Friday, October 31, 2014

Chattanooga Preview: Chaos Returns

As we head towards the tip off the new college basketball season, each day Scanning the SoCon participants will be previewing their team. Today, JohnMoc1 of MocsMania previews the Chattanooga Mocs.

Last season, the Mocs really struggled early in the season. Then, a midseason flourish pushed the Mocs all the way to the number two seed in the SoCon Tournament in Asheville. Then the Mocs lost in their first SoCon Tournament game and lost in the CIT opener. All in all, a bit of a mixed bag in Will Wade's first season.

Everyone saw the Mocs get better after SoCon play started and that excited Chattanooga fans in a way that they have not been excited in several years. All along, the word was that things would be even better when Coach Wade got his own players into the system.

Well- he'll get the chance this year to show that there was truth in that belief. Z Mason, the heart and soul of last year's team, graduated. Gee McGhee, who showed so much promise in Shulman's final season, left the program as did TJ Williams. Six new faces are on the roster.

Shaquille Preston, Chuck Ester and Duke Etheridge are the three big recruits that are brand new to the roster. Preston is a freshman, Ester a sophomore and Etheridge a junior. KJ Bates is a walk-on freshman. In the mean time, Justin Tuoyo is in the sophomore class, but was part of the team last year. He is a transfer from VCU that sat out last year. Also, Tre McLean will be a sophomore. He transferred from Queens College last year and has three years of eligibility remaining.

The most excitement centers around Tuoyo, who is a 6-10 defensive monster. He will need to continue developing his offensive game, but he is athletic and should be a tremendous asset around the rim on the defensive side of the ball. In the not particularly tall SoCon, this could be a major advantage for the Mocs.

McLean is also supposed to be very good. He has a long wingspan and is very athletic. While he did not transfer from a D1 school, there is chance that he is a starter right out of the gate for the Mocs and could be a key defensive presence.

Preston will likely be pressed into action to play guard at some point this year. He is very athletic and is expected to be a top notch defender. If Preston develops quickly, he could be a key player in the pressure defensive scheme.

Chuck Ester is a player that could be a very valuable player early in the year as well. He is 6-7 and is long and athletic. He will be a big presence on the court early in the season.

Duke Etheridge is also 6-6 and long and athletic. He was a Junior College All-American a year ago. There is a lot of buzz surrounding him, as he ripped a rim right off the basket when dunking earlier this summer. He is strong, and also quick. He is physically a lot like Mason, as he was also offered football scholarships.

The Mocs returning players center around names that people around the SoCon already know. Casey Jones made a name for himself last year, as the long athletic type that really seems to fit into Wade's system. He came on very strong late in the year and was one of the biggest reasons the Mocs made such a leap in conference play. His continued growth is critical to the Mocs chances this year.

Rico White and Greg Pryor split time at point guard last year, and they will probably do so again. Both are better when playing off the ball, but both learned a lot last year. White is a good shooter. Pryor is a athletic and good on the defensive side of the ball, and did a good job controlling the game a year ago. Both are excellent free throw shooters that you can trust them late in games.

Lance Stokes is 6-7 and played a lot of time at center a year ago. With Tuoyo possibly playing center, he could back up Tuoyo but also start at the 3 or 4 spot. He is long and a good defensive player. He will be an important part of this team.

Martynas Bareika and Eric Robertson both have the ability to come in and make threes. They are good shooters that can score, and if the Mocs need some instant offense, both can do that immediately.

That's eleven deep that the Mocs could go if they needed to. With Wade's system, they will want to play all of them some minutes. This team that went about seven or eight deep a year ago now goes this deep. That will be a huge difference.

The out of conference schedule is a good one. Wisconsin, Butler and Georgia are major conference teams on the schedule, with Georgia being in McKenzie Arena, one of the best home games in years for the Mocs. A quality SEC team coming to town? This should be good. Tennessee Tech, Lipscomb and Middle Tennessee are all on the schedule from the state of Tennessee, with Lipscomb the lone home game in the bunch. That makes the schedule feel more fun as well. Northern Kentucky returns the trip up there. Throw in the games against UAB and Kennesaw State, both teams close to Chattanooga, and the schedule is really area-friendly. Yes, their are non-D1 games against Hiwassee and Montreat, but this schedule is very solid.

Over Thanksgiving, the Mocs host three mid majors that are expected to finish in the top half of their conference. Robert Morris, Coastal Carolina and UL-Monroe come to Chattanooga for a four team tournament that should be excellent. It's too bad it's over a holiday when people may not show up. It should be a great tournament.

The schedule is not killer, but is a solid mid-major schedule. There are some games the Mocs should win, some real toss-ups and games they should lose of course.


This is Year Two of the Will Wade era- an era that I truly believe will take off to a huge level in Year Three. The Mocs are picked to finish second in the SoCon this year by the media and the coaches. I don't disagree. Don't forget- they beat Wofford twice last year. The Mocs can certainly win the conference this year. But with all the new faces learning to play together, I expect some frustrating early season losses. Hopefully, by January things will have come together, just like last year.

All in all, the Mocs contend for a title, but I am not sure this is the year to get all the way in Asheville. They may lose in the tournament, but there will be signs that the Mocs are moving in the right direction and they will make strides. A third place finish and an appearance in at least the semifinals of the conference tournament is the expectation, I'd say. A second place finish is not ridiculous by any stretch.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

VMI Preview: Back in the SoCon Fold, Where They Belong

From now until November 7, each business day, a Scanning the SoCon representative will write a
preview of their team. Today, Shelton Moss from Running the Block will take a look at VMI in their return season to the SoCon.

At long last, Keydet fans, the dawn of the 2014–15 basketball season is upon us, and for those in Lexington as well as everywhere in the college hoops world, we are looking forward to the start of the another year. Given the lackluster performance of our football and soccer counterparts at the Institute, Runnin' Roos basketball may provide some much needed solace this winter in the cozy confines of Cameron Hall.
Of course VMI is just six months removed from one of the greatest seasons in program history, a 22-win campaign which included, after a devastating Big South tournament semifinal loss, three wins in the Tournament (CIT). It was the first tournament appearance in 37 years for the school, and should find a comfortable spot in Keydet lore. The succeeding off-season seemed to be rather quick, because, well, it was: by making it to the CIT semifinals VMI became the first team in Big South to play in the month of April and provided a March that Keydet fans will never forget.

But enough about the Big South, CIT, and 2013. The future is now, and that's what we're here to talk about. Despite the loss of powerful big-man D.J. Covington and sharpshooting guard Rodney Glasgow, the Keydets return several names worthy of mentioning, the first of course being the dynamic sophomore guard QJ Peterson. As a freshman, Peterson averaged 19 points per game on 40% shooting and had three 30+ point games. If he can get to the free throw line more, Peterson can be a huge threat to any SoCon defense. Other key players will be seniors Jordan Weethee and Brian Brown, who both averaged slightly under 7 PPG last season. Additionally, junior Tim Marshall shot 35% from behind the arc, and Phillip Anglade, along with sophomore Craig Hinton, will receive more playing time.

There will also be two new faces on Post this season. Originally, three players were recruited by Coach Baucom. Unfortunately, point guard Jon Elmore, sought after by twenty-two Division I schools, including some in the Atlantic-10 and ACC, transferred out, along with his brother, Ot, just two weeks before opening tip off. This leaves the Keydets with just two Rats: forward Armani Branch, a 6-foot-7 stud from Hampton, Virginia and Fred Iruafemi rounding out the Rat class for VMI.
The schedule for this year is certainly a daunting one. Kicking off with the fourth (and presumably last) installation of the All-Military Classic hosted at West Point's Christl Arena, VMI plays two non-conference home games of interest: UNC Wilmington (Nov. 22), and Marist (Dec. 13). Both are return games from previous years. The Keydets also face four teams from power conferences: Virginia Tech of the ACC, Maryland of the Big Ten, West Virginia of the Big XII, and George Washington of the A-10. The schedule is road-heavy in the first two months, but evens out by February. Saturday conference home games include match-ups with ETSU, The Citadel, Wofford and Samford for Senior Day.

With no true post-presence under the basket, VMI will be relying heavy on smart play and accurate shooting from its guards. The loss of Covington only adds to our lack of height, so rebounding must be a team effort. With that said, predicting 2014-15 is a coin-flip. Our talent at the guard position is a threat, but a lack of size and experience may diminish our chances of a post-season run in Asheville.
Prediction: 17–12 (11–7 SoCon), 4th place

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Western Carolina Preview: Rebuild or Reload?

Each Monday through Friday for the next two weeks, one of our regular Scanning the SoCon participants will be previewing their team. Today, Jerry Love from Purple & Gold has a preview of the Western Carolina Catamounts.

Replacing the four seniors that took the Catamounts to the SoCon championship game two times in the last three seasons will be a difficult task for Western Carolina.  “It’s an interesting mix,” said Hunter, speaking about his roster of six upperclassmen (two seniors, four juniors) and five freshmen.  Hunter recently had his contract with WCU extended for three years, and will be in his ninth season as head coach with the Catamounts.

