RTC Conference Primers: #15 – Southern Conference

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2011

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

Top Storylines

  • 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.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Checking in on… the SoCon

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

Clark Williams is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference

[Ed. Note - the following piece was written in advance of Saturday's action.]

A Look Back

As the weather warms, so too does the race for the SoCon conference championship. Andrew Goudelock and the Cougars of College of Charleston still remain the favorite, but four teams are within three games of the Cougars, and with two weeks left, nothing is certain. UNC-Greensboro is continuing its rise out of the cellar, and has boosted their conference win total to five. This wouldn’t be noteworthy, however, if the Spartans hadn’t taken two months to win their first game. While the Spartans are enjoying their rise to mediocrity, Georgia Southern is still waiting for the first conference win.  Standing at 4-24 for the season, only one of the Eagles’ season victories have come against a Division-1 opponent, and it took overtime to decide the outcome. The hottest team in the SoCon right now is the Catamounts of Western Carolina, who have won five straight, and continue to shoot up the standings, led by senior guard Mike Williams.

Power Rankings

1. College of Charleston (20-7, 13-2)- The Cougars have held this spot for about a month now, thanks in large part to their fantastic duo, Andrew Goudelock and Jasper Simmons. I fully expect the Cougars to be the #1 seed in the SoCon Tournament.

A Look Ahead: The Cougars play in the annual ESPN Brackerbusters game against Vermont, and then will host Samford. They finish the season with road games against Appalachian State and Western Carolina.

2. Furman (19-7, 11-4)- The Paladins continue to look up to the Cougars, and down on everybody else. That being said, the Paladins have proved that when do-it-all forward Amu Sakku plays well, they’re one of the toughest teams to beat in the conference.

A Look Ahead: The Paladins travel to Samford and Chattanooga, and will finish the regular season at home against Wofford, in a game that will potentially determine the #2 seed in the SoCon Tournament.

3. Western Carolina (14-13, 10-5)- As mentioned earlier, the Catamounts are the hottest team in the SoCon these days. Mike Williams continues to score (14.9 Points Per Game) and dish out the assists (3.8 per game).

A Look Ahead: Western Carolina will participate in the Bracketbuster games, against Eastern Kentucky. Then the Catamounts will travel to UNC-Greensboro. After that, the Catamounts will finish their season with home games against The Citadel and College of Charleston.

4. Wofford (15-12, 12-4)- The Terriers continue to tread water. They beat all the teams they are supposed to, but when big matchups against teams like College of Charleston and Furman, they Terriers falter. That being said, if the Terriers can win out, they’re looking at being the #2 seed in the conference tournament.

A Look Ahead: The Terriers will participate in the Bracketbuster games, squaring off against Ball State. They finish the regular season with road games against Chattanooga and Furman.

5Chattanooga (14-14, 10-5): If Western Carolina is the hottest team in the league, then the Mocs of Chattanooga are the coldest. Losers of their last four, the Mocs need Omar Wattad to get his scoring touch back; the junior forward has scored just fourteen points combined in his last two conference games.

A Look Ahead: The Mocs host Furman and Wofford, and then finish the season at Samford.

6. Davidson (14-13, 8-8): After four consecutive losses in late January, the Wildcats rattled off five wins in a row, and have won six of their last seven. Davidson has put up impressive rebounding numbers as well; they rank 90 in the nation in rebounds per game.

A Look Ahead: The Wildcats travel to Presbateryian College, then finish the season at home, against Elon and UNC-Greensboro.

7. Appalachian State (12-14, 8-8): The Mountaineers continue to be plagued by their low number of assists per game, 10.5, which ranks 321st in the nation. Donald Sims continues to carry the offensive load, with 21.2 points per game, with healthy contributions from Omar Carter, averaging 16.5 points per game.

A Look Ahead: Appalachian State will participate in Bracketbusters, squaring off against High Point. After that, it’s home games against College of Charleston and The Citadel.

8. UNC-Greensboro (5-20, 5-9): Ok, ok, the Spartans might not deserve this spot, but I’ll give it to them anyway, due to their impressive turnaround. The key to the Spartans recent success? Scoring. Preposterous, I know. The Spartans have score over 85 points in their last three wins.

A Look Ahead: The Spartans travel to Elon, then host Western Carolina. After that, it’s road games against Georgia Southern and Davidson. As crazy as it sounds, the once-winless Spartans have a chance to finish .500 in conference play.

9Elon (11-15, 5-10): Elon finally broke their five-game losing streak with their recent victory over The Citadel. Once considered a dark-horse contender for the conference title, the wheels have seemingly fallen of for the Phoenix.

A Look Ahead: Elon hosts UNC-Greensboro, and finish the season with road matches against Davidson and Georgia Southern.

10Samford (12-15, 4-11): The Bulldogs rank in the 300’s in both rebounding and scoring. Honestly, with those numbers, I’m surprised they have won twelve games all season.

