Ryan Dunn in the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.
- Campbell (11-6, 6-2 A-Sun)
- East Tennessee State (10-9, 6-2 A-Sun)
- Mercer (9-8, 5-2 A-Sun)
- Jacksonville (9-8, 6-3 A-Sun)
- Lipscomb (9-9, 6-3 A-Sun)
- Belmont (10-9, 5-4 A-Sun)
- North Florida (9-11, 4-6 A-Sun)
- USC Upstate (3-15, 3-6 A-Sun)
- Florida Gulf Coast (5-12, 2-6 A-Sun)
- Stetson (4-12, 2-6 A-Sun)
- Kennesaw State (6-12, 1-6 A-Sun)
News and Notes
This could end up being one of the tightest races of any conference in America at the end of the year. Six out of eleven teams are within two games of the league leaders. Teams in the A-Sun play each other twice and we are just about one full time around. Campbell’s Jonathan Rodriguez has now become the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,948 career points and still plenty of games left to separate himself. He has also set the school record for career rebounding and is the current NCAA leader in career free throws made.
Remember, only six teams make it to the year end Atlantic Sun tournament. USC Upstate and Florida Gulf Coast are still not eligible for post season play after completing their transition from Division II. So that leaves nine eligible teams for post season play and means Stetson and Kennesaw State have some real work to do in order to make up ground and earn a berth.
- Campbell was off to a sizzling 6-1 start to conference play and held a one game lead. However, the Camels are in the middle of a brutal road swing with trips to traditional powers Belmont, Lipscomb, and East Tennessee State. The Camels are already 0-1 on the trip with a loss to a struggling Belmont team. Campbell is traditionally a struggling road team and they MUST win at least a game on this trip.
- East Tennessee State always seems to be at the top of the league standings even with a slow start. This year is no different as head coach Murray Bartow had to reload with newcomers and needed some guys to play a much bigger role than they have in the previous year. Well, the Bucs are right there at the top and are fresh off a huge victory at Lipscomb just last night. ETSU struggles at time from the perimeter but they are quick and athletic.
- Mercer keeps on winning basketball games as they have now reeled off five straight W’s in conference play. They have many weapons including two all-conference performers in James Florence and Daniel Emerson. The Bears do play a handful of players over 30 minutes a game so lets see if that could have an effect on them at the end of the year. But for now, the Bears look to be a top contender.
- Jacksonville has now won six straight games after opening conference play 0-3. The Dolphins were picked by most to win the league and they are very much in it. The Dolphins are finally getting healthy and they are a scary team heading into the second half of conference play. JU is fresh off a victory against cross town rival North Florida.
- Lipscomb has been playing better of late — especially defensively — but lost a little momentum after falling at home to ETSU just last night. The Bisons must be careful because they have a quick turnaround with league-leading Campbell coming in on Saturday. If Lipscomb were to lose that one, it could really set them back in the conference race.
- Belmont is a team that plays extremely hard and they play a very sound style of basketball. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for head coach Rick Byrd but his team looks to be one that could be in the race at year’s end. They have a very young backcourt, and, if they can continue to grow, they truly have a chance. The Bruins have also gained some momentum after upsetting Campbell at home last night.
- North Florida is a fun team to follow and it should be interesting to see if the Ospreys can continue to win games and perhaps sneak into the conference tournament. They have not played their best in the last week or so but they are still more than capable of sneaking up on a league heavyweight. UNF is a team that plays extremely hard for new head coach Matthew Driscoll.
Key Upcoming Games
- Campbell @ Lipscomb (1/23) – Two teams that are amongst the league leaders and could really shake up the conference standings.
- ETSU @ Belmont (1/23) – Huge game for both teams as ETSU is looking to stay at the top, while Belmont is just trying to stay in the mix.
- Lipscomb @ Belmont (1/26) – Round two of the “Battle of the Boulevard” as Lipscomb took round one, now Belmont gets a turn at home.
- Campbell @ ETSU (1/27) – The two top teams in the league will do battle in Johnson City to complete the first rotation of conference play.