“We’re going to get there,” an optimistic Hunter said.“We graduated over 5,000 career points with those four seniors. I don’t know if there’s anyone in Division I that has to replace that kind of graduation loss." he added. But, “The cupboard is not bare is how I’d respond to that…We have some veterans who have contributed, and they are a hungry group who are anxious to step into more significant roles.”

Returning Players

Returning starter, senior James Sinclair, is a 6-foot-3 guard.  “James has been a good solid player for us the past couple of seasons, and he impacts the game in so many ways,” said Hunter. “I think he’s one of the better players in the league.”  Another returning starter expected to shoulder more of the load is senior forward Kenneth Hall. Players who came off the bench last season include juniors Mike Brown (6-3 guard), Rhett Harrelson (5-10 guard), Justin Browning (6-4 forward) and Torrion Brummit (6-7 forward). This junior group played behind a good group of seniors for the last two seasons and will now have their opportunity to move into either starting positions or more significant roles this season. 

James Sinclair (11.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.7 )  “He’s really having a nice career and had a great off season. He’s improved and he’s a great player for us at that two-guard position.”
Kenneth Hall (2.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg)

Rhett Harrelson (2.7 ppg) , 5-11 point guard
Mike Brown (5.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 apg)  6-3 wing
Justin Browning (2.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg) 6-4wing
Torrion Brummitt, 6-7 forward

Harrelson and Brown will be counted upon to help Sinclair shoulder the scoring load this season. “We’ll do it a little more by committee,” Hunter said.  “I don’t know if we have a true Trey Sumler that you can count on for 17, 18 points per ballgame. Hopefully we’ll have four, five or even six guys [scoring] between eight and 13.”  Browning will back at his natural wing position. Brummitt is believed to be the first bona fide back-to-the-basket scorer Hunter's had at Western. Hunter said Brummitt’s size will draw double teams from opposing defenses and open up some things on the offensive end.
New Faces - Freshmen

Devin Peterson, 6-1 guard
Tucker Thompson,  6-9 forward
Ashley Williams, 6-5 forward
Aaron Williams, 6-3 guard
Charlendez Brooks, 6-9 forward

Hunter expects contributions from his four true freshmen and redshirt freshman Charlendez Books, especially 6-9 Tucker Thompson, who could work his way into the starting lineup.  Devin Peterson and Ashley Williams may also have an impact early as well. Peterson, has the ability to score and distribute, and Ashley Williams has been impressive with his skill set and toughness over the summer.

Torrion Brummitt, Charlendez Brooks and Tucker Thompson give the Catamounts plenty of size to work with, size that Hunter's teams at Western have lacked.  Size, even if it is unproven at this point.  Thompson has exceeded Hunter's expectations over the summer. “I think he will be hard to keep out of our starting lineup,” Hunter said. “He’s just so good about taking instruction…His hands and feet are better than I thought they were when I recruited him.” Brooks, a 6-9, 270-pound freshman who redshirted last season, provides the Cats with another wide body. “We’ve got some size with some new people we’ve added, but we’re inexperienced more than anything,”  Hunter said.

While the Catamounts will be bigger overall from past seasons, inexperience at key positions will may make another run toward the SoCon championship game tougher this season.

Once again, the Catamounts will be road warriors to open the season, playing 9 of their first 10 games on the road. Western opens the season at Mississippi State (Nov. 14) and Alabama (Nov. 17), and will play at Vanderbilt and Minnesota in those opening ten games.  This season, the Catamounts play in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, meeting Oakland, Georgia State and Chicago State in Rochester, Michigan.  The Cats will open conference play this year in Johnson City meeting the Bucs of ETSU. 

Outlook and predictions

Did the Cats reload or are they rebuilding?  With the task of replacing four seniors that scored over 5,000 career points, the Catamounts, on the surface, seem to have an impossible task ahead of themselves. Depending on how well Hunter can blend his veterans and the inexperience of his new players will answer that question.  Hunter is hoping that at the end of his "road warrior" opening round, the Catamounts will be ready to surprise folks as SoCon play starts. Given what the Cats must replace, a 6th place projection is not unrealistic at this time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What are we to make of the Spartans?

"Everyone on this team wants to be here."
Those were the words Coach Wes Miller said towards the end of Spartan Madness last Thursday night in Greensboro.
That was music to all the UNCG fans' ears. After all, the Spartans had lost three players this past offseason. Tyrone Outlaw, Jordan Potts and Kyle Cain all left the school in the offseason. That was a combined 27.4 points per game, 13.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. That was the leading scorer and rebounder in Cain. That was the second leading three point shooter, the player who came up with the second most steals and the player with the third most assists in Potts. That was a 6-6 guard who had shown promise in Outlaw.
Hope seems to reign in Greensboro. The fan base believes this year will be significantly better. The Spartans are expected to be a mid-range SoCon contender this year.
To read the rest of the article at MidMajorMadness, click here.

Furman Preview: Croone Tries to Lead the Paladins to Surprise

Every day for the next two weeks, the Scanning the SoCon participants will get to write a preview of their teams. Today, SoConJohn writes a preview of the Furman Paladins.

Furman basketball begins its second season under head coach Niko Medved looking to improve on what was a 2013-14 season which saw the Paladins finish 9-21 overall and 3-15 in Southern Conference play.

Recently, the Paladins were selected to finish eighth in the Southern Conference, which once again beckons the Paladins to earn their respect on the hardwood once again this season.

In fact, the Paladins haven’t finished in the upper echelon of the Southern Conference since the 2010-11 season, which saw the Paladins win 22 games under the direction of Jeff Jackson, which included taking College of Charleston to the brink before losing a close 63-58 decision to the College of Charleston in the SoCon semifinals and 

The Paladins would have to replace major losses from that team a year later, including Amu Saaka, Noah States, Justin Dehm and Darryl Evans--all starters--to graduation. The Paladins still had experience with Brandon Sebirumbi, Charlie and Colin Reddick as key pillars from that team that won 20 games in a season for the first time in 20 years.

The Paladins would claim a respectable 15-16 record in 2011-12, however, the Paladins finished just fifth in the Southern Conference’s South Division.

However, the following season would see the collective wheels run off for the Paladin basketball program once again, much the same as they had in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, which saw the Paladins win a combined 13 games in two seasons. When the Paladins won just seven games (7-24) in 2012-13, it marked the third time if seven seasons Jackson had failed to eclipse the 10-win plateau.

Medved knew Furman’s challenges when he took the job in April of 2013, as he had coached under Larry Davis prior to Jackson’s arrival, and helped turn around a Colorado State program which had been mired in its own struggles much like the Paladin basketball program was. However, during the Larry Davis regime, the Paladins were far better and a more stable program than they were under Jackson, especially in terms of recruiting.

Medved was a major part of Furman consistently ranking in the top tier of the SoCon in recruiting classes in the early-mid 2000s, bringing in the likes of Eric Webb, Moussa Diagne, Malaye Ndoye and Quan Prowell. The 2003-04 Furman class was athletic, brash and one that was competitive every time out in the SoCon. The Paladins took eventual champion East Tennessee State to the wire in the 2004 Southern Conference Tournament Quarterfinals before losing, 94-84.

But just two years later, Davis would leave to become an assistant at Cincinnati, while Medved, who stayed for a month as the interim coach, and then Jackson was hired from Vanderbilt.

Medved would move on from Furman to Colorado State in 2006, serving first under Tim Miles and then under Larry Eustachy, helping the Rams to four-straight postseason tournament appearances from 2010-13, helping the Rams to the NIT in 2010 and ‘11 and the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and ‘13.

Looking Back At 2013-14:

In Medved’s first season, the Paladins would finish with a 9-21 overall mark and a 3-15 mark in Southern Conference play.

Although it was just two more wins than Jackson’s final season, there was a more positive enthusiasm about the program in the one season under Medved’s leadership than the final season under Jackson.

Though Medved’s first season as a collegite coach saw the Paladins win just nine games, finishing 9-21 and 3-13 in Southern Conference play, which was 10th out of 11 teams in the SoCon. But the Paladins were young during the 2013-14 season, with only one senior, in Charlie Reddick (6.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG), who battled injuries for much of his final two seasons as a Paladin.

More importantly, the team regained its confidence, and though it seems on the surface that 2013-14 was a disappointment with only nine overall wins and three league wins, history will likely tell a different tale, as it will be looked back upon as a pivotal season during the Medved regime, which saw Furman lay the foundation for future SoCon regular-season and tournament titles, and competing among the elite in the SoCon on a regular basis.

Not since the Butch Estes era has Furman had that type of consistency, but now with the league no longer being divided into divisions, with Furman easily in the tougher of the two league divisions, which also featured Davidson, Wofford and College of Charleston, who were two consistent competitiors for league regular-season and conference titles with each passing season.

Furman would show signs of improvement under Medved from the outset, with an early home win over Big South member Gardner-Webb, posting a 75-64 win over a team that had won 21 games, which included an appearance in the CIT a year earlier.

