It's time to scan the future SoCon. Yes, it's true. I don't have writers for every future SoCon school- Mercer, ETSU, and VMI. We do have a VMI fan covering the Keydets. But I'll look from time to time at each of the three future SoCon teams, and call it Scanning the Future SoCon. We'll look at how each team has performed and what's on the horizon for each team, including how they look like they will be matching up with the SoCon next year.
Let's get started. RPI is based on 10:30 on Wednesday, December 4 from www.rpiforecast.com.
KenPom Ranking: 246
The Bucs beat Austin Peay on Wednesday night, which could be one of the reasons that their KenPom ranking is so different from their RPI. KenPom isn't updated at this time. They are lead by Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, a senior. He is averaging 15.0 points per game to lead the team, along with 2.5 assists per game which is good for second on the team and 5.5 rebounds per game which is third on the team. Rashawn Rembert is the only other Bucs player in double figures. AJ Merriweather is the leading rebounder.
The Bucs travel to Georgia Tech this Saturday in a game that will be difficult, but not impossible to win. Then comes a game against Tusculum before getting to play Austin Peay again.
The Bucs look like a middle of the road Atlantic Sun team right now. They are projected by KenPom to go 9-9 in conference play at this point- the very defintion of middle of the road. They are an OK team. They hung around with both Charlotte and Morehead State before losing. They beat Samford up by 14 points.
How do the Bucs look for next year? AJ Merriweather is just a freshman, but Gadsden-Gilliard and Hunter Harris (another starter) are both seniors. The Bucs will probably be about the same kind of team next year. Based on how poor the SoCon has been this year, that could mean a slightly higher finish in SoCon play than in the Atlantic Sun this year.
KenPom Ranking: 104
The Bears are 5-4, including two non-D1 wins. They beat Yale, Seton Hall and Valparaiso, three very good teams. They've lost four pretty close games to Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Evansville. Langston Hall is the team's leading scorer, while Daniel Coursey is their inside presence. He is the second leading scorer and the leading rebounder. They are ranked 82nd in offensive efficiency according to KenPom.
The Bears have Denver and Alcorn State as their next two games. They will be favored in both. There's a trip to Ole Miss after that just before Christmas that will tell us a lot about how good this Bears team really is.
Mercer is the clear favorite in the Atlantic Sun at this point. They are favored by Pomeroy in every conference game but one at this point. Pomeroy projects them to go 14-4. This is a very good Bears team. They probably aren't good enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but they are good enough to make some noise once they get there- if they can get there.
With four seniors starting, the Bears are at their high point this year. They'll be starting over a bit next year. How will they perform in the SoCon next year? That's unclear at this point. With seven seniors on their twelve man roster, the Bears will be a totally new team in a totally new conference. I expect them to be OK. But they will probably struggle a bit in their first year in the SoCon.
KenPom Ranking: 292
It's hard to know what to make of the Keydets. They won the Military Classic to open the year by beating The Citadel and Air Force. It was a great time to be a Keydet. Since then, they have not beaten a D1 team. Then again the losses were to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, along with William & Mary and Elon. They are a very fast paced offense, but have not been shooting well this year. Scoring 67 against William & Mary and 70 against Elon is almost unacceptable for this offense. QJ Peterson is averaging over 21 points per game. DJ Covington and Rodney Glasgow are the other two double digit scorers, both scoring over 15 points per game.
Wright State and Virginia Lynchburg are the Keydets next two games, both at home. They could win both games, though Wright State will be a very difficult showdown. The Keydets need to start scoring better, because they can't win games without scoring.
Pomeroy is projecting a 7-9 Big South record. That's not the best. They are projected to finish fourth in the North division of the conference. Personally, I think they'll start shooting better and eventually get into a much better position in the Big South.
Glasgow and Covington are both seniors and that's a problem for VMI as they come back to the SoCon. Peterson, though, is a freshman. He should be able to continue his dominance next year in the SoCon. I think they will probably wind up a middle of the road SoCon team a year from now as teams try to adjust to their frenetic style. (Think the Mocs like to play fast? Not nearly as fast as VMI.)