The Other 26: Niagara Rushes Forth

Posted by IRenko on February 2nd, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

When you hear the word “Niagara” you’re not likely to think of basketball. But in the shadow of one of the world’s natural wonders, something is percolating on the hardwood. After a thrilling 93-90 overtime win over Iona that included a rally from a late 15-point deficit and a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win the game, Niagara sits atop the MAAC standings at 10-1. A win over Loyola today would cap a tremendous week for the Purple Eagles, giving them a perfect 3-0 record against the next three teams in the standings — Iona, Loyola, and Canisius — over the past seven days.

Juan'ya Green Capped Niagara's Thrilling Win Over Iona With a Last-Second Three-Pointer  in Overtime (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

Juan’ya Green Capped Niagara’s Thrilling Win Over Iona With a Last-Second Three-Pointer in Overtime (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

Last year, Niagara finished 14-19, the first time in head coach Joe Mihalich’s 10-year tenure that he suffered consecutive losing seasons. Mihalich had taken the Purple Eagles to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and 2007 and to the NIT in 2004 and 2009, but the team had fallen behind the pack in the MAAC in the three years since. The seeds of a resurgence were planted during last year’s losing campaign, as a host of young players started to find their footing in Division 1 college hoops. Having lost no one to graduation, Niagara was predicted to finish fifth in the MAAC in the preseason coaches’ poll. That seemed a fair, perhaps optimistic, assessment, but the clear light of hindsight makes a mockery of it.

What accounts for the turnaround? Mostly the maturation of Niagara’s all-sophomore backcourt: Juan’ya Green, Antoine Mason, and Ameen Tanksley. Last year, the trio showed that they had talent. This year, they’re showing that they can channel it into efficient offense.  Green is actually averaging fewer points (16.5) than he did as a freshman (17.6), but that’s in part because he’s managed to corral his considerable talents and become a more effective facilitator. Coming out of high school, Green was known for his prodigious scoring ability, but questions lingered about his ability to create for his teammates. He’s answering those questions this year, increasing his assists (5.2 per game) and decreasing his turnovers (2.8 per game). With Green deferring more to his teammates, Mason, the son of former NBA player Anthony Mason, has stepped into the role of lead scorer. He’s upped his per-game average from 15.1 to a team-leading 18.7, but more importantly, he’s become a much more efficient scorer.  He’s increased his field goal percentage from 38.2 to 44.6. He now shoots almost 80 percent from the free throw line, after shooting less than 65 percent last year, a significant development because of his knack for getting to the charity stripe. Tanksley, for his part, has also boosted his field goal percentage, from 38.6 to 45.7 and upped his scoring average into double-digits.

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Southern Conference Tournament Preview

Posted by EMoyer on March 2nd, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Tournament Preview

Tournament Tidbits

  • Davidson earned its 11th Division title since the SoCon went to the division format in 1995 (the most among SoCon schools – Chattanooga is 2nd with eight).
  • De’Mon Brooks won the fourth SoCon Player of the Year for Davidson in the last eight years (Brandan Winters, 2005; Stephen Curry, 2008, 2009).
  • UNC Greensboro’s Wes Millerearned the Coach of the Year by the SoCon Sports Media Association becoming the the first conference coach of the year in the Spartans’ 21-year history.

    De'Mon Brooks and Davidson Are One Of The Heavy Favorites To win The SoCon Tourney (AP)

