Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.
First, it’s not really ACC-related, but this is a fantastic article on former Washington star Brandon Roy.
Fox Sports Carolinas: Starting next season the ACC is going to 18-game conference schedule in men’s and women’s basketball. Andrew Jones takes a look at the positive and negative effects of the change. I agree that it’s a positive that two conference games will replace two garbage “guarantee” games (hopefully). I don’t agree that the 12 extra losses will hurt the ACC. Obviously, each one of those losses is also a conference win. The key for ACC teams is getting prepared for conference season a little earlier than usual to take advantage of the game. One negative is the new schedule will almost certainly reduce the number of non-conference home-and-home series coaches are willing to schedule (specifically, keep an eye on Kentucky and Texas with North Carolina).
Tobacco Road Blues: Here’s a pretty fascinating interview with Steve Kirschner. Kirschner is the head of North Carolina’s basketball public relations. He’s got a pretty interesting perspective on current and past players, as well as the Duke-North Carolina rivalry and everything in-between. Specifically, his analysis of Kendall Marshall is very good. Kirshner described Marshall’s ACC Tournament championship game perfectly by saying the Nolan Smith made Marshall speed his game up and forced him to make mistakes.
Duke Basketball Report: Speaking of the sophomore Tar Heel point guard, Marshall looks ready to break the single-season assist record for the ACC. He’s on pace to average over ten dimes a game, and the Tar Heels are likely to play well over thirty games. It’s also impressive to look at the class years on the list of top assist totals. Seven of the top ten assist totals are from juniors and seniors. Marshall is on pace to pass all of them in another 20 games. If he plays four years, Bobby Hurley‘s ACC assist record could be blown out of the water (and imagine what Marshall could have done if he started from the beginning last season).
Baltimore Sun: Don Markus takes a look at five questions facing Maryland for when the Terrapins return from winter break. He sounds cautiously optimistic, especially with Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len in the fold, that the Terrapins could be better than advertised. Len could be the real deal. If he is, there will be major changes in Mark Turgeon’s strategy (i.e., the ability to play inside-out, having to change the starting line-up, less of a height deficit, etc.). Basically, the point is that Maryland may look like a totally different team come conference play.
Winston-Salem Journal Now: Jason Capel was an all-conference player when he played for North Carolina. Now he’s coming back to coach Appalachian State in the Dean Dome, his first time in the arena since 2005. Capel doesn’t have any misconceptions about the juggernaut his Mountaineers are about to face: “I say it’s going to be fun now [...] but if they go on a 20-0 run, it’s not going to be very darn fun.”
Will Rothschild is the RTC correspondent for the Southern and the Atlantic Sun conferences. He can be found on twitter @warothschild.
Reader’s Take I
The Arrival of Adjehi Baru. The highest-rated prospect ever to choose the College of Charleston, Baru is a 6’9″ native of the Ivory Coast who picked the Cougars from a final group that included North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech. Bobby Cremins has always been known as a great recruiter – if not exactly John Wooden on the bench – but this was clearly his biggest coup since he beat out North Carolina, Georgetown, St. John’s and Syracuse for Kenny Anderson back in 1988. Though Baru has only been playing basketball a short time and his offensive game is a major work in progress, he quickly established himself as a game-changer on the AAU circuit and shot up the recruiting rankings, eventually settling in as a consensus top-five center prospect. He will be an absolute load to deal with in the SoCon. After his eligibility was initially held up the NCAA Clearinghouse, he was cleared to play this season in early October.
Steward Will Be an Absolute Load in the SoCon
The Big Dogs Are Back: Will it be Davidson or Chattanooga? The two most tradition-rich programs in the Southern Conference are back on top this season and appear head and shoulders above what otherwise looks to be a very balanced league. Each team returns four starters, top-notch point guards, and a nice blend of versatile wings and size in the post. They also have coaches – Bob McKillop at Davidson and John Shulman at Chattanooga – who know how to get a team through the SoCon tournament and into the Dance. Davidson will be looking for its 6th NCAA trip under McKillop and its 11th overall, but its first since the team that was a rimmed-out Jason Richards jumpshot from making it to the Final Four in 2008. Chattanooga is also after its 11th NCAA trip, its third in eight seasons under Shulman, and its first since 2009.
