Monday, March 9, 2015

SoCon Championship Review

Wofford 67, Furman 64

Player of the Game:  Eric Garcia knocked down four huge threes from an unexpected source, scoring 15 points. It was that kind of performance from Garcia that helped to set the Terriers apart from the Paladins on this night.

Stat of the Game: Furman had just three offensive rebounds. The Paladins had been dominated the offensive boards in this tournament. That is directly tied to the Kris Acox injury that kept him out for so much of this game. It is completely fair to ask if Acox had played a full game if Furman would have been able to come up with the win.

Where Furman goes from here: The Paladins are young, playing four freshman big minutes, and Stephen Croone is only a junior, while Acox is only a sophomore. This team should be much better next year, regardless of the outcome of this tournament. This weekend really should give them a shot in the arm of confidence heading into next year. The Paladins could be contenders in the Southern Conference regular season next year. Niko Medved needed something positive to happen to show he had the program heading in the right direction. I'd say he got it.

Where Wofford goes from here: The Terriers now head to the NCAA Tournament, likely as a twelve seed, though an eleven or a thirteen are also possibilities. Truthfully, the Terriers are hurt by Furman pulling the upsets and getting here. If Wofford had been able to beat Chattanooga in the title game, their RPI would have been better and they may have two more Top 100 wins than they have right now (since the Mocs are no longer a Top 100 team because of their loss, but likely would have been if they had advanced to the SoCon Final). That hurts their profile a little bit. Still, you can only beat the teams ahead of you, and the Terriers have certainly done that for the second consecutive year. They have a chance to win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament with the right draw.

SoCon Championship Preview

Wofford vs. Furman

Time: 7:00 PM
Broadcast: ESPN2

Previously: Wofford swept the seasons series. On January 22 in Spartanburg, Wofford beat Furman 74-49 in a game that really wasn't even that close. Furman shot 32.6% from the floor and Wofford shot 54.9%. The only Paladin in double figures was Stephen Croone with 17. Karl Cochran had 23 points. On February 28, Wofford beat Furman at Greenville, 62-60. Croone did not play in that one. John Davis III scored 20. Lee Skinner scored 17 and Cochran had 11, pacing the Terriers. The Paladins made just 5 of 12 from the free throw line while Wofford made 19 of 28. That was the real difference in this one.

Match-up: The Paladins confidence is new. After all, they lost by 35 just two weeks ago at UNCG. Then, they stunned Western Carolina at home and lost to Wofford by just two. That was enough to get the team believing and here they are, still believing. Kris Acox is playing as well as any big man in the conference right now, and Skinner against Acox should be one of the best individual match-ups in this game. Cochran and Croone are also very good. These two will both be trying to do it all. Can Croone score against Cochran? James Sinclair of Westen Carolina looked tired while Cochran had energy in Sunday's semifinal. Croone should be tired too. Will he have any more success against Cochran? He needs to. The key for the Paladins is coming up with enough offense to win the game. They have to play well enough on that side of the ball to win. They have struggled, even in this tournament, to do that consistently. One way to do that would be on the offensive glass. Acox and Kendrec Ferrara will be key in that. Spencer Collins may be on track to win the Tournament MVP for the Terriers. If he steps up, that is another offensive weapon for the Paladins to have to match.

Prediction: This one is intriguing. The best team in the regular season against the worst team in the regular season. It is the ultimate David vs. Goliath. Furman is good enough to keep this game close, especially with all the momentum they are carrying into this game. They are playing with so much confidence. The team is clearly showing that over and over again. However, they have to come up with a way to stop the Terriers offense and to score enough to win. That is really obvious, but it is also true. The Terriers offensive efficiency has been phenomenal in this tournament. Their defense has been phenomenal in this tournament. The Paladins will have to play an even better game than they have played yet to win this championship. To do that on their fourth game in four days seems really unlikely. Terriers 67, Paladins 56. 

SoCon Semifinal Reviews

Wofford 73, Western Carolina 61

Player of the Game: Spencer Collins had 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. He made 10 of 13 from the free throw line. He was very good, especially early. That was critical, because Karl Cochran did not score in the first half.

Stat of the Game: Western Carolina 38.1% from the floor. The Catamounts had not shot over 31% against the Terriers yet this year until this one. They needed to shoot around 45% to really be able to win this one, but they remained just as cold as ever against Wofford. Thus, another double digit loss.

Where Western Carolina goes from here: The Catamounts lose Kenneth Hall (not nothing, but not major) and also James Sinclair (a significant loss). There have to be real questions about whether or not this program is going to be better or worse next year. They overachieved to some degree this year, but Rhett Harrelson,. Justin Browning, Torrion Brummitt and Mike Brown will all be seniors, and it is their turn to lead this program. Are they really the heart of a SoCon champ? I'm not sure. I'm not convinced that they are not improving at the same rate as some other programs and may even see a drop off next year. However, I doubted them heading into this year and was burned on that pick. So, I should warn you not to underestimate them.

Where Wofford goes from here: The Terriers are just one win away from a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. They did not play perfectly in this one (they struggled on the glass in this one), but they did more than enough to win. They have now five consecutive SoCon Tournament games. As hard as this is to believe, none of those came against a team seeded higher than fourth. They won't get one Monday night either, whether they win or lose. This team is a very good team and very dangerous if they can get to the NCAA Tournament. But they better focus on an improving Furman team to make sure they get there.

Furman 52, Mercer 49

Player of the Game: Kris Acox had 12 points and ten rebounds and one momentum changing power slam that helped turn the game the Paladins way. Acox was the reason the Paladins won this game, even though Stephen Croone's number may be slightly better. Acox made 6 of 9 from the floor and come up with seven huge offensive rebounds.

Stat of the Game: The Paladins came up with 46.2% of their offensive rebound opportunities while Mercer only had 27% of theirs. That is a huge swing, and when both teams are cold shooting (Mercer shot 28.8% from the floor) getting more opportunities is huge.

Where Mercer goes from here: TJ Hallice and Darious Moten are both seniors. Those are important pieces of this club. They are going to have a tough time replacing them. Still, they've seen worse. Last year, five senior starters graduated, and they still got back this far. The Bears will be one of the top teams in the SoCon next year, even without Hallice and Moten. This loss was wildly disappointing, make no mistake. But this club should be slightly improved next year.

Where Furman goes from here: This young team has grown up before our eyes. It is hard to believe that it was just two weeks ago on Sunday that this Paladins team was getting worked over by UNCG by the score of 84-49. Now, they are just one win from Dayton and playing in the First Four. The freshman are contributing and this team is really playing better. Niko Medved deserves a ton of credit for getting this team to play their best basketball at the perfect time of year. The last place Paladins have beaten the second place and third place team on consecutive nights. Now, if they can just take out the pesky number one seed and get to the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

SoCon Tournament Challenge Standings

1) Christopher Bourean 4 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Wofford, Karl Cochran- has three semifinal teams right)
2) Cody Cooper 4 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Wofford, Karl Cochran- had three semifinal teams right)
3) Terry Major 4 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Casey Jones- had three semifinal teams right)
4) JohnMoc1 4 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Justin Tuoyo- had two semifinal teams right)
5) SoConJohn 3 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Stephen Croone- has two semifinal teams right)
6) Jerry Love 3 (Western Carolina, Mercer, Western Carolina, James Sinclair- has three semifinal teams right)
7t) MJR 3 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Wofford, Karl Cochran- has two semifinal teams right)
7t) NGR 3 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Karl Cochran- has two semifinal teams right)
7t) Alexander Kelly 3 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Wofford, Karl Cochran- has two semifinal teams right)
10) Shelton Moss 3 (Wofford, Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Casey Jones- has two semifinal teams right)
11) Charles Cowherd (Wofford, VMI, VMI, Julian Eleby- has one semifinal team right)
12t) Harrison Hudson (Wofford, Mercer, Wofford, Karl Cochran- has two semifinal teams right)
12t) DC_Int'l (Wofford, Mercer, Mercer, Karl Cochran- has two semifinal teams right)
14) Michael James (ETSU, Chattanooga, ETSU- has two semifinal teams right)
15) Dash Spartan (ETSU, Chattanooga, Chattanooga- has zero semifinal teams right)

Player Rankings in this contest at this point:

1) Stephen Croone
2) James Sinclair
3) Julian Eleby
4) Karl Cochran
5) Casey Jones
6) Justin Tuoyo
7) Jalen Riley

SoCon Semifinal Previews

Wofford vs. Western Carolina

Time: 6:00 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: Wofford swept the regular season series. On January 17, the Terriers won at home 62-43. The Catamounts shot a dismal 27.8% from the floor. The Terriers crushed the Catamounts on the boards, 46-33. Lee Skinner was a dominant force, scoring 13 points with eleven rebounds. James Sinclair scored 16, but just on 5 of 18 shooting from the floor. On Valentine's Day in Cullowhee, following stirring wins over Chattanooga and Mercer, Western Carolina was crushed by Wofford, 75-55. The Catamounts again shot poorly- just 30.5%. The Terriers shot just over 50%. The Terriers also shot 50% from three point range. Karl Cochran poured in 26 points, while Sinclair scored 12 on 4 of 19 shooting.