The Paladins showed plenty of improvement in an early-season matchup at Timmons Arena against a team that made the “Sweet Sixteen” in 2013, as the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, who returned four players from that remarkable team, came to Timmons Arena for an early-season matchup, and after leading most of the game, the Paladins would drop a heartbreaking 70-69 decision to the Atlantic Sun tournament reigning champs. A pair of Brett Comer free throws with 5.2 seconds remaining to help FGCU claim the road win.

After leading 67-63 with 2:35 remaining, Chase Fieler’s lay-up and free throw and a Jamail Jones lay-up helped the Eagles on a mini 5-0 run, and with 60 seconds to play, the Eagles had their first lead (68-67) since the 13:41 mark of the opening half of play. FGCU’s experience would serve them well in crunch time, and they were able to escape Greenville with the win.

Stephen Croone’s 30-point effort would help lead the way in the victory, and it would be the start of a sensational sophomore campaign for the Covington, GA product.

The non-conference slate would get much more challenging, however, including games at two of the nation’s top defensive teams, in Clemson (L, 71-35) and California (L, 90-60), while also facing ACC member Virginia Tech (L, 75-54) and former SoCon and new CAA member College of Charleston (L, 89-55).

The Paladins ran into one of the nation’s top freshman players, in Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year Jon Severe, on a night when Fordham (L, 79-48) experienced one of its best shooting nights of what turned out to be just a 10-win campaign for the Rams last season.

The Paladins would pick up their lone road wins of the non-conference road slate in 2013-14 in victories at UC Davis (W, 75-65) and Presbyterian (W, 74-59).

Then, just prior to Christmas, the Paladins faced the Liberty Flames on Dec. 20, 2013, and it would be a night in which Croone scorched the nets for 40 points to go with 11 boards finishing with one of the best scoring nights in Paladin basketball recent history.

It was the best individual scoring performance in a game since Feb. 5, 1972, when Roy Simpson went for 45 points against East Carolina. Croone connected on 11-of-16 shots from the field and was 13-for-21 at the charity stripe.

The Paladins posted just three wins in Southern Conference play, posting victories against  Appalachian State (68-53) and The Citadel at Timmons Arena (W, ), while the lone road league win came at McAlister Field House, as the Paladins downed The Citadel (W, 76-71).

The win over the Bulldogs would see Croone rise over 6-8 Citadel forward for a one-handed monster dunk to provide one of the more memorable highlights in the recent history of Paladin basketball. It was not the first time a Citadel player had been posterized by a Paladin dunk, as on 1996 Andre Kerr followed up a missed shot inside the final minute, taking the ball from the air and jamming back with two hands over The Citadel seven-foot Russian center Kiril Misuychenko at Memorial Auditorium to secure a 68-67 win for the Paladins.

Furman’s season would come to an end in the opening round of the Southern Conference Tournament, as the Paladins, who entered the tournament as the No. 11 seed, would bow out of the tournament with a loss to No. 7 seed Georgia Southern claimed a 65-50 win over the Paladins in the opening round of the tournament at Timmons Arena.

The Paladin Backcourt:

The 2013-14 would see point guard Stephen Croone come into his own as a player and a scorer for the Paladins, and though he had a strong season as a freshman in 2012-13, averaging 9.9 PPG and 4.0 APG, his sophomore season would be sensational, averaging 19.1 PPG, which ranked him second in the league in scoring.

With Georgia Southern’s Jelani Hewitt, who was the only player that averaged a higher scoring average than Croone, at 19.4 PPG, having moved on to the Sun Belt Conference, Croone returns as the SoCon’s leading scorer. Croone added 4.4 rebounds-per-game and 3.7 assists-per-game.

Croone would finish the 2013-14 season by scoring in double figures in 29 of 30 games for the Paladins this past season, with the only team to hold Croone to less than double figures in scoring this season being Clemson, who limited the sophomore guard to nine points in a non-conference game early on in the season. He scored 20 or points in 15 games in 2013-14.

Croone also got it done on the defensive end of the floor, too, as he was able to finish the 2013-14 season ranking second in the Southern Conference in steals, finishing the season tied with Western Carolina’s James Sinclair in steals-per-game, averaging 1.7 steals-per-contest. All that being said, the conference’s most talented player might reside in Greenville, S.C. in 2014-15.

Furman could have even been more talented and deep in the backcourt, however, Jordan Loyd, who was plagued by back and knee problems eventually decided to transfer to the University of Indianapolis in the spring after red-shirting the 2013-14 season.

Croone will be in good company in the Paladin backcourt this season, however, returning William Gates, Jr. (8.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG). Gates Jr. is famously known for his father, who starred in Hoop Dreams and would go on to become a great collegiate player at Marquette.

Gates, Jr. was impressive in an early-season win against Gardner-Webb, posting a career-high 18 points off the bench, helping the Paladins to an impressive win. It would be the first of four-straight double figure games for Gates, Jr. Gates, Jr. shot the ball extremely well from three as a freshman, leading the team and ranking first on the team, connecting on 42% (26-of-62) from three-point range last.

The Paladins’ top perimeter shooter last season was rising junior Larry Wideman (9.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG), as the Loris, S.C., product ranked third on the team in scoring, with his 47 triples leading the club.

Wideman now has 89 triples in his first two seasons with the Paladin basketball program. Wideman would enjoy his best game of the season against Sewanee in the season opener, netting a career-high 25 points, including going 5-for-9 from three, in the opener, while following that up with a 24-point effort in the win over Brevard.

His top performance against a Division I foe was a 21-point night against Presbyterian in a 74-59 road win. Those were just three of what turned out to be 11 double-figure scoring peformances for the 6-4 wing guard last season.

Rounding out the veteran returnees in the backcourt is senior Aaron O’Neill (1.4 PPG, 42.7% from 3pt range)and the native of Cincinnati, OH walked on three years ago and became an integral part of the Paladin basketball team last season, as he added depth at the point guard position. 

During his junior season of 2013-14, O’Neill registered 11 starts and saw action in 25 games, posting a career-high nine points in an 89-72 win over Brevard last season.

Several newcomers will figure into the rotation in the backcourt, with Daniel Fowler, John Davis III and Devin Sibley expected to see plenty of action in the lineup.

Fowler, a 6-4, 195-lb wing, comes to Furman from Allatoona High School in Acworth, GA, where he was a solid all-around player for head coach Markus Hood.

Fowler could be quite an impact player in the backcourt performer for the Paladins in the upcoming season, as he was a 5A All-State selection and ranked No. 13 in Georgia’s 2014 senior class by, averaging 17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 4.1 assists-per-game. He did that all while leading Allatoona to am impressive 29-2 record as a senior.

Davis III comes to Furman from Beechwood High School in Beechwood, OhIo where he was instrumental in leading the Bison to a Chagrin Valley Conference title and Associated Press No. 1 ranking in Division III during the season. He was named Chagrin Valley Conference Player of the Year and was a three-time all-league performer.

As a senior, he was named the Ohio Division III Player of the Year, and he finished his prep career as Beechwood’s all-time leading scorer, posting a career total of 1,785 points.

Sibley comes to Furman from Knoxville, Tenn, where he was a star guard at Karns High School. The 6-2, 175-lb guard could score points in bunches, averaging 25.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 3.0 APG as he led Karns High School to a 23-7 record and a playoff appearance as a senior. The Tennessee Sports Association named Sibley All-State to the All-State team, while he also garnered all-region and was named the 3-AAA Player of the Year.

Medved added a number of athletic scorers and excellent perimeter shooters to the backcourt, with Fowler figuring to be the most versatile of the bunch, while both Sibley and Davis III are excellent perimeter shooters and play with poise, and like Fowler, are also good leapers.
The Paladin Front Court:

If there has been a deficiency the last couple of seasons, its been the front court, as the Paladins have had to develop young post performers into being proficient Southern Conference big men in a league that seemingly had some of mid-major college basketball’s best in 2013-14, in Chattanooga’s Z. Mason and Davidson’s De’Mon Brooks.

Medved hopes that with two years under his belt in the league now under his belt as a starter, Kendrec Ferrara (9.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG) will now develop into a dominating big man in much the same way that Mason and Brooks were last season for their respective programs.

Ferrara enjoyed a career-high night against The Citadel, posting 27 points in one of the three road wins for Furman this past season. Ferrara finished an impressive 12-of-17 from the field in that contest, helping Furman to its first of two league wins over The Citadel in 2013-14.

Furman had two players ranked two players ranked in the Top 10 in blocked shots last season, including Ferrara, who averaged 0.9 BPG and posted 27 blocks for the season to finish ranked seventh the in the league. However, the other part of that shot-blocking duo--freshman forward Adonis Rwabigwi, who ranked tied for fifth in the league in blocks (24 blocks in 24 games played, 1.0 BPG)--has transferred.

Despite coming on and becoming a scoring threat in the latter part of the season, Rwabigwi could not stay out of foul trouble, proving costly to a team that lacked depth overall in the front court last season.

There is good news, however, as Kris Acox (3.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG)--an athletic presence on the floor along with possessing a tenacious work ethic--was beginning to come into his own in his first season with the Paladins when his season ended abruptly due to a broken foot suffered just after the start of conference play on Jan. 11, forcing the 6-6 forward from Iceland to the sidelines for the remainder of the season. For what Acox lacks in size in the post, he will make up for in sheer effort and atheticism.