How Far Will Wofford Fall? After two straight Southern Conference championships and NCAA Tournament bids (in which they lost first-round games to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined 12 points), the consensus is Wofford won’t be much of a threat in 2011-12. Coach Mike Young, who has turned down a couple of overtures from other schools the past two springs, watched five of the most celebrated players in program history graduate in May. But even with POY Noah Dahlman, the two title teams were more a testament to Young and his staff’s ability to bring the right kind of players to Wofford, one of the most challenging liberal arts colleges in the South. Indeed, those teams always had a sum-is-better-then-their-parts ethos about them. Meanwhile, Young and his staff are excited about their past two recruiting classes, including a freshman group seven strong. Expecting the Terriers to win 20 games for the third straight season isn’t realistic, but in his 10th season Young has this program rolling and stocked with young talent that will keep the Terriers from slipping very far down the standings.
Will Appalachian State be better WITHOUT Donald Sims? While the 6’1″ Sims was a dominant scorer (21 PPG in 2010-11) he also dominated the basketball, and his teammates deferred too much at times to his one-on-one offensive ability. With the graduation of the school’s all-time leading scorer and 2010 SoCon POY, the sense around Boone is that Jason Capel’s second team will be much more balanced and difficult to defend. Omar Carter, a 6’5″ forward, is back after averaging 16.3 points and nearly 6 rebounds, and 6’10″ center Isaac Butts returns after missing all of last season with an injury. As a junior in 2009-10, Butts averaged 8.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, and he makes Appalachian one of the few teams in the league with someone to physically match up with Baru. Capel also welcome a pair JUCO transfers – Rodney Milum, a 6’0″ guard from Houston, and Jamaal Trice, a 6’6″ forward from L.A. – who are expected to step in and contribute immediately.
It’s October. The leaves are starting to turn colors. Halloween candy is already in the stores. There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat. Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials. For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series. The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season. Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package. As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy. What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays. Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.
Kyrie Irving – Fr, G – Duke. To get an idea how highly touted Kyrie Irving is, consider this: coming off a season where Duke won the national title and only lost one key playmaker on offense, most people believe that the Blue Devils will run their offense through the talented freshman from New Jersey who many recruiting experts rank among the best to ever come from the state that has produced so many great college players, including Duke legends Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams. His development during his sophomore year of high school when ESPN analysts stated that he “would be a top 300 player nationally in the 2010 class” and then said a few months later “could be an impact player in the Atlantic 10 or a high-major role player” to his senior year when he was a top five recruit (#1 according to some services) and those same recruiting analysts were stating “it will be shocking if he isn’t an all-conference performer and possible all-american his freshman season” portends the potential for his development into a truly special player. Irving is one of the rare players who arrives on campus with the ability to both score and distribute the ball to his teammates. After all the talk about how Coach K had lost his edge in recruiting, Irving might be his most dynamic recruit since Williams arrived in Durham back in 1999. Despite only being on campus for a few months, his Blue Devil teammates have probably already begun to appreciate his high basketball IQ, competitiveness, and all-around ability. Even though many will question his inclusion on our Impact Player team over his more proven teammate Nolan Smith, Irving has demonstrated a skill set in high school that goes beyond what Smith has demonstrated even with three additional years of experience under the watchful eye of Coach K. If Irving is able to make a smooth transition from the high school game to the college game (and having Singler, Smith, Seth Curry, and the Plumlees around should help), his game could make the Blue Devils heavy favorites to repeat when March arrives. With Irving’s game we don’t think it will be question of if but rather when he feels truly comfortable at the college level, so all the Duke haters should be preparing for a long season ahead.
