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.