Thursday night provided yet another example of why the SoCon has been so intriguing this year. Wofford destroyed ETSU to raise some questions about the Bucs ability to win the conference. UNCG won at The Citadel to make themselves the current favorite to get the final bye in the tournament. Furman survived against Western Carolina at home, putting them in third all by themselves. Mercer came back from double digits down to beat VMI.
Now, we head into Saturday's action. The reality is that if you love SoCon basketball (and I count myself as one of these people), this is a great time of year. Starting with Thursday's games and continuing until February 20, there will be eleven days with more than one conference game. That's eleven in twenty-four days. That is a lot of SoCon fun.
Saturday will be Day Two. By the time this sprint is over, there will just be one weekend left of the regular season and then we will have a much clearer picture of the race.
Let's look at some storylines for this Saturday's games.
The Battle for Second (and Maybe First)- ETSU and Furman are battling in a critical game for the conference standings. If Samford beats Chattanooga, ETSU can jump into first with a win in Greenville. If Chattanooga wins, the winner of the ETSU-Furman game will be in second place at the end of the day Saturday. The Bucs are looking to bounce back from the horribly disappointing performance against Wofford on Thursday, while Furman (who struggled at home against Western Carolina) will be looking to jump into second all by themselves. The Paladins have won three in a row to get back into this position. Stephen Croone will need to step up big at home yet again.
The Military Academies- The Citadel and VMI hook up in the battle of the military academies. These two teams would currently be seeded 9th and 10th if the tournament began today. Yet, this game feels especially big to the Bulldogs and Duggar Baucom. The Citadel will be hosting Baucom's former team and playing his former team's style. The Keydets were the running and gunning team last year. Now, that's The Citadel. If the Bulldogs want to contend for the bye, this is almost a must win. QJ Peterson will be looking to lead his Keydets to the road upset of the Bulldogs.
Samford Looks to Prove Themselves- The Bulldogs have been good at home. Samford is 2-1 at home in SoCon play, only losing a nailbiter to ETSU. Can Samford pull off the upset over Chattanooga this weekend? The Bulldogs have been shooting terribly from three point range in SoCon play. They rank last in the conference in three point shooting in conference play. They will need to get hot from downtown. The Mocs will be looking at keeping a hold on their lead in the SoCon. A loss could put that in jeopardy. The Mocs haven't played since last Thursday. Will there be rust?
UNCG, Western Carolina Fight for the Bye- The Spartans are 6th and the Catamounts are 7th. They hook up next Thursday in Greensboro. They both play teams that they are expected to lose to on the road. If either wins, they will have gotten a big step up in the race. The Spartans go to Mercer and the Catamounts go to Wofford. This is an important day for both teams. If either team comes up with a win, it could be a season defining win.