Kyrie Irving Could be the Best Duke Guard Since J-Will
Malcolm Delaney - Sr, G – Virginia Tech. If you’re a Hokies fan and a Twitter fiend, back on May 8th you were probably just a little surprised but very happy that Malcolm Delaney tweeted that he was going to put off NBA riches for a year and return to school for his senior season. Nobody, however, could have been happier than Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg. We shudder to think at the number of blood pressure medications that man must be taking these days, having seemingly been the victim of more last-second heartbreakers and burst NCAA Tournament bubbles (are we allowed to refer to “the bubble” in October?) than any one man should ever be expected to endure, but the return of Delaney to Blacksburg should have lowered Greenberg’s systolic by about 20 points. It probably went back up over the summer, though, after Greenberg lost two of his forwards for the season — specifically presumptive sixth man J.T. Thompson to a left ACL tear and Allan Chaney to viral myocarditis (a condition slightly less than 0.6% of all people in America have) — and has another one in Cadarian Raines recovering from surgery in March to repair a re-fractured left foot. The importance of Delaney, then, and the impact he’ll have in this geographical region become obvious. VT will have to go small, and that means more touches for Malcolm, who we’re guessing will have no problem taking on more responsibility in terms of both scoring and rebounding, and we’re saying this about the top scorer in the ACC last season (20.2 PPG). He played an average of 35.8 MPG last year (4th ACC, 58th nationally) and we wonder if he’ll even sit at all this season. Most importantly, if the Hokies are going to attempt to return to only their second NCAA Tournament in the last 15 years (and what would be Delaney’s first), Greenberg will be counting on emotional and vocal leadership on the floor and in the locker room from Delaney, his RTC South Atlantic Impact Player and ACC Player of the Year candidate.
Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.
Mike Young's Terriers Look to Lead the SoCon Again
Around The SoCon
Former Citadel coach Ed Conroy moves on to coach Tulane University. The Bulldogs hired former Maryland assistant coach Chuck Driesell, who was with the Terps for four seasons under head coach Gary Williams.
The Mountaineers hired former UNC star forward Jason Capel, who becomes the youngest head coach in Division I at 30 years old, to replace Buzz Peterson, who departs for UNC-Wilmington.
The Georgia Southern Eagles made a splash in its recruiting class coming in, ranking sixth among mid-major programs, according to ESPN.com.
Asheville, North Carolina, has been awarded the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournament for 2012-14, to be held in the Asheville Civic Center, just a stone’s throw away from the Western Carolina campus. The facility will undergo a considerable renovation to prepare for the event.
The Southern Conference will likely be a one-bid league in 2010-11, but the recent NCAA tournament expansion will certainly add motivation for teams on the rise to perform. With the return of forward Noah Dahlman (16.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG last season), Wofford is the early favorite to repeat as SoCon champs next season.
Western Carolina – The Catamounts lost some very good talent from a team that won 22 games in 2009-10, including an impressive 14-2 home record. WCU lost its top two scorers in Brandon Giles and Jake Robinson, but return former freshman of the year Harouna Mutombo. Also, the Catamounts bring back spark plug Mike Williams, who contributed 9.4 points off the bench last season. Starting center Richie Gordon returns after posting 8.5 ppg and 4.6 rebounds per game last season. WCU welcomes four newcomers, including 6’4 guard Brandon Boggs, from Greenville, South Carolina. Boggs averaged 16 PPG in his senior season, earning him a spot on the South Carolina all-star team. Boggs scored a game-high 24 points in the contest.
Appalachian State - The Mountaineers lost Buzz Peterson to UNC-Wilmington and welcome a new era with Jason Capel, who becomes the nation’s youngest head coach heading into the 2010-11 season. ASU won an impressive 24 games en route to the North Division crown last season. To repeat as champs, they are going to need Donald Sims to perform at a level similar to last season, when he averaged 20.4 points per game and was a sure thing from the stripe, with a league-leading 95 percent. Also returning is Isaac Butts, who led the team in rebounding, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game last season. Two newcomers for the Mountaineers are Anthony Breeze, who transferred from Coastal Carolina last season, and Omar Carter, who transferred from Charleston Southern.
Chattanooga – The Mocs have three starters returning from a team that went 15-18 last season. Chattanooga went 6-12 in conference play, tying UNC-Greensboro for third in the north division. Rising junior guard Ricky Taylor returns after putting up 11.4 points per game in 2009-2010. Keegan Bell, who averaged 7.6 points per game last season, is another starter from a year ago. Together, Taylor and Bell will look to provide the Mocs with a 1-2 punch in the backcourt. Three newcomers round out the roster, including some size in the frontcourt in Philip Jurick, who stands 6’11 and played at Chattanooga State Community College last season.
Samford – The Bulldogs head into 2010-11 returning three starters from last year’s team, including leading scorer Josh Davis, who averaged 12.5 points per game and netted a team-high 85 three pointers. Also returning is starting center Andy King, who posted 6.6 points per game last season. The Bulldogs struggled on the road last season, going 4-10 away from Birmingham, and the team hopes that more veteran leadership will change their fate this season. Three newcomers will join the squad, including two in the frontcourt in Levi Barnes (6’10) and Drew Windler (6’9). Guard Greg Wooten rounds out the recruiting class for Samford.
