Sunday, November 6, 2011

Scanning the SoCon- Week One

We are pleased to introduce our first "Scanning the SoCon." Each week, these four SoCon fans will answer questions and provide power rankings to keep a pulse on the Southern Conference. Let's get to the four writers and the sites they provide with their coverage.

DavidsonCats- Covers the Davidson Wildcats.
MocsMania- Covers the Chattanooga Mocs.
TheSportsArsenal- Covers The Citadel Bulldogs.
UNCGBasketballFan- Covers the UNC-Greensboro Spartans.

So without further ado, let's get to it!

Schedule for the week of November 6, 2011:

Friday, November 11

UNC-Greensboro at Tennessee (Maui Invitational) 7:00 (Fox Sports South)
Valparaiso at Georgia Southern 7:00
Lees-McRae College at Appalachian State 7:00
Holy Cross at College of Charleston 7:00
Western Carolina at South Carolina 7:00 (SportSouth)
Roanoke College at Furman 7:30
Guilford at Davidson 8:00
Wofford at Georgia 8:30
Elon at Massachusetts 9:00
VMI vs. The Citadel in Colorado Springs, CO (All Military Classic) 12:00 (CBS Sports)

Saturday, November 12

Youngstown State at Samford 8:00
The Citadel in All Military Classic in Colorado Springs, CO (CBS Sports)

POWER RANKINGS (first place votes in parentheses):
1) Davidson 48 (4)
2) Chattanooga 44
3) Western Carolina 37
4) College of Charleston 35
5) Appalachian State 34
6) UNC-Greensboro 29
7) Georgia Southern 25
8) Elon 19
9t) Furman 12
9t) Wofford 12
11t) Samford 7
11t) The Citadel 7


Sum up your team in 150 words.

DavidsonCats:  Here is what John Kilgo writes about Davidson in his season preview:   This is Bob McKillop’s 23rd season serving as Davidson’s head coach. His outlook is almost always optimistic but maybe more so than usual this year. He has a veteran team, one with exceptional depth as well as the versatility to put all kinds of different combinations on the court.  Scouting the Wildcats could be a daunting task for opponents. “We quite possibly could play a big lineup, a four-guard lineup, or even a lineup featuring three point guards,” McKillop said. “Playing time will be up for grabs as there are as many as 10 players who could earn double-digit minutes.”  … “We must do a better job of limiting transition points than we did a year ago,” McKillop said. “We must contest every shot and eliminate excessive fouling.”

MocsMania: The Mocs return four starters. DeAntre Jefferson and Jeremy Saffore are gone, but Drazen Zlovaric, Z Mason and some of the freshman have made the team a lot more athletic. Shulman has focused offensively on getting better shots and pounding the ball inside. Keegan Bell and Omar Wattad both have really spent a lot of time and energy getting into better shape this offseason and look like different guys. The home out of conference schedule is light, but the road schedule is not easy. The December SoCon games are two road games against Georgia Southern and College of Charleston, which is not exactly the easiest road to travel in the SoCon this year. That will tell a lot about this team. The Mocs are the favorites in the North, but it is not by a wide margin.

TheSportsArsenal:  The Citadel’s basketball team this season is very young. Second-year coach Chuck Driesell brought in eight freshmen, and several of them will see significant playing time. Mike Groselle is back with his efficient (and occasionally underappreciated) offensive game. So is lone senior Cosmo Morabbi, who is a decent bet to have a nice comeback season after last year’s injury-plagued campaign. Last season’s team struggled to adapt to Chuck Driesell’s system, never settling into an offensive identity and faring even worse defensively. Now Driesell has almost a full roster of players athletic enough for his style of play. A deeper rotation may alleviate the traditional problem The Citadel has had with players tiring down the stretch of a long season. I also expect this edition of the Bulldogs to be more athletic than usual. That said, expectations for this team are decidedly modest.

UNCGBasketballFan: Honestly, it’s time for G to crap or get off the pot. Up until now, they’ve been recruiting well and playing this tough schedule to prepare them for down the road. Well, this year the schedule is manageable and the players are mostly upper classmen. That’s a really long way of saying that I don’t have a clue what we’ll see out of G.  From what I’ve been told, the big men are in better shape and will be a solid tandem inside. A healthy Trev Simpson can probably be an all conference performer. Plus, everyone thinks we’ve found a gem in freshman shooter Nick Paulos. But they haven’t shown the ability to win consistently since Kyle Hines left. So I guess how good they can be is still TBD. At least UNCG isn’t playing the whole ACC this year. That should help.

What game (other than the ones your team is playing in) are you most looking forward to this week?

DavidsonCats:  I’m looking forward to seeing if our conference can get some OOC road wins this week.  I’ll be very interested in UNCG at UTK and Elon at UMass.

MocsMania: I’m not exactly high on The Citadel this year, but it probably does not get much better than the All Military Classic. The Bulldogs have a chance to go at least 1-1 out in Colorado Springs against VMI and then either Army or Air Force. The rivalry that exists between the four teams (since they are military schools) will make the competition fierce. It should be a lot of fun.

