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SoCon Notebook: Catching up with Carlos Dotson, power rankings and more

Plus the subtle reasons behind Furman’s historic start.

Carlos Dotson
Western Carolina Athletics

With Furman’s 77-69 win over Charleston Southern, Furman became the first team in the country to reach 11 wins this season. The Paladins are also the first team in the Southern Conference to start a season 10-0 or better since Davidson did so under legendary head coach Lefty Driesell during the 1963-64 season.

Truth be told, Furman has found different ways to win this season. It doesn’t have a Devin Sibley or Stephen Croone, but the sum of its parts has been something special. Take for instance Andrew Brown, who suffered a pair of hairline fractures in his foot, and overcame a near life-threatening surgery during the offseason. Brown saw action in just his fourth game of the season last night, but responded in a big way when the Paladins needed it most.

With leading scorer Jordan Lyons limited to zero points and Clay Mounce just three, Brown stepped up big. He scored 16 points on five-of-eight shooting from the field, including four-for-six from three. The Paladins got a career-high 17 points from projected SoCon Newcomer of the Year Noah Gurley in the win.

Furman returns to action Saturday, when it hosts UNC Wilmington at 4 p.m. EST at Timmons Arena.

Catching Up With Carlos:

In the preseason, I did a story on impact of Western Carolina JuCo signee Carlos Dotson. Dotson, a 6-8, 265 pound center, is off to a sensational start this season. Through the first 11 games as a Catamount, he is averaging 14.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He has simply been sensational for Mark Prosser’s Catamounts this season.

I had a chance to catch up with Dotson and ask him a few questions following a heartbreaking, 90-88, double-overtime loss to Furman in the Southern Conference opener for both last week. Here’s what he had to say.

Mid-Major Madness: What was it like to play your first Division I College basketball game? Were you nervous, excited?

Dotson: I wasn’t nervous. I have prepared for this moment and my coaches had prepared me for that moment, so I was more excited to test what I had learned and had been taught from my mentors. It has gone well so far for me personally, but I would trade some of my big individual performances in losses for wins. I was ready for my first game and I wasn’t nervous at all.

Mid-Major Madness: What’s it like playing for coach Mark Prosser?

Dotson: It’s been great and I couldn’t ask for a better coach both on and off the floor. He helps us game-plan so well, and he and this staff are always available to talk about anything and they care about us as people first and that’s so important. I think that helps you be a better player because if you know coaches care about you more than basketball, it makes you want to give it all you have for those guys. And another thing is, our coaches make basketball fun. You don’t get that at every place.

Mid-Major Madness: Who taught you how to position your body and use your body so well to create scoring opportunties underneath? Is that coaching?

Dotson: I always have been doing that my whole career, and coaches have taught me how use my body well and to position in it in a way to score facing the basket. But it’s obviously my greatest advantage. I am not the greatest leaper like some big guys are, but I try and maximize my strength and power underneath to create scoring chances, as well as positioning on rebounds.

Mid Major Madness: Were you motivated to prove yourself in this league more or to yourself that you belonged in Division I basketball as a quality big man?

Dotson: Well I was already confident in what I could do and how I could play. I took a different route here than some, but I always knew I could play. For the most part I was excited about the challenge with playing against quality big guys in Division I and and in this conference. The only way to make you better is to make your team better. They go together.

Mid Major Madness: Do you scout other individual matchups during the week or watch film on other guys to get an idea of their tendencies?

Dotson: We watch as a team, but we watch film of each individual player on an opponent. We know our matchups and like what tendencies to watch for.

It is apparent that Dotson has adapted well to life Division I, and as I said in the podcast that Russ Steinberg and I did, Western Carolina is not a team most will want to face in March, despite having gotten off to a 3-8 start.

Power Rankings:

  1. Furman (11-0, 1-0 SoCon)—The Paladins continue to make history with their start to the season, but they know as well as any the SoCon has become one of the tougher mid-major conferences to win over the past three or four seasons, and for a one-bid league such as the SoCon, no satisfication comes from a ranking or media coverage. For Bob Richey and company, it’s still one weekend in March that determines what folks will most remember about the 2018-19 Paladins.
  2. Wofford (8-3, 1-0 SoCon)—The Terriers have been strong so far, and other than hiccups against North Carolina, Kansas and Oklahoma, look for Mike Young’s club to have a major say in how the SoCon race goes down.
  3. UNC Greensboro (8-2)—UNCG probably wouldn’t be this low except for the unknown status of center and reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year James Dickey, who was seen in a boot/aircast on the sidelines in UNCG’s 75-74 win at Elon last Friday night. He is a huge factor to this team, and his ability to return quickly could be the difference between the Spartans being a championship contender and not being a title contender.
  4. East Tennessee State (8-3, 0-1 SoCon)—Like a fine wine, head coach Steve Forbes’ Bucs seem to be getting better with age. The Bucs have one of the best rebounding monsters in college basketball in 6-7 Jeromy Rodriguez, who who leads the SoCon and ranks third nationally in rebounds per game (12.4 RPG). With he and Mladen Armus getting more time playing with one another, it is a given the Bucs will be a factor in conference play and in March. Don’t be shocked if the Bucs ride out of Champaigne, Ill, with a win over Illinois Saturday.
  5. Samford (8-2)—The Bulldogs are off to a strong start, with losses only coming against OVC power Belmont and then-No. 23 Ohio State. Other than Furman’s wins over Villanova and Loyola, a serious argument could be made for Scott Padgett’s club being one of the surprises of the SoCon thus far.
  6. The Citadel (7-2, 1-0 SoCon)—Duggar Baucom’s team is doing what I expected, and off to a strong start. Just last week, some power rankings/RPI had the highest rated team in the SoCon at No. 29! The Bulldogs, as expected, continue to lead the nation in scoring at 103.0 points per game.
  7. Mercer (4-6, 0-1)—The Bears have played a tough slate so far, including having lost three-straight games. The Bears have another big test at Florida on Dec. 18.
  8. Chattanooga (5-5, 1-0 SoCon)Kevin Easley’s 26-point outing in a league win over VMI showed why he is one of the SoCon’s premier newcomers.
  9. Western Carolina (3-8, 0-1 SoCon)—There’s no denying the fact that the Catamounts are getting better. Two out of the Catamouts’ last three games have shown that, with a close road loss at nationally-ranked Furman and an impressive road win over young, but talented UNC Asheville.
  10. VMI (5-6, 0-1 SoCon)—I don’t think VMI will end up as 10th in the power rankings at season’s end, but Dan Earl’s Keydets have struggled of late, having lost four straight, all by double digits.