UNC-Greensboro – The Spartans return rising sophomore Kyle Randall, who was second on the team in points per game with 9.5. Also returning is fellow guard Brandon Evans, who averaged 8.5 points per game last season. The Spartans had a tough non-conference slate containing six ACC opponents, which contributed to a 2-11 record before conference play started. While overmatched in most of those contests, they hung around with Virginia Tech until late in the game Six of those losses came at home. Three newcomers join the team this season in Aaron Brackett, David Williams, and Aloysius Henry, who hopes to contribute right away.
Elon - The Phoenix return their leading scorer in Drew Spradlin, who averaged 13.3 points per game last season as a sophomore. Also returning is starting guard Chris Long, who posted 9.9 points per game in his junior season. Sixth man Terrance Birdette returns as well, after scoring 6.8 points per game and seeing court time in all 32 games last season. There are five newcomers who join the Phoenix hoops squad in 2010. Incoming freshmen include Ryley Beaumont, Jack Isenbarger, Sebastian Koch, Lucas Troutman. Sophomore transfer Egheosa Edomwonyi from Rice will be a part of Elon’s quest for a Southern Conference championship. Isenbarger was a McDonalds All-American nominee and could be the prize in the recruiting class.
Whew, things aren’t slowing down much in comings and goings. Colorado filled its open head coaching position with Tad Boyle, the Northern Colorado coach who took a transitional D1 program to 25 wins and second place in the Big Sky this season. Appalachian State is reported to be filling its open position vacated by Buzz Peterson with another former UNC player, Jason Capel. The 30-year old Capel has only one season of experience as an assistant under his belt, but he clearly has the name recognition in the state of North Carolina that should help with recruiting. Washington’s Lorenzo Romar parlayed his run to the Sweet Sixteen into a ten-year contract extension (through 2020), which shows again how important March has become. On the NBA Draft side, Richmond’s Kevin Andersonwill test the waters to see what he needs to improve upon for next season, and BYU’s Jimmer Fredettewill do likewise. Neither player will sign with an agent, leaving open the possibility of a return to school next season. Fredette is currently projected as a late first/early second round pick, while Anderson is likely undrafted at this point (which means he should return).
The Fred Hill saga at Rutgers has finally ended, with the embattled head coach agreeing to a settlement with the school worth $850,000 to resign his position. This was an embarrassing week for the State University of New Jersey, but the school can now get back to the more important issue of finding a coach to save this moribund basketball program. Eddie Jordan, Fran Fraschilla and Jim O’Brien are reportedly on the short list.
This is an incredible column. First, we’d been wondering why we hadn’t seen Bill Walton on any NBA/NCAA broadcasts for a while, and this explains why. But second, it now puts the notorious UCLA loss to Notre Dame in 1974 to end the 88-game winning streak in a completely new light. The Big Redhead played with broken bones in his back — take that Evan Turner!
From yougotdunkedon.com, This is a fun mix of some of the best dunks of the 2009-10 season. Which is your fav? For our money, it’s Travis Leslie… wow!
Championship Monday Night. Four middies had their conference tourneys tonight, and we’ll be damned if we didn’t see at least a couple of RTCs out there (and a half-RTC in the WCC just for good measure). Make no mistake, though, the four mid-major teams that won their leagues tonight are all excellent teams that nobody, we repeat, NOBODY, is going to want to see opposite their name in the brackets next week. Every one of these four squads are seasoned, experienced and battle-tested units that won’t get rattled by seeing some bright lights, a big arena and a brand-name team standing at the other end of the court. If none of these four teams pulls a first-round upset, then we don’t know anything about this game.