TheSportsArsenal: UNC-Greensboro is playing Tennessee in a neutral-site game. Tennessee is trying to recover from the Bruce Pearl debacle, while UNCG’s OOC schedule from last season should have its squad well-prepared to play an SEC team. 

UNCGBasketballFan: It looks like a weak slate this week. It’s a toss up for me between Charleston-Holy Cross and GSU-Valpo. I guess I’ll go with seeing how the Cougars look after losing so much from last season. Everyone is just loving on Baru, but I just wonder how they’ll replace losing their top 4 scorers (with Hall now out). That’s the reason I have them ranked that low on my list. There are too many question marks right now. A home game against a mid major picked to finish high in their league could answer some of the questions.
Who do you think will be the Player of the Year?
DavidsonCats:  If he’s fully recovered, I’ll go with Willie Powers.  He’s a very versatile player.  Smart, good shooter, good scorer, good defender, good leader, and his team is filled with young, undisciplined guys who could really benefit from his presence on the court.

MocsMania: Omar Carter from Appalachian State has to be considered the early favorite. I’m not expecting as much from the Mountaineers as some, so if I’m right that may hurt him. Still, who else is there right now? I’ll probably have a better feel for this after a couple of weeks. Someone will emerge from a team I expect bigger things from. We’ll see. Until proven otherwise, I guess I’ll stick with Carter.
TheSportsArsenal: Jake Cohen of Davidson is my pick to win the Player of the Year. I think he is probably going to be the best player on the league’s best team. He also leads all returning league players in Offensive Rating (not that it will be a factor in voting).
UNCGBasketballFan: Omar Carter (App State) – That guy absolutely killed UNCG at the Greensboro Coliseum last year. I turned to someone at halftime and said, “Carter will be POY in the SoCon next season.” I guess for now, I will stick with that prediction.

Which team do you think has the best chance to be the biggest surprise this year? Why?

DavidsonCats:  I’ll go with Elon.  The coaches picked them 5th in the North.  I think they are better than that.  They get Josh Bonney back this year and have brought in a  nice freshman class.  Last year’s freshmen were playing well at the end of the season.  They took a European trip this year.  When Coach Matheny’s Davidson teams went to Europe, they followed it up with very successful seasons.  I think Elon will be better than 5th in the North and will be a tough out in March.

MocsMania: I’m very high on both Georgia Southern and UNC-Greensboro. I know that a lot of people are high on the Eagles, and one reason may be looking at the rest of the South.  But UNCG seems to be getting lost in the shuffle a little bit. The Spartans schedule is more manageable this year than previous years. I really saw this team come on down the stretch last year, including the upset of Davidson in the first round of the SoCon Tournament. I really think this team will be a major player in the bye race this year in the North and it would not surprise me if they won the whole division.
TheSportsArsenal: I lean slightly to UNCG being the league’s “surprise team” because it had a respectable finish to the season last year after a terrible start and has nine of its top ten players back, including Trevis Simpson.

UNCGBasketballFan: The bias in me says UNCG. They lost one player and return a huge nucleus of upper classmen. However, for that same reason I’m going to say Georgia Southern. As bad as they’ve been the last few years, Coach Young can recruit. He’s managed to get quite a few higher rated players to Statesboro. I think they should be improved.

What are your thoughts on and expectations for Adjehi Baru at College of Charleston?
DavidsonCats:  He’s the highest-regarded freshman to enter the conference in my memory.  One publication rates him among the top 10 double-double guys in college basketball.  Especially with the loss of Willis Hall this season, there will be tons of minutes for Baru.  He’s certainly the leader for FOY in our league and may make a national splash.  Can’t wait to see him play.

MocsMania: Baru is the most highly anticipated player to enter the SoCon in a long time. If the hype is right, he could win the Player of the Year this year. He’s a big man with huge upside, which is unusual in the SoCon. Early reports say he needs to fine tune his offense a bit, but the team with the best individual player is always a threat in the SoCon Tournament. Can he produce? He better. With graduation and injuries, CofC really needs him to make a run in the South. I think he’ll fall a little short of expectations this year, but he’ll be a good one/ He is nothing but good for the SoCon on the whole. He is bringing a little bit of extra hype to the conference.
TheSportsArsenal: Baru is going to be interesting to watch. I’ve read great things about him, but I don’t know how skilled he is right now. I’m also unsure about his physical strength, which may be the determining factor of how well he does in his freshman campaign. I’ve seen him compared to Adonal Foyle, but the SoCon is generally a more athletic conference than the Patriot League.

UNCGBasketballFan: Well, he definitely is already carrying a ton of hype. The problem is that he’s not a guard. He is going to have to depend on someone to get him the ball in scoring position. I’m sure Coach Cremins will make getting him the ball a priority. Plus, the SoCon isn’t known for having many skilled big men. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect him to average double figures in both points and rebounds. I may be in the minority here, but I don’t expect him to dominate the SoCon just yet.

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