Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.
Predicted Order of Finish:
North Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1. Western Carolina (14-6 SoCon) 22-11 Overall
2. Samford (12-8 SoCon) 16-15 Overall
3. Applachian State (10-10 SoCon) 17-14 Overall
4. Chattanooga (9-11 SoCon) 15-17 Overall
5. Elon (8-12 SoCon) 16-16 Overall
6. UNC Greensboro (3-17 SoCon) 4-26 Overall
South Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1. College of Charleston (16-4 SoCon) 24-9 Overall
2. Davidson (12-8 SoCon) 19-14 Overall
3. Citadel (11-9 SoCon) 17-15 Overall
4. Wofford (9-11 SoCon) 16-17 Overall
5. Georgia Southern (7-13 SoCon) 11-20 Overall
6. Furman (6-14 SoCon) 10-21 Overall
Western Carolina (13-5 SoCon) 22-11 overall
Samford (11-7 SoCon) 16-15 overall
Applachian State (9-9 SoCon) 17-14 overall
Chattanooga (8-10 SoCon) 15-17 overall
Elon (7-11 SoCon) 16-16 overall
UNC-Greensboro (2-16 SoCon) 4-26 overall
College of Charleston (15-3 SoCon) 24-9 overall
Davidson (11-7 SoCon) 19-14 overall
Citadel (10-8 SoCon) 17-15 overall
Wofford (8-10 SoCon) 16-17 overall
Georgia Southern (6-12 SoCon) 11-20 overall
Furman (5-13 SoCon) 10-21 overall
Andrew Goudelock (G) – College of Charleston (Jr.) – 16.7 ppg
Cameron Wells (G) – The Citadel (Jr.) – 15.6 ppg
Harouna Mutombo(F) – Western Carolina (So.) – 14.4 ppg
Bryan Friday (F) – Samford (Sr.) – 12.5 ppg
Noah Dahlman (C) – Wofford (Jr.) – 17.8 ppg
6th Man.Jake Robinson – Western Carolina (Sr) – Led the team in three pointers made (60) and attempted (167), coming off the bench in 19 games.
Impact Newcomer.Rashad Wright – College of Charleston – Intimidating presence inside with his 6’9″ frame, averaged 10.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and four blocks a game at South Kent High School last season will look to contribute to a team that is lacking in size.
What You Need to Know. Although this conference lacks the star power of a certain recently departed, diminutive guard from Davidson, the conference is not devoid of talent as witnessed by the fact that the aforementioned guard didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last year. While the Wildcats will certainly fall off this year, don’t be surprised to see the second most famous basketball personality in the league last year (Bobby Cremins) getting plenty of airtime in March.
Predicted Champion: College of Charleston (NCAA Seed: #15) – Made it to the SoCon Championship game last season after a Cinderella type run knocking off the favorite in Davidson on their way to the finals. They have always been an athletic team that uses stellar guard play to offset lack of size inside. With the starting back court of Tony White Jr., who scored 31 points in the SoCon finals game against Chattanooga, and junior all-conference candidate Andrew Goudelock who led the team in points per game and three pointers. CofC should be the team to beat in the Southern Conference this season with close to 75% of its scoring coming back from a team that made the finals in the conference tournament.
Four More Automatic Bids Tonight. We’re combining this feature tonight because every game of interest involved a conference tournament final. The CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC all crowned champions tonight, and only one of the four would be considered a surprise. The other three will all be very tough outs for whichever team(s) have to face up against them in the first round of the NCAAs next week.
#6 – VCU (24-9, 14-4) – Anthony Grant’s VCU Rams rode a home crowd to a 71-50 obliteration of George Mason for its second CAA championship in the last three seasons. You already know Eric Maynor from his game-winner over Duke in 2007’s first round; also keep in mind his 6’9 frontcourt mate Larry Sanders (not the host of a dated HBO show), who dominated GMU with 18/20/7 blks tonight – this talented duo will make any higher seed nervous on Selection Sunday.
Projected Seed: #10
Something to Remember: VCU wasn’t a good road team this year, going 7-6 compared to 11-3 two years ago when the Rams last made the Dance, but they were 2-1 against the RPI top fifty (an 11-pt loss against Oklahoma).
This is Why We Love Championship Week (photo credit: AP/Steve Helber)
#7 – Chattanooga (18-16, 11-9) – This is exactly why conferences are moving away from penalizing high seeds from playing on opponents’ home floors in conference tournaments – instead of having a Davidson in the NCAAs with a chance to win a game or two, the SoCon will send Chattanooga to become cannon fodder for a #1 seed. Chattanooga came into the SoCon Tourney three days ago as a team with a losing record – tonight they left it with more than a winning record; they also got a ticket to the Big Dance by virtue of their 80-69 win over College of Charleston (who may have still been feeling the effects of knocking out Davidson yesterday). The Mocs used a 20-0 run bridging the half to build a commanding lead that left CofC shellshocked.
