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State of the SoCon: On the Margins

ETSU and Chattanooga should be no surprise to be among the league leaders in margin. But the second place team in that category may surprise you.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Southern Conference has been nothing if not exciting this year. No conference has produced more home teams winning. Only two conferences have produced more close games than the Southern Conference has in conference games. Home fans have had plenty of close victories to get excited about.

As we race towards the midpoint of the conference season, I was browsing some stats in conference play. One stat that jumped off the page at me was scoring margin. Three teams have outscored opponents by more than 2.1 points per game. ETSU outscores their opponents by an average of 8.7 points per game. Chattanooga has outscored their opponents by 7.7 points per game. That is the team that is first and third. The team that is second may surprise you. It's Furman, who has outscored his opponents by 8.5 points per game.

When analyzing this, ETSU blew out VMI by 37. Furman has beaten VMI by 28 and 12. Chattanooga has yet to play VMI. That helps ETSU and Furman in the margin, but Furman is being underestimated by fans around the league. Their scoring margin is evidence that they are better than some give them credit for. It is not by accident that those three teams are outscoring opponents by so much.

Let's look at some power rankings for this week:

  1. Chattanooga- The Mocs only played one game last week, but they are still the best team in the league until someone proves otherwise.

  2. ETSU- We'll find out plenty about ETSU's mettle this week, when they go to Wofford and Furman. The Bucs are good, but the road is tough.

  3. Mercer- By a nose. The Bears have played thrillers against Western Carolina, ETSU and Wofford in their last three games, losing two of them.

  4. Furman- Count me as one of the people that may not quite believe in the Paladins yet. If they beat ETSU and Western Carolina at home this weekend, they may jump to second.

  5. Wofford- The Terriers have some question marks for sure. The team is good, but seems to be just a half step behind the other top squads.

  6. The Citadel- Why not? The Bulldogs beat Furman and Western Carolina and lost in overtime to ETSU in their last three games. With two home games this weekend, they have a chance to make a huge run.

  7. Western Carolina- The Catamounts beat the Spartans in overtime, and that's why they get this spot, plus they upset Mercer, a better win than any that UNCG has.

  8. UNCG- The Spartans are improving and are actually my pick to get the final bye at this stage in the game, but it's time to win a road game.

  9. Samford- The Bulldogs are just not playing well right now. They have played better at home and get the next four games in their home arena. Time to go on a run.

  10. VMI- The Keydets are fairly bad at this point. They go to Mercer and The Citadel this weekend. They really seem locked into this spot at this point, despite beating Samford this week.

SCHEDULE

Thursday

UNCG at The Citadel- These are two teams that can both contend for the final bye. The Spartans have not won a game on the road yet. Huge game for both teams.

ETSU at Wofford- The Bucs hit the road in a game that the Terriers desperately need to win. Big moment for both teams.

Western Carolina at Furman- The Paladins have a chance to make a major move up the standings this weekend.

VMI at Mercer- The Keydets have been bad on the road. The Bears will try to blow past VMI in this battle.

Saturday

VMI at The Citadel- The two military schools hook up in a nice rivalry game. Can The Citadel maintain their momentum?

UNCG at Mercer- The Bears will try to make a move up the standings this weekend, with an easier schedule than many of their other rivals in the race.

ETSU at Furman- The Paladins have been so good at home. They can make a real push to the top of the standings with a win here.

Western Carolina at Wofford- The Terriers and Catamounts met up in the tournament semifinals a year ago. The Terriers won that one and will be favored in this one.

Chattanooga at Samford- The Bulldogs have been much better at home this year. They barely lost to ETSU earlier at home. Now they get a chance at the Mocs.

Monday

The Citadel at Chattanooga- The Bulldogs nearly beat ETSU in Johnson City last weekend. Can they upset the Mocs in Chattanooga?

Mercer at Samford- The Bears will be playing their third game of the weekend. A win at Samford would be an important touch.