Every week, a fan of the SoCon teams will get together, vote on awards and answer questions pertaining to issues around the conference. This week, we have our preseason awards edition. This is the fourth year of Scanning the SoCon, and I hope that we are able to give a warm welcome to all the newcomers.
All times Eastern
Friday, November 14
VMI vs. The Citadel (All Military Classic in West Point, NY) 5:30Hiwassee at Chattanooga 5:30 (SoCon Digital Network)
Western Carolina at Mississippi State 6:30
Chowan at UNCG (EMU Showcase) 7:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
Samford at Purdue 7:00
Piedmont at Mercer 7:00 (ESPN3)
College of Charleston at Furman 8:00 (SoCon Digital Network)
ETSU at Valparaiso 8:30
Wofford at Stanford 10:00 (Pac 12 Network)
Saturday, November 15
VMI vs. Air Force/Army (All Military Classic in West Point, NY) TBA
The Citadel vs. Air Force/Army (All Military Classic in West Point, NY) TBA
Sunday, November 16
Mercer at Seton Hall 12:00 (SportSouth)
Chattanooga at Wisconsin 1:00 (ESPNews)
Samford at Pittsburgh 2:00 (Fox Sports South)
1) Wofford- 90 (9 first place votes)
2) Chattanooga- 76
3) ETSU 74
4) Mercer 58
6) Western Carolina 40
7t) Furman 38
7t) UNCG 38
9) The Citadel 20
10) Samford 11
3) ETSU 74
4) Mercer 58
6) Western Carolina 40
7t) Furman 38
7t) UNCG 38
9) The Citadel 20
10) Samford 11
Karl Cochran, Wofford
Stephen Croone, Furman
Casey Jones, Chattanooga
Rashawn Rembert, ETSU
Lee Skinner, Wofford
Others Receiving Votes: QJ Peterson (VMI), James Sinclair (Western Carolina), Spencer Collins(Wofford), Kayel Locke (UNCG), Ashton Moore (The Citadel), Jalen Riley (ETSU), Tevon Sadler (UNCG)
College of Charleston at Furman- 4 votes
Others Receiving Votes- The Citadel vs. VMI (3 votes), Western Carolina at Mississippi State (1 vote), Wofford at Stanford (1 vote)
Who is your Player of the Year?
Chattanooga- Stephen Croone, Furman. I really like watching Croone play and I think that he will score a bunch of points on an improved Paladins team. Croone will put up stats that will make it impossible to ignore him. Could it be one of any number of other players? Absolutely. But if I’m picking one right now, I’m going with Croone.
ETSU- Lee Skinner. It’s got to be the key player on the best team (Wofford) and the only front court player picked for Pre Season All-Conference. He should thrive in a conference lacking in top flight big men.Furman- Stephen Croone because I feel he is the toughest single matchup in the SoCon, and the addition of a trio of backcourt scorers will open things up even more for the league's returning leading scorer.
Samford- Karl Cochran--the best shooting guard and returning player from last season. Frankly, he wins by default.
UNCG- Rashawn Rembert. The easy answer is 108 made 3's last season. That's a little over 3 made per game. And it's not like he's jacking up 20 a game to get to that number. The guy made 42.5% (108-254) last season. With a player like that, you are never really out of a game. I think he'll be the best player in the SoCon this coming season.
VMI- Karl Cochran, Wofford. REASONING: Why not? This is a guy who averaged 15.7 points per game last season, good for 9th in the league last season and 2nd only to Stephen Croone of Furman among all returning SoCon players. Cochran was also tenth in assists last season (3 APG), as well as second in steals (1.7 SPG) and ninth in three-point shooting (38%). He is truly a do-it-all player.
Western Carolina- Karl Cochran - Wofford - Cochran averaged 16 points, 3 assists and 2 steals per game last season. Of the players I'm familiar with, Cochran looks most likely to end the season with Player of the Year stats.
Wofford- Not because of bias, but because I can’t go another way, I’m choosing the Terriers’ Karl Cochran. Aside of leading the team in different stat categories, Cochran is an excellent all-around player and the experienced senior—one who refuses to stop improving—provides that extra level of leadership and confidence that our team needs on the court. Cochran, who averaged 19.7 points per game last season, will be a key piece to the puzzle for Wofford to repeat as SoCon champions.
What out of conference game for your team are you most excited about this year?