Projected Seed: #16
Something to Remember: Chattanooga started the season 2-8, and has one of the worst defensive efficiency ratings in the nation (#296). Take the over.
#8 – Gonzaga (26-5, 14-0) – The Zags made quick work of a St. Mary’s team that still looks a little lost while Patty Mills tries to return to form from his wrist injury, defeating the Gaels 83-58. Six players reached double figures for the Zags, led by Josh Heytvelt’s 17/6. Gonzaga won its nineteenth in twenty tries, with the only defeat coming at the hands of a red-hot Memphis team in February. It’s definitely difficult to ascertain whether the ‘potential Zags’ have crossed over into actualization, but if things are clicking and they continue to play strong defense (#5 nationally), the Zags are a darkhorse for the Final Four.
Projected Seed: #4
Something to Remember: The Zags are the #1 team in America in 2-pt defense (38.9%), but when the Zags struggle (and lose), they also have a tendency for poor shooting – Memphis, Arizona, Utah and Portland St. all held them under 43% shooting from the field.
#9 – Siena (26-7, 16-2) – Siena was the best team in the MAAC, and after what the Saints did to Vandy in last year’s first round of the NCAAs, nobody is going to want to see Fran McCaffery’s team in their pod. Tonight they held off a good Niagara team that had given them one of their two conference losses behind Kenny Hasbrouck, who shook off a 1-10 first half to score 17 second-half points on his way to 19/6/3 stls. This is a dangerous team – they return the bulk of last year’s squad, and they were competitive early in the season in losses at Kansas, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.
Projected Seed: #9
Something to Remember: Sienais an offensively balanced team, with six players averaging between 8-15 ppg, and all six of those players having at least one game of 20+ this year. Who do you stop?
QnD Conf Tourney Update.
The Big East, MAC, MEAC and WAC begin their tourneys tomorrow, but there are three more auto-bids in store.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Southern Conferences.
Stephen Curry is back to full strength from his ankle injury. That is the single most important factor in the Southern Conference tournament. Curry just was voted the Southern Conference’s Player of the Year for the second straight year. Davidson started out conference play by winning 15 straight games before hitting a rough patch and going 2-2with both losses at home. Since then, Davidson has won their final three conference games by an average margin of 25 points. First teamers Curry and Andrew Lovedale have led this team back to the brink of the NCAA tournament. They are sitting on the other side of the bubble right now, so a Southern Conference Tournament Championship is what they need to feel secure come Selection Sunday. We all would like a chance to see Curry and Davidson tackle the giants in the tournament again. With an 18-2 conference record, they are heavy favorites.
Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist. He’ll be regularly out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.
Here’s the latest edition of RTC Bracketology from our resident bracketologist Zach. This was created before the Pitt-UConn game last night so it does not reflect that game or any others from last night.
RTC Bracket as of February 16th
More on the key games this week and a rationale of the seeds and snubs after the jump.
I’m not sure why everyone complains about February. Sure the NFL season is over, but at least we don’t need to hear about steroids, holdouts, and whether or not both feet were in bounds. There isn’t a blockbuster “Game of the Year” match-up today, but there are several solid games for the hoops aficionado. So just settle into your favorite spot on the couch and dig in. In the spirit of promoting healthy habits, we suggest that you try to have some vegetables today so use some ketchup on your food today.
#20 Syracuse at #16 Villanova at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The appetizer for a great day of basketball. This isn’t necessarily a must win for either team, but a win today would probably boost their NCAA seed by at least a spot on Selection Sunday. Both teams have virtually assured themselves a NCAA bid (particularly with Syracuse’s relatively easy remaining schedule in the Big East). One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that if the Orangemen lose, there is a decent chance that they will drop out of the top 25 leaving the Big East with only 5 teams in the top 25 after having as many as 9 teams earlier this season. Anyways, back to the game. Watch the match-up at point guard featuring Jonny Flynn against Scottie Reynolds. The winner of that match-up will likely win the game barring an explosion by either Eric Devendorf or Dante Cunningham.
Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Cincinnati at Georgetown at Noon on The Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Georgetown is killing me this year. I saw them play in Orlando against Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic. They lost that game, but it was pretty clear to me that day that they had the talent to make it to the Sweet 16 at the very least. I never imagined that they might be in a position at this point in the season that they might not make the NCAA tournament. To be fair, at that time I was also operating under the assumption that Tennessee was good. The Hoyas were able to break their 5-game losing streak against Rutgers and will need to beat the Bearcats if they want to get some momentum heading into their game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. If John Thompson III is able to figured out a way to keep Deonta Vaughn in check, the Hoyas should be able to ride Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summer to a victory.
