It's no secret that the SoCon is changing. Teams are going. Teams are coming. Teams are returning. But for one last year, we have these eleven teams all together in one conference.
College of Charleston already is gone, but next year is when the major changes take place. Davidson leaves the SoCon (they have been a member since 1992, after being a member from 1936 to 1988) to join the Atlantic 10. Elon leaves (they have been a member since 2003) to join the Colonial. Georgia Southern joined in 1991 and is now going to the Sun Belt. Appalachian State joined in 1971 and is also going to the Sun Belt.
Joining the conference will be Mercer, ETSU (re-joining after leaving in 2005) and VMI (re-joining after leaving in 2003). Next year this will feel like a new conference, even to those teams that are returning to the SoCon.
But for this year, the whole gang (minus College of Charleston) is still together. Sadly, it has been a pretty bad start to the season for much of the conference, which has taken some of the excitement away from the start of conference season. Multiple teams are going through rebuilding projects or have simply not lived up to expectations.
So what will this conference season bring? It will bring match-ups that we are familiar with, like Western Carolina-Appalachian State, Davidson-Wofford, Davidson-Appalachian State, Chattanooga-Samford, Furman-Wofford, UNCG-Elon and many others. It will feature names that you already knwo if you have followed SoCon basketball in recent years- Karl Cochran, De'Mon Brooks, Z Mason, Trey Sumler and Lucas Troutman to name a few. It will bring us rising conference starts like Kyle Cain and Stephen Croone. It will feature new freshman like Brian White. There will be old coaches like Mike Young, Bob McKillop, and Larry Hunter, and new coaches like Will Wade, Niko Medved and Marky Byington.
It will all end in Asheville on a March Monday night with the SoCon Championship Game. Regardless of what anyone says, the SoCon has been a part of all these schools history- most of them an intricate part. Elon has even been a member for eleven years now. That's no small chunk of their history. Will the Phoenix finally be able to claim their first conference championship? Will Davidson make it three in a row before leaving? Will Georgia Southern finally win their first SoCon Tournament? Will Appaalachian State win their first one since 2000? Or will some team sticking around the conference keep the trophy in place for defending next year?
It's one final run for these schools against each other. It should be a very fun year.
Team to Watch This Week: Western Carolina
The Catamounts host Elon and UNCG this week. The Catamounts are already considered one of the conference favorites, and those two are conference favorites as well. If the Catamounts can win both games at home, they will serve notice that they may in fact be the SoCon favorites this year. It will be a very difficult task for them to pull off, though, against two teams playing pretty well.
Something You May Not Know....But Should
There are four teams that have been playing better than anyone else in recent weeks, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Scanning the SoCon voters, who have these teams as the clear top four: Davidson, Elon, Western Carolina, and UNCG. One team does not play any of those teams until January 23- the Chattanooga Mocs. The Mocs have six conference games with none against the "big four" before they play Elon and UNCG at home on the last Thursday and Saturday of January. Those five games are at Furman, at The Citadel, at home against Samford and Wofford, and then at Appalachian State and Wofford before they play one of the big four. However, if Pomeroy's opinion on Wofford is to be believed (he has them as the third best team in the SoCon right now), this schedule is not easy, but he overestimated the Terriers last year pre-SoCon play, and I think he may be doing it again. The Mocs schedule toughens up later, but early on, they may go on a bit of a run early in conference play, which could help them grow in confidence- the one thing this team has been sorely lacking for much of this year. Then again, with four road games in their first six, they may wind up struggling.