Monday, February 23, 2015

Scanning the SoCon- Week Seven

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. Hopefully, it is our best year yet.


ETSU at The Citadel (6:00 PM)
Wofford at Mercer (7:00 PM)
Chattanooga at VMI (7:00 PM)
Samford at UNCG (7:00 PM)
Western Carolina at Furman (7:00 PM)
Samford at VMI (1:00 PM)
Western Carolina at The Citadel (1:00 PM)
ETSU at Mercer (4:00 PM)
Wofford at Furman (4:00 PM)
Chattanooga at UNCG (5:00 PM)

1)      Wofford 69.5 (6.5)
2)      Chattanooga 63.5 (.5)
3)      Mercer 56
4)      ETSU 49
5)      VMI 39
6)      Western Carolina 37
7)      Samford 25
8)      UNCG 21
9)      The Citadel 18
10)  Furman 7


Julian Eleby, VMI- 3.5 votes

Others Receiving Votes: Karl Cochran, Wofford (1 vote), RJ White, UNCG (1), James Sinclair, Western Carolina (.5)


Wofford at Mercer- 4 votes

Others Receiving Votes: Chattanooga at VMI (1 vote), Samford at UNCG (1)


Sum up your team.

Chattanooga- The Mocs found a way to sweep Mercer and ETSU at home last week, keeping their slim hopes of winning the SoCon regular season title alive, and coming very close to locking up the number two overall seed. Duke Ethridge is really coming along and proving his worth. Casey Jones is making a push at Player of the Year and Justin Tuoyo has been an incredible find. Rico White, Lance Stokes and Martynas Bareika all had their Senior Night. All have started quite a bit, but only White has been contributing big minutes recently. That is a testament to the depth that this team has gained under Will Wade. They are one of the favorites in Asheville. 

Furman- Right now Furman is reeling...The last four games combined have seen opponents shoot better than 50% from three-point range against the Paladins, while Furman is struggling to score. Furman seems to have lost confidence and the season doesn't get any easier before the tournament with games against WCU and Wofford. I sympathize with Niko Medved...He's got a tough job...I hate it for a kid like Croone, who gives his all every night...Anyone who thinks Croone isn't one of the best players in the league judging him on Furman's record is just being ignorant in my opinion...There's no guard quicker in this league, but unfortunately, he's been the only dependable scorer, and when he hits a rough patch, Sibley has been good, but they never seem to have big games on the same night.

VMI- VMI continued their hot streak last Saturday, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a win on the road at Western Carolina in double-overtime, 113-111. Down by five in the first overtime with under 20 seconds left, Julian Eleby ran down the court and hit a step-back three pointer to cut the lead to two. After an intentional foul, WCU's Devin Peterson made only one of two free throws to put the Catamounts up 99-96. On the final possession, Peterson went for a steal and Eleby wisely went up in the air for an awkwardly missed three, but got fouled on the play. After calmly sinking all three free throws, Eleby went on to score 7 points in the second overtime (he had 13 in the first), and VMI was on-target from the charity stripe to preserve a 113-111 win. All told, Eleby scored 43 points on 11 for 22 shooting (13 of 15 FTs), the most ever points scored by a VMI player against a Division I team. Tim Marshall chipped in 18 and Jordan Weethee had 15. It was the Keydets' only game of the week, as they currently ride a 3-game winning streak and sit just a game behind WCU for fifth place. One more win (either against Chattanooga or Samford) clinches at least sixth place and that coveted first-round bye.

Read this article from Dean Keener. Should college athletes be paid and how will this impact the SoCon?