WCC Championship. St. Mary’s 81, Gonzaga 62. This game came down to a team that looked like it was playing for its NCAA life versus a team that was just happy going through the motions. It was a complete mismatch in the second half of the WCC title game, as St. Mary’s confirmed its bona fides in a cathartic victory over its biggest rival and in the process serving notice that there are two powers coming out of the WCC this season. The Gaels broke up a close game at halftime with a 51-point second half that included 68% shooting in the second half led by multiple threes from Mickey McConnell (26/6 assts/4 stls) and Ben Allen (20/9/4 assts). Essentially it was a do-no-wrong kind of half for Randy Bennett’s team to the point where his team didn’t even need a big offensive night from their superstar center Omar Samhan (9/7/6 blks). As for Gonzaga, this was the latest in a series of disappointing no-shows during the last six weeks where Mark Few’s team looked largely uninterested and apathetic — losses to San Francisco and LMU were similar occurrences. Elias Harris in particular was miserable tonight, shooting 3-13 for eight points, and the entire team seemed to have grease on their hands with fourteen TOs in the game. We realize that the Zags are always a threat to do some damage in March, but we’re just not convinced that this is one of Mark Few’s better teams, so it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if it was St. Mary’s that sticks around a little longer next week than their better-known counterparts in the NCAA Tournament.
Nope, SMC Didn't Surprise Us (AP/I. Brekken)
MAAC Championship. Siena 72, Fairfield 65 (OT). For an oh-so-brief moment, every bubble team in America held its collective breath. Colin Nickerson’s three-pointer from the left corner was in the air to win the MAAC title for Fairfield, and if it had dropped, the weak bubble would have suddenly gotten a little more crowded with Siena joining the party. Of course, it didn’t fall, and instead Siena capped off its title game comeback by dominating the overtime period and capturing its third straight MAAC championship to return to the NCAA Tournament. For the third straight night, Siena found itself down at the half (this time by eleven) but as appropriate for a seasoned team, they never panicked, instead keeping their cool and eventually working their way back. Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, veterans of four NCAA Tournament games in their careers, combined for 49/19 to lead the Saints, but it was Ubiles’ 360-dunk in the second half that signaled to Fairfield and the rest of the building that Siena was not going to leave without a victory tonight. Forget about the six losses on Siena’s record this year — five of those were away games, and the last we checked, the Tournament is played on neutral floors, and we know what this group is capable of in that respect. Ask Vanderbilt or Ohio State: nobody wants to play this team next Thursday or Friday. To close out the MAAC, check out this video from SienaSaintsBlog of the RTC tonight. Great stuff.
Quick Hits – With the Southern Conference season ending on Saturday it looks like the conference champions of their respective divisions are clinched. Congratulations to Appalachian State (12-5) for winning the North division thanks to a season sweep against Western Carolina this season. Also the Wofford Terriers for winning the South division with a solid 14-3 conference record. The Terriers clinched the division title on Thursday night with a 74-68 win at home. The conference tournament starts on March 4-8, being played in Charlotte, N.C., at the Time Warner Cable arena. In my opinion four teams still have a chance to be dancing in March with Wofford (14-3), Appalachian State (12-5), Western Carolina (10-7), and College of Charleston (13-4).
Conference Tournament Champion prediction: College of Charleston – I believe they will avenge their losses to Wofford and Western Carolina by defeating the Catamounts in the SoCon championship to head to the NCAA tournament. With the way the Cougars can move the ball around the perimeter I believe they will cut down the nets in Charlotte.
Predicting Post-season Awards:
Player of the Year: Donald Sims (Appalachian State) 20.1 points per game, leads the conference in 3 pointers made (90), free throw percentage (.948) 146-154 missed eight free throws all year.
Coach of the Year:Buzz Peterson (Appalachian State) 19-11 overall, 12-5 SoCon
Freshman of the Year:Jake Cohen (Davidson) 13.1 points per game
1st Team all-SoCon
Donald Sims- Appalachian State 20.1 ppg
Andrew Goudelock- College of Charleston 19.2 ppg
Cameron Wells- Citadel 17.4 ppg
Noah Dahlman- Wofford 17.4 ppg
Amu Saaka – Furman 16.1 ppg 7.1 rpg
2nd Team all-SoCon
Ben Stywall- UNC Greensboro
Jordan Miller- Furman
Brandon Giles- Western Carolina
Willie Powers- Georgia Southern
Drew Spradlin- Elon
Final Games remaining:
February 27th – Samford @ Appalachian St. 3 p.m.
February 27th – Citadel @ Wofford 7 p.m.
February 27th – College of Charleston @ Furman 4 p.m.
February 27th – Davidson @ Elon 7 p.m.
February 27th – Chattanooga @ Western Carolina 3 p.m.
March 1st – Georgia Southern @ UNC Greensboro 7 p.m.