Chattanooga- Georgia comes to Chattanooga on December 2. That’s an SEC team coming to McKenzie Arena and giving the Mocs a chance to come up with a huge win over a quality SEC team that most expect to be a bubble NCAA Tournament team. Beating the Bulldogs at home is a possibility, though a tough one. If the Mocs can come up with the win, it will be huge for the program and the conference.
ETSU- 12/16 at Eastern Kentucky. At this point the Bucs should have some front court answers, and a road game against a top 20 mid-major should be a pretty good measure of the Bucs progress.
Furman- I am really interested in our (Furman) out-of-conference game with College of Charleston to open the season. A good opponent with a new coach coming to Timmons Arena to open the season. The Cougars took the Paladins to the woodshed pretty good last year.
Samford- Campbell or Austin Peay. Let's see, Austin Peay is the first home game, first game that we play a team not from a major conference, our first home game and our first chance to see the new Bulldogs in person. Or, Campbell, the return of our beloved former AD, Bob Roller (I sure hope he makes the trip). I'm going with Austin Peay.
The Citadel- The Citadel hosts Navy this season at McAlister Field House. The atmosphere for that game should be fun.
UNCG- High Point (@ UNCG 12/1/2014). This game has built up some serious steam over that past 2 seasons. Two years ago it was the John Brown coming out party. Last year, HPU bought over 3,000 tickets and had almost it's entire student body bused over for the game. However, they all went home unhappy as UNCG controlled the entire second half. This year, with expectations up for both teams, it should be intense. Plus, most G fans don't really like the Panthers very much.
VMI- It's hard to pick a single game but the match-up I am most anticipating would have to be the November 22-game against UNC Wilmington. This is a return game from five years ago in which the Seahawks destroyed us by twenty. We have a chance to exact our revenge, and this will also presumably be the game in which we raise our CIT banner from that great run a season ago into the rafters of Cameron Hall. And the fact that it follows a Senior Day football match-up with The Citadel only adds to the excitement.
Western Carolina- Alabama - The Tide finished the season 13-19 in 2013 and finished 10th in the SEC. While both teams are looking for improved regular season records, this looks to be a possibility for an SEC win.
Wofford- I know it’s probably the answer that everyone is pointing to, but I personally can’t wait to see the Terriers on the court against Duke on Christmas Eve. I think, while the obvious underdog, this game will provide some welcome exposure for the college and program, and perhaps the opportunity of a lifetime.
Is the new version of the SoCon better or worse than last year's SoCon?
Chattanooga- It’s hard to say exactly, but I’ll go slightly better, assuming that you are using the RPI conference rank as the barometer. Last year, the conference was ranked 30th in the country. This year, I just don’t see how the conference RPI doesn’t rank better than that. I think ETSU, Mercer and VMI all rank behind Davidson as a program, but ranks ahead of every other SoCon program that left. That means the SoCon will be deeper and stronger than they were a year ago.
ETSU- Worse right now, cause I miss the old rivalries with Appy State, Davidson and College of Charleston. But one thing I learned in the ASun – you can learn to hate the new rivals pretty quickly (Belmont! Grrrrr.). In a couple of years we’ll be right at home again.
Furman- I would say this version of the Southern Conference is a little improved on the hardwood. Davidson was solid, as was Elon, but the SoCon gains three programs that were all part of the college basketball postseason last year, and with the money Mercer has put into making its entire athletic program elite in every sport, in the long run, I think it will turn out to be a huge boon for the SoCon. Also, it helps with Chattanooga returning to the prominence in Wofford's rise to the top in the past five years.
Samford- I think the SoCon is in a better position, more stability and more evenly balanced. The loss of three of the prodigal schools basically does not effect basketball--they didn't really bring anything to the table and were replaceable by . . . . well, anyone. The other . . . was always hard to think of it as a conference school when it didn't field a football team and it threw everything behind basketball and constantly complained because they felt too good for the conference. Mercer, ETSU and VMI bring something to the table by reputation, proximity and commitment to athletics, but most of all they want to be here (don't discount how that matters to a conference). I'm glad to be rid of four schools that constantly complained and threatened to leave--took them too long to leave.
The Citadel- The league will be marginally better. Mercer and ETSU should be solid. VMI may be decent, though the Keydets may struggle early in the season with their backcourt issues. Davidson would have been good, but I think Elon may be about to take a step back and App/GaSo aren't going to be missed much, I suspect.