Chattanooga- I am not a fan of college athletes getting paid particularly. However, I am not sure what difference this makes to SoCon schools. If they do not comply and Power Five schools do, does that hurt the SoCon? I’m not sure. I mean, how many guys that were going to Power Five schools are SoCon schools also going after? Not many. Would a player choose to be the tenth player on the bench at Virginia Tech or a starter at UNCG? Is it worth $2000 to him to be on the bench and not playing or starting at UNCG? The players that would choose Virginia Tech in that situation are probably the players that were going to choose Virginia Tech anyway. If that guy would have gone to UNCG but now chooses Virginia Tech, then the Hokies now have one less scholarship to offer and that guy may wind up at UNCG now. Maybe that player turns out to be better. I’m not sure this is death of mid-major basketball as much as people say it could be, because I just don’t think it is quite what we all make it out to be. Maybe it is and I’m na├»ve. I just don’t think it necessarily means what so many people make it out to mean.

Furman- Paying student athletes is sort of like Lance Armstrong in my opinion...Armstrong always states that he was wrong in taking performance enhancers to compete at the highest level, but he says if he didn't do it, he would not have been competitive at all...In what Dean Keener is saying, he's right. Players are going to go where the money is being offered, and that's why the SoCon and other smaller mid-majors must comply or else not be competitive at all with the upper echelon of Division I college basketball. I might not agree, but no one wants to see a diminished product either.

I am generally opposed to the idea of paying college athletes. Are scholarships not enough? Scholarship athletes are given access to free education, books, meals, and tons of other nameless perks that regular students do not have. Admittedly, having to balance sports and school as a Division I athlete is incredibly challenging, but most if not all low-major colleges (SoCon included) could not afford paying a stipend to major college athletes. VMI, for example, operates their athletic budget on a deficit like almost every other FCS/mid-major program. The Power Five conferences would be fine, I suppose, but it would further separate the divide between the haves and the have-nots in major college sports. This of course leads us to the attempt to make the Power Five Schools an autonomous body, which is a whole different issue.

What team is playing the best as we head towards Asheville?

Chattanooga- There are semi-obvious teams like Chattanooga and Wofford, but I’m going to say that no one really wants to play VMI, UNCG or Samford. The Keydets have suddenly found their shooting touch, which makes them a remarkably dangerous club. Samford’s style could be really tough on a team playing a second game in two nights. UNCG has been playing much better recently, and they have talent that is good enough to win the whole thing if they play together. I’m not sure which of those three teams is playing the best, but I don’t think any of the higher seeded teams really wants to see any of them.

Furman- Wofford is hard to go against, but also Chattanooga and VMI are both starting to play the kind of basketball that could be dangerous in Asheville...Again, I like the Mocs to cut down the nets in Asheville, but it wouldn't surprise me to see any one of the top six teams win it.

VMI- I actually think Chattanooga is the team no one wants to play come tournament time. With four straight wins and 6 of their last 7, including three against top-four teams, the Mocs have now clinched a 20-win season and have an RPI of 111, second only to Wofford. They allowed a mere 59 points to an ETSU team averaging 74.2 per game. Ronrico White has found his stride with 37 points in the last two games. The Mocs (and Wofford) are the team to beat in the SoCon.

What team is playing the worst heading into the final week?

Chattanooga- Furman is completely falling apart in every possible way. They have not developed a consistent second scorer to Stephen Croone, and Croone seems to be wearing down from shouldering so much of the load. I maintain that the young Paladins will be much better next year in Croone’s senior year, but my faith has been shaken with recent performances. I thought this team was dangerous in Asheville just about two weeks ago. Now I am afraid that they will just be a speed bump. Still, if they get everyone to contribute on one night, they can beat anyone.

Furman- Furman is not a team with a lot of confidence right now having lost seven straight, including a pair of games in blowout fashion. Medved has a tough job on his hands, but this team has been resilient and will eventually play their way through this rough stretch. It gets no easier with games against Wofford and Western.

VMI- Since starting league play 4-5, Furman has imploded with seven straight losses since an impressive victory over ETSU on January 29. The Paladins lost two of these games in overtime, but another two were blowouts on the road at VMI (34 points) and UNCG (35 points). There three-point defense has faltered after allowing the Spartans to shoot 60% from behind the arc. Look for the Paladins to be a one-and-done in the tournament.

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