Appalachian State has won two-straight conference games to take over first place in the North Division. Western Carolina has been reeling of late after losing on the road against Elon. WCU with the loss is now second in the division.
Georgia Southern is the most disappointing team to date with a dismal 3-9 conference record and 6-19 overall record. The Eagles have struggled on the road this season.
Sizzling Players. These top seven guys continue to lead the conference with their stellar play for their teams.
Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Mon, Feb 15
* Wed, Feb 17
College of Charleston
* Wed, Feb 17
* Wed, Feb 17
Key Results from last two weeks.
On Saturday Feb. 6th, Appalachian State went on the road and defeated Western Carolina, 89-77, to sweep the season series from the Catamounts. That win for the Mountaineers completely changes the Southern Conference and puts App. State in the drivers seat for the division title.
On Monday Feb. 8th,The Citadel went on the road and beat the College of Charleston, 72-65, which proved to be a nice win for the Bulldogs. The Cougars are trying to hold off a late rally by Wofford to claim the South Division title.
Also on Monday Feb. 8th,Western Carolina continued its poor showing on the road in 2010 by losing to Elon, 81-76. WCU with the loss now sits a full game behind the Mountaineers in the North Division title race.
Monday Feb. 8th continued to be a busy day for the Southern Conference as Wofford went on the road to defeat Furman, 76-65. Wofford improved to 10-3 in conference and continues to show that the Terriers could be a contender for the league title in the next couple of weeks.
On Feb. 11, the College of Charleston beat Elon, 80-77, after Donvan Monroe scored a career high 29 points to lead the Cougars to victory over the pesky Phoenix.
On the same night Appalachian State beat Davidson, 66-56 to sweep the season series from the Wildcats. The Mountaineers now control their own destiny in the North Division with the victory.
Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.
Western Carolina 2-0 / 10-1
Appalachian State 1-1 / 6-4
Samford 1-1 / 3-7
Elon 1-1 / 3-8
UNC Greensboro 1-1 / 2-6
Chattanooga 0-1 / 5-5
Charleston 3-0 / 5-3
Furman 1-1 / 5-3
Citadel 1-1 / 6-5
Davidson 1-1 / 3-7
Wofford 0-2 / 5-6
Georgia Southern 0-2 / 3-9
Quick Hits. After making a call to my old boss at Western Carolina I made the three-hour trip from Atlanta, GA, to Cullowhee, NC, to see this impressive Western Carolina team in person take on my alma mater, the Campbell Fighting Camels, on December 10th. Having previously covered both teams I knew this game was going to be a good one. Western Carolina can really shoot, hitting ten threes including four from its senior point guard Brigham Waginger. The one player who impressed me the most was junior-college transfer Mike Williams who the fans call “And One” because he makes a ton of lay-ups while getting fouled, as you’d guess. Williams was lightning quick and scored 16 off the bench to key the win for the Catamounts 66-59. Campbell ran a nice half-court trap that forced Western Carolina into 15 turnovers and Jonathan Rodriquez scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds but it wasn’t enough. Watching the hottest team in the SoCon live gives you a different perspective on how good this team really can be. Two days later they defeated Louisville on the road and ran their win streak to nine straight games thanks to 23 points from Mike Williams. In the college insider mid-major top 25 rankings the Catamounts are currently ranked 8th and are receiving votes in the national Top 25 poll. Keep a close eye on this team as they head on the road to play Clemson before Christmas.
Other Notes. College of Charleston is really coming on strong and showing why they are also a favorite to win the Southern Conference crown come March. Now 5-3 overall and starting 3-0 in conference has put the Cougars right where they want to be. With the non-conference schedule about to end, the conference season will really start to shape things as a whole proving what teams are looking to make a push come time for March Madness.
Most Disappointing Teams. In recent weeks the two biggest disappointments have been Georgia Southern who is now 3-9 and 0-2 in the conference. The Eagles have lost five straight games and are giving up 76 PPG, which doesn’t help. Also, Davidson has been hit by a tough opening schedule, as they are 3-7 overall and 1-1 in the conference. The Wildcats are trying to earn some non-conference wins in the upcoming weeks.
Sizzling players. There are three players who really have stood out this week with Donald Sims from Appalachian State third in the conference in scoring at 16.9 points per game. Andrew Goudelock from College of Charleston averaging 16.8 has really been scoring to help the Cougars open up 3-0 in conference play. Finally junior-college transfer Mike Williams from Western Carolina who is averging 10.7 points per game off the bench but dropped 23 points against Louisville in the upset.