The final returning regular in the front court for the Paladins heading into the 2014-15 season is 6-8 power forward Kevin Chuisseu (0.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG). Chuisseu was extremely raw last season, but is a good athlete. With the loss of Rwabigwi, however, Chuisseu and Ferrara are the only players on the Paladin roster taller than 6-6.

The Paladins have some solid newcomers in the front court, beginning with 6-8 forward Isaiah Watkins, who came to Furman from Duquesne, and he will have three years of eligibility remaining but must sit out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer requirements. Prior to signing with Duquesne in 2012, Watkins was rated as a three-star recruit coming out of high school, according to 

The best signee of the newcomers underneath and a player that could see the see some significant time underneath this season could be 6-7 freshman forward Geoff Beans, who has been busy hitting the weights in order to get his body in physical shape to be able to bang underneath with Division I college talent in 2014-15.

The 210-lb Beans comes to Furman from Toledo, OH, joining Fowler as a pair of recruits coming to Furman from the Buckeye State. Beans played his prep basketball at Ottawa Hills High School where helped guide the program to a TAAC title, district title and 22-2 record in his final season.

Beans will remind Furman fans of some of the Davidson post players of the past when it comes to his versatility, as he can be a physical presence underneath, as well as possessing the ability to step out and hit the perimeter shot, having connected on 45% (47-of-104) from beyond the arc in his junior season of 2012-13. As a senior, Beans averaged 17.6 PPG and 4.5 RPG.

The Schedule:

The Paladins will play an attractive basketball schedule in 2014-15, as the Paladins will face a pair of former Southern Conference foes, in College of Charleston (Nov. 14) and Appalachian State (Nov. 19) in the early portion of the schedule, with both the Cougars and Mountaineers coming to Timmons Arena. UC Davis, a team that the Paladins recorded one of their three road wins against last season, with a 75-65 win on Dec. 30 of last season, makes the return trip to Timmons Arena on Nov. 22, rounding out what is an early three-game homestand.

The Paladins will also play on the road at three major programs, with road trips to Duke (Nov. 26), TCU (Dec. 9) and Minnesota (Dec. 22). The Paladins will open Southern Conference play on Dec. 19, with a trip to Fort Myers, FL, to battle Florida Gulf-Coast in a key battle with a top-tier Atlantic Sun program.

Dunk City, as they’re affectionately known, of course made that historic run to the Sweet Sixteen two years ago and last year the high-flying Eagles qualified for the NIT after winning the regular-season Atlantic Sun crown before ending the season at 22-13 after a 58-53 loss to Florida State. The Paladins were able to hang with the perennial A-Sun power, leading most of the way before Joe Dooley’ s club was able to escape Greenville with a 70-69 win. The Paladins and Eagles will square off at Alico Arena on Dec. 19.

Final Prediction:

What can we expect from Niko Medved’s second season in charge of the Furman basketball program? Well, for one thing, an improvement in offense. The Paladins struggled to score last season, averaging a league low 65.2 PPG and the Paladins ranked in the middle of the pack in field goal percentage, posting a 46.1% clip last season.

With additions of Daniel Fowler, John Davis III and Devin Sibley in the backcourt will make things a little easier on Stephen Croone this season, and should also improve Furman’s perimeter threats, as the Paladins will also looked to improve on their eighth-place ranking in the league in three-pointers made (196 /5.5 PG) last season, and with both Sibley, Fowler and Davis III all being dynamic scorers for multiple areas on the floor, the Paladins should at least be more versatile and athletic as a team in 2014-15.

The biggest concern is the lack of size for a team that was already one of the smaller teams in the SoCon last season. The Paladins must find a way to get to the boards on both ends of the floor this season, coming off a campaign which saw the Paladins rank second-to-last in rebounding margin (-3.3), with The Citadel being the only team to rank lower in that category.

It’s hard to say what Furman’s improvement will equate to in terms of a win total for the upcoming campaign, however, if I were to guess at such a total, I would say the Paladins will win 13-15 games in 2014-15, and the 2015-16 season should see the Paladins competing for the conference title once again.

Monday, October 27, 2014

SoCon Previews

Western Carolina
The Citadel

UNCG Preview: Time to Make a Move

For the next two weeks, the bloggers from Scanning the SoCon will preview their team, one each day. Today, DashSpartan at previews the Spartans.

UNCG will start the 2014-2015 season with a roster in transition. For the second straight season the  Spartans were hit with the news that their best returning player was turning pro. Last year, Trevis Simpson left a year early. This year all-conference forward Kyle Cain left school to start his pro career. Guard Jordan Potts, forward Tyrone Outlaw and reigning rookie of the year Tevon Saddler all announced this spring they would be looking for new places to play. Potts (Bethune-Cookman) and Outlaw (JUCO/Lee College) found landing spots. Saddler flirted with a couple of programs (mainly Butler and Temple) but decided he wanted to come back and play for Wes Miller in Greensboro. That was big news for a roster that was looking to be a little thin at the guard position. Now with Saddler back, a manageable schedule and formidable (though mostly untested) front line the Spartans are looking to make a move in the new look SoCon.

The Spartans (14-18, 7-9 SoCon) are returning 3 of their top 4 scorers from last season. In addition to Saddler (12.5 ppg), junior forward Kayel Locke (11.6 ppg & 4.4 rpg) and senior sharpshooter Nicholas Paulos (8.5 ppg & 69 made 3's last season) will be back on the court. Paulos has shown the ability to get very hot from behind the arc. Last season he went 9-9 in a home game against Davidson. During his sophomore season he went 10-12 from three point range at Chattanooga (including making 6 straight on 6 consecutive possessions). Locke started 31 games and scored in double figures in 21 of those games. He is an above average rebounder for his size and is good at getting to the line. His shot selection can be "sketchy" at times though. Coach Miller will also be looking for continued growth from Sophomore big man RJ White. White really came to life during the last few weeks of 2013-2014 season when he averaged scoring 14.6 points in trips to Davidson, Wofford and the SoCon tournament. In a league that really doesn't have a dominant post player, the Spartans would love to see White take that next big step forward in development.

The new guys at UNCG are being led by junior transfer Ben Dickinson (F 6'9" 230 lbs/Alexandria, VA). Dickinson transferred in from Loyola Marymount after transferring there from Binghamton. He averaged 13.5 ppg & 6.1 rpg while earning all-America East Rookie honors at Binghamton. There seems to have been some internal team issues this past season at LMU that caused Dickinson to look for a new school. Based on some tweets from his old high school coach, Dickinson has received a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to play right away. Also new to the team is JUCO transfer Nik Brown (G 6'3" 200 lbs/Washington, DC). Brown started his career with Longwood (9.7 ppg & 3.6 APG with 17 starts) before moving on to Brunswick CC. He seemed destined to play at UNCW until Buzz Petereson was let go. Brown had some turnover issues at Longwood and comes to a team that already has plenty of those issues to go around. He will need to cut down on the turnovers to really have a productive season at UNCG.

CJ Coleman (G 6'3" 180 lbs/Indianapolis, IN), Lloyd Burgess (C 6'11" 270/Durham, NC), Marvin Smith (G/F 6'6" 190 lbs/Richmond, VA) and Garrett Collins (G 6'5" 185 lbs/Asheville, NC) are the new freshmen for UNCG. Coleman appears to be the one in position to see the most playing time. However, he missed most of his senior season with a foot injury and still appears to be coping with some of the effects from it. Burgess has a huge frame and wingspan. However, with the depth that the Spartans have at his position it may be another year before he sees some serious court time.  Smith is an athletic wing that calls up memories of recent UNCG wings Tyrone Outlaw and Trevis Simpson. Collins has the look of a younger version of Nicholas Paulos. It may take a season in the weight room before he appears on the court for UNCG though.

The biggest change from seasons past for UNCG is the schedule. Gone are the days of playing the entire ACC at the Greensboro Coliseum and getting their heads beat in. The schedule does offer a home contest against North Carolina and a road trip to Bloomington to play the Hoosiers. However, mixed in are games against local schools like Elon, UNCW, ECU, High Point and Presbyterian. Add in three non-D1 games plus a trip to Eastern Michigan to play in a tournament that features mid major schools (Longwood, Youngstown State and EMU) and you find a schedule that looks to give the Spartans a favorable chance at finally get back above 0.500 this season.

All-in-all this feels a lot like a 16-17 win season and a top 6 SoCon finish. This team is very thin and fragile in the backcourt. During the preseason scrimmage, CJ Coleman and Nik Brown didn't even dress out. If that happens in the regular season, UNCG will be playing a combination of freshmen, sophomores and walk-ons at guard. That is not a recipe for winning. However, the strength for UNCG will be the size that it can run out at their opponents. In a league the features very little in the way of returning stars at the forward and center positions, that could be enough to grind out quite a few wins.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

SoCon Preview

It's that time of year again.

It's time to start previewing the SoCon teams, one at time from insiders of those schools programs. Each day, starting tomorrow for the next two weeks, one SoCon school will be previewed each day.

