RTC welcomes Clark Williams, our new Southern Conference correspondent.
[ed. note: this post was written prior to Friday/Saturday games]
A Look Back
I hope everybody had quite the festive and merry holiday. Let’s talk SoCon basketball, shall we? Furman’s month-long win streak has come to an end, after the Paladins fell to the Golden Knights of UCF on Wednesday in the first round of the UCF Holiday Classic. Also on Wednesday, Georgia Southern came back from a 27-point halftime deficit and nearly upset the Auburn Tigers, but eventually fell 88-84 in overtime. I realize Auburn is one of the worst power-conference teams out there, but it’s always nice to see the SoCon bottom dwellers keep up with the SEC bottom dwellers. The cold streak continues for UNC-Greensboro, as the Spartans’ record fell to 0-12 after Duke demolished them, 108-62, in Greensboro. The game was the highest-attended athletic event in school history, with a crowd of 22, 178.
1. Furman (8-3, 2-0) – Despite their five-game winning streak coming to an end, the Paladins possess the top spot. They are undefeated in conference play, and easily defeated South Carolina last Wednesday, something they have not done since 1980.
A Look Ahead - The Paladins continue playing in the UCF Holiday Classic, and take on the Huskies of Northeastern on Thursday night. Then, a warm-up game against NAIA foe UVA-Wise, which will be the Paladins’ last non-conference game of the year. On January 6, Furman will square off against College of Charleston, with whom they currently share first place.
2. College of Charleston (8-4, 2-0) – The Cougars earned the number two spot, after nearly defeating the Tigers of Clemson last Wednesday. Charleston hasn’t played since. Andrew Goudelock continues to impress; the senior guard is averaging 23.4 points per game.
A Look Ahead - The Cougars will be on ESPN on New Year’s Eve, as they take on the Volunteers of Tennessee, in Knoxville. Then, a game at Morehead State, followed by a conference clash at Furman on January 6.
3. Wofford (5-7, 2-0) – A popular preseason pick to win the SoCon, the Terriers have struggled at times this season. However, they seem to be more talented then their record indicates. They have played a combined five overtime periods already, and have taken on six power conference teams, playing all of them relatively close.
A Look Ahead - The Terriers play their last non-conference game against Cornell on Thursday night, then have conference foes Citadel and College of Charleston at home. Wofford needs to make a statement in both of those games, if they really are the team pundits believed them to be at the beginning of the year.
4. Chattanooga (7-6, 3-0) – The Mocs are the sole possessors of first place in the North division of the SoCon. What has impressed me the most about the Mocs so far is their rebounding ability — Chattanooga ranks #23 in the nation in rebounds per game with the amount of assists they’ve racked up. Still, it’s hard to tell what this team will be like in February and March. The Mocs’ last two opponents have been NAIA teams, and they have not played a D-1 team since December 17.
A Look Ahead – Chattanooga has Georgia State on December 30, in-state rival Austin Peay on January 3, and then squares off against the winless Spartans of UNC-Greensboro on January 8.
5. Davidson (6-5, 1-1)- The Wildcats are getting better by the day. Since their December 2 conference loss to College of Charleston, Davidson is 3-1. They easily defeated The Citadel, Charlotte, and Saint Francis (NY), and nearly beat Saint John’s.
A Look Ahead – Davidson travels to Nashville to take on a talented Vanderbilt team on January 2. Then, it’s a duo of in-state rivalry games, as the Wildcats host Appalachian State, then travel to play Western Carolina.
6. Samford (8-5, 1-1) – The Bulldogs continue to be plagued by a lethargic offense, as Creighton easily defeated the Bulldogs, 58-40 on December 22. This marks the fourth game the Bulldogs were held to less than 60 points. Their rebounding has been no better, and ranks 333rd in the nation in rebounds per game. Samford has, however, been able to move the ball around very well. Four players are averaging more than eight points per game.
A Look Ahead – Samford has a New Year’s Eve date with Eastern Michigan, then hits the road for three consecutive conference road games. First up is UNC-Greensboro, then Elon, and then Chattanooga.
7. Appalachian State (4-7, 1-1) – The Mountaineers continue to get fantastic play from senior guard Donald Sims, who is averaging 22.4 points per game, and forward Omar Carter, who is averaging 15 points per game. Unfortunately, his stellar play has not translated into victories. Appalachian State has struggled as of late- they have lost their last three games by a combined score of 42.
A Look Ahead – The Mountaineers will take on the Wildcats of Davidson on January 5. Then, it’s Georgia Southern, followed by UNC-Greensboro.
8. The Citadel (4-8, 1-1) – The Bulldogs haven’t played since the December 23, when they lost to SIU-Edwardsville, a recent addition to D-1 basketball. The Citadel has managed to play well in games against fellow mid-majors, but has been absolutely destroyed against any higher competition. They lost by 42 to Richmond, 28 to Colorado, and 26 to New Mexico.
A Look Ahead – The Citadel starts the New Year with four tough road trips in South Carolina. The Bulldogs will play at Clemson, then Wofford, then Furman, and will finish at College of Charleston. If the Bulldogs want to stay competitive in conference play, they need to win at least one of these games.
9. Elon (5-7, 0-2) The Phoenix of Elon are doing a fine job putting points on the point, as they rank 55th in the nation in points per game. However, their talented offense hasn’t been able to compensate for their lack of defense of rebounding. Elon has been the cupcake of choice for the ACC thus far, and haven’t been completely embarrassed in games against Wake Forest, Maryland and Duke. Hopefully, the experience from these games will help them find their own winning ways.
A Look Ahead – The Phoenix will travel to New York City for a game against Columbia, then will face off against another ACC foe, NC State. Elon will resume conference play at UNC-Greensboro, on January 10.
10. Georgia Southern (4-10, 0-2) – The Eagles finally got their first victory over a D-1 opponent, beating Georgia State in overtime, on December 22. The “momentum” created by this victory carried over to their next game, as they overcame a 27-point halftime deficit at Auburn to force overtime, where they eventually fell. Freshman guard Eric Ferguson is wasting no time making his presence felt. He is averaging 14.4 points per game, and 6.4 rebounds.
A Look Ahead - The Eagles will start 2011 with home games against Eastern Kentucky and Western Carolina, and then travel to Appalachian State. The Eagles are the only team in the South division of the SoCon without a conference win. If the Eagles have any shot at turning this thing around, this trend must end, and quickly.
11. Western Carolina (4-10, 0-2)- Things are not getting any easier for the Catamounts. Western Carolina has dropped their last six games, and hasn’t won since late November. The strangest part of their winless December? The Catamounts lost to the Fighting Camels of Campbell by 23, but only lost to #2 Ohio State by 15.
A Look Ahead – The Catamounts will travel to Georgia Southern, then host Davidson, Elon, and Appalachian State. Here’s hoping their January goes better than their December.
12. Ah, the loathed 12th spot. This is reserved for the hapless Spartans of UNC-Greensboro, a team still searching for its first victory. In their defense, the Spartans have played a brutal schedule, and seem to be getting better each game. Before the Duke disaster, the Spartans played Wake Forest, Clemson, and Richmond, losing by ten or fewer in each game.
A Look Ahead – It doesn’t get any easier for the Spartans, as they resume conference play. They host Samford on January 6, and continue their search for that elusive first win. Home games against Chattanooga and Elon follow.