Notre Dame at #12 UCLA at 1 PM on CBS: The Irish are desperate for a victory having lost 6 straight games. They will have to end their losing streak in one of the rare non-conference match-ups this month. Everybody knows Luke Harangody is going to get his (25.3 PPG and 13.2 RPG), but Notre Dame will need Kyle McAlarney to break out of his prolonged shooting slump and get a great game out of Tory Jackson, who will be matched up against the Bruins veteran PG, Darren Collison. Look for UCLA to pull away in the 2nd half behind Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holiday.
Miami (FL) at #3 Duke at 1:30 PM on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I’m fully expecting Duke to come back strong at home after the massacre at Littlejohn on Wednesday night, which is something that rtmsf actually predicted before the game (sort of), but nobody picked up on until after the game. (Ok, nobody has really picked up on it yet.) On the other hand, Miami was on the right side of the other blowout upset beating Wake Forest by 27. Look for Kyle Singler to rebound with a strong game after a weak “effort” against Clemson that was plagued by foul trouble. Coach K will likely use Gerald Henderson, the only Blue Devil who showed up against Clemson, on Jack McClinton in an attempt to slow down the mercurial Miami star. If Singler and Henderson can contain or at least equal Dwayne Collins and McClinton, respectively, the Blue Devils should return to their winning ways. Well at least until UNC invades Cameron on Wednesday night.
#17 Texas at Nebraska at 2 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Texas will be looking to rebound after back-to-back losses on the road. Today, they return to Austin to take on the Cornhuskers. Look for A.J. Abrams and Damion James to have big games as Rick Barnes‘s squad will definitely be motivated in this one after falling 3.5 back of conference leader Oklahoma. If Abrams and James have big games that should be enough to hold off Nebraska’s balanced attack.
Michigan at #1 UConn at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a game that the Huskies should be able to win fairly convincingly particularly with the game in Gampel Pavillion, but as this year has taught us never expect too much out of the #1 ranked team in the country. A Michigan win would obviously do wonders for their NCAA tournament chances, but it will tough particularly with John Beilein‘s recent changes in his rotations including bringing DeShawn Sims off the bench in their 71-51 win over Penn State in their last game. The new lineup, which is still led by Manny Harris, may provide some match-up problems for UConn and their big men. I expect UConn to pull this one especially with the recent play of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, but Michigan could give them problems and Beilein certainly knows all about the Huskies dating back to his days as the coach at West Virginia.
Charleston at Davidson at 6 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Most people will tune in just to watch Stephen Curry, but this could actually be a realtively close game (a rarity for the Wildcats in the weak Southern Conference). When these teams met earlier this season, the Wildcats escaped with a 4-point win on the road after Charleston had a chance to tie it with a 3 with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game. This is particularly meaningful as the Wildcats haven’t lost a Southern Conference game since January 20, 2007 (a 43-game winning streak). As an added bonus, you can see Bobby Cremins (former head coach of Georgia Tech) try to come up with a scheme to guard Curry. Cremins is one of the few coaches in the country who has had a player who was at Curry’s level or even above that as he coached Kenny Anderson (along with Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver aka “Lethal Weapon 3″) to the NCAA Final 4 in 1991.
Florida State at #10 Clemson at 7 PM on NESN and Fox Sports: I’m actually more interested in this game than the others for my own selfish reason since I’ll be doing another RTC Live when Clemson comes to Boston College on Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers have returned to Earth after their beatdown the hated Blue Devils just a few days ago. Oliver Purnell‘s squad had better be ready because the Seminoles are a fairly dangerous team (ask Roy Williams, who needed a Ty Lawson 3 at the buzzer to pull out a win against FSU). This is a classic letdown game so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on it especially if Toney Douglas gets hot or if either Trevor Booker or K.C. Rivers isn’t on his game after the celebrations following the Duke win.
#19 Minnesota at Ohio State at 8 PM on The Big Ten Network: Minnesota will be licking its wounds after getting crushed by Michigan State at the Breslin Center earlier this week. Unfortunately for Tubby Smith, the Gophers have to head to Columbus to take on a Buckeye team that just knocked off Purdue. If Evan Turner is hot, the Buckeyes could make a move into the top 25 with a win here knocking the Gophers out in the process.
#23 Arizona State at Oregon State at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports: James Harden and the Sun Devils will be looking to complete the Oregon sweep against Craig Robinson‘s Beavers. [Ed. Note: Isn’t Robinson related to some famous guy? I thought I heard something about it on the news.] The Beavers, who were undefeated following Barack Obama‘s Inauguration, finally lost to Arizona ending Oregon State’s hopes of riding Obama-mania to an undefeated term. If the Sun Devils can contain Calvin Haynes, they should hand the Beavers a second consecutive defeat.