The quest for the SoCon championship has been well underway on this blog for a while now, but it gets underway in earnest tomorrow with the team previews. This is the time of year you've been waiting for.

We have three new teams this year and also lost four teams in the SoCon. This is going to be a very interesting season in the conference. With the SoCon Digital Network, all of the changes in the conference, some new connections for this blog, there is a lot to look forward to this year.

Here is the schedule for each of the SoCon teams:

October 27- UNCG
October 28- Furman
October 29- Western Carolina
October 30- VMI
October 31- Chattanooga
November 3- ETSU
November 4- Samford
November 5- The Citadel
November 6- Mercer
November 7- Wofford

It will of course end with the Scanning the SoCon season preview. I hope you all enjoy it. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: Lipscomb

The Mocs final out of conference game of the season is against Lipscomb. It is also the Mocs first game after the holidays. It will also be their third game of the season against the Atlantic Sun, and quite possibly the best team the Mocs will have played from the conference.

Lipscomb was picked second by the media and third by the coaches in the Atlantic Sun preseason polls. After winning eight of their final ten games a year ago in conference play, the Bison have earned a lot of respect in the last nine months.

Martin Smith is the leading returning scorer in the league and a Preseason All A-Sun pick. At 6-5, he is not a huge player, but he is one of the best players in the conference. His twin, Malcolm Smith, finished third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding a year ago. These two twins certainly pack a punch for the Bison. The Bison's other All A-Sun selection is JC Hampton. He is one of the top three point shooters in the conference.

Where will Chad Lang fit into the mix this year? He is the biggest player in the league at 6-11 and 310 pounds. The Belmont transfer did not see a ton of playing time for the Bruins but will be expected to play minutes for the Bison.

This will be a very interesting team this year. The Bison have some inside presence, some shooting presence and appear to be an overall good team. This is a tricky tough out of conference game. The Bison do not have the name value that a lot of other teams on the Mocs schedule have, but they could end up being one of the better teams.

Lipscomb goes to Vanderbilt, Colorado and Texas early in the season, then Missouri just after playing the Mocs. That will challenge this team. On top of that, they will play Austin Peay and Belmont twice, not to mention Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State. This is a team that plays virtually any team that would agree to play them in the state of Tennessee. That is eight of their fifteen non-conference games against D1 teams against in-state teams. Very impressive.

The Mocs used to play the Dr Pepper Classic at this time of year and it used to be the time of year that they would start to show if they were going to get hot or not. This game against Lipscomb could indicate similar things. The Mocs will be trying to get some positive momentum rolling into SoCon play that starts just after New Year's. This will be an important contest for the Mocs.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: UAB

The Mocs will battle UAB just three days after playing Middle Tennessee. It will be another opponent from Conference USA and this one will be in McKenzie Arena and televised on the American Sports Network. This is the second biggest out of conference home game of the year for the Mocs, only behind Georgia. This is a game that the Mocs would certainly like to win before the holidays. After this game, there will just be one game left before the start of SoCon play (other than the game against The Citadel in early December).

The Blazers started off well last year, beating North Carolina. Then they fell on hard times, wound up just 7-9 in CUSA play and were generally a disappointment. But the Blazers have a high level of excitement surrounding the program after signing two of the best players in the state of Alabama in recruiting- William Lee and Lewis Sullivan. Lee is 6-9 and Sullivan is 6-7. The two forwards should be solid performers for the Blazers.

CJ Washington is a preseason All Conference USA player. He is a 6-8 senior. He was the Blazers second leading scorer a year ago with 13.0  points per game and also collected 6.9 rebounds per contest. Washington will be a key component to this year's team. Combine him with Lee and Sullivan, and the frontcourt will be a potentially dominant force for the Blazers this season.

Chad Frazier was dismissed from the team over the summer. He was expected to be the starting point guard. He has left a major void. There are three main players trying to win that spot. Nick Norton is a true freshman who started on the overseas trip and appeared to take control of the team. Denzel Watts played fifteen minutes a game last year. He was injured on the overseas trip, so the Blazers may be expected to play him. Denzel Collins has one year of eligibility remaining, but is a senior transfer and is expected to be a solid contributor. Hakeem Baxter is a big time scoring transfer from Maryland-Eastern Shore who may play some at point guard as well.

The Blazers will challenge the Mocs with their size down low, but with no experienced point guard, the Mocs may be able to present some challenges to UAB as well. They are also competing in the Battle 4 Atlantis event, but in the one where they actually go to the Bahamas. They will play Wisconsin in their opener down there.

This will be the Blazers first true road game of the year. They will play three games in the Bahamas, but their other eight games will all be at home. That could make for an interesting night in Chattanooga, especially if a big crowd turns out for the Mocs home game. The crowd will depend largely on how the Mocs are playing at that point in the season. This is going to be a tough game to win, but the Mocs can certainly make a battle of it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: Middle Tennessee

The Mocs will be playing a couple of Conference USA teams back-to-back following the Northern Kentucky game. Both will be televised by the American Sports Network. The first of those will be at Middle Tennessee, in a return trip for a game that never happened. The Mocs agreed to play a game at Middle Tennessee if the Blue Raiders would play in the Dr Pepper Classic a year ago. The Mocs were going to play Grand Canyon in the first game (a game the Mocs were expected to win and did). The Blue Raiders were playing Maine, a team even worse than Grand Canyon. They were expected to roll. They did not show up and the Bears pulled off the upset. That meant that the in-state battle between Chattanooga and Middle Tennessee in McKenzie Arena for the Dr Pepper Classic Championship never materialized and the Mocs had a return trip to Middle Tennessee all lined up. This is that return trip.

The Blue Raiders finished in a tie for the Conference USA championship a year ago with Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. Yes, that's a four way tie at 13-3. The Blue Raiders, however, lost their top four scorers from a year ago. Reggie Upshaw Jr is the lone returning starter from a year ago. He averaged 6.4 points per game as a freshman from Baylor in Chattanooga. Gavin Gibson also attended Baylor.  Jacquez Rozier may be one of the most important players on the team. At 6-7, 220 pounds, he averaged 3.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game a year ago. Jaqawn Raymond is the leading returning scorer, averaging 6.5 points per contest.

JaQuel Richmond is a freshman from Greensboro that is expected to start as a true freshman this year at point guard. His development could be a major key to this season and to this game in particular. As I've talked about in previous previews, good guard play can sometimes stop the Mocs pressure defense. Richmond will be a true freshman facing the defense.

The Blue Raiders schedule is not easy. They play Murray State, Cincinnati, either Ole Miss or Creighton, Belmont, Akron and Oklahoma State before taking on the Mocs, along with a host of other teams. This team will be battle tested by the time the Mocs play them. Of course, the Mocs will have already played Wisconsin, Butler, Tennessee Tech and Georgia. Both teams will have learned a lot about themselves by this point.

The Mocs will be seeking to come up with a win that would be noted by the faithful of Chattanooga. Beating Middle Tennessee on the road will send a signal back to the hometown, even if Middle Tennessee is not as good as they have been in recent years. The Mocs will want to send that signal with this one before hosting another strong Conference USA school, UAB, three days after this one. This game will be a very important one for the Mocs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: Northern Kentucky

The Mocs will be playing Northern Kentucky two full weeks after playing Georgia. In between, they will play Montreat (a non-D1) and travel to The Citadel to open SoCon play. It is a full five days after playing The Citadel. The Mocs were beaten down by Northern Kentucky last year without Z Mason. They will be without Z Mason in this one as well, of course. Martynas Bareika had a massive game for the Mocs.

Northern Kentucky was partially let out of purgatory this offseason, when it was announced that they will be allowed to participate in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament this offseason. They were hoping to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament as well, but that was not granted.

While the Mocs do not come in with a ton of experience this year, Northern Kentucky has loads of experience. In reality, the Norse have six starters returning. Chad Jackson elected to redshirt last year so that he would possibly be able to participate in postseason play this season. He averaged 10.1 points per game two years ago. He joins the other five returning starters for the Norse. Tyler White and Jordan Jackson both averaged in double figures a year ago.

The three tallest players on the Norse roster are 6-7. Cole Murray and Jake Giesler are two of those, and they each started a handful of games a year ago. The other player is one the Mocs are familiar with- Jared Bryant. Bryant was a part of the last two Shulman coached Mocs teams. Jalen Billups is the team's leading returning rebounder, as he averaged 5.2 per game a year ago. He is 6-6, 240 pounds. He is a lot like Z Mason, in some ways- undersized, but good at blocking shots (coming up with 32 a year ago), rebounding and heart.

Northern Kentucky was picked to finish fifth in the preseason Atlantic Sun polls by the media and the coaches. That means they were picked one spot ahead of Kennesaw State. The Mocs will have a good idea where they are after they play Kennesaw State a couple of weeks before this. This is a match-up that could present some problems for the Mocs, because the guard oriented teams can present problems with the pressure defense. Then again, the Mocs are getting a little longer each year and that will just present more and more problems for teams like this one.

