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SoCon Power Rankings and Reactions: Week One

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Florida vs East Tennessee State
ETSU Guard Jermaine Long
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The first weekend of Southern Conference basketball has been completed, and it wasn’t a particularly good showing for the league.

Samford and East Tennessee State suffered blowout losses on the road to Arkansas (L, 95-56) and Northern Kentucky (L, 81-63), respectively. Mercer went on the road to face Central Florida, and dropped an 88-79 contest to the Knights in the season opener last Friday night.

The Bears improved to 2-1 with an 86-58 win over Jackson State Tuesday night in Macon. The story of the young season for Mercer so far has been guard Ria’n Holland, who was named the Southern Conference Player of the Week for the first week of the 2017-18 season after averaging 23.5 points per game in the first two contests.

Meanwhile, Chattanooga has found the early part of the season rather trying under new head coach Lamont Paris. The Mocs are off to a 1-2 start following losses to Wyoming and UAB to open the season. In the most recent loss to the Blazers on Monday night, the Mocs connected on just 35.2 percent of their shots from the field.

The lone bright spot in the loss to UAB on Monday evening was the play of Makale Foreman, who posted 11 points and was 3-for-4 from from three-point range.

For its part, Furman improved to 2-0 on Tuesday night, downing Elon, 76-67, in a matchup between a pair quality mid-major foes. Devin Sibley led the way for the Paladins with 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field and 3-for-8 from three-point range. Daniel Fowler was the unsung hero for the Paladins, grabbing nine rebounds, six of which were offensive, to help the Paladins forge a 38-35 advantage on the boards against a bigger Phoenix team.

Furman also got a strong 20-point effort from point guard John Davis III, as the Paladins claimed the win by nine despite shooting just 38 percent from the floor for the game. Furman returns to action this weekend when it faces Butler on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. and will head to top-ranked Duke Monday night for a 7 p.m. contest against the Blue Devils.

VMI dropped to 0-2 on the young season with a 77-61 setback to Duquesne in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. VMI opened the campaign at NC State last Friday night, dropping a 102-67 decision to the Wolfpack.

In the loss to Duquesne, the Keydets had four players finish out the contest in double figures, led by Jordan Ratliffe’s 14 points, while Tyler Creammer and Keith Smith added 13 points. Bubba Parham chipped in with 12 points to round out the double figure scorers for the Keydets.

Western Carolina has struggled in its first two games of the season as well, having faced a ranked foe and another power five conference team. The Catamounts started the season with an 85-57 loss at Clemson, while dropping a 102-51 contest at No. 12 Cincinnati on Monday night.

Larry Hunter’s club was led by Haboubacar Mutombo in the opener, as he posted a 10-point effort in the loss at Clemson, while Matt Halvorsen poured in 15 points in the road loss to the Bearcats.

After shooting 39 percent in the opener at Clemson, the Catamounts were held to just 32 oercent shooting in the setback at Cincinnati. Shooting sub-40 owexwbr won’t win you a lot of games in this league, however, the Catamounts have faced maybe the toughest slate in its first two games of the season.

UNC Greensboro, last season’s Southern Conference Tournament finalist, opened the season last Friday night on the road in Charlottesville at Virgina.

The Spartans dropped a 60-48 contest to the Cavaliers, connecting on just 29.4 percent from the field in the opening season loss, and only Marvin Smith ended the contest in double figures on the Spartans’ side, posting 12 points. Francis Alonso was shut down in the opener, going 3-for-12 from the field, including 0-for-6 from three-point land.

Finally, The Citadel and Wofford both came out of their first two games with .500 records. The Terriers opened the brand new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium with a 73-52 loss to 2017 Final Four participant South Carolina, but evened their record 48 hours later with a 103-66 win over Washington and Lee.

Fletcher Magee posted 17 points in the season-opening contest against South Carolina, and matched that total in the win over Washington and Lee this past Sunday. Through the first two games of the season, Magee is 5-for-14 from three-point land.

The Citadel opened its high-octane offense against Ogelthorpe on Friday night, posting a 109-73 win to open the season Friday night. Things wouldn’t come as easy the next time out for the Bulldogs, playing on the road at a power five program, in Virginia Tech, who ripped off a 132-93 win over The Citadel.

SoCon Power Rankings:

  1. Furman (2-0)—Paladins have toughest part of non-league slate coming up with games at Butler and Duke.
  2. Mercer (2-1)—The Bears have shown they can be explosive in the backcourt once again.
  3. Samford (1-2)—Rebounded with a nice win over Alabama A&M after a lopsided loss to Arkansas in the season opener. Then fell at LSU despite scoring 86 points.
  4. East Tennessee State (1-1)—The Bucs lost on the road to the Horizon League champs in the season opener, but rebounded nicely with a 15-point win over Savannah State to open the home slate. The Bucs travel to No. 7 Kentucky for a Friday night contest.
  5. UNCG (1-1)—Despite shooting just 29.4 percent, the Spartans were more competitive against Virginia this season than in the 2016-17 season opener.
  6. Wofford (1-2)—The Terriers looked good in spots against South Carolina, and now its just a matter of putting it all together for the third-youngest team in NCAA Division I basketball.
  7. Chattanooga (1-2)—The Mocs were competitive on the road in the opening season loss at Wyoming, but got drubbed at UAB on Monday night. .
  8. The Citadel (1-2)—Duggar Baucom’s newcomers were impressive in week one, but this is the season many expect the Bulldogs to produce.
  9. VMI (0-2)—The Keydets played competitively in a loss to Duquesne after getting routed in the opener at NC State
  10. Western Carolina (1-2)—The Catamounts picked up their first win of the season on against Nov. 15 Hiwassee.