No, Mr. President. I’m not Reggie Love.
#15 Memphis at #18 Gonzaga at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Spokane is the site of ESPN GameDay today and it features a match-up of two highly regarded programs that hit rough patches this season, but have rebounded well. Gonzaga appears to have used their victory over Tennessee in Knoxville as a catalyst for their resurgence (Patty Mills‘s injury didn’t hurt either). Memphis, on the other hand, appears to have found its rhythm again with John Calipari‘s decision to move freshman Tyreke Evans from shooting guard to point guard (the kid is lost when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands). Evans has responded with his best play of the season and the Tigers have not lost since the move. Interestingly, both teams dominance in their leagues means that this is a huge game for each in terms of NCAA seeding. A win today would probably be worth 2 seeds on Selection Sunday assuming both teams are able to run the table for the rest of the regular season. Despite the fact that both teams have pretty balanced scoring attacks (4 starters in double figures for each team), the key to this game will likely be the PG match-up of Evans versus Jeremy Pargo. If the more experienced Pargo can outplay Evans, the Bulldogs should be able to run away with this one. If he isn’t, we could be in for a hard-fought game.
Since his 40 point explosion in Davidson’s first round victory over Gonzaga last March, college basketball fans have been bombarded with the Stephen Curry lovefest that has been spearheaded by Dick Vitale and ESPN. The WWL and other hoops aficionados loves to point out that Curry was ignored by every major school including Virginia Tech, the alma mater of his father NBA All-Star Dell Curry. Like every other basketball fan we love the way Stephen plays and his sweet stroke from the perimeter that has been augmented by a surprising ability to get to the hoop and finish. Since last March, it has been hard to find anybody that would be critical of the baby-faced assassin from Davidson, but here at Rush the Court we like to let our minds not our hearts analyze the situation.
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.
Andrew Baker is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun and Southern conferences.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Davidson Wildcats (22-6, 19-1)
College of Charleston Cougars (20-10, 15-5)
UT-Chattanooga Mocs (19-13, 14-6)
Georgia Southern Eagles (18- 11, 13-7)
Appalachian State Mountaineers (17-12, 13-7)
Elon Phoenix (14-13, 11-9)
UNC-Greensboro Spartans (14-15, 11-9)
Furman Paladins (13-16, 8-12)
Samford Bulldogs (13-16, 7-13)
Western Carolina Catamounts (10-20, 7-13)
Wofford Terriers (9-20, 6-14)
The Citadel Bulldogs (10-21, 4-16)
WYN2K. In 1921, the Southern Conference was founded with a hodgepodge of future SEC and ACC members. Since the league has hosted many different schools who have left for other conferences, the only constants since 1936 have been The Citadel and Furman (Davidson left for three seasons from 1988-1991). Since 1921, the SoCon has never had two bids into the NCAA Tournement. That’s the entire history we’re talking about boys and girls, not just in the modern era. Last year was the best chance the SoCon has seen in a while. Had Elon beaten Davidson in the conference tournament finals, it would have been a tough justification to leave the Wildcats out. Davidson looks to be on track for another title, but upsets do happen and should Davidson have the same kind of regular season they had last year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the first two-bid SoCon ever.
Predicted Champion. Davidson (#8 NCAA). The Davidson Wildcats were one of the best teams in the country in the year. There are several good reasons for this. Most people will point to one man: Stephen Curry (25.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) (see one of his explosions last year vs. Chattanooga below). It is true that having Curry on any team would make them very hard to beat, but Coach Bob McKillop has built a team that is more concerned with ball control and defense. It also helps that Davidson scored at a clip of 80.9 ppg last year. Looking at their numbers makes it easy to realize how they went 20-0 in SoCon play last year. Their numbers last year were astounding, and are the underlying reason they were able to make it to the Elite Eight and one shot away from the Final Four. Davidson gave up 11.6 to/g and forced their opponents into 16.2 to/g. That’s a turnover rate of 24% for their opponents as opposed to 16.5% for Davidson, both good for 12th in the nation. Check it here if you don’t believe me. Look for Davidson to use ball control and their not so secret weapon, Curry, to continue to dominate the league. It is very difficult to say whether or not the Davidson is going to sweep the league as they did last year because their 20-0 record was the first time any team in the Southern Conference has won twenty games in league play. It will be hard to go through the season unbeaten again, as every team who will play the ‘Cats will bring their A game, and even with the addition of Samford, the league’s 12th team, teams will still play a 20-game conference slate.
Others Considered. Who are we kidding, no team is going to get the #1 seed for the Southern Conference Tournament unless something terrible happens to Stephen Curry. However, the beauty of the oldest conference tournament in the land is that everyone gets a chance at redemption and glory.