The Mocs will like to prove that last year was a fluke when they lost to Northern Kentucky. It was really after that game that the Mocs began playing substantially better. At this point, we will have a pretty good idea where the Mocs stand in the out of conference portion of their schedule. The new guys should be starting to gel at this point and this should be a game that the Mocs play well in. Of course, the game that the Mocs need to play the best in is the game against The Citadel on the Thursday before this one, because that game will stick with you in March. This one should be an interesting battle. At home, the Mocs will be favored, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: Georgia

The Mocs seventh out of conference D1 opponent will be the most anticipated home game of the year. Georgia comes to McKenzie Arena to take on the Mocs. While Georgia is not one of the top names in the country in college basketball, they certainly should draw a crowd, particularly if the Mocs are off to a good start. This game is on a Tuesday night in early December- not exactly an ideal time to get a big crowd. But knowing how Coach Wade has energized the community to come out in the past, my bet is that a pretty good crowd shows up for a Tuesday in December.

Georgia finished second in the SEC a year ago, though they missed the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs struggled out of conference, going 8-8 in non-SEC regular season games. The Bulldogs return a lot of players off of last year's team and look to build on it this year. They will need to perform well out of conference this year, because there are wins for the taking in the SEC. Another 12-6 SEC season needs to be enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament this time around. Georgia will be coming off the Preseason NIT. They will have just wrapped up playing Gonzaga and either Minnesota or St. John's in New York. They will also have played Georgia Tech. That makes for a difficult start to their schedule. Will Georgia be prepared for this one after playing in Madison Square Garden? They may be a little bit emotionally down.

Georgia will be relying on the backcourt. Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines are juniors starting at the guard spots. Mann is 6-5 and scored13.9 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per contest, not to mention 2.9 assists. Gaines is 6-3 averaged 13.0 points per game and shot 37.5% from three point range. This is a talented set in the backcourt that will present problems for lots of teams. They are not small, and they score relatively easily.

Marcus Thornton is 6-8 and provided an interior defensive presence. He is athletic and very talented. He averaged 6.1 rebounds per contest a year ago. He also scored 8.3 points per game. Thornton is the most important part of the Bulldogs interior game. Yante Maten is a freshman who could have signed with Indiana or Michigan State, but chose Georgia. He could certainly step in immediately and be a major impact.

The Mocs actually can come close to matching Georgia's size but can't match the Bulldogs athleticism. Georgia has solid guards and may be able to handle the Mocs pressure defense. Still, if the Mocs have come together at that point and can start playing well together, a home date with Georgia could have McKenzie Arena rocking. Can the Mocs contend? Sure can. This will be one of the biggest games for the Mocs this year. Big night. Seems like a game the Mocs pull the upset in, but we'll all know a lot more after watching them play in the Preseason NIT.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: Kennesaw State

This will be the Mocs sixth out of conference game against a D1 opponent. The Mocs will play on Wednesday and Thursday in Chattanooga in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Then, they will go to Kennesaw State and play on Saturday, just two days after Thanksgiving. This is a very difficult set up for the Mocs as they take on the Owls. These two teams have played some very interesting games in recent years, with the last four all going to the road team.

The Owls should be much improved this year. Jimmy Lallathin is the Owls new head coach and has the team up and ready to go. Seven of their top nine players from a year ago return, including their five leading scorers. This team finished dead last in the Atlantic Sun last year, but appear to be a team on the rise this year. An early home game against the Mocs will go a long way to determining just how good this team can be.

Delbert Love may be the Owls best player, averaging 12.6 points per game a season ago. Love was named to the preseason all Atlantic Sun team. He is one of the best players in the history of the program. But the most exciting news for the Owls was the recent news that Damien Wilson will be immediately eligible. He is transferring from Memphis and petitioned to be allowed to play right away, and it was granted. Wilson may be a stud in the making for this program.

Willy Kouassi was named the preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the Atlantic Sun. He had 35 blocks last year, while averaging 4.6 points and five rebounds per game. He will be one of the Owls expected to make an impact on that end of the floor.

The Owls will have played two SoCon teams before playing the Mocs. They will have gone to Mercer to play on November 19. They will host Samford on November 26. They will have played Syracuse, California, North Dakota State, the two SoCon schools and either Alcorn State or Hampton. This is a tough schedule for the Owls. This game will be a big test to find out just how good they are at this point in the year.

The Mocs will be in a somewhat similar position. Playing their third game in four days will be very difficult for this team. If the Mocs perform well in the Battle 4 Atlantis in Chattanooga, this will be a great test to see how they handle success. If they have struggled, this will be a way to find out how they respond to adversity. The Mocs are in the middle of an interesting stretch of four games in eight days against mid-major schools that can really show us how good the Mocs are at this point in the year. This is the final game for the Mocs. We'll see what happens here. This is a very interesting contest for the Mocs. It's important for the Mocs to come up with the win.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tournament Previews with a SoCon Team Participating

All Military Classic
EMU Showcase
Great Alaska Shootout
Maui Invitational
Coaches vs. Cancer
CBE Hall of Fame Classic
Battle 4 Atlantis

Battle 4 Atlantis Preview

The Battle 4 Atlantis will be played on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and then on Thanksgiving Day. The SoCon team in the tournament is the Chattanooga Mocs. The tournament will be held in Chattanooga and will feature one of the better four team tournaments that a SoCon team is participating in. Robert Morris and Coastal Carolina both should finish up very near the top of their conferences, and UL-Monroe could easily be a top half contender in the Sun Belt. Of course, for those that know the SoCon, the Mocs are certainly expected to be near the top.

Yes, this tournament is going to be very interesting. It's too bad not too many people in Chattanooga will likely see it due to where it falls on the calendar.

Here's the schedule:

Wednesday, November 26
Robert Morris at Chattanooga- Noon
Coastal Carolina vs. UL-Monroe- 2:30 PM

Thursday, November 27
Consolation Game- Noon
Championship Game- 2:30 PM

Chattanooga will be relying heavily on Casey Jones and Rico White early in the year. The Mocs will be bringing in a bunch of new faces that are expected to make the Mocs better, but they might have a few struggles early in the year. What will Chuck Ester, Duke Ethridge, and Justin Tuoyo look like this early in the year? There's no telling from here. The Mocs will be at home and be looking to provide their season a boost early on. The Mocs pressure defense could cause a lot of problems for other teams in this field. The Mocs are deeper this year and that should help them as they run their system.

Robert Morris is also breaking in a lot of new faces, but  Lucky Taylor is their constant. The Colonials are a good mid-major and are going to be relying on Stephan Hawkins to continue his development. This team went 14-2 last year in the NEC before falling in an upset in the conference tournament. They will hoping that Marcquise Reed and Elijah Minnie step right in and make a huge impact on the team. They should be able to do that. Whether or not the Colonials can step in and win two games in Chattanooga is a very interesting question.

Coastal Carolina won the Big South a year ago, and are favored to do so again. The Chanticleers will be depending on Elijah Wilson and Warren Gillis to have a big year. Josh Cameron is a hot three point shooter. Shivaughn Wiggins is eligible and should be starting at point guard. This team has what is probably the most talented team in the Big South and a team that might be the favorite in Chattanooga in this field. This may be one of the better mid-majors in the country this year. They will be a very difficult team to beat by anyone in this field.

UL-Monroe has been trying to put it together for several years and just hasn't been able to, but this is the best Warhawks team in years. Tylor Ongwae averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game a year ago. Nick Coppola is another key player. This team is probably the underdog in Chattanooga, but they are also a team that could easily find a win or two because this is a team that is really hoping to prove themselves on this stage.

This should be a great tournament with four competitive games. Coastal Carolina should beat UL-Monroe in the opener. I think Chattanooga slips by Robert Morris in the other first round game. That will leave the Colonials and the Warhawks, and for now, I'll take Robert Morris to beat UL-Monroe. The Mocs taking on the Chanticleers on Thanksgiving in the middle of the day? That should be a great game and I'm not sure who wins. I'll take the Mocs for now, despite the fact that I don't feel great about the pick. The home court advantage that I am counting on may not be in full effect due to Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: Coastal Carolina

The Mocs would only play Coastal Carolina if both teams wound up having the same result in their first game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Chattanooga. The game would be the Mocs fifth D1 out of conference opponent and this game would take place on Thanksgiving Day at either noon or 2:30 depending on the first game result.

The Chanticleers went to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, and appear primed for another run at the Big South title. They host the Big South Tournament the next two years in Myrtle Beach. This is a very talented team who won 21 games a year ago. Warren Gillis was the Big South Tournament MVP and averaged  14.7 points per game a year ago. While John Brown (at High Point) is pretty clearly the best player in the Big South, Gillis could certainly be the second best. Elijah Wilson was on the All Freshman team and averaged 15.8 points per game a year ago. Josh Cameron is a streaky three point shooter. Shivaughn Wiggins is a transfer point guard that should step in and be a very good immediately. Marcus Freeman is a junior college transfer and at 6-8 may be the key to the entire roster as he will be the man in the middle. Badou Diagne averaged 6.5 rebounds per game a year ago.

This team may certainly be the best team in this tournament. The Chanticleers are probably the best team in the Big South. They are favored to win their conference, while Robert Morris and Chattanooga are just predicted near the top and UL-Monroe is a middle of the pack team in their conference. That probably makes Coastal Carolina the early favorite in this tournament.

