Each week, fans and bloggers from around the Southern Conference answer questions and respond to polls to answer the burning questions around the conference. These are their stories.
1) Wofford 67 (5)
2) Mercer 64 (2)
3) Chattanooga 57
4) ETSU 49
5) Western Carolina 33
6) Furman 30
7) VMI 30
8) The Citadel 29
9) UNCG 19
10) Samford 7
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Devin Sibley, Furman- 5 votes
Others Receiving Votes: Jalen Riley, ETSU (1 vote), Ike Nwamu, Mercer (1)
GAME OF THE WEEK
ETSU at Wofford- 4 votes
Others Receiving Votes- Western Carolina at Mercer (1 vote), The Citadel at VMI (1), VMI at Chattanooga (1)
Sum up your team.
Chattanooga- The Mocs played just one game this week and it was a win against Samford. The Bulldogs were up ten in the first half, but the Mocs pulled away and were up double digits late in the game before the free throw-a-thon broke out in the closing minutes and the Mocs won by a closer score. Chattanooga did get Greg Pryor back and looked better on offense, though he only played twenty minutes. This week, the Mocs get VMI and UNCG at home, before going to Mercer the following week. The Mocs are clearly developing into one of the better teams in the league, but it is hard to know exactly where they will finish.
The Citadel- The Citadel's slow-slower-slowest style of play on offense can be quite frustrating to opponents at times, and can also hide the fact that it is not a good defensive team. The Bulldogs struggle to control the defensive glass, and do not force many turnovers. However, The Citadel can still be dangerous, because it is one of the better shooting teams in the country. If The Citadel can hold its own on the boards and avoid committing too many turnovers on offense (a season-long issue), it is quite capable of beating any team in the league (as Wofford found out). The Bulldogs can also lose to any team in the conference.
UNCG- Good luck figuring out UNCG. As a whole, the team has had a pretty down season in comparison to expectations. However, on Wednesday night UNCG played with a lot of energy and beat VMI on a poor shooting night for the Keydets. The Spartans won despite playing their second straight game without Tevon Saddler. G played well because they continually gave the ball to their big guys. Kayel Locke can be a matchup nightmare on nights when he's focused. The game did have a bit of interesting sidebar take place, though. Early in the second half UNCG head coach Wes Miller and associate head coach Mike Roberts got into a very heated exchange that left most Spartan fans in attendance feeling a bit on edge. I honestly think that Miller is coaching to keep his job at this point and that might have caused things to bubble over. I don't have an inside knowledge of what's going on in the locker room. So any theory I throw out here is just a wild guess. But coaches publicly arguing in not a good look. As far as the team goes, defense continues to plague this group. Any team interested in showing patience and reversing the basketball can create a ton of open looks. Offensively, the Spartans are very adequate. At times they individually press and get a bit selfish. But the problem is not on that end of the court most nights.
Let’s revisit a question from earlier in the year. Is the new SoCon better or worse than last year’s SoCon?
Chattanooga- I said before the season the conference would be deeper but maybe worse at the top…and I’ll stand by that statement. Wofford is not as good as Davidson, but the remaining teams in the conference are better than before. The conference had an RPI of 30 last year. Now, if you take out the Independents RPI out, the SoCon has an RPI of 24. That’s pretty good. The SoCon is improved. It’s not great, by any means, but it has clearly improved.
The Citadel- Mercer is obviously a very solid program. ETSU is holding its own, as is VMI (though losing QJ Peterson could be a problem for the Keydets). I think the league is better this year. It may have been even better if some of the schools that left were still in the league, but that doesn't really matter. Kenpom has the SoCon as the 23rd-ranked conference in the nation after having been 30th last season. That strikes me as about right.
UNCG- I think there's no doubt now that this group is better from top to bottom. Plus, at the very top Wofford ranks pretty even with Davidson, whose A10 defection was (supposedly) going to sink the conference. This whole league is competitive and it seems every team has to bring its very best effort every night in order to win games.
Which player do you believe is the most overrated player in the conference?
Chattanooga- VMI’s QJ Peterson is no longer on the team, and gets a lot of good press as a great player. However, he shot a very low percentage from the floor. Therefore, I always felt like he was slightly overrated. That being said, I wish him nothing but good luck as he works through whatever caused him to leave the team.
The Citadel- At this point in the season I am not sure any league player can be really "overrated". It's the SoCon; just trying to get players rated at all is hard enough.
UNCG-I'm going to call out one of my own players here and say RJ White. RJ is big, agile and has range to his shot. But too many times this season, he has completely disappeared during games. More often than not, he's sitting on the bench saddled with foul trouble. For someone who was being counted on to replace all conference center Kyle Cain, White's lack of production during games is one of many reasons why UNCG hasn't lived up to expectations. He's got to figure out how to keep himself from picking up silly and unnecessary fouls. However, he is only a sophomore and this is part of the maturation process of big men at the mid-major level. So, it's hard to be too critical of him.
Which SoCon arena is the toughest to play in?
The Citadel- The toughest building in the league for an opponent to play in is the one that has the best home team.
UNCG-Off the top of my head, I'd probably have thrown out "The Roundhouse" in Chattanooga, but UNCG has had some success there (both in the regular season and in a few SoCon Tournament appearances). For the Spartans, I'd say the answer has to be the Ramsey Center at Western Carolina. I really have thought a lot of seasons that UNCG and WCU had very evenly matched squads. However, the Catamounts have routinely beaten UNCG in their own building. Most of the time, convincingly.
Western Carolina- For Western Carolina, it has to be the Roundhouse in Chattanooga.