College of Charleston looks to be in the best position to pull off an upset down the road. The Cougars return all of their starters from last season and are led by the 1990 Naismith Coach of the Year, Bobby Cremins. The Cougars will need to see improvement in their ball control and defensive capabilities if they are to succeed Davidson to the throne. More turnovers to assists (.910 A/TO) and a turnover rate of 19.6% of the time killed the Cougars in close games last year. In every game that CofC lost last year by less than 10 points, the Cougars had more turnovers than their opponents. Their defensive prowess was only mediocre, ranking at 192nd in the land with their opponents connecting on 44.3% of their shots. Look out for CofC if there is early season improvement in these areas.
UT-Chattanooga also looks to be in a advantageous position for a deep SoCon tourney run. The Mocs excelled in shooting (45.9% FG) and on the boards last year. However, turnovers caused them to have a less than impressive 18-13 record last year. Turning the ball caught up with them, as was the case when the Mocs’ 7-0 SoCon start ended in a disappointing 6-7 record the rest of the way. The Mocs horrific turnover rate was 24.2% and landed them worst in the SoCon and 317th in the nation. The Mocs are hoping that incoming freshmen Jasper Williams will provide some depth at the one slot. If the Mocs don’t see improvement in the turnover category then look for them to slump to another disappointing season.
Important Games/RPI Boosters. The Southern Conference will also be looking to improve their OOC record against the major and money leagues, as SoCon teams were only 5-24 against the BCS conferences plus CUSA and Mtn West last year. However, the SoCon did much better against their mid-major brethren with a record of 30-27 against their contemporaries. Like most mid-major leagues, the most important game of the season is the SoCon Tournament Final on Monday, March 9th, 2009. However, there will be plenty of intrigue as the regular season moves forward. Davidson has again loaded their non-conference schedule with big boys and should they win one or more of those games there is no reason to believe they can get a higher seed than this preview has listed. The 7th of January could be huge if Davidson and College of Charleston can pull off huge upsets against the boys from Durham and Chapel Hill, respectively. Here are some important conference and RPI booster games that you should keep an eye out for:
Chattanooga @ Tennessee (11/15/2008)
Chattanooga @ Missouri (11/17/2008)
Chattonooga @ Memphis (11/20/2008)
Winthrop @ Davidson (11/21/2008)
Elon @ Virginia Tech (11/26/2008)
South Carolina @ CofC (11/28/2008)
NC State v. Davidson (12/6/2008)
Davidson v. West Virginia (12/9/2008)
Davidson @ Purdue (12/20/2008)
Chattanooga @ Alabama (12/22/2008)
Davidson @ Duke (01/07/2009)
CofC @ North Carolina (01/07/2009)
Neat-o Fact.36. Davidson currently has the longest conference winning streak in the country dating back two seasons. The last conference loss the Wildcats had was against Appalachian State on January 20, 2007, by a score of 81-74. Their first conference game is on the 13th of December, meaning the between the time of their last loss and that game that the country will have elected a new President and a new Congress, two world champions have been crowned in every professional and amateur sport, and nearly 13% of Division I members have seen a coaching change.
65 Team Era. With Davidson’s three wins last year on its run to the E8, the conference doubled its win total to six during the modern era (6-24, .200). That record, however, belies just how tough the SoCon representative has traditionally been in the NCAA Tournament first round. From ETSU to College of Charleston to UT-Chattanooga to Davidson, SoCon teams have made many high seeds sweat bullets to survive and advance, as nine of the twenty-one first round losses of the era were ‘close’ losses (<10 pts), and five of those were a mere possession away (<4 pts), despite a relatively poor average seed of #13.7 over the period.
Final Thoughts. While many people will only see the Southern Conference as Davidson’s to lose, there will be other interesting story lines that you should pay attention to that could have effects through this season and spill over into future seasons. College of Charleston returns all starters from a season that will only be remembered as the season that broke a long streak of winning seasons, and should challenge for the conference tournament title. Chattanooga will be looking for more consistent point guard play in an attempt to build on season that saw a great beginning but crashed as ball control killed in the long run. In conclusion, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the first two bid Southern Conference in history should Davidson be upset in the Conference Tournament.
Detroit Sucks. Monday was an extremely light night, with no ranked teams playing (not that we could see it anyway amidst our hand-to-hand mouth combat with feral dogs and a thermostat that randomly alternated between blistering and frostbite conditions) . There were a couple of interesting games on the board, however, and the one that caught our attention the most was the early SoCon showdown between Davidson and Appalachian St. Why they’re playing in November, we have no idea, but if Davidson were to lose any conference games this year, we figured that away at App St and at UNCG are the most likely candidates. Well, Stephen Curry made sure that wasn’t going to happen, as he blistered the Mountaineers for a 26-pt first half en route to a final tally of 38/6/4 stls with nine (!) threes in an eleven-pt victory. From our perch, this was a clear statement by Curry and the Davidson program that they aren’t to be trifled with at the mid-major level – they have their eyes set on regularly competing with the UNCs and Dukes of the world. #21 Davidson 71, Appalachian St. 60. The only other notable game of the night was the “play-in game” of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge between Iowa and Wake Forest. Wake got 15/8 from a BWS named Chas McFarland (seriously, he’s named Chas) and gutted out a road win in an ugly, ugly game (eFG% combined = 37%, incl. 3-30 from three). We’re not convinced Wake is any good this year, though, as the Deacs always seem to win this game (7-1 in the Challenge) no matter how the rest of the season goes. Wake Forest 56, Iowa 47.