Match-up: The Terriers defense has smothered Western Carolina in two games this year. They can do that to teams for sure. Can the Catamounts shoot better in this one? They almost have to. Sinclair, Mike Brown and Rhett Harrelson need to shoot the ball well. The Catamounts rebounded better in Cullowhee, but that battle will be critical. Skinner against Torrion Brummitt will be one of the underrated match-ups in this one. The Catamounts will need Brummitt to play Skinner even. Cochran and Spencer Collins are excellent guards. When one has been playing poorly lately, the other has stepped up. If both have poor games, the Catamounts will have a much better chance.

Prediction: Strange things have happened in Asheville in recent years for the Catamounts. Can they get that magic going one more time in this one? Possibly. Still, Wofford is clearly the superior team. The Terriers will have to play semi-poorly and the Catamounts will have to play pretty well for Western Carolina to win this one. It is not out of the question. After all, Sinclair can not possibly keep on playing as poorly as he has against Wofford so far this year. Western Carolina will keep this interesting and make it a close game, but Wofford will come out with the win. Terriers 71, Catamounts 64.

Mercer vs. Furman

Time: 8:30 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: Mercer swept Furman, winning the two games by a combined nine points. On January 15 in Macon, the Bears shot 58.5% and outrebounded Furman, 29-15 in a 67-64 win. The Paladins fell behind by 14 early, but fought back and the whole last twelve minutes were played at five points or less. Darious Moten scored 16 points and made 6 of 6 from the floor. On February 7, at Furman the Terriers won 74-68. TJ Hallice scored 16 points with ten rebounds. The Paladins were up five at halftime and the whole second half was pretty much back and forth.

Match-up: These two teams played two very close games despite the fact that Mercer is clearly the better team based on the standings. The Paladins will be playing their third game in three nights, but have been gaining confidence each night. Stephen Croone was not particularly good on Saturday, but was brilliant on Friday night. Kris Acox has been rebounding well. Kendrec Ferrara has actually been making threes. TJ Hallice going in the paint against Acox and Ferrara will be critical. The Bears efficient offense, with Darious Moten and Ike Nwamu and the rest of the team, will be tough for the Paladins to contain. The Paladins really need to continue see the whole team step up in a big way if they want to pull off this upset.
Prediction: The Paladins are playing good basketball and have played two close games with Mercer. It is certainly possible that they could pull off the shocker. If it gets into another really close game, Furman is playing with enough confidence that they could easily pull it out. The question is if Mercer will let them keep it that close. Moten, Nwamu and Hallice make enough plays for Mercer to jump out to an early lead and keep the Paladins at bay. Bears 74, Paladins 64.

SoCon Tournament Review Day Two

Wofford 70, UNCG 52

Player of the Game: Spencer Collins scored 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the floor. On a night where Karl Cochran and Lee Skinner both struggled for much of the game, Collins stepped up in a big way and provided the difference in this one.

Stat of the Game: Wofford shot 50% from the floor. The Terriers were pretty hot from the floor on the whole and the Spartans made just 35.1% of their shots. UNCG needed to shoot the ball well to win and hold the Terriers down. It didn't happen.

Where UNCG goes from here: The Spartans injury problems throughout the year should be better next year. There will be no Nicholas Paulos, but the rest of the team returns and this club looked better down the stretch. They should continue that improvement next year and should finish in the top half of the conference. This team has talent- they just have to get better from here. It seems likely that Wes Miller will return for another year- for better or worse.

Where Wofford goes from here: The Terriers advance to the semifinals against Western Carolina and now are just two wins away from a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Terriers looked like a motivated team and a team that it is going to be extraordinarily difficult to beat. The Terriers defense was top of the line today. If they continue to defend like that, they become an even bigger favorite in this tournament.

Western Carolina 67, ETSU 61 (OT)

Player of the Game: James Sinclair scored 30 points, had 14 rebounds and had six steals. Truly a remarkable game from Sinclair, who had outscored ETSU on his own for a long time. Sinclair's play was really amazing in this one.

Stat of the Game: Jalen Riley shot 2 of 11 from the floor and scored just eight points. The SoCon's leading scorer was held nearly silent. He simply had an off night. Honestly, it was amazing that ETSU was able to take the game to overtime given how poorly Riley played for most of the night.

Where ETSU goes from here: This club was made up of a solid core of seniors. Jalen Riley, Rashawn Rembert, the injured Ron Giplaye, and Alex Bates were all seniors. This was the year this team was supposed to make a run. Lester Wilson, AJ Merriweather, Petey McClain, Devin Harris and Desonta Bradford are all back. This team may be OK next year, but it is hard to find them as a better team next year. This team underachieved, there is no question. That may mean that next year's team can match this year's, but they are unlikely to be contenders for the SoCon title.

Where Western Carolina goes from here: The Catamounts advance to the semifinals against Wofford and will get yet another chance to take out a number one seed in Asheville. Last year, Western Carolina shocked Davidson right out of the SoCon in the semifinals. Can they do the same thing again? Sinclair and  Mike Brown had big games, but the supporting cast will have to be even better tomorrow night for them to beat the Terriers.

Furman 69, Chattanooga 67

Player of the Game: Devin Sibley scored 16 points with six rebounds. He made 4 of 11 from the field, but he made 7 of 8 from the free throw line.

Stat of the Game: Furman made 27 of 32 from the free throw line. The Mocs made just 13 of 19. That fourteen free throw difference was the biggest difference in the game. The Paladins making 84.4% of their free throws was way above their season average and another reason that they won in surprising fashion.

Where Chattanooga goes from here: The Mocs lose only one senior, Rico White. This team will likely be in another postseason tournament. Next year was supposed to be the year this team was pointing towards. However, this is a remarkably disappointing loss. They have now lost six consecutive SoCon Tournament games. This program has to learn how to win in SoCon Tournaments again before they can be fully turned around. It was one of the better seasons in Chattanooga basketball history in a lot of ways, but a very disappointing ending.

Where Furman goes from here: Straight to a very unlikely semifinal bid opposite Mercer. They are playing with house money now. This club is young and on the rise, and they finally proved it tonight with this gutsy performance. They made key free throws down the stretch, something they struggled with all year long. They played a very nice game all the way around.

Mercer 89, VMI 61

Player of the Game: TJ Hallice scored 19 points on 8 of 10  shooting from the floor. He also collected nine rebounds. He can be a dominant player when the other team does not have a good inside player. This was one of those match-ups.

Stat of the Game: VMI shot only 37.9% from the floor. The Keydets have not shot the ball well in losses, and this was one of those games. They had gotten better from the floor in recent weeks and really needed to shoot well in this one to come up with the win.

Where VMI goes from here: The Keydets have just one contributing senior- Brian Brown. This team could be better next year, but unless they get much better at shooting the ball in the offseason, there are going to continue to be problems for this squad. They don't shoot the ball well enough to win consistently in the SoCon at this point. They have to start shooting the ball better.

Where Mercer goes from here: The Bears are going to the semifinals and get a chance to  play the last place team in the conference in Furman. They have a relatively easy path to the finals now. The Bears did not commit a lot of turnovers, really protecting the ball against the Keydet pressure. That was very impressive. If they are going to continue playing like they played tonight, they may well be the favorite to win the entire championship.

Friday, March 6, 2015

SoCon Tournament Challenge Standings Through Day One

Day Two picks in parentheses and player pick overall:

1t) Cody Cooper 2 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, VMI, Karl Cochran)
1t) Dash Spartan 2 (UNCG, ETSU, Chattanooga, VMI, Jalen Riley)
1t) JohnMoc1 2 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, VMI, Justin Tuoyo)
4t) SoCon John 1 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, VMI, Stephen Croone)
4t) MJR 1 (Wofford, ETSU, Chattanooga, Mercer, Karl Cochran)
4t) NGR 1 (Wofford, ETSU, Chattanooga, Mercer, Karl Cochran)
4t) Alexander Kelly 1 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, VMI, Karl Cochran)
4t) Terry Major 1 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Mercer, Casey Jones)
4t) Shelton Moss 1 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, VMI, Casey Jones)
4t) Christopher Bourean 1 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Mercer, Karl Cochran)
4t) Charles Cowherd 1 (Wofford, ETSU, Chattanooga, VMI, Julian Eleby)
12t) Michael James 0 (Wofford, ETSU, Chattanooga, Mercer, Jalen Riley)
12t) Jerry Love 0 (Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Mercer, James Sinclair)
12t) Harrison Hudson 0 (Wofford, ETSU, Chattanooga, Mercer, Karl Cochran)
12t) DC_Int'l 0 (Wofford, ETSU, Chattanooga, Mercer, Karl Cochran)

Thanks for playing and keep on checking back!