Of course, the Mocs are at home, despite the fact that this will be played on Thanksgiving Day and could easily be a quiet home game. That will make it more difficult for the Mocs to win this game. The Big South is a very evenly matched conference top to bottom, but Coastal Carolina is still the favorite, especially with the tournament on their home court.

If the Mocs play Coastal Carolina, this will be a quality opponent on their schedule. I am hoping that this winds up being one of the Mocs opponents, because it will add the SOS and get the Mocs a quality win or loss, depending on the result.

Thanksgiving could be spent WORSE ways, I suppose.....

Friday, October 17, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: UL-Monroe

The Mocs will face UL-Monroe if both Chattanooga and the Warhawks have the same result in their first game in the Battle 4 Atlantis in McKenzie Arena. This would be the fifth game against D1 teams out of conference for the Mocs if they wind up matching up. This game would be played on Thanksgiving Day, at noon if they both lost on Wednesday and at 2:30 if they both won.

The Warhawks are coming off a 10-17 season, which saw them win seven Sun Belt games. Those seven conference wins matched their total from the previous three years combined. However, this appears to be the best ULM team in quite a while. They are returning four starters. The biggest returning player is Tylor Ongwae. The Sun Belt is returning just four of the fifteen All-SBC selections, and Ongwae is one of those four. He averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest.

Nick Coppola may be one of the keys to the season for ULM. He averaged 6.9 points per game and over three assists per contest. Marvin Williams is a 6-8 senior center, and he averaged over 8 points per contest a year ago. Justin Roberson is a junior college transfer. At 6-1, he can score, rebound, pass the ball, and play great defense. He has tremendous athletic ability as well.

This ULM team is going to be halfway decent. This is the sort of team the Mocs should beat at home though. If the two teams match-up, the Mocs will be expected to win. That being said, the Warhawks have lots of experience, and the Mocs don't have a ton of it. Early in the year, on a quiet midday Thanksgiving game, the Mocs may not show up ready to play. There may be a lack of energy. The Mocs are going to have show up with energy to beat this team.

The Warhawks are unlikely to win the Sun Belt, but they could finish in the upper division of the conference. This game would be an OK win for the Mocs. It will be interesting to see who wins the Coastal Carolina and ULM game on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30. ULM will be the underdog in that contest. In fact, the Warhawks are likely the underdog against any of the three teams in this field. This tournament will be a chance for them to prove that they are better than expected.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

CBE Hall of Fame Classic Preview

The sub-host of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic will be held in Rochester, Michigan, home of the Oakland Grizzlies. From Monday, November 24 through Wednesday, November 26, four teams will play a round robin against each in the blustery Michigan. Western Carolina is the SoCon representative in this tournament. While the Catamounts advanced to the SoCon Championship Game a year ago and have been a quality program in recent years, there is a lot of rebuilding going on.

Below is the schedule:

Monday, November 24
Chicago State vs. Georgia State, 4:30 PM
Western Carolina at Oakland, 7:00 PM

Tuesday, November 25
Georgia State vs. Western Carolina, 4:30 PM
Chicago State at Oakland, 7:00 PM

Wednesday, November 26
Chicago State vs. Western Carolina, 4:30 PM
Georgia State at Oakland, 7:00 PM

The Catamounts will be relying heavily on James Sinclair this year, who burst onto the scene a season ago. This is a program that needs to prove it can sustain the gains that they have made in the  last several years. With Trey Sumler, Tawaski King and Tom Tankelwicz all gone from the roster, this team is replacing a lot. This is a tough field to prove themselves against. The Catamounts will be trying to show that they have not fallen off that far in this very early part of the season.

The Oakland Grizzlies are a Horizon League team hoping to bounce back after a mediocre campaign a year ago. Transfer Max Hooper will look to guide the Griz back on track. He is a shooter and can be a big time scorer. Corey Petros will be a difficult player to handle in the post. The Freshman of the Year Kahlil Felder will be looking to improve on a year where he lead the league in assists. This Oakland team has a chance to move up and be a solid bunch in the Horizon League this year.

Oh, the wacky WAC! Chicago State is the representative from that conference. The Cougars are replacing four starters. Senior Clarke Rosenberg is the lone returning starter, and he is a good one, averaging 14.0 points per game a year ago. Still, this is not a great team. Rosenberg and an influx of junior college transfers will be expected to carry the load.

The Georgia State Panthers are on the rise. This is a team that came up a point shy of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, despite finishing five games ahead of their closest competition in the Sun Belt. RJ Hunter and Ryan Harrow may be the two best players in the whole league, and both are on the Panthers roster. The famous Kevin Ware (he's famous for breaking his leg in gruesome fashion in the Elite Eight) may come in and be the third best player in the Sun Belt. This program may well spend some quality time in the Top 25 this year.

On the whole, it is difficult to see Georgia State losing a game in this bracket. In fact, they may well win their "un-bracketed" game against Iowa State. The Panthers are significantly better than any other team in this bracket. Personally, I don't know how it works out, but I think the other three teams split with each other and all wind up 1-2 in tournament play, with Georgia State dominating and going 3-0. That does mean that Oakland will be 1-1 with a shot at splitting the title with Georgia State heading into the final game. But still, this will not be close. Georgia State probably wins all three games by double digits. The other three teams are all so close to equal. Expect some really tight games in the rest of the games, and some good experience gained for the Catamounts in end game, close game situations.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coaches vs. Cancer Preview

The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic has multiple host locations. This year, one of those sites is Fairfield, Connecticut, home of the Fairfield Stags. It is a round robin format, featuring four teams all playing the other three teams in a three day span. They will play on Friday, November 21 through Sunday, November 23. The SoCon rep in this field is Wofford, the favorite to win the conference in the preseason. The SoCon could really use a solid showing from one of their best teams in this field against a solid overall group of teams. Below is the schedule:

Friday, November 21
Wofford at Fairfield, 7:00 PM
Sam Houston State vs. South Dakota, 9:30 PM

Saturday, November 22
South Dakota vs. Wofford, 5:00 PM
Sam Houston State at Fairfield, 7:30 PM

Sunday, November 23
Wofford vs. Sam Houston State, 12:00 PM
South Dakota at Fairfield, 2:30 PM

Wofford is the team to beat in the SoCon and have won the conference three times in the last five years. They have Karl Cochran, the preseason favorite to win the SoCon Player of the Year, and Spencer Collins. The two talented guards both shoot high volumes of shots to score their points. When they are efficient, this team is very difficult to beat. They also have Lee Skinner, who is the heart and soul of the team at forward. He can sometimes disappear for long stretches, though. Eric Garcia is another very talented player the Terriers will be relying on. This team can certainly win this tournament.

Fairfield struggled mightily last year and lost their leading scorer. But they return eleven players from a year ago and they will need to count on that experience to improve. These games are at home for the Stags, so there is an expectation that they will succeed, but they are a team still trying to learn to win. Marcus Gilbert and KJ Rose will be the two most important players on the team more than likely. This team will be looking to build on seven wins last year. They have a tough road, hosting Wofford in the first game. If the Stags get the win in that one, they could certainly come up with a tournament win.

Sam Houston State is a very good team in the Southland Conference, even if they are not as good as Stephen F. Austin. This Bearkats team returns four starters from a team that won 24 games a year ago. Jabari Peters, Kaheem Ransom, Paul Baxter and Michael Holyfield are the backbone of a team expected to make a real run at the Southland title. Sean Goodwin is a junior college transfer and could be a critical piece to the puzzle. The Bearkats have a real shot to run this tournament undefeated.

South Dakota is bringing back Brandon Bos, one of the best three point shooters in the Summit League. They have a new coach however. Craig Smith comes off the bench from Nebraska and will be head guy for the Coyotes. They won just twelve games a year ago, but Smith is bringing a change and some optimism to the Coyotes. This tournament will be the first test of where that optimism comes from. We shall see what develops.

In my opinion, there are two teams clearly better than the rest in this tournament- Sam Houston State and Wofford. South Dakota and Fairfield are a step behind. I think Fairfield has the edge of being at home in this tournament and would beat South Dakota. They may pull off an upset against one of the other two teams. I think the 12:00 game on Sunday between Wofford and Sam Houston State is likely to determine which team wins the tournament. I'll say both are 2-0 heading into that game and that South Dakota and Fairfield are each 0-2. The Stags beat the Coyotes, and the Terriers will slip by the Bearkate so the Terriers go 3-0, making this a big weekend for the SoCon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Maui Invitational Preview

On the Wednesday, November 21, and Thursday, November 22, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Maui on the Mainland will take place.

First round game
Samford vs. Cal State-Northridge

It will feature one SoCon team, Samford. The Bulldogs are a brand new team this year. They are a team that will be picked near the bottom of the SoCon in the preseason. However, they will be implementing a pressure defense (the scores of the VMI, Chattanooga and Samford games should be outrageous), and could be a surprise. Tyler Hood should be the best player. Christen Cunningham appears to be a talented freshman and Darius Jones-Gibson could be good as well. This will be an interesting season. This will be a huge test for the Bulldogs in this tournament to see if they are going to overachieve this year or not.