There were too many games to cover here, so let’s hit the broad highlights:
ACC/Big 10 Challenge. #9 Indiana 83, Georgia Tech 79. IU got the only win of the night for the Big 10 at home in a tightly contested game versus the Yellowjackets. We caught a little bit of this one and all we could think is that this is yet another example of never knowing what to expect from Georgia Tech. Times like tonight they look like they can compete with anyone in the country; then they’ll turn around and lose to Georgia St. next week. E-Giddy went for 29 (8 TOs, though), but the key player for IU was DJ White (18/14/3 blks). #10 Duke 82, Wisconsin 58. We feel like we’ve all watched this game a million times. Duke hits a three, takes a charge, hits another three, Crazies going wild, pressure D causes opponent time-out. That was this Wisconsin game in a nutshell. The Badgers were on their way out of it by the second tv timeout. Meanwhile, Coach K is clearly on a mission to re-invent how basketball is played at the collegiate level. The closest analog we can remember in recent history to this Duke team was the Villanova teams of recent vintage of Kyle Lowry, Allan Ray, Mike Nardi and Randy Foye, but even they played with a post man in Curtis Sumpter. Duke isn’t even bothering with the Sumpter role, and don’t give us Kyle Singler either. We still say this smallball strategy will ultimately catch up with the Devils when they play a team with athletic bigs and defensive guards, but that day hasn’t come yet. Duke put five players (led by Paulus’ 18) in double figures, but where did Taylor King come from (5 threes)? #24 Clemson 61, Purdue 58. We didn’t see much of this one, but what we saw exhibited a Purdue team filled with hustling guards who wouldn’t let Clemson pull away. Had the Boilers shot it a little better from three (2-12), they could have taken this one. Take nothing away from Clemson, though – they’re well on their way to another 17-0 start. Virginia 94, Northwestern 52. This is why the Big 10 never wins these competitions – the ACC almost always defends its home courts. Sean Singletary had 18/10 assts in the win. Florida St. 75, Minnesota 61. To wit, same as above. Tubby takes his first loss as the Minny coach.
So we figure we’ll be done with these conference primers by Christmas 2008 Thanksgiving, which is about the time most people start keeping an eye on college hoops anyway. In the meantime, we thought we’d take a moment to recap the seventeen single bid conferences we’ve already reviewed. Keep in mind, our definition of a single bid league is a conference that does not regularly compete for multiple NCAA bids (even if they occasionally get multiple bids).
Some brief Single Bid Conference superlatives while we’re at this point:
Best Team. Davidson (#9 Seed NCAA)- this team has a shot at the Sweet 16 this year
Possible Spoiler. Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt) – everyone loves WKU in the Sun Belt, but ULM has an excellent team returning
Low Major All-Americans.
Stephen Curry (Davidson) – POY
Bo McCalebb (New Orleans)
Kyle Hines (UNC-Greensboro)
Jason Thompson (Rider)
Alex Harris (UCSB)
Hon. Mention – Courtney Pigram (ETSU), Arizona Reid (High Point), Courtney Lee (W. Kentucky), Tim Pollitz (Miami (OH))
Conference We Wish Were on TV More Often. America East. We dunno why, other than we’ve enjoyed watching teams like Albany, Vermont and BU over the past few years. Seems like a fun conference.
Conference We Wish Would Re-Organize (or Implode).Sun Belt. Despite a long and proud history, there are simply too many teams (13) located in too many places (from Denver to Miami). This conference has lost its bearings.
Conference Champ You Can Count on to Cover the Spread in NCAA Tourney 08 – Big West. Although Ivy league champs tend to stay close, Las Vegas knows that, so we like the Big West instead, where teams not named Long Beach St. have lost by an average of only 7 pts during the 2000s.
Conference Champ You Can Count on to NOT Cover the Spread in NCAA Tourney 08 – Summit. In its last nine first round games, the Summit champ has lost by an average of 22 pts.