SoCon Tournament Day Two

Game of the Day: Mercer vs. VMI

Time: 8:30 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: Mercer won both games against VMI this year, but the two teams have not met since January 5. On December 6 in Macon, the Bears won 90-81. The Keydets had the game tied at 78, before the Bears went on a 12-0 run to put the game away. VMI shot just 37.8% from the floor and were outrebounded 47-29. Mercer made 50.9% from the floor. On January 5, in Lexington, Mercer won 85-75. Phillip Leonard and Darious Moten each scored 21 points. VMI shot just 37.5% from the floor and the Bears shot 55.1%. QJ Peterson played in both games for the Keydets.

Match-up: The Keydets pressure defense did cause some problems for the Bears in their two match-ups. The Bears turned the ball over sixteen times both games. Mercer is the most efficient offense in the conference and they will look to slow the pace down and be efficient. The Bears are very good at that. This is the sort of team that Darious Moten and Phillip Leonard should do well against, as well as Ike Nwamu. Still, VMI has been one of the worst shooting teams in the conference all year, but they just recently started shooting the ball better. Tim Marshall, Brian Brown and Julian Eleby have taken turns shooting lights out. Phillip Anglade has also been a key part of the rebounding and defensive game plan, as well as contributing on the offensive end.

Prediction: This is not what the Bears wanted in a match-up. How hard is it to win three games in three days when your first game is against a team that presses like VMI? It would appear that it would be much more difficult. Still, Mercer is expected to win this game, and Nwamu and Moten will make their share of athletic plays. However, the Keydets have been shooting the ball much better in recent games and seem primed to pull one major upset at least in this tournament. They have the skill set to do it. The Keydets squeak out a very close win. Keydets 76, Bears 75.

Wofford vs. UNCG

Time: 12:00 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: Wofford swept the season series. On January 29, Wofford won 58-42 in Greensboro. Wofford shot 60% from the floor and the Spartans shot 31.7%. Spencer Collins scored 14 points. The Spartans did collect 17 offensive rebounds and the Terriers got just three. In the second meeting in Spartanburg, the Spartans jumped out to a ten point halftime lead before falling 77-62. Both teams shot 46% from the floor. The Terriers made 23 of 29 from the free throw line. Karl Cochran scored 18 points. After that loss, the Spartans rattled off three wins in four games, with the lone loss the controversial loss to Chattanooga at the buzzer.

Match-up: The Spartans height presents a challenge to the Terriers. Lee Skinner and Justin Gordon are solid inside performers. CJ Neumann is another good player. But Kayel Locke, Marvin Smith and RJ White are at least as good, if not better. The Spartans will have to get the ball consistently to White and Locke. They need to have dominant performances. Diante Baldwin played so well against the Bulldogs on Friday night. Can Baldwin lift the Spartans? Nicholas Paulos also made 4 of 6 from three point range. Paulos will have to make long range shots to keep the Spartans in it. Then there is Tevon Saddler. He can take the ball to the rim, but needs to play under control. The Terriers are a very good defensive team. Karl Cochran will be an important part of the offense. He will need to be knocking down shots to help the Terriers. Spencer Collins is the second half of the scoring guard tandem. Eric Garcia makes the team go at point guard. His return from injury has been huge.

Prediction: The Spartans will give the Terriers a battle to the end. This team is talented enough to beat the Terriers. Sometimes a team playing their first game in the tournament struggles early. That has happened to the Terriers twice against the Spartans already. The Spartans are playing with such confidence right now, they can jump out to a big lead on the Terriers. Would the Terriers be able to come back from that kind of deficit? Maybe- maybe not. This game is worthy of a semifinal match-up, not a quarterfinal match-up. The Terriers survive, but it will be a survive and advance kind of game. Terriers 68, Spartans 64.

Western Carolina vs. ETSU

Time: 2:30 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: ETSU swept Western Carolina during the regular season, though the two teams last met on January 15. On December 3, the Bucs won 96-89. The Bucs shot 30 threes out of 59 total shots, making 15 long range shots. Jalen Riley and Rashawn Rembert combined to score 53 points. Rhett Harrelson scored 30 for the Catamounts. They simply turned the ball over too much, committing 17 turnovers. On January 15 in Cullowhee, the Bucs won 83-76. ETSU again was hot from distance, shooting 57.9% from three point range. Riley and Rembert combined for 52 points. James Sinclair scored 25 points, and the Catamounts again committed too many turnovers, 19 this time.

Match-up: The Bucs have a height disadvantage, which is typical. Torrion Brummitt and Justin Browning need to be good inside presences for the Catamounts. They will have the advantage in the paint. However, the Bucs guard play is excellent. Lester Wilson, Rembert and Riley are an excellent trio of guards and scorers. Riley will need to have a big game for the Bucs to have a chance. This is Riley's chance for a memorable March moment. James Sinclair and Mike Brown can match up, guard for guard with the Bucs. The question is if Harrelson will produce anything. Since the calendar turned to February, he has scored in double figures just twice, including just a combined six points in the last two games. The Catamounts have a tendency to turn the ball over a lot, and that is something they need to cut down on for them to have a chance to make a run in this tournament.

Prediction: There's just something about Asheville. These Catamounts have made runs to championship games multiple times in Asheville in recent years, and always seem to have solid performances there. This Western Carolina team has not been playing particularly well, but neither have the Bucs. Each come in struggling. It is also very hard to beat a team three times in a season. Combine the beating teams three times and the fact that this is in Asheville and that this is basically a toss up game, and that is why the Catamounts get the nod. Catamounts 78, Bucs 76.

Chattanooga vs. Furman

Time: 6:00 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: Chattanooga beat Furman twice during the season, beating the Paladins 72-60 on January 3 in Chattanooga. Casey Jones scored 20 points with eleven rebounds for the Mocs. They shot 49% from the floor. The Mocs shot 49% from the floor. In Greenville, the Mocs won in overtime, 74-71. Jones scored 14 with eleven rebounds, and Justin Tuoyo scored 20. The Paladins dominated the boards, 41-32 and shot 47.2% from the floor. The Paladins did turn the ball over 13 times to the Mocs eight.

Match-up: Kris Acox is the SoCon's leading rebounder. Justin Tuoyo will be a tough match-up though. Can Acox hold his own? Stephen Croone is the Paladins best player, though, and he can be a dominant scorer. He scored 31 against the Mocs in Greenville. He is such a tough match-up for any team to handle if he is playing at 100%. He sure looked like it on Friday night. Casey Jones has had two pretty solid performances for the Mocs against the Paladins as well. Jones and Croone are two of the SoCon's top players and hopefully they put on the kind of memorable show worth watching. Tuoyo's defensive prowess will be critical in this game as well. He will be trying to cut off Croone's path once he gets into the paint. Also, Tre McLean will be important for the Mocs. He has become their defensive stopper. The Paladins freshman, Daniel Fowler, John Davis III, Devin Sibley and Geoff Beans are all going to be solid contributors. They need to grow up in this tournament for the Paladins to go far. No time like the present to start growing up.

Prediction: The Mocs are the superior team to the Paladins. The way the Paladins make a run in this one is to get Tuoyo in foul trouble, have Croone have a huge night, and have at least a couple of the freshman step up. Is it possible? Sure it is. The Paladins are capable of a run. However, they have not won back-to-back games against D1 teams all year long. They have won two out of their last three, with only a close home loss to Wofford keeping them from having three straight wins. The Mocs seem likely to come out and win this one with relative ease, but they need to be careful. Mocs 71, Paladins 62.

SoCon Day One Review

UNCG 81, Samford 76

Player of the Game: Diante Baldwin poured in 19 points with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. He shot 7 of 15 from the floor. Baldwin has been a great asset as a point guard for the Spartans and has been a key player. He was the best player on the floor.

Stat of the Game: UNCG collected 37 rebounds and Samford got just 26. The Spartans size clearly bothered the Bulldogs and helped them come up with the big win.

Where Samford goes from here: Tyler Hood and Michael Bradley both are gone, but this team is clearly on the rise. Christen Cunningham is one of the top freshman in the league, Darius Jones-Gibson will be a Player of the Year candidate next year and Evan Taylor has been showing improvement. Give Scott Padgett time, and this team will be a contender in the SoCon- possibly as early as next year. They are coming.

Where UNCG goes from here: Now, the Spartans get a chance against Wofford in the quarterfinals. This team certainly has the talent to beat the Terriers, even though they will be substantial underdogs. The Spartans continue to play good basketball. They were really not a good team in January, but in February and now March, they have turned into one of the SoCon's hotter teams. Their game with Wofford is deserving of being called a semifinal match-up.

Furman 73, The Citadel 56

Player of the Game: Stephen Croone scored 27 points. He was amazing in this game. Croone is one of the best players in the SoCon, and he showed it in this one. No one gets to the basket like he does. Croone is a special talent.

