When does parity become bad basketball?
The SoCon is dangerously pushing that limit this year. The teams in the SoCon are not good. But, on a happy note, that means that there should be a lot of very competitive games in the SoCon this year.
According to Pomeroy's Monday rankings, the SoCon features five teams ranked between 295 and 312. That's nearly half the conference crammed in those seventeen spots. That speaks to the parity in this league. It also speaks to how bad the conference is, because any team ranked 295 or lower is generally not considered a good team. Sadly, there are two teams ranked lower than the 312 mentioned. That's a full seven teams ranked in the bottom 56 of D1 college basketball, with only eleven teams in the conference. That leaves four teams ranked higher than that.
The problem of course is that there is no real hope for the SoCon moving out of this cycle at least this year. They are going to be doing nothing but playing each other from here on out, which means there is going to be a lot of bad basketball teams playing each other to close games. That will be exciting for the fans and enjoyable to watch.
That being said, it won't prove that the SoCon teams are good. It will simply prove that someone has to win.
The SoCon teams were showing improvement right before the start of conference play and it's unfortunate that there are not many opportunities left to tell if these teams are truly improved or if it will only be in our heads in the coming weeks. Still, let's not be deceived by whatever team Samford or Appalachian State's it this year- gets hot in February and powers their way to a bye in the tournament. Those can work out- but usually don't. (Unless of course it is the team you cheer for- then by all means, be deceived and prove me wrong.)
The conference race is going to be one of the most compelling in years. Davidson looks at least somewhat beatable. Western Carolina is good and so is Elon, but both have had ugly outings too. UNCG, Chattanooga, Wofford and Georgia Southern all have been very inconsistent. Furman and Samford have not looked particulalry good, but have some good pieces. Appalachian State with Jay Canty and The Citadel with PJ Horgan back are much better teams. There is no reason to think that this year's conference race and tournament won't be the most exciting in years.
These first few weeks should be very interesting to see how these teams develop and how the race starts shaping up. All any team has to do is start winning.
So is it parity or bad basketball? I'll go with both.
Team To Watch This Week: Appalachian State
It's a strange occurence for a team that has no D1 wins to get this much attention paid to them. But this week feature a trip to Davidson and a home game against UNCG. That's two good SoCon teams. Can Jay Canty make a difference and start to turn this team around? Can Jason Capel save his job with a couple of wins? He may be fired by the end of the week with no wins. The Mountaineers are an intriguing team as they get healthy. This week is an interesting week for them.
Something You May Not Know....But Should
As of Sunday, Bob McKillop from Davidson has gone 264-87 in SoCon play over the years. Mike Young at Wofford is 98-96. Larry Hunter at Western Carolina is 73-73. Mark Byington at Georgia Southern is 7-5. Will Wade at Chattanooga is 1-0. Jason Capel is 27-27 at Appalachian State. Those are the six SoCon coaches who have a .500 or better record in conference games at this point. Two of them are brand new hires. One of them is on the verge of being fired (Capel). One of them has the fanbase a little restless (Hunter). Things are truly odd in the SoCon coaching ranks. That is neither here nor there, but that Capel and Hunter who are in some trouble (or more) at their school and some of the few coaches with a .500 or better SoCon record is truly strange. Trust me- I am no defender of Capel, but I just find it interesting.