SOUTHERN CONFERENCE NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-The SoCon has undergone several lineup changes in recent years, and has just 11 teams this year. Samford will join the league next year, which will once again give the league 12 teams and allow them to have two divisions of six teams each. This year, the league has opted to play as one division and have all the teams play each other home-and-home, which means each team will be playing 20 conference games. That makes it more difficult for teams like Davidson and Appalachian State who are probably good enough to earn at-large bids because it limits their chances to get quality out of conference wins.
-The first SoCon Tournament was in 1922, which makes it older than the NCAA Tournament. I believe its the longest running collegiate basketball tournament of any kind.
-No SoCon team has ever received an at-large bid, but it looks as though Davidson should be good enough to get one if they need it this year. SOUTHERN CONFERENCE TEAMS
-If DAVIDSON doesnt begin the season ranked in the Top 25, then we should be seeing them in it before the season is over. Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but they ended up winning 29 games, the Conference Championship, and nearly upset Maryland in the NCAA Tournament. With all five starters coming back, Davidson should be a very strong program once again. They love to push the pace, and are a terrific offensive team. Four of the players returning averaged in double figures a season ago. Guard Stephen Curry
averaged close to 22ppg last year and was a great outside shooter as well. Jason Richards
joins him out on the perimeter, and did a good job rebounding the basketball despite the fact that he was a guard. Forwards Boris Meno and Thomas Sander give them quite a bit of talent and production in the post as well. The fact that they are playing 20 conference games limits their chances for big time wins somewhat, but they are in the Bracket Buster, and also face North Carolina, Duke, NC State and UCLA. The problem is that although Davidson is a Top 25 team, most of those teams are Top Ten teams, maybe higher. It would almost be better if they had a slew of bubble teams, because those are games that Davidson would probably win. Nevertheless, this is an outstanding basketball team this year that is capable of making quite a bit of noise.
-UNC GREENSBORO is another team that is going to be very strong this year. They were playing their best basketball down the stretch last season, and return four starters. Kyle Hines
is among them. He averaged 20ppg and 9rpg last season, and looks to be the best player in the league this year. They also have another good guard in Kendall Toney, who is a pretty good outside shooter. It doesnt look like this team is as good as Davidson, which is unfortunate because the team they have this year would probably be good enough to win the SoCon most of the time. Its just that theyve got a top 25 caliber team in Davidson to contend with. They do have some big OOC games against Georgia Tech, Missouri State, and Virginia Tech. Throw in two games against Davidson and that gives them plenty of chances to earn some quality wins and build a postseason resume. As good as they are, they may not be good enough to win one or two of those games.
-APPALACHIAN STATE was a very exciting team to watch last year. They won 25 games, and with wins over Virginia Tech, Virginia, VCU and Vanderbilt, many thought theyd get an at-large bid. Unfortunately they had too many bad losses to go with some of those big wins and ended up losing to College of Charleston in the SoCon semifinals last year, which kept them out of the NCAA Tournament. They should be good once again this year, but they are losing their top three scorers and only have two starters coming back. Donte Minter should be in the starting line-up this year as well, who averaged 11ppg coming off the bench. They appear to be good this year, but not good enough to win the league title or make the NCAA Tournament.
-COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON had a big year last year under new head coach Bobby Cremins, but lost in the championship game to Davidson and failed to make the postseason. Unfortunately only two starters are back, and thats a problem because this team wasnt all that deep last year. Forward Jermaine Johnson is a very good scorer and rebounder, and the team will depend on him quite a bit this season. The good news is that some of the incoming freshmen appear to be pretty good, and could end up contributing this season. Long term wise I think CofC is in good shape, but this may be somewhat of a building year.
-GEORGIA SOUTHERN was just 15-16 last year, but seven of those losses came in the final minute of the game. They were also a team that dealt with injuries, and that was a setback for them as well. They did lose their leading scorer from last season, but return forward Louis Graham, who is one of the best in the league at his position. He averaged over 14ppg and 8rpg last season. Two other starters are also back and as a whole I believe theyll be much better this year than they were a year ago.
-CHATTANOOGA will host Tennessee this year, which is a big deal considering they got such a highly ranked team to play them at home. With only two starters returning from a 15-18 year last year, I dont see them being a force in the league this year. They did get some contributions off the bench last season, and several of those players should be able to step it up this year, but it isnt likely that well see them at the top of the standings.
-WESTERN CAROLINA was a very young team last year and really flamed out down the stretch. They did like to go deep into their bench and with so many players coming back they should be a little better this year, but I dont see them finishing near the top. It will be interesting though now that head coach Larry Hunter has had a few recruiting classes that are now experienced. Nick Aldridge is a player to watch. Hes an outstanding forward who averaged over 18ppg last year, and grabbed 7 boards per game on top of that.
-WOFFORD surprised some people when they defeated Cincinnati last season, but unfortunately things never got any more exciting than that. They ended up winning just nine games on the season. It does appear that they have some talent, though. Drew Gibson is a good passer and can score the ball as well. Shane Nichols is a good outside shooter who averaged over 15ppg last year. All five starters are back, and the fact that they are more experienced should make them a much better team this year. If they can improve their defense they could be competitive within the league this year.
-FURMAN was a tough defensive team last year and ended up finishing the season 15-16 overall. The problem is that four starters are gone, and this is one of the most inexperienced teams in the conference and perhaps the entire country. Only one player averaged more than 20 minutes a game last year. A lot of the younger players are going to be seeing quite a few minutes this year.
-ELON followed up a first place finish in the North Division in 2004-2005 with a 23 loss season last year. They were a team that shot the ball poorly, rebounded poorly and played bad defense. Other than that they were pretty good. They basically need to improve in all areas if they want to be competitive this season.
-Its just really difficult to get anything going at THE CITADEL. I have all the respect in the world for anyone who can graduate from a university that has very rigorous military requirements like this one does. Graduating and playing a varsity sport seems damn near impossible. That is why they cant ever put together a competitive basketball team, and this year is no different. Look for them to end up at the bottom of the standings again.