A Look Ahead: Samford hosts Furman, then will travel to College of Charleston, and will finish the regular season with a home game against Chattanooga.

11. The Citadel (9-19, 5-10): Losers of their last six, the Bulldogs continue to freefall down the standings. Senior guard Cameron Wells continues to play stellar basketball, but isn’t getting much help from his teammates.

A Look Ahead: The Bulldogs finish the season with three consecutive road games, at Georgia Southern, Western Carolina, and Appalachian State.

12. Georgia Southern (4-24, 0-15): If nothing else, the Eagles are consistent. They have been ranked in the 12th spot just as long as College of Charleston has been ranked in the top spot. They continue to search for that elusive first conference win.

A Look Ahead: Georgia Southern will finish the season with three consecutive home games, against The Citadel, UNC-Greensboro, and Elon.

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ATB: Kemba Is For Closers

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2011

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.  — MLK, 1963

The Lede.  We hope everyone had a brilliant MLK Day Weekend.  We know that you had a great MLK Day with the great hoops on all afternoon, culminating in two top ten matchups between Big East teams (aren’t all 16 Big East teams in the top ten?).  Hopefully you were off work to enjoy it, but if you weren’t, let’s get you caught up.

Walker is Big Time in the Clutch (H-C/J. Woike)

Your Watercooler MomentKemba Is For Closers. We still don’t really believe that UConn is a legitimate Final Four contender (which you are, by definition, as a top ten team), but we will say this without reservation.  If UConn can keep itself within reach at the five-minute point of the game, they are capable of beating anybody and have the best closer in college basketball.  You can have Jared Sullinger, Jimmer Fredette, Nolan Smith or whoever else you want — we’ll take Kemba.  His ability to use the dribble to create space for himself and get off clean and makeable looks sets him apart from all of the others, and essentially gives Jim Calhoun an x-factor that no other team can counter.  Witness Jay Wright’s comments after the game — Villanova knew Walker was going to get the ball for the final shot, sent two men at him, so he simply split them anyway en route to hitting a ridiculously tough game-winning floater in the lane with two seconds left. Walker didn’t even enjoy the biggest game (that belonged to Corey Fisher and his 28 points and six assists), nor did he look dominant as he bricked his way to a 6-18 shooting afternoon, but when the outcome is on the line he’s proven again and again that he’s up to the task.  We said this repeatedly back in Maui two months ago, but it’s worth noting that as talented as Walker is and has performed this season, the success of the Huskies will ultimately depend on the support he receives.  Alex Oriakhi has played like a man possessed in the four games since his donut performance against Notre Dame, averaging 14/13 and providing great interior defense so that his team will be in the game until the end for Walker to do his magic.  So long as he plays at a similar level, Jim Calhoun will continue to snicker at all of his naysayers, and deservedly so.

Pitt's Retro Media Guide Cover (h/t Luke Winn)

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. TwoSyracuse Drops From the Unbeatens. It was expected once Syracuse declared that starting forward and leading scorer Kris Joseph would be held out of tonight’s game against Pittsburgh due to a nasty knock on the head he suffered on Saturday, but the way in which it happened was still surprising.  For a while, it appeared that Jim Boeheim’s team must have left their entire offense back home as Syracuse’s defense faltered early, allowing Pittsburgh to run out to a quick 19-0 lead in front of a raucous crowd at the Peterson Events Center.  Then, just as quickly as they got down, Cuse battled back with a 17-0 run of its own.  We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a game start like that before, but nevertheless, it portended what would become a close game the rest of the way.  The difference was that Pittsburgh was simply better — they said they’d been practicing for a few days against a zone, and it showed in their execution (1.08 PPP was the third-best performance against the zone this year).  Time and time again the Panthers moved the ball inside-out to find the open shooter on the perimeter or found success pounding the ball down low to Nasir Robinson (21/7).  With the win, Pitt moves to the top of the line in the Big East with a flawless 6-0 record.  With upcoming games vs. DePaul, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Cincinnati in the next four, the Panthers look very good for heading into mid-February with a 10-0 conference record.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • The Ginormous MLK Monday.  All four of today’s games were great matchups on paper and we hope that ESPN keeps this up in future seasons.  There’s just something always a little cool about daytime basketball on a weekday — a little like you’re getting away with something by watching it.  The two Big East games ended up better than the Big 12 games, but we loved every bit of it.
  • The Morris Twins.  It’s like these two boys connected by genes suddenly decided to become grown men in the last two weeks.  After tonight’s combined 44/14, Marcus is averaging 24/13 in the last four games while brother Markieff is contributing 14/10 during the same period.  With point guard Josh Selby still struggling to adjust to the world of elite college basketball, it’s been the Morris twins who have pulled the Jayhawks through a series of recent close games against Michigan, Iowa State and Nebraska.  This buys Bill Self some time while his young but talented quarterback continues to develop over the next six weeks prior to March.
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04.15.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 15th, 2009

Happy Income Redistribution Day, everyone!