Stat of the Game: The Citadel committed eighteen turnover and Furman had just eight. The Paladins dominance in the turnover battle was one of the key differences in this game.

Where The Citadel goes from here: Ashton Moore went out with a dud. Brian White and Jake Wright are young players going forward. The Bulldogs took some steps this year, but, in the end, the steps were minimal. Chuck Driesell may be on his last legs as the coach for the Bulldogs and may be the most likely coach to not return next year in the SoCon. This team was one of the worst defensive teams in the country and showed some major offensive flaws tonight.

Where Furman goes from here: The Paladins head to the quarterfinals to take on the second seeded Chattanooga Mocs. The Paladins played really great basketball in this one. If they continue to play like they did tonight, this team can win another game or two in this tournament. This was impressive all the way around. Geoff Beans and Devin Sibley played very well in their first tournament game for the Paladins.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

SoCon Tournament Day One Preview

Game of the Day- UNCG vs. Samford

Time: 6:00 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: The teams split the season series, each winning on their home floor. In the first match-up on January 22, Samford won 89-78 for their first SoCon win. UNCG turned the ball over sixteen times, and the Bulldogs shot 52.5% from the floor in coming up with the win. They also knocked down 21 of 21 from the free throw line. Darius Jones-Gibson scored 20 with five rebounds and five assists. On February 26, UNCG won 81-67. RJ White scored 24 points and collected 12 rebounds. UNCG turned the ball over just nine times and held Samford to 43.8% shooting. They also won the battle of the boards, 37-30.

Match-up: The biggest difference in the two match-ups was the Spartans ability to protect the ball and not turn it over. As the season progressed, that was something the Spartans did get better at, along with defending and not fouling quite as frequently. Samford, who made just 19 of 31 from the free throw line last Thursday, has to shoot free throws well and force some turnovers with their pressure. Tevon Saddler and Diante Baldwin need to protect the ball and make some offensive plays. RJ White, Kayel Locke and Marvin Smith are playing very well inside. The Bulldogs Christen Cunningham, who won the Scanning the SoCon Freshman of the Year, may feel like he has something to prove after not winning the official Freshman of the Year award. Cunningham can be quite good. Last weekend, he averaged 20.5 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the two games, so he is playing good basketball. Darius Jones-Gibson and Tyler Hood are the Bulldogs two leading scorers.

Prediction: This is a game deserving of being played on Saturday. To me, these two teams have played well enough lately to be playing for a spot in the semifinals. Unfortunately for these teams, they did not earn that right, and so it makes for a very compelling first game of the tournament. The winner gets to play Wofford on Saturday. The Spartans RJ White is playing so well right now, it is hard to imagine that the Bulldogs have the power to slow him down. The Bulldogs pressure defense has to force turnovers for them to have a chance. The key for the Spartans is what Baldwin and Saddler do protecting the ball. If the Spartans turn it over fifteen times, the Bulldogs win. If they turn it over less than ten, the Spartans win. If it is somewhere in-between, the game will be a toss up. Spartans 79, Bulldogs 74.

The Citadel vs. Furman

Time: 8:30 PM
Broadcast: ESPN3

Previously: Furman and The Citadel split the season series, each winning on the other's home court. On January 17, following the Bulldogs stirring win over Wofford, Furman walked into Charleston and won 74-62. Stephen Croone scored just 11, but Devin Sibley poured in 25. The Paladins crushed the Bulldogs on the glass, collecting 46.7% of their offensive rebounds, which is a huge number. Both teams just turned it over six times, and Furman shot over 50%. On February 19, the Citadel got their revenge, winning 62-56 in overtime. Croone scored 23 points. The Bulldogs did a much better job on the defensive glass. Furman also shot just 37.7% from the floor that night, something that the Bulldogs do not do frequently. Ashton Moore scored 20, with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Match-up: The Bulldogs defense ranks as one of the very worst in the entire country. They simply have been unable to stop teams from shooting the ball effectively against them. Yes, they held Furman to 37.7% the last time they played, but that almost has never happened. The Bulldogs slow paced offense helps hide some of the defensive inefficiencies. The Bulldogs will need Moore to have a huge game. He is capable of that. He averaged 18.3 on the season. Furman will need some players to step up. Croone was injured last week and John Davis III played brilliantly in his absence. With Croone back, and Davis III playing great basketball, this team can be dangerous. Sibley, the SoCon Freshman of the Year, needs to get going as well. The Paladins rebound reasonably well behind Kris Acox. This team also gets to the free throw line better than any other team in the league, mainly because of Croone's ability to attack the rim.

Prediction: It really comes down to this- the Paladins shot poorly against The Citadel. If they shoot the ball at about 50% like so many Bulldog opponents did all year, the Paladins will win this game. The Bulldogs will not be able to keep up. Furman is the bottom seed in the tournament, but they may be the slight favorite in this game, believe it or not. Croone has a big game and guides the young Paladins to a win that will propel them into a quarterfinal match-up with Chattanooga. Paladins 64, Bulldogs 57.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seed Wars: Predicting Where Every Team Would Be Seeded

Every team dreams of going to the Big Dance, the NCAA Tournament, March Madness. Only one likely will from the SoCon (I suppose there is some world out there where for some reason the committee decides to take Wofford even if they lose in the SoCon Tournament, though that seems very unlikely).

This time of year, every team can dream. Every team can hope. It's the beauty of college basketball and the conference tournaments. Everyone is just between nine and twelve wins from the national title.

So, it is with this in mind, that we take our annual look at where each team would be seeded if they managed to win the SoCon Tournament in Asheville this weekend. If your team raises the trophy on Monday evening shortly after 9:00, you will start asking, "What seed do you think we get?" This is your answer. Or your best guess, given that we don't know ANY winners of any other conference or how other teams around will finish up yet. But this is the best guess, in alphabetical order.


When looking at the Mocs RPI and where it would fit into the overall picture, it seems pretty safe to predict that the Mocs would get no lower than a 15 seed, and possibly as high as a 13 seed. A Mocs championship would put them at 23-9 against D1 teams, and give them at least one win versus a Top 100 team and possibly a second (depending on if they play Wofford again). Their RPI would likely be in the Top 90 at least, maybe as high as into the 70s. That could be enough to squeak into a 13 seed if everything broke right and should be good enough for a 14 seed. A 15 seed is possible, but unlikely.


If the Bucs manage to win the SoCon Tournament, they would be 17-13 against D1 schools. Their RPI wouldn't be a total disaster (probably in the 120s), and they have beaten North Carolina Central, who is unbeaten in their conference and in the Top 100. They could also have beaten Chattanooga and Wofford to get their, which could be two more Top 100 wins. It seems that the Bucs would likely avoid Dayton, but would not be able to avoid the number 16 seed. It is hard to imagine them getting a 15 seed. However, they should be able to avoid Dayton.


The Paladins would be 10-21 against D1 competition if they raise the trophy on Monday night. While it would be a tremendous run by the tenth seed in the SoCon Tournament, it would not do anything except for put them in Dayton. Regardless, Stephen Croone is a great player and may present a challenge in the First Four to whoever they play. Still, it seems very unlikely they would win, and no number one seed would be shaking in their boots seeing the Paladins.


The Bears leave you scratching your head. After all, this is the same team that beat Duke in the tournament last year. Yes, they lost almost everyone, but the coach is the same, and many of the players were around the program a year ago. However, they would just be 18-14 against D1 competition if they won the SoCon Tournament. They have only beaten one Top 100 at this point and that's Chattanooga. If they beat the Mocs again, the Mocs may not be a Top 100 win anymore. To get any, they would have to beat Wofford in the championship game. No number one seed wants to see their name pop up with Mercer opposite them on Selection Sunday. Yet, if Mercer wins the SoCon Tournament, that is likely what they would find. Would the Bears be in Dayton? Maybe, but I doubt it. More than likely, this team would be a 16 seed. There is an outside chance the committee gives them a 15, or puts them in Dayton, but odds are they avoid Dayton and get a 16.


The Bulldogs would be 16-18 against D1 competition if they won the SoCon Tournament and almost certainly would find themselves in Dayton. Still, their style of play could cause a huge problem for an opponent in the First Four, and would not be a pleasant foe for a number one seed, though they probably are not quite ready yet for that challenge.

The Citadel

The Bulldogs would be 12-18 against D1 competition and it is hard to imagine that they would be participating in anything except for in Dayton. The Bulldogs RPI would probably be in the Top 280 at that point, but there is no way that they find their way any higher. It is also very unlikely that the Bulldogs would be competitive against a one seed. It also seems unlikely that they would win in Dayton, but hey- to finally get to their first NCAA Tournament would make up for any other problems.


The Spartans would be 11-21 against D1 competition if they find their way to the NCAA Tournament. That being said, UNCG has talent. Still, this club would definitely find itself playing in Dayton, with a chance of winning there. The Spartans are playing well enough to wind up winning in the First Four, but highly unlikely to provide any real threat to a one seed.