  • UNC Greensboro won its first outright division title and earned its first bye to the quarterfinals since 2008.
  • The Spartans’ Trevis Simpson averaged 23.7 points per game in February, tops in the SoCon. Simpson had averaged 16.7 points per game for the season prior to February 1.
  • Wofford will attempt to join current SoCon members Davidson (1968-70 and 2006-08), Chattanooga (1981-83 and 1993-95) and Furman (1973-75) as the only schools to win three straight SoCon Tournament titles. (Former members North Carolina 1924-26, NC State 1947-52, West Virginia 1955-60, and ETSU 1989-92 each won at least three straight titles).
  • Elon’s nine conference wins are their most since 2007-08.
  • Since moving into the Phoenix starting lineup 13 games ago, Jack Isenbarger has averaged 19.5 points per game and shot 46.1% on three-point tries.
  • Georgia Southern’s Ben Drayton III needs 26 points to reach the 1,500-point milestone for his career.
  • Georgia Southern has not won a SoCon Tournament game since 2007.
  • Western Carolina’s Keaton Cole needs one 3-point field goal to move onto the SoCon’s top-10 single season list. He has hit 102 3-pointers this season, good for fourth in the country.
  • College of Charleston closed the season by winning six of its last seven games, matching the Cougars’ best seven-game stretch this season.
  • The Cougars earned a #4 seed in the tournament, their first time not earning a top-three seed since joining the league in 1998-99.
  • For the third time in four years, Furman will open SoCon Tournament play against Samford. In 2009, Samford claimed a 57-52 victory; Furman returned the favor last season by beating the Bulldogs 61-48 in first-round action.
  • The Citadel has won two games in a single SoCon Tournament once in 60 tournament appearances (1959).
  • The Bulldogs’ Mike Groselle has 22 career double-doubles, tied with Regan Truesdale for the most in program history.
  • Chattanooga lost the first game of 2011 SoCon Tournament … the Mocs have not lost their first conference tournament game in consecutive years since 1978-1979-1980.

Reader’s Take


Team Tournament Capsules

  • #1S Davidson: Championship Appearances: 57; Record 57-46; Best Finish: Champion – 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008; Last Season: L, First Round.
  • #1N UNC Greensboro: Championship Appearances: 15; Record 12-13; Best Finish: Champion – 2001; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal.

    UNC Greensboro Lost In The Quarterfinals Last Year. Will This Season Be Different For Wes Miller and Company? (AP)

  • #2S Wofford: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 11-11; Best Finish: Champion – 2010, 2011; Last Season: Champion.
  • #2N Elon: Championship Appearances: 9; Record 9-8; Best Finish: Runner-up – 2008; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal.
  • #3S Georgia Southern: Championship Appearances: 19; Record 12-18; Best Finish: Semifinals – 1993, 1994, 2001, 2004, 2005; Last Season: L, First Round.
  • #3N Western Carolina: Championship Appearances: 33; Record 16-31; Best Finish: Champion – 1996; Last Season: L, Semifinal
  • #4S College of Charleston: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 17-12; Best Finish: Champion – 1999; Last Season: L, Final.
  • #4N Samford: Championship Appearances: 4; Record 2-3; Best Finish: Semfinals – 2009; Last Season: L, First Round
  • #5S Furman: Championship Appearances: 59; Record 44-52; Best Finish: Champion – 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980; Last Season: L, Semifinal
  • #5N Appalachian State: Championship Appearances: 41; Record 40-38; Best Finish: Champion – 1979, 2000; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal
  • #6S The Citadel: Championship Appearances: 60; Record 11-59; Best Finish: Runner-up – 1959; Last Season: L, First Round
  • #6N Chattanooga: Championship Appearances: 35; Record 52-24; Best Finish: Champion – 1981, 1982, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2009; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal

Tournament Schedule (All games played at U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, NC)

