Sum up your team.
Davidson- At the time of my last report, the Wildcats were 0-3. Since then, we saw a nice 12-point win over Georgia. The following day, the Wildcats were blown out by Clemson. The 31-point loss was painful, but it pales in comparison to the loss of De'Mon Brooks. He went out with a groin injury and has not yet returned to action. The Wildcats were already without 6'9 Jake Belford. The next game was our third game in the Charleston tournament. The opponent was New Mexico. The Lobos won by 21. Then the Wildcats won on the road by 6 against Stetson. The 2-5 Wildcats then traveled to play the 6-1 Charlotte 49'ers. The 49'ers only loss was at CofC. They won a holiday tournament, highlighted by a win over the #14 Michigan Wolverines. The Wildcats had never won in Halton Arena. So, of course, the Wildcats took an early lead, held the lead for the majority of the game, and won it by 9 in overtime. Yesterday, the Wildcats picked up an easy win over a non-D1 opponent. They are now 4-5. This week's games are at Niagara and home for Drexel. Still without Brooks and Belford, the freshman post players are getting plenty of opportunities and the guards are carrying the scoring load. Tyler Kalinoski summed up the recent stretch of games thusly in today's Charlotte paper--"I think our team has handled the last few weeks really well. It shows how together we are. To come together like we have after losing Belford and De'Mon, I think it will really help us down the road."
UNCG- Since the last time I wrote for "Scanning the SoCon", UNCG has gone 3-4. The Spartans whipped up on two non-D1's (Greensboro College, Chowan) before heading down to Naples, Florida to play in the Gulf Coast Showcase. At that tournament, the Spartans ran into a buzzsaw called Louisiana Tech before dropping their second game to a very good San Diego team. UNCG won the 7th place game against Stetson. This past week though, has been a disaster for UNCG. They were thoroughly beaten at home by a bad Presbyterian team and dropped a game to Carolina that was never close. The theme to all of these games have been UNCG's inability to get off to anything that resembled a good start. Also the Spartans have just repeatedly turned the ball over. Kyle Cain has been very good all season, but the youth at the guard positions has really been the tough spot. In order for UNCG to get better, they are going to need the team to step up and value the ball more. Also the defense hasn't been very good at all. That will definitely need to get shored up moving forward.
Western Carolina- The Catamounts are currently on a 3-game Division I nose dive at this time. The senior leadership Catamount fans were hoping for this season, hasn't materialized. Inconsistent defensive play, personal fouls, and a lack of offensive consistency in last season's leading scorers have resulted in 6 losses to date, five of which are classified as bad losses.
Long term, what are your thoughts on the SoCon’s future?
Davidson- Hmm. I just checked Pomeroy's numbers. Mercer, ETSU, and VMI have an average of 209.33 while ASU, GSU, Elon, and Davidson have an average of 207. So this season, which is easily the worst for the Southern in my memory, the conference would be no better by swapping the arrivers for the leavers. Probably wouldn't be any worse. The problem isn't with the leavers or the arrivers. It is with the stayers. Those other seven teams have an average Pomeroy of 293. Long term, the Southern will have some nice teams. Chattanooga could return to dominance with their new coach. Mercer has had some excellent recent success. ETSU has a proud tradition. But the current commissioner has driven the bus off the road. I haven't sensed any outrage from the conference offices over the state of the conference. We heard talk about improving scheduling, but the talk hasn't translated into action. I'll always follow the Southern and I hope it improves, but I think there has to be a change to better leadership.
UNCG- I really like what the new teams will bring to the SoCon. Obviously, losing Davidson really hurts from a basketball standpoint. Losing Elon and App State hurts UNCG from a rivalry standpoint. However, I like the idea of the Southern Conference getting back into Virginia with VMI and I think Mercer will bring a strong across the board athletics program to the conference. ETSU should have always been in the SoCon. So to me they seemed like a "no brainer" as far as adding them back to conference. When looking at the SoCon's future (as regards to basketball) with the new teams, I think things will be about the same. It should be slightly more competitive with no Davidson in the conference. However, this year looks to be very competitive even with Davidson in the league.
Western Carolina- I think the future is pretty bright for the SoCon long term. With the addition of the three new schools and the improvement of most of the remaining schools, the SoCon should be easily mid pack of the conferences in the next couple of seasons. Many of the schools have put renewed emphasis on basketball, and substantial improvement should be forth coming. Of the remaining schools, I think only the Citadel and Western Carolina are not moving in the right direction.
What conference would you like to see the SoCon have a conference challenge against?
Davidson- Not the Big South. We already play enough games with them. Let's tangle with the ASun or the MEAC.
UNCG- Based on how the SoCon has played against OOC competition, I think a SoCon-CIAA challenge would be a good one. In all seriousness, I think it would be fun to see an OVC-SoCon challenge. The SoCon already plays a bunch of Big South & Atlantic Sun teams. So, I think it would be nice to see the Southern Conference play OVC teams. But that just a personal preference. I think the SoCon playing any mid or low major conference in one of these challenges would be a good thing.
Western Carolina- I think the logical geographic choice would be the Big South. Better overall RPI than the SoCon, teams all SoCon fans know, and could travel to most away games.