The Keydets would be 12-18 against D1 teams if they managed to win the SoCon Tournament. This is a team that number one seeds would not really want to play because of their style of play, but VMI has struggled for much of the year. Still, a hot shooting VMI would be dangerous. However, they would almost certainly be in a play-in game.

Western Carolina

The Catamounts would be 15-16 against D1 teams if they wind up winning the SoCon Tournament. If everything broke right, they could get out of Dayton, but it would take some serious upsets in other conference tournaments. It seems very likely that a Western Carolina SoCon champ would be playing in Dayton, and a team that could win there with their shooters playing well. After all, this team played Alabama very close earlier this year.  


The Terriers could wind up with their RPI in the Top 40 if they win the SoCon Tournament. If they beat Chattanooga in the championship game, that could be a fifth Top 100 win. That kind of resume looks like an 11 seed possibly. It would seem a 12 seed would be lowest they could get, but I suppose that the committee may not value wins over Sam Houston State, Chattanooga, Iona and North Carolina State as truly quality Top 100 wins. So they could go as low as giving them a 13 seed. I suspect that the Terriers will get an 11 or 12, with a slightly better chance of  a 12 than an 11.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Scanning the SoCon- The Tournament Questions

This is the fourth season of Scanning the SoCon, and hopefully we are getting bigger and better every year. People from around the conference answer questions regarding their team and other issues around the SoCon. This week, our tournament preview.

What do you think are the most important qualities for a team to possess to win a tournament championship (regardless of league or size of tournament) at this time of year?

Chattanooga- I think the ability to defend and rebound with a mix of senior leadership are the most important things at this time of year, especially for smaller conference teams. Bigger conference teams can get away with senior leadership if they have enough talent, but the smaller conference teams need guys who are older and leaders stepping up. Defending and rebounding is how you win tight games like these tournament games so often turn into.

Furman- Defense and depth are the two most important factors to winning a Southern Conference Tournament, Ultimately, by the semifinals and finals, you will inevitably need both. 

UNCG- If a team is going to win 3 or 4 games in as many days, they have to possess the ability to play great defense. There is going to be a night when points are hard to come by. On that night, if you are going to gut out a win, your team will have to get down and really guard the other team. Defense wins championships.

VMI- Every team needs several factors to work in their favor to win a tournament championship. Things like bench depth, stamina, venue location (neutral/home/road), and a sprinkle of luck certainly play a part. But most of all, you need defense, especially at the college level. Offense is important as well, but a suffocating defense takes pressure off your shooters and also minimizes the ability of opposing teams to go on large runs, thereby halting their momentum (another critical yet unquantifiable factor come tournament time). Take Wofford, for example. Last year, the Terriers won three games to claim the SoCon crown, giving up an average of 53.7 points per game. They also allowed opponents to shoot a mere 36.8% from the floor and a remarkable 12 of 47 (25.5%) from behind the arc. They didn't score a ton, but it didn't matter. A good defense beats a good offense in the postseason every time.

Western Carolina- Team cohesion and consistent scoring.  Players on the team with experience winning a conference tournament is also huge.  

Wofford- To be a contender in this league, it’s imperative for your outfit to execute smoothly on defense and stay in the game for a full forty minutes. Expanding on that, you have to bend without breaking – especially against the SoCon’s fierce and motivated adversity. No mental lapses, no gaps in coverage; however, if something unsatisfactory occurs, you absolutely have to push it far from your mind and stay focused. Another way to ensure success is selflessness, both with and without the basketball. If your players understand that they’re playing for a team, and not for the sake of personal statistics, you’ve got a solid program.

Which of the top three seeds do you think is most likely to be upset in the quarterfinals?

Chattanooga- I guess I could say Mercer, but VMI over Mercer seems to be the obvious choice. I would be really nervous if I was Wofford. The way UNCG and Samford are playing, the winner of that game against Wofford is more deserving of being a semifinal game than a quarterfinal game. If Wofford doesn’t come out ready to play, they could be stunned right off the bat.

Furman- I think probably Mercer. The Bears are one of the most inexperienced teams in it, and VMI has been playing well as of late, and played Mercer well during the regular-season, an upset here would not shock me at all.

UNCG- I would say Wofford due to how they tend to fall behind early. They will be playing someone who already has a game under their belt. If they don't come out ready, they mat find themselves in too big of a hole. Having said that, I think if they win 1 they'll win all 3.

VMI- I'd like to think Mercer, not so much because they aren't great but because the two teams ahead of them have few if any weaknesses. Both Wofford and Chattanooga will play their quarterfinal games against teams on short rest. There's zero chance that Wofford loses to Samford or UNC Greensboro, and Chattanooga is white-hot to the point that I see them winning the whole thing, much less a quarterfinal game against Furman or The Citadel. Mercer, on the other hand, has gone 6-5 in league play since getting out to a 6-1 start, including a 3-3 mark down the stretch. Albeit they lost to Wofford twice in very close games, and suffered a road setback against the streaking Mocs, but the Bears are definitely the weakest of the top three squads. And of course, they are playing VMI, who can upset anyone at any time because of their style of play. But that could also help Mercer if they defend the perimeter well. We'll see how it all plays out.

Western Carolina- Mercer.  The Bears have the toughest opening game of any of the top three seeds. If VMI is hitting their threes, Mercer will be in for a long night.

Wofford- It’s tough, but I’m going with Mercer because VMI will be a good opponent and likely more rested, compared to Wofford and Chattanooga’s opposition (UNCG/Samford, The Citadel/Furman), which have an extra game to play.

Which of the bottom four seeds do you think has the best chance to make a run to the finals?

Chattanooga- I’m going to go with the UNCG-Samford winner, obviously (based on what I said above). I’ll take UNCG for now. They have enough talent to be in the finals of this tournament, they just haven’t played like it most of the year. Now things have started to turn around for them and I think they are a very dangerous team. Not much bench, which could prove a problem in the second and third game of this tournament.

Furman- Maybe Samford with the way they play, and their Talladega press can give foes some headaches. Furman has shown the ability to play close to pretty much anyone and have to be one of the more scary bottom seeds in the history of the tournament. 

UNCG- I honestly don't think any of the bottom 4 can go that far. They all have serious issues that will be exposed at some point in their first few games.

VMI- I like UNC Greensboro largely because of RJ White, who is averaging 12 points on 57% shooting overall and 7 rebounds per game. White is the definition of a rim protector and is certainly a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. On top of that, you have guys like Kayel Locke (12.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG), Tevon Saddler (13.6 PPG, 4.1 APG), and sharpshooter Nicholas Paulos (10.7 PPG), who can hit from outside as well as attack the basket. The Spartans are the dark horse in this tournament

Western Carolina- Both Samford and UNCG have greatly picked up their play late in the conference season, so it's unfortunate they play each other in the opening game. It's also unfortunate the winner plays the next day against the #1 seed, Wofford. Look for either team that meets the Terriers, to take them to the last minutes of the game.  

Wofford- Probably The Citadel. They seem solid enough to give Chattanooga a good shot, considering they defeat Furman. However, this is a touchy subject – they all look tough, and were neck-and-neck against each other. For that matter, we might just have to look out for Samford on the other side of the bracket.

Which potential semifinal match-ups do you think would be most interesting?

Chattanooga- As a fan of good basketball, I would love to see Chattanooga and Mercer play again. They have played two great games so far, and it would be very entertaining to see them hook up a third time. On the other side of the bracket, Wofford against either ETSU or Western Carolina is interesting, but I’ll take Western Carolina. After all, the Catamounts always seem to play well in Asheville, and sprung the upset on Davidson a year ago in the semifinals. Who is to say they can’t do it again? It would also be a rematch of last year’s final.

Furman- If seeds hold, I like the Chattanooga-Mercer clash,,,Two pretty matchups during the regular season and it's a matchup between two of the most athletic clubs in the league. Ike Nwamu provided one of the dunks of the year in the first matchup between the two, which the Bears survived in overtime, 75-72.

UNCG- UTC and Mercer played a couple of good regular season games. A Sunday night game in Asheville between those 2 teams would be fun to watch.
VMI- Of course I'd like to see my Keydets get to the semifinals where they would more than likely play Chattanooga. The Mocs blew out VMI earlier in the year at the Roundhouse, but last Thursday the two teams fought a barn burner in Cameron Hall, with the Mocs coming out on top in double-overtime, 86-82. For VMI, it would be a great opportunity to avenge that heartbreaking loss against a stingy Chattanooga defense. If they can hit three-pointers, who knows how far they can go? Similarly, if Justin Tuoyo continues to play like he has as of late on defense, and if Casey Jones keeps up his torrid shooting, there is no stopping the Mocs. For the second matchup, I think it'd be interesting to see Wofford play East Tennessee State. The Terriers beat the Bucs in two fairly close contests this year, and certainly ETSU will be out for revenge. Jalen Riley, a potential SoCon Player of the Year, will be looking to go out with a bang in his senior season, as will Reshawn Rembert. The Bucs average about 74 points per game (second in the league only to VMI), so I'd like to see how their efficient offense pans out against Wofford's relentless D.

