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SoCon Primer: Strengh of Schedule in Conference Play Can Matter

This early in conference play, strength of schedule can be an indicator of future results. What does it tell us about the Southern Conference race?

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It's time to start another weekend of SoCon action, but before we dive into Thursday's games and talk about them, I was noticing something when I looked at Pomeroy.

When analyzing the schedules so far, the toughest schedules so far belong to The Citadel and VMI. Those two teams rank at the bottom of the SoCon. Maybe they will have more success as we go into the future.

After that it gets much more interesting.

For example, Wofford has played the easiest schedule so far. They sit at 4-2 and most people are now thinking that the Terriers are a real threat to win the tournament title. Quite possibly they are. After all, they nearly won at Mercer. However, their schedule has been easy and they may find it tougher from here. The Terriers may only wind up being around a .500 team (something several computer sources project).

Western Carolina, the team that is currently in the final bye spot, has played the second easiest schedule. They may find it difficult to hang onto the final bye spot as their schedule toughens up a bit.

Chattanooga and ETSU have played the 3rd and 4th toughest schedules, respectively. The Mocs and Bucs could certainly benefit from their schedules getting slightly easier the rest of the way.

In other words, the teams in the best position to contend for a SoCon title may well be the Mocs and Bucs, based on the schedule. Wofford may struggle some down the stretch, and Western Carolina, a team that many think is primed to earn a bye, may not get the coveted bye after all.

Let's look at other headlines as we head into Thursday night.

Something's got to give. In the Game of the Century with this as a headline, Samford's trip to VMI is a really intriguing game. Samford has been pretty bad on the road in SoCon play, while VMI has not been particularly good anywhere in SoCon play. Both really need this one. The Bulldogs need the win to keep pace in the bye race, while VMI needs to just get one win and get some positive momentum going. This is going to be a very interesting game.

Snowy weather. A huge amount of snow and winter weather is possible in Johnson City, Lexington, Cullowhee and Greensboro. The weather forecast could drive down some of the attendance at these games, possibly taking away some of the home court advantage for the home teams. The forecast is for most of it to occur after the games should be over, but still, it could be an interesting evening for teams and fans getting to the games.

Big man battle. RJ White of UNCG and Justin Tuoyo of Chattanooga might be the two best big men in the league. Their match-up will be very interesting, especially if they can both stay on the floor and out of foul trouble. Their match-up could define the winner of the game between the Spartans and the Mocs. At the very least, it will be very enjoyable to watch. Actually, in terms of athletic ability, Chattanooga and ETSU are probably the two best in the league, but UNCG might be the third most athletic team in the league. Again, number of athletes does not necessarily equal victories. Victories come from athleticism and team play. But this game should be entertaining to watch from an athletic standpoint.

Two one loss teams. ETSU and Mercer hook up in a match-up of two 4-1 teams. Mercer is a team that wins with solid team play and buy into the program and philosophy. ETSU wins with athletes and a growing sense of team play. As the Bucs get better and better at playing as a team, they get more difficult to beat. This is a huge challenge to the Bucs. Phillip Leonard and Stephon Jelks come to town. Leonard makes the Bears go, and Jelks is the leading scorer. T.J. Cromer and Ge'Lawn Guyn are the Bucs two best players, and might be two of the top five players in the conference. How will the Bucs speed it up flying offense fare against the Bears tough defense? This game ought to be a lot of fun.