Samford- The storyline: I believe the storyline will be transition. With the departure of Davidson, primarily, who steps up to fill the void? Will Chattanooga return to prominence? Will Western Carolina or Samford make a move? Will Mercer and/or ETSU have an immediate impact when they arrive? If Elon and Davidson fill preseason predictions, these questions loom louder. If they do not, then perhaps the perception becomes that the torch has already started to pass and the question becomes what impact will ETSU and Mercer have on things.

The Citadel- The biggest storyline is the league office’s continued failure to provide needed exposure (in other words, a regular TV presence) for its schools. Going forward, John Iamarino better have an answer for that or the SoCon will drift further down the D1 conference rankings.

UNCG- Can Davidson overcome their graduation losses? The Wildcats always seem to plug holds and move on. The question is if they can plug three major holes left by three major contributors (Cohen, Cochran, Kuhlman) and still dominate the league. On paper, it looks like they’ve come back to the rest of the field, but they’ve still got that McKillop guy on their sidelines. Either way, it should be interesting to see how well they play.

Western Carolina- I think the biggest early storyline in not only the SoCon, but college basketball as a whole will be the Rule 10, Article 4- a rule officials have been mandated to enforce this season. Under the rule, a player will not be able to keep a hand on, continually touching (jabbing or extending an arm or forearm), put two hands on, or use an armbar to impede the ball handler. There will be no judgment on these plays, but it will be called automatically. The purpose of this rule is to help create more offense, therefore higher scores. The possible unintended consequence could be that many starters will be on the bench starting the second half of the game, after numerous quick fouls in the first quarter, resulting in even lower scoring. I think a team like Western Carolina will have difficulty adjusting to enforcement of this rule.


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