Western Carolina- VMI vs. Chattanooga will be a very interesting game, look for the #6 seed to pick up the first major upset of the tournament.  

Wofford- I have to go with Mercer/Chattanooga here. I know the Bears would love another shot at 1) taking the season series with the Mocs and 2) possibly getting a rematch with Wofford.  The third thing, getting back to the dance, is implied. 

Who do you think lifts the trophy on Monday night?

Chattanooga- I’ll take (nervously) Chattanooga. I think the Mocs are playing as well as anyone right now and that they are rebounding and defending at as high of a level as anyone. They don’t have much positive tournament experience on their roster, and that is the biggest drawback.

Furman- Chattanooga--I believe the Mocs' depth is impressive and they are one of the few teams in the league that can play either tempo. They can adapt to the opponent and then beat them at their game, as evidenced by the Mocs' 56-46 win at Wofford. 

UNCG- I'm picking the Chattanooga Mocs to win the whole thing. Their combination of length and shooters makes them a tough out.

VMI- I'll go with Chattanooga in an upset over Wofford. Tuoyo has been a beast around the boards lately, and the Mocs are hotter than anyone in the league, riding a 6-game win streak which was spurred by a surprising victory over Wofford on the road. Clearly, we know the Mocs are capable of beating the Terriers, but it certainly won't be easy. The Terriers are still 26th in the nation in allowing just under 60 points per game. They are also 60th in the country in defensive efficiency according to, while the Mocs languish at 161st. Lee Skinner, arguably Wofford's most vocal leader, scored 17 in the regular season finale at Furman and has scored in double-figures in each of his last four games. Look for him to be a huge factor. But Wofford still slipped up against The Citadel earlier in the season and has won several very close games that they should have won much more handily. The Terriers are very good, but not infallible. This is mid-major basketball, folks; anything can happen.

Western Carolina- Barring a major upset on their first night of play, I see Wofford going back to Spartanburg with the championship trophy.  If Wofford wins their first game of the tournament, they breeze on through to the championship game, based on their experience, and having been there and knowing what it takes to win the championship.  

Wofford- Call me what you will, but I believe there’s really nothing – apart from their own play and response to the tournament opposition – to stop the Terriers from hoisting the trophy for a second consecutive season. It’s not the “Cinderella story” anymore, but there’s three seniors looking to go out on a high note and an entire program and fan base behind them, ready to aid in the effort to get there.




Monday, March 2, 2015

Scanning the SoCon Awards Edition

As voted on by our regular cast of characters.


1) Wofford
2) Chattanooga
3) Mercer
5) Western Carolina
6) VMI
7) Samford
9) The Citadel
10) Furman


Rico White, Chattanooga

Others Receiving Votes: Spencer Collins (Wofford), Christen Cunningham (Samford), RJ White (UNCG), Casey Jones (Chattanooga)


Karl Cochran, Wofford

Others Receiving Votes: Casey Jones (Chattanooga), Stephen Croone (Furman)


Christen Cunningham, Samford

Others Receiving Votes: Geoff Beans (Furman)


Bob Hoffman, Mercer

Others Receiving Votes: Mike Young (Wofford), Will Wade (Chattanooga)


Justin Tuoyo, Chattanooga

Others Receiving Votes: Karl Cochran (Wofford), Phillip Anglade (VMI)


VMI 113, Western Carolina 111 (2OT)

Others Receiving Votes: Wofford 68, Chattanooga 64


Karl Cochran, Wofford
Casey Jones, Chattanooga
Ashton Moore, The Citadel
Jalen Riley, ETSU
James Sinclair, Western Carolina


Stephen Croone, Furman
Ike Nwamu, Mercer
Tevon Saddler, UNCG
Justin Tuoyo, Chattanooga
RJ White, UNCG


Mike Brown, Western Carolina
Julian Eleby, VMI
Tyler Hood, Samford
Rashawn Rembert, ETSU
Lee Skinner, Wofford

Others Receiving Votes: Phillip Anglade (VMI), Spencer Collins (Wofford), Christen Cunningham (Samford), Justin Gordon (Wofford), Rhett Harrelson (Western Carolina), PJ Horgan (The Citadel), Darius Jones-Gibson (Samford), Phillip Leonard (Mercer), Kayel Locke (UNCG), Tim Marshall (VMI), Darious Moten (Mercer), QJ Peterson (VMI), Devin Sibley (Furman), Rico White (Chattanooga), Lester Wilson (ETSU)


Geoff Beans ,Furman
Christen Cunningham, Samford
Daniel Fowler, Furman
Devin Sibley, Furman
Jake Wright, The Citadel

Others Receiving Votes: Desonta Bradford (ETSU), Cameron Jackson (Wofford), Jestin Lewis (Mercer), Jordan Strawberry (Mercer), Tucker Thompson (Western Carolina)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

SoCon Tourney Challenge!

It's that time of year again!

Here are the rules:

1) Pick each game of the bracket, picking the winner of all nine games in the tournament.
2) Pick a player for a tiebreaker.
3) Points will be awarded as follows:
     a) In first round and quarterfinals, each correct pick is worth one point.
     b) In semifinals, each correct pick is worth three points.
     c) In the championship, a correct pick is worth five points.
4) If there is a tie, the player involved in the tie with the most points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks combined in the tournament will be declared the winner.

The winner will earn....NOTHING BUT PRAISE! But hey, that's something!

Prove you know more than me about the SoCon (it's not hard- I never come close to winning this thing).

Simply e-mail me at or reply to this post and I'll track all the picks.

Good luck!

SoCon Reviews- February 28

Samford 80, VMI 69

Player of the Game: Christen Cunningham is one of the SoCon's top freshman and scored 22 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. He made 10 of 16 from the floor. Cunningham completely controlled the game.

Stat of the Game: VMI had 22 turnovers. Yes, the Bulldogs had a ton as well, but VMI can  not turn the ball over that much and expect to win too many games. Excellent job by the Bulldogs defense in this one.

What It All Means: In some ways, VMI shot the ball well today. They did not make a bunch of threes or shoot well from the free throw line, but they shot 47.3% from the floor. The Keydets also forced 23 turnovers from the Bulldogs. It wasn't enough. They turned the ball over too much, and allowed Samford to shoot the ball really well. VMI did still get the final bye and they will wind up playing Mercer in the quarterfinals. This team is capable of beating anyone if they shoot the ball well enough, especially from three point range. Samford finally started playing like they did during their win streak. They forced a ton of turnovers, shot the ball exceptionally well, and just really played solid all around basketball. They match up with UNCG on Friday at 6:00, and if they win that, they have a date with Wofford in the quarterfinals. This team can be dangerous to anyone. Two players did account for 53.8% of their points. Tyler Hood played really well, scoring 21, to go along with Cunningham. This team will be much improved next year.

Western Carolina 67, The Citadel 54

Player of the Game: James Sinclair had 17 points, 7 rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block. He played the full 40 minutes and made 8 of 15 shots. Sinclair is the Catamounts most important player and he filled up the stat sheet on Saturday afternoon.

Stat of the Game: Western Carolina shot 58.7% from the floor and, as if trying to prove me wrong that they liked to shoot threes, shot just nine. They took the ball inside and pounded The Citadel's defense, which is ranked the worst in the country by Pomeroy. This performance came just days after not even shooting 30% in a loss to Furman.

What It All Means: For The Citadel, this loss stings a little because of the momentum they had built up by beating ETSU on Thursday. However, due to other results, they still wound up with the seven seed, which is the best they could have hoped for heading into Saturday. This team struggles defensively, and only shot 35.6% on Saturday. When those two things combine, they are not going to win too many games. Brian White and Jake Wright had solid games, but Ashton Moore was not on his game. The Bulldogs will square off with Furman at 8:30 on Friday, with the winner getting Chattanooga in the quarterfinals. Western Carolina, who had been in a bit of a free fall heading into the game as losers of three in a row, righted the ship for the moment. The win did not truly impact their seeding (they wound up the four seed, and a loss would have put them at the five seed), but it did change the feeling surrounding the team heading to Asheville. This team has made runs before in Asheville, and with shooters like Sinclair and Mike Brown, they can do it again. First, they'll have to get by ETSU in the quarterfinals, who has beaten them twice this year.

Wofford 62, Furman 60

Player of the Game: Lee Skinner had 17 points and  7 rebounds. He made 9 of 10 from the free throw line and collected four offensive rebounds.

Stat of the Game: Furman 5 of 12 from the free throw line. Wofford made 19 of 28. That fourteen free throw difference was the massive difference in this two point game.

