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SoCon Feast Week Wrap Up and Power Rankings

NCAA Basketball: Western Carolina at Marquette
Western Carolina Head Basketball Coach Larry Hunter
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

With Feast Week behind us, let’s catch up on some of the biggest storylines in the SoCon over the past week.

Western Carolina sees improvement during Feast Week

Maybe the most improvement seen by any team from the first week of the season until the third week of the season in the Southern Conference was done by Larry Hunter’s Western Carolina Catamounts.

The Catamounts have faced a brutal slate to start the season, featuring Clemson, Cincinnati, Minnesota and UMass. While the Catamounts have posted expected victories over Alabama A&M and Hiwassee in the early portion of the schedule, perhaps the most impressive performance came in a road loss to former Chattanooga coach Matt McCall and UMass. The Catamounts were impressive in hanging around in Amherst, dropping an 85-76 decision to the Minutemen.

One of the most impressive young players in the SoCon has been Catamount guard Matt Halvorsen, who tallied a career-high 18 points in the narrow loss. The freshman guard also poured in 17 points in a 94-65 loss to Minnesota.

So far this season, Halvorsen is averaging a team-best 13.0 points per game, while fellow backcourt mate Devin Peterson is chipping in 11.0 points per game. Halvorsen has shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter so far this season, connecting on 22-of-51 shots from long range, which converts to an impressive 43.1 percent.

The Catamounts will face a pair of old SoCon foes to close out the week, traveling to College of Charleston for a date with the Cougars Thursday night, and will host arch-rival Appalachian State next Monday night.

Sibley and Furman rebound from losses; face Winthrop this week

Furman rebounded from back-to-back, double-digit losses to No. 1 Duke and Butler last week, answering the slight adversity with consecutive wins over New Hampshire and Northeastern in a 24-hour span in Nashville this past weekend.

The Paladins used a 32-8 run to start the second half, ultimately running away from the Wildcats for a 78-64 win. The Paladins were led by preseason SoCon Player of the Year and the league’s most recent player of the week, Devin Sibley, who finished the contest with a team-best 20 points to go along with nine rebounds.

In the 78-67 win over Northeastern, Sibley was up to his same standard of play, leading the Paladins with 22 points and 10 rebounds en route to leading the Paladins to another double-digit win.

For the week, Sibley averaged 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game en route to helping the Paladins to the 2-0 mark for the week. Sibley and teammate Matt Rafferty have scored in double figures in all six games so far this season, with Sibley ranking third in the SoCon in scoring at 18.2 points per game.

Rafferty posted 11 points in both wins in Nashville from this past weekend, heading into Wednesday night’s clash with Big South member Winthrop averaging 10.7 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game. The Paladins have four averaging in double figures, with senior guards John Davis III (12.3 PPG) and Daniel Fowler (11.5 PPG) also joining Rafferty and Sibley.

Furman will be involved in one of the bigger mid-major games around the league this weekend, as the Paladins host 2017 NCAA Tournament participant and Big South champion Winthrop at Timmons Arena.

The Pat Kelsey-led Eagles were 76-64 losers to Butler in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last season, and are out to a 3-3 start so far this season. The Eagles were 26-7 a year ago, and returned three starters.

The Paladins and Eagles played a classic in Rock Hill, S.C., last season, with the Eagles holding off Furman in a 58-57 win.

Chattanooga starting to show signs

The Chattanooga Mocs got off to a bit of a shaky start under the direction of first-year head coach Lamont Paris, but have rebounded to play better as of late.

Chattanooga dropped a close, 77-75, contest to 2017 NCAA Tournament participant Jacksonville State on Nov. 21 before getting a 95-60 win over Tennessee Wesleyan this past Saturday. The other wins came against Hiwassee (94-46) and Alabama State this season.

They then lost a close road game to perennial MAC power Akron on Wednesday, losing 75-70.

The Mocs have four averaging in double figures so far this season, led by Makinde London, who is averaging 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. London has shot the ball exceptionally well from the perimeter in the early portion of the slate, connecting on 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from three-point range so far this season.

Power Rankings:

  1. Mercer (5-2)
  2. Furman (4-2)
  3. UNC Greensboro (4-2)
  4. East Tennessee State (3-3)
  5. Chattanooga (3-4)
  6. Samford (2-5)
  7. Wofford (3-4)
  8. The Citadel (3-3)
  9. Western Carolina (2-5)
  10. VMI (2-3)