UNCG- Hard to say better or worse. I think competitive is a better word. With the dominating program of Davidson gone, they left a void that every other program is looking to fill. I just don't think we'll see any program looking to run the table in conference for a while the way the Wildcats tried to do every season lately. Having said that, I think overall the level of the league has been raised with some of the new programs that were brought in to the fold. Replacing Elon, App and Georgia Southern with VMI, ETSU and Mercer seems like an advantageous trade. Plus, I like the smaller conference. A true round robin and no divisions is definitely a big deal to me.
VMI- Despite the loss of conference powers Elon and Davidson, you'd have to say that this year's version of the SoCon is slightly better than last year's. The two aforementioned teams had RPI ranks of 168 and 129, respectively. While this is a big loss, longtime rivals Georgia Southern and Appalachian State also left the SoCon for the Sun Belt. These two schools were nothing close to basketball powers in the last several years, but particularly this year: the two squads combined to go 24–40 (11-21 SoCon) in 2013-14, with RPI rankings in the 300's. Based on last season's results, the average RPI rank of current SoCon members would be about 240. Last season, that number was 261. With the additions of Mercer, a Round of 32 NCAA Tournament team last season, ETSU, a traditional Atlantic-Sun powerhouse, and VMI, who annually leads the country in scoring, it is clear to say that this year's SoCon surpasses last year's.
Western Carolina- We won't really know until deep into the season, but on paper - I like the smaller (not divided into divisions) SoCon. Except for the loss of Davidson, I think the three teams replacing the other three teams are an overall plus for the conference. Will Mercer replace the Wildcats as the dominate team, while I think they will be competitive, I don't think anyone will now dominate the conference as Davidson did.
Wofford- With the new SoCon, we’re getting a few things that we’ve lacked for some time. First off, I think the advent of new members and departure of a stalwart like Davidson could create some parity—not just at the bottom of the standings. Also, it’s just refreshing for me as a fan to see some new opponents.
Of the three new teams, which one are you most glad to see in the conference?
Chattanooga- That’s tough. What I’m going to miss most about Davidson, as someone who closely follows the SoCon, is that I enjoy watching good basketball, and you could count on Davidson to play good basketball. Mercer will provide consistent good basketball. VMI will provide a completely different style of good basketball, which should make them fun to watch. But it has to be ETSU. I became a Chattanooga fan in the very early 90s and bought into the rivalry instantly. Without ETSU, it just hasn’t been the same in the SoCon. I’m glad to welcome them back and get back to the intense, exciting rivalry.
Furman- Well, it's good to have all three, but the one that holds the most intrigue is Mercer. They are a program that is on the brink of doing big things in football and basketball. Have a lot of respect for Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman and the way he runs his program. Should be an exciting year to see how Mercer does with so many new faces. I hear they are pretty athletic.
Samford- Really hard to comment on this one--I do not know that much about VMI other than they can put up points and they take basketball seriously. ETSU has a reputation of taking its basketball seriously and it has a quality fan base. Mercer's success the last two seasons speaks for itself--they have made a commitment to basketball. These three should raise the competitiveness of the league across the board. Although schools like Samford and Citadel may not be better in the wins/losses column, I think ETSU, Mercer and VMI will bring more to the table than the four departing schools as a whole.
The Citadel- I'm glad to see VMI back in the league, and the Keydets' style of play should provide a little extra entertainment.
UNCG- I really like the addition of VMI. Mostly due to geography. I've really wanted a Virginia school in this league for a while and I'm glad they were invited. Plus, their style of play is just fun to watch and should be interesting to see once league play starts up.
Western Carolina- ETSU - Of the three new teams, while two are public - the Bucs are most like Western Carolina. Good basketball program and may become a good rival for the Cats.
Wofford- All of them add something unique and fresh to the league, which is obviously a great advent. I personally am looking forward to seeing ETSU—I admire their program’s tradition and have a great amount of respect for the Buccaneers. As they could be a major contender this season, I’m both excited and a bit curious to see how long it takes for them to get back into the conference swing.
How do you feel about joining the SoCon?
ETSU- We’ll see of Thomas Wolfe was right when he said, “You can’t go home again.” Right now it feels pretty great to be back.
VMI- Although it was mostly a football-orientated move, I, along with many other VMI fans and alumni, think that re-joining the SoCon was the right move. The Southern Conference is the Keydets' true home, and in their eighty years in the league, VMI garnered ten conference championships in the major NCAA sports. Our tenure in the Big South was quite frankly a failure, but our athletic administration has corrected that move. Here's to hoping for many more successful seasons in the SoCon.