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Mid-Major Top 10: Southern Conference

The Southern Conference lost a lot of familiar talent from a year ago, but a stock of rising sophomores and others remain who bring serious value to their squads.

Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

We're back at it again this year ranking the Top 10 players from each conference based on Ben Miraski's HOOPWAR from a year ago. After previewing the Southern Conference yesterday we'll stay there for the first set of Top 10 players.

10. Ryley Beaumont, Elon: Beaumont's most memorable moment last year was his game winning shot over Samford that clinched the SoCon North Division title for the Phoenix. The 6'7 forward has become a skilled scorer and a tenacious rebounder, as he lead Elon in double-doubles a year ago with five. Beaumont's numbers might be a little higher if he wasn't sharing the ball with talented players Luck Troutman, Jack Isenbarger, and Sebastian Koch; but he still managed to put a HW30 score of nearly 3 games up on the board. If the Phoenix want to make it to the NCAA tournament then Beaumont has to have another big season.

9. Lee Skinner, Wofford: It was a breakout sophomore year for Lee Skinner who went from averaging 6 points and 6 boards to over 10 points and 7 rebounds. The Terriers are looking to move back into the top half of the Southern Conference and Lee Skinner is going to have to be part of that. One thing he needs to work on is more consistent production. The rising sophomore scored in single digits in fourteen games a year ago and would disappear in some key conference match ups. He has what it takes to develop into an all-conference performer, but needs to continue to improve.

8. Gee McGhee, Chattanooga: After starting every game his freshman year and breaking several records at Chattanooga, McGhee continued to improve in 2012-13. The sophomore averaged 12 points per game last year and also added nearly 4 rebounds and 2 assists. In an impressive twelve game stretch from January 19 to February 28, McGhee averaged over 17 points per game. Now it's time to see if McGhee can continue to develop and translate into first year head coach Will Wade's system.

7. De'Mon Brooks, Davidson: A lot of people will be surprised to see the former Southern Conference Player of the Year this low on the list, but the truth is Brooks' production actually declined a year ago. With Jake Cohen and Nik Cochran moving on, the 6'7 Brooks will need to regain his form from a couple of years ago. Davidson faces a stiff test in their last year in the SoCon and Brooks will be the key for head coach Bob McKillop to go out on top before transitioning to the Atlantic 10.

6. Karl Cochran, Wofford: The second piece of Wofford's attempt to claw back into the Southern Conference championship picture is Karl Cochran. The 6'1 guard finished third in the conference in scoring a year ago by averaging 16 points per game. Cochran also grabbed 4 rebounds and added 2 steals per game in 2012-13. He finished the last four games of the regular season averaging 22 points per game, but then disappeared in the conference tournament scoring 4 points in a 60-44 loss to Georgia Southern.

5. Jay Canty, Appalachian State: It seems like the SoCon was stocked with super sophomores a year ago and Canty was one of the best. After studying under SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Nathan Healy, Canty will now be the big man on campus in Boone. A year ago the rising sophomore averaged an impressive 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Jason Capel has something brewing in the Mountaineers last year in the SoCon and Canty just may be the key ingredient.

4. Lucas Troutman, Elon: Troutman will likely be voted the preseason Southern Conference Player of the Year after averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds a game last year. He is considered to be the best player on the best team but shares the ball with a talented foursome of players. The 6'10 forward is probably the conference's most un-guardable players and most of the opponents the Phoenix face will not have an answer for the senior.

3. Tim Williams, Samford: Williams is the key to the Bulldogs having their first ever winning year in the Southern Conference. The Chicago native burst onto the scene his freshman year averaging 14 points per game and 8 rebounds. As the years pass, Williams should become a perennial contender for a slew of honors in the SoCon and maybe even on a national level.  To put Williams freshman campaign in full perspective, he only finished in single digits in the scoring column twice.

2. Trey Sumler, Western Carolina: The most talented scorer in the Southern Conference may reside in Cullowhee, North Carolina and his name is Trey Sumler. Sumler averaged 18.4 points a year ago, which only trailed UNCG's Trevis Simpkins who left for the pro ranks. To go along with his sheering scoring volume, Sumler also added 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the free throw line. Larry Hunter's team could make some serious noise this year and if they do it will be because of Sumler.

1. Z. Mason, Chattanooga: This may be a bit of a surprise to some, but the "Pinstripe Baron" Will Wade inherited the league's most valuable player to install in his "CHAOS" system in senior Z. Mason. Mason posted an incredible HW30 score of 7.43 a year ago when he averaged 15 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game for the Mocs. Mason, a Nashville native, first went to Ole Miss to play football and was ranked the nation's second rated tight end coming out of high school. Perhaps he can be the next Antonio Gates, but for now his focus is making Wade's first year a successful one.