It's an interesting day in Southern Conference action, as ETSU and Furman, two of the early season stars in conference play, hit the road. It's been an interesting race so far, and we will get a lot more clarity as we get through this weekend.
The injuries to guys like A.J. Merriweather and Casey Jones have put a huge damper on the season to this point. But conference play has a way of making things more interesting. Every game takes on so much meaning and importance and every game is one to look forward to. This Thursday will be no exception.
Four of six one loss SoCon teams hit the road. The only home SoCon teams with one loss or less are Chattanooga and Mercer. Chattanooga hosts Western Carolina while Mercer hosts Furman. That's two road teams playing with one loss in conference play against two other conference teams with one loss. Yes, this Thursday really has some nice match-ups in it that will help to sort out the power rankings of these teams.
The off teams are a combined 1-7 in SoCon play. VMI and UNCG don't play on Thursday night. While it's always disappointing to not see all ten teams in action, these are two that are a combined 1-7 in conference play. That means even better match-ups on Thursday night. The teams playing on Thursday are a combined 17-11 in SoCon play. Again, this should be an excellent evening of basketball for the conference.
Is Furman for real? The Paladins game against Mercer may not determine that, but the Bears are looking to avenge last year's semifinal loss to Furman. The Paladins made a huge statement in the semifinal game a year ago. They get another chance this time. Furman is 3-1 in SoCon play, but lost their lone road game. There are still questions around the conference about where Furman stands, and those questions will linger. However, a win over Mercer in Macon would certainly go a long way to proving to everyone that they were in the championship race to stay.
Western Carolina finds out about the road. The Catamounts have yet to play a road game in the conference. Now, they go to Chattanooga and Samford this weekend. Can Rhett Harrelson lead the Catamounts to an upset in Chattanooga? Western Carolina has long been successful in Cullowhee. They have often struggled away from home. This game is a chance for the Catamounts to prove that they can win on the road. Even if they can keep the game close to the finish, the Catamounts could prove a lot.