What It All Means: For Furman, they played without an injured Stephen Croone and still lost by just two to the best team in the SoCon. Sounds interesting. In some ways, Furman has played two of their best games this week. Yes, they still finished last in the conference. But they get to play The Citadel on Friday night at 8:30 with the winner playing Chattanooga in the quarterfinals on Saturday. John Davis III played brilliantly, and Kendrec Ferrara got into double digits. There is reason for hope from this performance. Wofford did not play their best game, but having wrapped up the regular season title, there was not much to get fired up about. Were they unfocused? Hard to know. They did not shoot the ball particularly well, and they won this game the hard way. However, they got the job done and now wait the winner of UNCG and Samford in the first quarterfinal on Saturday. Hard to know if this is the beginning of another streak of Wofford playing  mediocre basketball, or just a one game thing.

Mercer 69, ETSU 64

Player of the Game: Stephon Jelks. A very unexpected source has now scored 14 points in back to back games. He scored 14 and collected a team high six rebounds in this win over the Bucs. He made 5 of 11 from the floor.

Stat of the Game: ETSU made just 32.8% of their shots. This is a team that needs to be knocking down shots to win consistently and they just couldn't get it done in this one.

What It All Means: The Bucs nearly outrebounded Mercer again. Amazing. This is a small team that has rebounded with Mercer both times they have played them. Rashawn Rembert is still struggling, scoring just five points. However, Jalen Riley poured in 24 points. This ETSU team has lost three in a row, but is actually playing decently right now. They played OK in Chattanooga and now played pretty well at Mercer, leading both at halftime. They will battle Western Carolina at 2:30 on Saturday in a quarterfinal match-up. Mercer got the job done in the second half of this one and came up with the win. This win did not impact Mercer's seeding, but after losing to the Bucs in Johnson City earlier this year, the Bears wanted to come up with this one. Ike Nwamu did not play well, but Darious Moten played well and TJ Hallice put together a nice performance. The Bears will need to put together a good game on Saturday as they are squaring off with VMI in the final quarterfinal game at about 8:30. That will be a tough way to start the tournament.

Chattanooga 61, UNCG 58

Player of the Game: Who else? Rico White knocked down the clutch game winning shot. It  looked like it probably should not have counted. Still he made 5 of 12 from the floor. As a senior, White really played clutch.

Stat of the Game: Spartans 13 of 27 from the free throw line. The Spartans did not even knock down 50% of their freebies. That's pretty much unacceptable, particularly in a three point game.

What It All Means: The Spartans left it all on the line in this one. Only RJ White scored in double figures. He scored 14 with 8 rebounds, three steals and four blocks. He was great. He should be getting the ball way more frequently. Still, the Spartans knocked down just 13 of 27 from the free throw line. They rebounded with the Mocs. This team is playing well and playing well enough to win several games in Asheville if they. They did not shoot well, but have gotten so much better. Asad Lamot is the only player that came off the bench for the Spartans and he scored 5 before fouling out. He played well as well. The Spartans will take on Samford at 6:00 on Friday night. The Mocs were far from perfect in this one, and even though it appears Rico White's shot should not have counted, it was a clutch shot that went down. Duke Ethridge scored ten points and had eight rebounds.  They did not shoot well, especially from the free throw line. Casey Jones did not play well, but did score 12 points. They have to rebound well and protect the ball.This team can certainly win the SoCon Tournament in Asheville and are very dangerous. They have probably guaranteed that if they win the SoCon Tournament they are not a 16 seed at this point.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

SoCon Previews- February 28

Game of the Day- Samford at VMI (1:00 PM)

What's The Story: VMI has one objective- locking up the number six seed in the SoCon Tournament. They can do it with a win. A loss could send them slipping to seventh and not getting a bye in the tournament. Samford has a different objective- getting back to winning. They have now lost four straight after their five game winning streak. They are searching to get the best seed they can possibly get. This is a very important and intriguing game, between two of the teams that play full court pressure defense in the conference.

Match-up: The Bulldogs struggles have been highlighted, and they could use another big body. Michael Bradley has been fine, but he is all alone in the paint. VMI has Phillip Anglade in the paint. Anglade against Bradley should be at least entertaining. Which VMI shooter steps up in this one? Julian Eleby? Tim Marshall? Brian Brown? Those guys have taken turns shooting well in recent weeks. How Christen Cunningham handles the pressure for Samford may be the difference in this one. When they played at Samford, the Bulldogs had twenty turnovers, four by Darius Jones-Gibson. Jones-Gibson needs to be a scorer and not commit too many turnovers. Eleby scored 19 in their first match-up and was a major player. The Bulldogs have not been knocking down free throws during this losing streak at the same rate they did during the winning streak. That has been one major difference.

Prediction: Samford is a better team than they showed in the 22  point loss to VMI in December or in the 14 point loss to UNCG on Thursday. They will make this game interesting. How strong will VMI be after playing two double overtime games in a row. That equates to an extra half of basketball. Will they be fresh enough to play their tempo and shoot the ball well? Or will they have tired legs? That may well be the difference in this one. Still, with VMI at home, playing with so much on the line, they get the job done. Keydets 82, Bulldogs 76.

Western Carolina at The Citadel (1:00 PM)

What's The Story: The Bulldogs win over ETSU on Thursday gave The Citadel an opportunity to move as high as the seven seed. In the mean time, Western Carolina lost to Furman in a really ugly performance. The Catamounts are in a free fall and need to stop it before they get to Asheville. This team will be playing in the 4/5 game in Asheville next weekend no matter what, but they would love some positive momentum going in there. The Bulldogs are trying to keep their positive momentum going as they battle this one out.

Match-up: The Citadel matches up well with teams that do not necessarily like to get the ball in the paint. Western Carolina likes to shoot lots of threes. James Sinclair and Mike Brown are both good three point shooters, but Torrion Brummitt is the inside presence that will need to have a big game for the Catamounts to come up with the win. Rhett Harrelson scored 15 that time out, and he has not played that well in a while. In fact, he hasn't scored that many points since that outing. The Citadel needs Ashton Moore to keep on doing what he does. He has become a clutch shooter and an exciting player. Jake Wright is a very good shooter for The Citadel. He makes a bunch of threes. With how cold Western Carolina was shooting the other night, they will have to warm up to keep up with the Bulldogs offense in this one.

Prediction: The Bulldogs are at home and looking to close this out on a positive moment. The Catamounts are really stumbling right now, having lost three straight. The Bulldogs are actually better than the Catamounts right now. Western Carolina may get things going again in Asheville, but it won't happen in this one. Bulldogs 68, Catamounts 60.

Wofford at Furman (4:00 PM)

What's The Story: The Terriers have locked down the number one seed, so there is not much to this one for them...except for beating their rival on the road again. Wofford has dominated the Paladins recently and would love nothing more than to add another loss to the Paladins ledger. The Paladins are currently in last place, but their upset of Western Carolina on Thursday puts them in a position to where they can get out of that position with another upset. The Paladins are not a bad team given that they are in last place and would love to put on hold their recent struggles with their rival for at least one night.

Match-up: The Paladins showed up with a surprising effort against the Catamounts. Kris Acox had 12 points and 17 rebounds, making it his second 17 rebound effort in the last four games. Is Acox going to turn into a consistent threat? Maybe. It is still Stephen Croone's team, though. They need him and at least one other player to step up in a big way in this one. The Terriers will rely on Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins and Lee Skinner. Skinner and Acox (two guys that do a lot of little things on the floor) will be going against each other and that should be entertaining. Each just had two points in their first match-up. It will be interesting to see if Collins can continue to play at the level that he did against Mercer, when he was hot from the floor. If Collins is going to play like that the rest of this season, Wofford just got a whole lot better. He's always been a threat, but on Thursday he was on a different level.

Prediction: The Terriers are just vastly superior to the Paladins right now. Could Furman pull the upset? Absolutely, particularly since Wofford has nothing to play for. Plus there is always the chance that Croone has a game that reminds us why he was the Player of the Month in December. But this Paladins team needs things to break right for them to win this one. They have shown so few signs of being able to beat Wofford recently, it is hard to imagine that this is the day that changes. Terriers 72, Paladins 57.

ETSU at Mercer (4:00 PM)

What's The Story:
This game has the least on the line of any game this Saturday. Mercer is locked into the three seed. ETSU is locked into the 4/5 game next Saturday. However, both teams had tough losses on Thursday night and would like to get back onto the winning track before heading to Asheville. Also, ETSU won by one point against Mercer earlier this year, inspiring Mercer to want revenge and ETSU goes for the sweep. Which team shows up and plays with passion in this one?

Match-up: ETSU has become one of the harder to predict teams in the league. Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley are good enough that they can score points on anyone. AJ Merriweather has been stepping up in a big way as this season has progressed. But, without any true inside presence, this is a team that is hard to rely on. The Bears will have opportunities with Darious Moten and TJ Hallice to score in the paint. In fact, Hallice should have a pretty solid performance against the Bucs. This is one of the biggest teams in the SoCon against one of the smallest. However, the Bucs kept up rebounding with the Bears the first time around.