The Matadors of Cal State-Northridge may well be a contender in the Big West. They have two senior forwards, Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks. Those two averaged 17.5 and 17.2 points and 8.8 and 6.8 boards per game. In other words, they are two of the top players in the Big West and will be two of the top players in this tournament. There will be two big guys trying to play with them- Tre Hale-Edmerson and Kevin Johnson. The Matadors are a big team and will be a challenge to face in this tournament for any team.

UALR returns JT Thomas from injury. DeVonte Thomas lead the Sun Belt in assist-to-turnover ratio last year. Josh Hagins and James White each averaged in double digits last year. Roger Woods is a junior college transfer who should be a dynamic scorer. The Trojans went 15-17 a year ago, but look like a team in line for a major move forward in the Sun Belt. This tournament is on their home floor. A good showing would go a long way to proving that they are on the move. It's time for them to prove it.

The UMKC Kangaroos are in their second year under Kareem Richardson. It's hard to believe, but Richardson has recruited everyone on the roster except for one. This team is dangerous thanks to returning Freshman of the Year Martez Harrison. Reese Holliday and Shayok Shayok were transfers a year ago but get to play this year. This team has a chance to make a major jump in the WAC, but are likely still a year away under Richardson. That being said, a couple of upsets here would work wonders for this team's confidence.

This is set up for UALR and Cal State-Northridge to meet in the championship game. I have little doubt that those are the two teams that will survive to meet up in that game. I also think UMKC will beat Samford in the third place game. I believe that Cal State-Northridge will pull off the road win in the championship game.

Samford will not come away with a win but they will likely keep the third place game very close against UMKC. Samford is a year behind UMKC right now. All those transfers will have a major impact. No Tim Williams. No Isaiah Williams. This team will have problems, but will likely be a little better by the time SoCon play rolls around.  But Samford will not have it together yet by this point, though.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Know the Mocs Opponents: Robert Morris

Let's look ahead to Robert Morris, the fourth D1 opponent on the Mocs schedule. The Mocs will play the Colonels on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, November 26, at noon. The game will be part of the Battle 4 Atlantis on the mainland in Chattanooga. It will be the Mocs first home game against a D1 opponent.

Robert Morris has been one of the more successful mid-majors in the last seven years. They are 163-81 over that span. This is going to be a tough match-up for the Mocs against a quality mid-major. This team went 14-2 in the NEC last year. The Mocs definitely need to be ready for this one and the fans should be excited for this one.

Robert Morris has Lucky Jones. He is 16th all time in scoring and sixth in rebounds. He needs just ninety rebounds to become the school's all time leading rebounder. He is one of the Colonels all time best players. He should be enjoyable to watch.

Two other starters are back, David Appolon and Stephan Bennett. Neither averaged more than five points per game a year ago. Charles Oliver is another top returning player, averaging 6.3 points per game.

The team lost a lot off of last year's team that did so well in the NEC, but to ocun the Colonels out would be a huge mistake. Jones is a very good player, and a wing player. Casey Jones might be the player that needs to step up and guard Lucky Jones. Jones on Jones should be an interesting match-up.

This will be the Colonels fifth game. They will have played Lafayette, North Carolina, Bradley and Georgetown. In other words, the Colonels will be hungry to come up with some wins. They will have played some very tough games that will not necessarily reflect how good this team is. This will be an opportunity for both the Mocs and Colonels to get a big win early in the season.

Robert Morris is expected to finish in the upper division of the NEC, though not at the top. It should be interesting to see how good this team is. This game will be a test for the Mocs and show just how good they are right now. This will be a big moment of truth for the Mocs to see just where they stand. Defending the home court is critical for the Mocs. This will be a test to that. If the Mocs don't beat Tennessee Tech, there is a chance they come in having lost three straight. That will make the Battle 4 Atlantis critical, and this is the first step in that battle.

With no Dr Pepper Classic this year, the Mocs will be looking to win an out of conference tournament on their home court around a major holiday. This is the first step. We'll really start figuring out who the Mocs are in this one.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Great Alaska Shootout Preview

The Great Alaska Shootout is the oldest early season tournament in the country, but it is not the most prestigious. Nonetheless, it is one of the great traditions of the early season and the winners bracket will be televised in its entirety on CBS Sports Network.

Mercer is the SoCon representative in this tournament. The Bears will be trying to prove their worth to their new conference mates. There are some quality teams in this tournament, but Mercer can certainly win a few games in Anchorage and help the SoCon perception in the process.

Tournament Schedule

Thursday, November 27
Game 1- Pacific at Alaska-Anchorage 1:30 AM
Game 2- Missouri State vs. Colorado State 4:00 AM

Game 3- Rice vs. Mercer 11:30 PM

Friday, November 28
Game 4- Washington State vs. UC-Santa Barbara 2:00 AM

Game 5- Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser 6:00 PM
Game 6- Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser 8:00 PM
Game 7- Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner 11:30 PM

Saturday, November 29
Game 8- Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner 2:00 AM

Game 9- Game 5 Loser vs. Game 6 Loser 6:00 PM
Game 10- Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner 8:00 PM
Game 11- Game 7 Loser vs. Game 8 Loser 11:00 PM

Sunday, November 30
Game 12- Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner 1:30 AM

Yes, that schedule looks funny. That's because the six hour time difference between Alaska and the Eastern Time Zone (which is what the times are listed in) creates different days that the games are played on than what they are played on in Alaska. I hope that the above schedule makes sense to everyone.

Alaska-Anchorage is the host and almost always keeps a game or two close in the far distant time zone. The odds of them winning a game of course depends on their match-ups, but they will be outmatched in each game. More than likely the Sea Wolves do not win a game in this bracket.

The Pacific Tigers went 18-16 a year ago, but lost their top five scorers and return just four players who saw any action at all. One of those, Thomas Peters, saw just seven minutes of action. TJ Wallace is the leading returning scorer. He is averaging 7.0 points per game. The team will be relying on junior college transfers like Alec Kobre and Eric Thompson.

Missouri State is one of the favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference. More than likely, they won't win it with Wichita State and Northern Iowa in the conference, but they well may be next in line. Last year, there were lots of injuries. That has led to a deeper roster this season. Marcus Marshall looked like one of the best players in the MVC before a knee injury a year ago ended his season early. If he can stay on the floor, he could be the best player in this tournament. Tyler McCullough is big and his improvement could determine the course of the season for the Bears.

Colorado State will rely heavily on scorers JJ Avila and Daniel Bejarano. They each averaged over 16 points per game a season ago. Stanton Kidd and Marcus Holt are each big and can make major contributions in the frontcourt. Antwan Scott could also be a big addition at point guard. This team struggled last year to be consistent, but they should be much improved this year. This Rams team has the capability to be a very good team and a contender in the Mountain West.

The team that this tournament may be the most important for is Washington State. The Cougars are beginning a new era with Ernie Kent as the head coach and he is promising a fast paced offense and excitement on the court. Winning this tournament would convince the fan base that change is truly on the horizon for this program. This is a huge early season opportunity for the Cougars. Davonte Lacy is a very good player and he averaged 19.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game a season ago. Lacy is a 6-4 guard and will be an exciting player in this tournament.

For those making the trip to the tournament, they get to see up close and personal UC-Santa Barbara's star player, Alan Williams, a favorite of Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy talks about Williams all the time. He had sixteen double doubles last year and averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest. He is 6-8, 280 pounds. I honestly hope that UCSB makes the NCAA Tournament so that the nation gets introduced to this guy, because he is fun to watch. The backcourt is very good as well. The Gauchos are one of the favorites in the Big West yet again.

Rice went 7-23 a year ago, and fired Ben Braun. They replaced him with Mike Rhoades, one of the hottest young assistant coaches in the country. He was an assistant under Shaka Smart at VCU (and if you are reading this as a Mocs fan, you know what that might mean). This team will be better this year. But early season struggles should not be too surprising. The top player on the roster is probably Max Guercy.

Mercer must replace all five starters from last year's team that made it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears did play a lot of players, so they are not as inexperienced as they might be otherwise. Ike Nwamu is the player that probably the most is expected of. The Bears have talent, and coach Bob Hoffman has done a great job. The Bears are hoping to contend a bit in the SoCon this year.


Missouri State and Colorado State might be the two best teams in the tournament. They play in the first round. OK. Pacific will beat Alaska-Anchorage. I'll take Colorado State to win the battle against Missouri State. I think Mercer is better than Rice and that UCSB beats Washington State in the final first round game.

The semifinals will feature Pacific against Colorado State, which the Rams should win with ease. UCSB will also take care of Mercer in the other semifinal. In the consolation bracket, Missouri State will hammer Alaska-Anchorage and Washington State will take care of Rice.

In the placement games, I'll take Alaska-Anchorage in the upset of Rice, and Missouri State over Washington State. I'll also take Mercer over Pacific. Finally, in the championship game, I'll take Colorado State over UCSB.

Final Placement:

1) Colorado State
3) Mercer
4) Missouri State
5) Pacific
6) Washington State
7) Alaska-Anchorage
8) Rice