Upcoming Important Match-ups:
Sat. Dec. 19 College of Charleston @ Clemson 7:30 p.m. – Another chance for a SoCon school to knock-off an ACC opponent.
Sat. Dec. 19 Wofford @ South Carolina 7:00 p.m. – Wofford looking for two wins against SEC opponents with Georgia being the first.
Tues. Dec. 22 Western Carolina @ Clemson 7:30 p.m. – A chance for the Catamounts to continue its winning streak against an ACC opponent.
Tues. Dec. 22 Georgia Southern @ Georgia State 7:30 p.m. – Two mid-majors renew its in-state rivalry.
Wed. Dec. 23 College of Charleston @ Hawaii 12:30 a.m. ESPN 2 – Christmas Tournament in Hawaii for CofC hoping to earn some wins for the SoCon.
Appalachian State (6-4). The Mountaineers continue to be a sneaky team with a 1-1 record in the SoCon after a key road win against Wofford, 77-76, with Donald Sims scoring 25 points. Appalachian State followed that up with a 113-91 victory against Milligan on December 17th. Donald Sims led the way with 23 points to run the win streak to two games.
Chattanooga (5-5). The Mocs have been in the middle of the pack in the SoCon but have dropped two of their last three games including a 19-point loss to Elon to fall to 0-1 in conference play. They responded with a 22-point win against Mississippi Valley State 82-60 on December 12th. On December 14th the Mocs lost to Georgia Tech 95-64 but Ty Patterson did have 22 points in the defeat.
College of Charleston (5-3). The Cougars have hit their stride putting together a 4-game winning streak in December winning three straight conference games to start 3-0. After beating Davidson 67-55 the Cougars followed it up with a tight road win against UNC-Greensboro 67-64 thanks to 28 points from junior Andrew Goudelock. On December 16th College of Charleston defeated Charleston Southern 87-74 for its fourth straight win.
Davidson (3-7). The Wildcats have struggled this season but also have played a strong schedule against some really good teams. Davidson lost to College of Charleston 67-55 to drop to 1-1 in conference play. On December 12th the Wildcats took on mid-major powerhouse Gonzaga on the road losing 103-91. Jake Cohen scored 16 points and has been coming on strong of late. On December 17th Davison defeated New Jersey 90-49 thanks to 23 points from Cohen.
Elon (3-8). Elon is sitting at 1-1 in the conference after a key victory against Chattanooga 82-63 on December 5th. The Phoenix traveled to Raleigh, N.C., to take on N.C. State and put a scare in the Wolfpack but fell in the end 79-76 getting 26 points from senior forward Adam Constantine. Elon had a four-point lead with four minutes to play but just couldn’t hold on.
Furman (5-3). The Paladins have only had two games in recent weeks both coming as losses with the first a tight 64-57 loss against Western Carolina. Junior Jordan Miller led the team in scoring with 15 points. Furman then traveled to Clemson on December 13th losing 82-53 with Miller scoring 11 points in the loss. The Paladins sit at 1-1 in conference play.
Georgia Southern (3-9). The Eagles have been struggling of late dropping three-straight non-conference games first at N.C. State 75-57 on December 12th and home against Coastal Carolina 69-58 on December 15th. Georgia Southern lost to Evansville 75-58 on December 17th with Willie Powers scoring 11 points in the loss. The Eagles are also 0-2 on the SoCon hoping to get back on track in the next coming weeks.
Samford (3-7). Samford has only played two games, going 1-1 in them. They defeated Spring Hill on December 12th 58-48 with Trey Montgomery scoring 12 points in the victory. Samford then traveled to in-state rival Alabama on December 16th losing 60-45 with Josh Davis scoring 13 points in the loss.
The Citadel (6-5). This is a very interesting team that loves to get up a lot of shots. They defeated Georgia Southern on December 5th 68-43 with Zach Urbanus scoring 20 points. After watching the Michigan State game on ESPNU, you could tell this team could present some problems to other SoCon teams in the future. The Bulldogs lost 69-56 to the Spartans but were within single digits a couple of times in the game as Cameron Wells scored 16 points in the loss. Also the Citadel hosted Michigan State in that game and really gave the Spartans a scare.