Prediction: The Bucs can be dangerous if they are shooting well, but it is hard to figure out how they will guard Hallice consistently. Ike Nwamu's athleticism is also a challenge, but the Bucs are athletic enough on the perimeter to play with anyone. If this is the game where the Bucs get their act together, they may well win this one. That being said, the Bears will find a way to win this one at home on Senior Night. Bears 69, Bucs 63.

Chattanooga at UNCG (5:00 PM)

What's The Story: The Mocs have the two seed locked up and by the time this game tips off, UNCG will know a lot more about their fate. If VMI has won earlier the day, the Spartans will no longer be able to get the final bye. Only three teams in the league have currently won more than one game in a row. One is Wofford. The other two match-up in this one. In the end, these two have a chance to take some real momentum into Asheville, as it could be argued that these are two of the teams playing the best basketball as they go into the tournament. Yes, UNCG could still finish at the very bottom of the league, but the Spartans are playing well. The Mocs are gunning for their 20th D1 win of the season.

Match-up: This is one of the most interesting inside match-ups in the whole league. RJ White is playing so well right now. Kayel Locke is not an easy match-up for anyone. The Mocs have Justin Tuoyo, who is certainly one of the best big men in the conference. That makes this match-up really interesting. The Mocs will need Greg Pryor and Rico White to do a good job on Tevon Saddler and try to force him into some turnovers. Diante Baldwin has become the quiet engine on this Spartans team. Casey Jones needs to be a difference maker in this one. He only had eight points in the Mocs first match-up with the Spartans. Pryor did score 19. The Spartans need more from Nicholas Paulos, who scored just nine the first time around.

Prediction: It is Paulos' Senior Night. How will he handle his emotions on this night? My bet- he scores in double digits and has a solid performance. White is playing really well right now- much better than the first time these two teams hooked up. Stopping the Mocs will be tough for the Spartans, but with how they are playing right now, the Spartans find a way to eek out a close home win. Spartans 73, Mocs 70.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SoCon Reviews- February 26

Wofford 76, Mercer 72

Player of the Game: Spencer Collins poured in 26 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the floor and 8 of 9 free throw shooting. He also made 4 of 6 from three point range. Collins has been kind of quiet at times this year- not Thursday.

Stat of the Game: The Terriers had an eFG% of 64.8. They shot the ball incredibly well in this one, making up for the first time they played the Bears and could not make shots. This was the offensive performance that was expected from the Terriers and it was very impressive.

What It All Means: For Mercer, this one hurts. While they played Wofford close twice, they were unable to finish either time and now are 1-3 against Chattanooga and Wofford, with their one win coming in overtime against the Mocs at home. The offense was much better this time than against Wofford the first time, but the defense was not good. The Bears do not have one scorer that they can rely on to get a shot when they need it, and that can hurt them. They also had no answer inside for Lee Skinner on Thursday, not to mention Collins big game. The Bears are the third seed, but I would say at this point, they look like they are clearly third on that list of three teams. The Terriers locked down the number one seed with this win, and they played well, especially offensively. They were so efficient, and they survived a couple of big runs by the Bears and did what they needed to do to win. The Terriers are the favorites to win in Asheville by a nose. They go to Furman on Saturday to wrap up the regular season. Collins, Skinner and Karl Cochran seem to be getting things going at just the right time for this club.

The Citadel 74, ETSU 73

Player of the Game: Ashton Moore knocked down the winning shot at the buzzer, part of his 21 points, six rebounds and eleven assists. He made 5 of 10 from the floor. Moore has been the Bulldogs best player game after game.

Stat of the Game: The Citadel made 18 of 18 from the free throw line. That was critical for the Bulldogs, as they needed every one of the freebies they could get.

What It All Means: This Bucs team is just so puzzling. They looked great in the first half against Chattanooga and then fell apart. In this one, they just couldn't ever get anything going consistently. Yes, they were ahead thanks to Jalen Riley with just a few seconds left, but it just wasn't enough. Still, if this team wins on Saturday at Mercer, they wrap up the four seed. A loss and a loss by Western Carolina would still get them the four seed. They can go no lower than the five seed. That's good news for the Bucs. This team is too small to be able to win consistently because their shooters have to be on, but they are still a contender because they have great guard play. The Bulldogs came up with the huge win to get their sixth conference win. This team seems to be starting to peak again...and just in time! The free throw shooting was huge, and Moore knocking down two game winners in three weeks shows that this team can win a close game. The Citadel can not get to the six seed because of their two losses to VMI, but they can get the seven seed simply by winning at home against Western Carolina on Saturday. This club has been a bit of a mystery, but they are playing good basketball right now, knocking down shots, which means, just like last year, they could spring an upset or two in Asheville.

Chattanooga 86, VMI 82 (2OT)

Player of the Game: Casey Jones scored 17 points with ten rebounds and three blocks. He made 7 of 14 from the floor. He played 44 minutes and continues to make a push for SoCon Player of the Year.

Stat of the Game: VMI had an eFG% of 44.1. That's not awful, but it's not good either. They shot under 40% from the floor and knocked down just six threes. The Keydets have been shooting much better during their winning streak, but just could not put the ball in the hoop tonight with enough consistency to come up with the win.

What It All Means: VMI had a shot at the four seed if they could win this one, but now are locked in to no better than the six seed. They could get as low as the seven seed with a loss to Samford and a UNCG win over Chattanooga on Saturday. This club did not shoot the ball well in this one. That can be deadly to this club that relies on knocking down shots. They defended pretty well, though they just forced thirteen turnovers. They did not rebound well and the Mocs did what it took to win the game. Phillip Anglade and Julian Eleby were very good, each scoring over 25 points. VMI is an incredibly dangerous team in Asheville, no matter who they play. The Mocs made just 12 of 24 from the free throw line, and that is the reason this game was close. They rebounded well, did not commit a lot of turnovers, and held VMI to a poor shooting night. Still, it was close. The Mocs got a win, and have the two seed locked up. They showed enough grit and determination to come up with the win as the game continued to roll through regulation and then the first overtime. They have a tough game at UNCG on Saturday that does not matter in the conference standings to the Mocs.

UNCG 81, Samford 67

Player of the Game: RJ White scored 24 points with 12 rebounds. Since he has been coming off the bench, he has been a much better player. He seems to get into the flow of the game better coming off the bench. He looks like an All SoCon type of player right now. He made 10 of 13 from the floor.

Stat of the Game:  The Spartans only turned the ball over nine times against the Bulldogs pressure defense. That pressure defense has been reasonably successful against UNCG this year, but not in this one, as the Spartans did a good job protecting the ball.

What It All Means: Now there need to start being questions about Samford again. That was not a good performance. When they won five straight in the middle of conference play, the Bulldogs seemed to be coming along. Even in these last three losses, they have competed well and looked pretty good, to the point that they were a team people did not want to play in Asheville. But they did not look like that team in this one. They looked quite mediocre in this one. They did not shoot particularly well, did not defend well and did not force turnovers. This was a major disappointment for Samford. They will try to get back on the winning track Saturday against VMI. UNCG kept their chances of the bye alive with this win. They looked good doing it and continue to look like a team that is destined to be trouble in Asheville. This club is getting better all the time. They host Chattanooga on Saturday evening in the final SoCon game of the season. The Spartans have really developed in the last few weeks and are taking more advantage of their size. This club is showing more than just signs of life- they are all out alive.

Furman 53, Western Carolina 49

Player of the Game: Kris Acox scored 12 points with 17 rebounds. He had ten offensive rebounds and made 4 of 8 from the floor. Acox showed off in this one. He was a solid contributor Thursday night. If he continues to play like that and collect double doubles, this team will be tough in Asheville.

Stat of the Game: The Catamounts shot 28.0 eFG% in this one. Yikes. That is horrid. Furman wasn't much better, going 31.5 eFG%. But the Paladins solid defense and the sheer number of free throws the Paladins shot (42 to 18) was the difference in this one.

What It All Means: Western Carolina has to look at themselves and ask some real questions. One point from their starting forwards (Tucker Thompson and Torrion Brummitt) is simply unacceptable. The Catamounts have now lost three straight games after winning at Mercer and looking like they might steal the two or three seed in the SoCon Tournament. Wofford was acceptable. Double overtime loss to VMI is a little less so. This one is a little less acceptable than that. All three together is completely outside of the realm of acceptable. This team is too talented to be playing like this. They have to go to The Citadel on Saturday. The Catamounts are always dangerous in Asheville, but are not looking like a team capable of doing damage right now. Things can change between now and  next Saturday, but wow. Furman had looked like a team ready for the season to be over. Now, they look like a different team. Acox really played great, and like the player I've been wanting to see. Kendrec Ferrara played reasonably well, too. Stephen Croone only knocked down 5 of 11 from the free throw line. That was the reason this game was close to begin with. Furman was the much better team on Thursday night. They are still a dangerous team, after all.