Checking In On… the Atlantic Sun ConferencePosted by EMoyer on February 3rd, 2012
Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.
- Spartan Conquest: USC Upstate continued its season-long upswing, beating Belmont, Lipscomb and ETSU in succession. Granted the scheduling gods rarely have one school face the three Tennessee schools in order, but regardless, no A-Sun team had beaten the Bruins, Bison and Buccaneers in order since Gardner-Webb in February 2006.
- Top Byrd: The Nashville Sports Council named Belmont head coach Rick Byrd as one of five finalists for the Nashville Sports Person of the Year award on Wednesday. Byrd, who received the 2011 Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year award, joined a pair of Vanderbilt head coaches – James Franklin (football) and Tim Corbin (baseball) – IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti and Nashville Predator goaltender Pekka Rinne as finalists.
- January’s Best: Although the league does not have an official monthly award, RTC recognizes Lipscomb’s Jordan Burgason as the A-Sun Player of the Month. He led all A-Sun players in scoring for the first month of 2012, averaging an even 19.0 points per game and surpassed the 1,000-point plateau during January. Over the nine games, he connected on 35 3-pointers (fourth-best in the country for the month) and shot 54.7 percent from the 3-point arc (seventh-best in the NCAA among those who made at least 20 3’s in January).
- USC Upstate (14-9, Previous Ranking: 5): Despite trailing both the Bears and Bruins by a game in the loss column in the A-Sun standings, the Spartans ascended to the top spot thanks to the historic “Tennessee Trifecta.” Torrey Craig, an A-Sun Player of the Year candidate, became the first Spartan to reach double-figure scoring in every game of a single month in the Division I era (since 2007-08).
- Mercer (17-7, Previous Ranking: 2): The Bears extended their win streak to six and moved into a first-place tie after Belmont stumbled at USC Upstate. Ay 17-7, the Bears have not posted a better 24-game record since 2002-03 when they started 19-5 en route to sharing the A-Sun regular-season South Division title.
- Belmont (16-7, Previous Ranking: 1): The Bruins will seek to avoid a third straight loss to Lipscomb when the two meet on Friday. The Bison have been a constant thorn in the Belmont’s side, claiming five of the last six meetings. No other A-Sun team has won five of six against Belmont since the Troy handed the Bruins five straight losses from Jan 5, 2002 through Feb. 15, 2004.
- FGCU (11-11, Previous Ranking: 8): The Eagles join the Spartans as the biggest risers in this edition of the Power Poll. FGCU has won five of its last seven, losing only to A-Sun pace-setters, Belmont and Mercer. In the Eagles’ recent three-game win streak, they shot 61.1 percent from the floor and averaged 95.0 points per game in wins against Stetson, Longwood and Kennesaw State. Those numbers tumbled to 59.5 points and 37.4 percent in the losses to Belmont and Mercer.
- Lipscomb (11-12, Previous Ranking: 4): The aforementioned Burgason remains a one-man wrecking crew for the Bison. He is the only one averaging in double figures and no player in the league averages more points when his particular team wins than Burgason, who has averaged 18.0 points in nine Lipscomb victories. He ranks second in the nation in 3-point percentage at 53.0 percent and has thus far found the visiting rims friendlier, connecting on an insane 61.7 percent in road game.
- ETSU (11-10, Previous Ranking: 3): The Bucs took the biggest tumble in the power poll as they lost three straight before winning a non-conference game with James Madison. After the loss at USC Upstate, head coach Murry Bartowsaid, “We led by five points late and had our chances. We didn’t make plays late. Turnovers were a problem … and they beat us on the glass. When you play like that, it’s hard to win.”
- North Florida (11-13, Previous Ranking: 7): In leading the Ospreys to a season sweep of Lipscomb, Parker Smith scorched the Bisons for a total of 45 points while shooting 66.7 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from the 3-point arc. He could not match that success against Belmont as the Bruins held him to 38 percent shooting and did not allow Smith to make even one 3-pointer.
- Stetson (8-14, Previous Ranking: 8): The Hatters increased their lead on Jacksonville for the eighth spot in this month’s A-Sun Championship by completing a season sweep of Kennesaw State. Stetson has missed each of the previous two A-Sun Championships. The sweep of the Owls is their first sweep of a conference foe since winning both games against Lipscomb and Kennesaw State in 2008-09.
- Jacksonville (4-18, Previous Ranking: 9): A two-game win streak proved to be short lived as the Dolphins dropped three straight to reach their highest loss total since Cliff Warren’s first season, 26, in 2005-06.
- Kennesaw State (3-20, Previous Ranking: 10): The Owls secured their fifth 20-loss season in seven Division I campaigns. Their current 11-game slide ranks as the fifth-longest in the nation, eclipsed only by Binghamton, 22; UC Davis, 16; South Carolina State, 15 and Navy 14.
Here are a couple of games in the coming days for fans to keep an eye out for:
- Friday, February 3: Belmont at Lipscomb: The game marks the last time Belmont and Lipscomb and meet in the regular season as conference rivals. The Bison handed the Bruins their lone A-Sun loss last year in this same spot and already own a win at Belmont in the Curb Event Center. Lipscomb has won six of the last eight “Battle of the Boulevard” contests in Allen Arena, including the last three.
- Saturday, February 4: USC Upstate at Mercer: While the Spartans did their damage at home over the past two weeks, the travel to Macon for what they hope will be the first of times this month (Mercer’s University Center will host the A-Sun Championships beginning Feb. 29). The Bears won in Spartanburg on January 9, a win that kick started their current six-game win streak.