And here’s how our Consensus Conference Picks are shaping up (RTC choice in red):
Since last time, we added the CBS Sportsline picks as well as the conference media days selections for each league. We had three more leagues came on with a full consensus (Patriot – Holy Cross; Sun Belt – W. Kentucky; Southern – Davidson) to join the OVC (Austin Peay), while the Big Sky (Montana) was only one vote short. The Big West (UCSB) and MAC (Kent St.) were solidly in one team’s corner, while the Summit (IUPUI) and Ivy (Cornell) weren’t far behind. We’re still not buying that Ivy selection of Cornell, though.
WYN2K. The Southern Conference has a reputation as a league on the rise, and deservedly so. After stellar regular seasons in 2006-07 from division winners Davidson and Appalachian St., including five wins over BCS schools among the league members (the highest total wins among the conferences we’ve rated thus far), the league has its sights on breaking into mid-major territory. If this is to ultimately happen, it will likely be led by Davidson, who with spectacular sophomore guard Stephen Curry, will challenge itself with several elite OOC games this season. Even though the league has been a one-bid conference throughout the 64/65 team era, last year Appalachian St. was very close to earning an at-large NCAA bid before ultimately settling for an NIT berth. And with the name cachet of Bobby Cremins bringing in exceptional recruits at College of Charleston, this league could be knocking on the door for two bids sooner rather than later.
Predicted Champion. Davidson (#9 seed NCAA) is the clear choice here. Davidson returns all five starters from the team that pushed extremely talented and athletic Maryland in the NCAA first round last year (down only four after the last tv timeout), including the aforementioned Curry, who had sick numbers for a freshman guard (22 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg, .408 3fg%, .855 ft%) including a run of 26.1 ppg the last ten games. But this is no one-man show. Aside from excellent point guard Jason Richards (#2 nationally in total assists), post men Thomas Sander and Boris Meno also both had outstanding seasons manning the inside, clearing boards and playing tough defense. Coach Bob McKillop also adds two significant recruits – Aaron Bond, who received some Burger Boy consideration last year; and his son, Brendan McKillop, who turned down ACC teams Virginia Tech and NC State to play for his pops. Knowing that Davidson needs a high RPI to offset any chance of being left at the altar should the Wildcats stumble in the conference tourney, McKillop has beefed up the OOC schedule considerably, setting up made-for-tv games with local bullies UNC and Duke in Charlotte and a trip to Raleigh to play NC State. Another road trip will include a game vs. UCLA at the Wooden Classic. All four of those teams are ranked in the Top 25.
Others Considered. We don’t expect another team to push Davidson like Appalachian St. did last season, but if Davidson gets lackadaisical or suffers a significant injury, we’d expect UNC-Greensboro to be next in line. Believe it or not, Curry didn’t win conference POY last year, and it’s not a sure thing that he will this year either. This is due to the fact that UNCG has a 6’6, 230 lb. Sir Charles clone named Kyle Hines returning in the post. Hines has scored in double figures in fifty straight games, and the last time a team went single coverage on him, he dropped 38 on their heads. Although #2 scorer Ricky Hickman is gone, UNCG returns a trio of talented sophomore wing scorers who all showed promise of bright futures. Appalachian St. is another team to watch despite losing three key seniors. The key is that two post men, Donte Minter (who should be healthy this year) and Jeremy Clayton, are returning, and in a league of little size, this could carry them a long way. One concern is the loss of heady PG DJ Thompson, who led the team’s uptempo attack, along with two other guards that saw significant time. Georgia Southern is another team on our radar, simply because they have an all-conference performer in the post (Louis Graham – #18 nationally in defReb%) and at the point guard position (Dwayne Foreman – #32 nationally in asstRate). And although College of Charleston lost three starters and a transfer from a 13-5 team, Bobby Cremins brought in the best recruiting class the league has seen in some time, and we should keep an eye on his team for that reason alone.
Games to Watch. The SoCon is going to a 20-game round robin conference schedule this season, which is the largest we’ve ever seen. Next year when the league expands to twelve teams with the addition of Samford, we suspect there will be a push by league coaches to return to a more reasonable sixteen game schedule. But for this year, it guarantees that Davidson will have to visit every road arena to test its mettle.
Davidson @ Appalachian St. (11.26.07) & Appalachian St. @ Davidson (02.27.08)
UNCG @ Appalachian St. (01.12.08) & Appalachian St. @ UNCG (02.16.08)
Southern Conference Championship Game (03.10.08) ESPN2
RPI Booster Games. We alluded to it above, but the SoCon went 5-38 (.118) against BCS teams last year (Appalachian St. – 2; Davidson – 1; Furman – 1; Wofford – 1). The number will be reduced this year, thanks to the additional conference games, but we expect a similar showing.