  • Friday, March 2, 11:30 am ET: #4S College of Charleston vs #5N Appalachian State (SoConTV); Season Results: Feb 4 (College of Charleston 74, at Appalachian State 62); Series Record: Appalachian State leads 17-11; Tournament Series: College of Charleston leads 4-3.
  • Friday, March 2, 2:00 ET: #3N Western Carolina vs #6S The Citadel (SoConTV); Season Results: Feb. 16 (at Western Carolina 70, The Citadel 53); Series Record: The Citadel leads 34-27; Tournament Series: Tied 1-1.
  • Friday, March 2, 6:00 ET: #4N Samford vs #5S Furman (SoConTV); Season Results: Feb. 18 (at Samford 55, Furman 49); Series Record: Furman leads 8-3; Tournament Series: Tied 1-1.
  • Friday, March 2, 8:30 ET: #3S Georgia Southern vs #6N Chattanooga (SoConTV); Season Results: Dec. 1 (at Georgia Southern 84, Chattanooga 76), Jan. 28 (Georgia Southern 75, at Chattanooga 72); Series Record: Chattanooga leads 31-17; Tournament Series: Chattanooga leads 3-0.
  • Saturday, March 3, Noon ET: #1N UNC Greensboro vs #4S/#5N Winner (ESPN3); UNC Greensboro vs College of Charleston: College of Charleston leads 20-9; UNC Greensboro def. College of Charleston 73-66 on Jan. 12 and 78-63 on Feb. 15. UNC Greensboro vs Appalachian State: Appalachian State leads 20-17; Appalachian State def. UNC Greensboro 78-64 on Dec. 1 and UNC Greensboro def. Appalachian State 77-73 (OT) on Jan. 26.
  • Saturday, March 3, 2:30 ET: #2S Wofford vs #3N/#6S Winner (ESPN3); Wofford vs Western Carolina: Western Carolina leads 23-19; Western Carolina def. Wofford 67-57 on Jan. 7 and Wofford def. Western Carolina 82-56 on Jan. 30. Wofford vs The Citadel: Wofford leads 48-45; Wofford def. Western Carolina 82-63 on Dec. 3 and 62-55 on Jan. 26.
  • Saturday, March 3, 6:00 ET: #1S Davidson vs #4N/#5S Winner (ESPN3); Davidson vs Samford: Davidson leads 7-1; Samford def. Davidson 77-74 on Jan. 28, Davidson def. Samford 81-54 on Feb. 15. Davidson vs Furman: Davidson leads 96-61; Davidson def. Furman 86-65 on Dec. 3 and 71-53 on Feb. 1.
  • Saturday, March 3, 8:30 ET: #2N Elon vs #3S/#6N Winner (ESPN3); Elon vs Georgia Southern: Georgia Southern leads 9-8; Georgia Southern def. Elon 69-63 on Jan. 5. Elon vs Chattanooga: Chattanooga leads 11-9; Elon def. Chattanooga 88-87 on Jan. 21 and Chattanooga def. Elon 83-75 on Feb. 9
  • Sunday March 4, 6:00 ET: Semifinal #1 (ESPN3)
  • Sunday March 4, 8:30 ET: Semifinal #1 (ESPN3)
  • Monday March 5, 7:00 ET: Semifinal Winners (ESPN2)
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Checking In On…The Southern Conference

Posted by EMoyer on February 10th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can follow him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Reader’s Take


Looking Back

  • Taking a Break: On Monday, College of Charleston head coach Bobby Cremins said he was physically exhausted and was advised by his doctors to take “drastic changes or risk jeopardizing his long-term health.” In his absence, Mark Byington has gone 3-2.
  • Hot ‘Dogs: Samford earned its first-ever win against Davidson, a 77-74 decision on Jan 28, handing the Wildcats their lone SoCon loss of the season … After earning their first ever win against Davidson, the Bulldogs beat Wofford on Saturday for the first time since 1982.
  • Going Streaking: UNC Greensboro extended its win streak to seven straight before losing to Furman on Saturday. The streak marked the Spartans’ longest since stringing together eight consecutive wins during the 1995-96 season.

From the Notebook

  • On Saturday, The Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell started Marshall Harris III, Lawrence Miller and Jordan Robertson in their contest against Elon. They became the first three freshmen to start for the Dogs since Jan. 14, 2008.
  • Davidson has used the same starting lineup (Jake Cohen, De’Mon Brooks, J.P. Kuhlman, Nik Cochran and Tom Droney) in every game.
  • Since being inserted into the starting lineup eight games ago, Elon’s Jack Isenbarger has averaged 20.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.4 RPG while shooting 48.5 percent from the floor.
  • The Citadel’s Mike Groselle has 12 double-doubles this season, tying The Citadel’s single-season record. His 20 career double-doubles are three shy of tying the Bulldogs’ all-time mark.


  • Andrew Lawrence, College of Charleston: The junior guard from London averaged 28 points in two games last week. He played all 50 minutes in a double overtime contest at Elon in which he scored 32 points, dished out eight assists and shot 10-of-16 from the floor. He followed that performance with a 24-point, seven-assist night in a win at Appalachian State. Combined, he shot 63 percent (17-for-27) from the floor, 64.7 percent on 3-point tries (11-for-17) and missed only one free throw in 12 attempts.

Bob McKillop and Davidson Sit Atop Our Latest Power Rankings (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Davidson (19-5, Previous Ranking: 1): Despite a three-point loss at Samford, the Wildcats remain atop the power poll as they own a three-game lead in the standings. They pace the SoCon in scoring, scoring margin, rebound margin, free-throw percentage and both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.
  2. Georgia Southern (12-12, Previous Ranking: 6): Sophomore Jelani Hewitt is averaging 16.2 points per game over last five games and made the game-winning 3-pointer against Chattanooga on Jan. 28. In his first 19 games, he averaged 9.4 points per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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