UNC-Greensboro (2-6). UNCG has started conference play at 1-1 right in the middle of the pack but has lost two-straight games against College of Charleston 67-64 and Princeton 65-50 on December 13 with Ben Stywall scoring 14 points in the loss.
Western Carolina (10-1). The Catamounts are clearly the hottest team in the SoCon and could make the argument for one of the top mid-majors at the moment. They are riding a nine-game winning streak that includes some impressive victories. First, Western Carolina defeated Furman 64-57 to open up 2-0 in conference play. Then the Catamounts defeated a solid Bradley team on the road, 75-67, on December 7th. On December 10th they kept the winning streak going against Campbell 66-59 thanks to 16 points from Mike Williams. Western Carolina finished the run by going on the road and stunning Louisville 91-83 thanks to 24 points off the bench from Mike Williams, who earned SoCon player of the week thanks to that performance.
Wofford (5-6). The Terriers have lost two of its last three games and started 0-2 in the conference by only a combined six points. The second loss came to Appalachian State 77-76 at home with Noah Dahlman scoring 25 points in the loss. Wofford then lost 73-62 to Navy on December 12th. Dahlman (18.3 ppg) has been unreal this season leading the team in scoring eight out of the first 11 games this year.
Andrew Baker from Mid Major Review is the RTC correspondent for the Southern and Atlantic Sun Conferences.
Early Season Musings
The beginning of the season has been a normal one for the Southern Conference. The SoCon isn’t doing too well out of conference against Division I opposition. Ten of the conferences 15 wins have come against non D-I opponents. This stat makes it real difficult to foresee any chance of the SoCon seeing a second bid. Since it is so early in the season, we will go over the three teams that we spoke in depth about in our SoCon Preview.
The leaders with three victories are the College of Charleston Cougars. Charleston finished 3rd in their own Charleston Classic last weekend with their lone defeat coming against a good Temple team. Through two games they are being led by sophomore guard Andrew Goudelock at 17.5 PPG with senior forwards Dustin Scott and Jermaine Johnson contributing 10.5 PPG. The Cougars played Charleston Southern and picked up a 10-point win over the Pirates 93-83 last night. The Cougars have a game against MEAC member South Carolina State on Monday before playing South Carolina in a week’s time. It should be a dandy.
Even with the loss the other night to Oklahoma, the Davidson Wildcats and Stephen Curry are looking pretty good. After ripping Guilford and James Madison, the Wildcats played competitively against the Sooners before succumbing 82-78 on Tuesday night. Curry dropped 44 points against the Sooners, scoring well over half of his team’s output. There is no doubt that Curry is the heart and soul, going 12-29 from the field and 14-14 from the free throw line against OU. Only one other Wildcat managed to score in double digits. The Wildcats did a wonderful job of taking care of the ball by only committing 5 turnovers in the game. The Cats go from Oklahoma to the return game of last seasons Bracketbusters against Winthrop tonight. In the next two weeks they will continue their quest to beat the big boys against North Carolina State and West Virginia. Davidson should be able to stay competitive against any team if Curry continues to drop 37.5 PPG.
Appalachian State had an interesting opening week. In their first game they dropped a high scoring affair to UNC-Wilmington 108-101. Then Wednesday night they played an absolute barnburner against Charlotte. The 49ers took ASU to double overtime at home in Boone before the Mountaineers finally topped UNCC 87-84 over 50 minutes of basketball. It’s still early, but because of the two high scoring games they have been in, App State has six players averaging in double figures. Donald Sims and Kellen Brand are leading them at this very early point in the season. The real problem for the Mounts has been turnovers. In the two games against UNC-Wilmington and Charlotte they had 27 and 22 turnovers, respectively. It could be a real long season for App State if they can’t find someone to take care of the ball. We will see if the Mounts are improving on Saturday when they visit Niagara. A week from then they will host Campbell before beginning their two December conference games.
It’s still early for the Southern Conference, but if they ever expect to get that second bid into the NCAA Tournament they have to start scheduling more difficult opposition and then have to beat that opposition. As was stated before, 66% of their current win total is against non-Division I opponents. This is not a good way to impress anyone, especially the NCAA tourney committee when it comes time to perhaps award a second bid to Davidson, should they fall in the conference tournament. It could be the snub that will be talked about for a long time.