UNCG @ Georgia Tech (11.09.07)
Western Carolina @ Cincinnati (11.10.07)
Davidson vs. UNC (Charlotte) (11.14.07) ESPN
College of Charleston @ Arkansas (11.15.07) ESPNU
Chattanooga @ S. Illinois (11.22.07) ESPNU
Wichita St. @ Appalachian St. (11.28.07)
Davidson vs. Duke (Charlotte) (12.01.07) ESPNU
Tennessee @ Chattanooga (12.04.07) ESPNU
Davidson @ UCLA (12.08.07)
Georgia Southern @ Florida (12.15.07)
Western Carolina @ Illinois (12.17.07)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. This one is interesting, because if Davidson performs well against the ACC trio + UCLA, has a great SoCon record (like 18-2), yet loses in the conference tourney, we believe that this will be a two-team league.
Neat-o Stat. The Citadel must be one of the most historically horrific basketball programs in the NCAA. It joined the Southern Conference in 1937, and has yet to see its first NCAA or NIT bid. Pat Conroy wrote of his losing season there in the 60s, and not much has changed since. His cousin, Ed Conroy, will begin his second season at the school with what he calls the youngest team in America – 15 freshmen (incl. redshirts), one sophomore, one junior and one senior. Good luck, Ed, you’re going to need it.
64/65-Team Era. The SoCon has been a one-bid league throughout this era, and it will probably remain so this year (unless Davidson lays an egg in the conference tourney). The conference record (3-23, .115) reflects the success of two Tennessee teams, one of which is no longer in the league. In 1992, #14 ETSU defeated #3 Arizona 87-80 in one of Lute Olson’s earlier tankjobs, and in 1997, #14 UT-Chattanooga went to the Sweet 16 by defeating #3 Georgia (the year prior to Tubby Smith winning the NCAA title at Kentucky) 73-70, and #6 Illinois 75-63. Since then the conference (as an average #13.6 seed) has lost ten straight first round games by an average of 13.0 pts – not too encouraging. Still, the last four years show improvement, as the league representative has only lost by an average of 9.8 pts. Below is a nice clip of Curry dropping three of his thirty against Maryland.
Final Thought. This league is all about Davidson this year. The MSM will remember the Wildcats’ performance against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament and pundits like Dickie V. will be touting Curry as a PTPer all season long. Even if Davidson merely pulls one upset against the four ranked teams it plays in the pre-conference schedule, that’ll be enough to entice everyone to claim it as their Cinderella come March. But there are other good teams in this conference, so Davidson shouldn’t be reading its press clippings too closely. Several other teams could surprise much as Davidson did last year, and the level of talent entering the league is rising. It should make for a very fun SoCon season this time around.
UNC is #1, yet UCLA garnered more first-place votes (12-10).
9 of the top 10 match the online Blogpoll – the one difference is that coaches like Indiana more than Marquette. Fwiw, so do we. (come on blogpollers! We should represent the non-MSM contrarian voice!)
Did the coaches go with the “name” programs over Calipari’s squad at #1? Interesting that the bloggers voted Memphis a solid #1 while UNC/UCLA were left behind.
Only one coach agreed with us that Kansas is preseason #1 (Bill Self?), although we aren’t predicting KU to win it all.
Buy:Oregon (mighty mite Tajuan Porter!), Gonzaga (magic mushroomania), Texas (hey mr. DJ put that record on…), S. Illinois (you sexy mother Falker!), Davidson (spicy Curry), VCU (Eric Maynor alone is worth more than five votes).
Sell:Duke (anxiously awaiting the Brian Zoubek experiment), USC (Young+Pruitt > Mayo+Jefferson), NC State (folks, they were 5-11 in the ACC last year!!), Alabama (no Steele = no chance).
Conference breakdown (top 25, all 54 teams receiving votes): Pac-10 (6, 8), Big East (5, 8), ACC (3, 6), Big 12 (3, 5), SEC (3, 6), Big 10 (2, 5), MVC (1, 2), CUSA (1, 1), WCC (1, 1), Colonial (0, 3), WAC (0, 3), A10 (0, 2), Mountain West (0, 2), Horizon (0, 1), Southern (0, 1).
Word to the Colonial and WAC with three teams each receiving votes even though none are in the Top 25.
Is there any value in this meaningless poll whatsoever? Some. Last year the top 6 (and 8 of the top 10) in the preseason coaches poll finished in the top 11 of the final poll (before the NCAA Tournament), and every team in the final top 11 had been ranked somewhere in the top 25 before the season started. Additionally, all four F4 teams were ranked in last year’s preseason top 8 (#1 Florida, #4 Ohio St., #5 UCLA, #8 Georgetown).
Only six of the preseason top 25 last year didn’t make the NCAA Tournament (#7 LSU, #12 Alabama, #16 Washington, #18 Connecticut, #20 Syracuse, #23 Creighton), so that’s fair evidence that the coaches (at least last year) have a bit of a clue. Note we said only a bit.