  • Who?  Depaul’s Dar Tucker (Mr. 0-18, with an agent) and Southern Miss’ Jeremy Wise (no agent) have decided to throw their hats in the early entry ring as well. 
  • More Greg Paulus.  Thought we were rid of this guy.  So…  he’s not good enough to play for Duke at QB, but he might be at Michigan?  Wow, Rich Rodriguez has a lot further to go than we thought. 
  • The Man Who Replaced Wooden.  Former UCLA and UAB coach Gene Bartow was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer, and will begin treatment immediately. 
  • Dolla Dolla Bills.  Mizzou’s Mike Anderson parlayed 31 wins and an Elite 8 appearance into seven more years on his contract at a minimum of $1.35M per. 
  • Isiah Will Work for Free (sorta).  FIU introduced Isiah Thomas as their new head coach today, and he will not take a salary of $200-300K this season (the Knicks are still paying him $12M for his final two years on his contract).  Jeff Goodman thinks there’s a reasonable chance it might work out for Isiah there, maybe he took some of those sleeping pills as well?  Mike Freeman has a slightly different take.
  • Let’s Get Wattaded.  Georgetown guard Omar Wattad will transfer out of the program, destination unknown. 
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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Big East play has officially begun! For each and every team in this conference, you can essentially throw out their non-conference games because they are guaranteed at least seven games against top 25 teams (or eight, can someone please explain to me how West Virginia is not one of the top 25 teams in the country?). Get hot at the right time, reel off five or six straight wins during the right part of your schedule, and you can thrust yourself directly onto the bubble.

Granted, that is MUCH more easily said than done. As you will see, every team in this conference has a run where they will play four or five top 25 teams in the span of two weeks. Because it was a slow week (thanks Santa, but you did get me Fifa ’09 so you’re not all bad) and more than a few teams didn’t play, I am going to be giving you what I like to call “Running the Gauntlet” (patent pending), which is the string of three or four or five (or sometimes even nine) games which you will only see in happening in the Big East.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Darryl “Truck” Bryant, West Virginia

Statistically speaking, Truck had far from the best week in the conference, even on his own team. In the Mountaineers’ only game (a blowout of Ohio State) Truck finished with 11 points and 2 dimes. But it is more than his performance, it is the importance of his play to this West Virginia team. It looks like there is a real possibility that Joe Mazzulla will be out for the season, meaning that Truck is basically the only PG Bob Huggins has on his roster right now. West Virginia does not need Truck to carry this team. In fact, they are probably better when he is blending in more than standing out, so to speak. What they need from him is tough defense, ball control, and the ability to make a big shot or big play when WVU needs it. He did that perfectly against Ohio State. The Mountaineers did not play all that well against the Buckeyes, but in the second half when they were pulling away, Truck was in the middle of everything. He had a couple tough finishes on drives to the basket, he scored a few times on a fast break, and on a team that struggles to move the ball at times, he orchestrated a beautifully run offense (especially in the second half) against a pretty good OSU zone. You want a good comparison for this kid? Think Levance Fields as a freshman.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Georgetown

The Hoyas played just one game this week. It just so happened that game was a win over UConn, the #2 team in the country. The Hoyas thoroughly dominated the Huskies throughout. If there was a word that defined the Hoyas performance, it was execution. JT3 had the perfect game plan against UConn. His Hoyas controlled the pace of the game by running through their offensive sets, then exploiting any UConn break down defensively. And when they attacked, they scored just about every time, especially down the stretch. UConn just couldn’t get any stops. If it wasn’t a back door cut, it was an open jump shot or a drive to the rim, which resulted in either a lay-up or a trip to the foul line (the Hoyas hit their last 18 free throws in the second half). Last week I told you I was finally coming to terms with the fact that Greg Monroe was not going to be a star just yet. Well, against UConn, Monroe proved why he had so much hype coming out of high school. He knocked down two threes, but was able to put the ball on the floor and go by Hasheem Thabeet when the big fella came out to guard him. He made three gorgeous back door passes, two of which came off the dribble. He blocked shots, and even ripped AJ Price at half court, which led to an and-1 lay-up. The most impressive part about Monroe right now is that he does all of this within the Georgetown system. The Hoyas still have some depth problems (the only starter that didn’t play 35 minutes against the Huskies was Monroe, and he was in foul trouble during the second half), but if guys like Jason Clark, Omar Wattad (side note: I think the best sign I have seen this year came at the Georgetown-Memphis game when some fan held up “Let’s Get Wattaded”), Julian Vaughn, and Henry Sims can provide anywhere between 8-15 minutes a game each, the Hoyas should be ok because of the pace they play at.

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