Checking In On… the Atlantic Sun

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan Dunn is RTC’s correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Current Standings

  1. Campbell (3-1) – Off to a nice start with only loss to Virginia Tech.
  2. Mercer (3-2) – Earned a couple wins at the World Vision Invitational in Providence.
  3. Belmont (2-2) – Went 1-2 at the Athletes in Action Classic in Seattle.
  4. Kennesaw State (2-2) – Earned two victories over two non-Division I opponents.
  5. East Tennessee State (2-3) – Knocked off two pretty good SoCon opponents.
  6. Stetson (2-3) – Two victories both came over non-Division I opponents.
  7. North Florida (1-2) – Knocked off Savannah State for their only victory.
  8. Jacksonville (0-2) – Were not competitive at all against FSU and Cal.
  9. Florida Gulf Coast (0-3) – Opened season with three straight road games.
  10. Lipscomb (0-4) – Has allowed its opponents to shoot close to 60 percent.
  11. USC Upstate (0-4) – Played its first three games away from home.

League Nuggets

Well, since most of these teams have played an extremely tough opening non-conference schedule, the records are less than stellar.  The combined records of the 11 teams in the league is a shaky 15-28 through the first month.  The A-Sun has been a league that has a history of early season upsets but so far no team in the league has that marquee win against a high major.  There are still plenty of opportunities out there for upsets in the next couple of weeks.   Mercer’s James Florence (21 PPG) earned the league’s first player of the week award after receiving All-Tournament honors at the World Vision Invitational.  Even with Lipscomb’s early season struggles, our preseason player of the year in the league, Adnan Hodzic, has not disappointed.  He is averaging close to 23 PPG to go along with close to eight boards after four games.

Hottest Team

The Campbell Camels have been the lone bright spot in the league so far.  Campbell started off the season with a win over Division II St. Andrew’s College by 20+ points.  Then, the Camels earned a big victory over Conference USA member East Carolina.  I know East Carolina isn’t a powerhouse basketball school but nonetheless it was a big win for Campbell and the league.  Campbell also earned an impressive double-digit victory at UNC Asheville in a “trap” game that was sandwiched between the win over ECU and the biggest home game in Campbell’s modern history against Virginia Tech.   Campbell put on an impressive performance in that contest against the Hokies as they had the lead for much of that game.  Senior forward Jonathan Rodriguez continues to rewrite the record books as he has opened the year with three straight double-doubles, now tying the Atlantic Sun record for career double-doubles with 42.  He also earned Atlantic Sun Player of the Week honors for his efforts.  Rodriguez is now fourth in career scoring in Campbell history and is steadily moving up.  If the Camels can continue to play with the same energy they have shown through the first four games, they will be a true contender in the A-Sun race.

Biggest Disappointment

After the first few games of the season the biggest surprise in the league has to be the disappointing play of Lipscomb.  The Bisons were our choice to win the league and so far they have started out 0-4 albeit against a pretty difficult schedule.  However, games against Elon and Tennessee Tech were winnable. Lipscomb has been turnover prone early in the year as they are averaging 18 per contest, a number head coach Scott Sanderson can’t be thrilled about.  But, possibly the biggest factor for the early struggles of the Bisons has to be the defensive effort.  Lipscomb is allowing opponents to shoot at a 55% clip from the field, including over 50% from three-point range.  The Bisons are not having trouble scoring as they are first in the league at just under 83 PPG; they are, however, last in scoring defense at close to 93 PPG.  If those poor defensive numbers continue Lipscomb will be in real trouble in league play.

Key “Black Friday” Games

  • North Florida @ Campbell (11/27) – Interesting scheduling here as conference play gets underway on “Black Friday,” definitely the earliest conference game in recent memory.  We’ll see if Campbell can continue their early momentum into conference play.
  • Mercer @ Georgia Tech (11/27) – This one has potential upset written all over it as Mercer has had a recent history of knocking off big time opponents in early season action.
  • Jacksonville @ South Carolina (11/27) – Jacksonville has a talented squad, but a brutal non-conference schedule has left them winless up to this point.  It doesn’t get any easier here as they go on the road and take on one of the most experienced teams in the SEC.
  • ETSU @ Arkansas (11/27) – ETSU is starting to play well as they knocked off a good College of Charleston team just a couple nights ago.  Alabama transfer Justin Tubbs is leading the way for the Bucs and returns to the SEC looking for an upset of the Razorbacks.
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