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Catch up on a busy first month in the SoCon

From wins over power-six teams to a loss to a non-DI foe, there’s been a little bit of everything

NCAA Basketball: NC-Greensboro at Arkansas
Keyshaun Langley scored 23 points in UNCG’s 78-72 win at Arkansas.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be a clear narrative unfolding in SoCon hoops this season as there appears to be a clear line of demarcation between the top tier and bottom tier of the league’s hierarchy.

The top six in the league at this point are most clear: UNC Greensboro, Western Carolina, Furman, Chattanooga, Samford and East Tennessee State. The bottom four include: Wofford, Mercer, The Citadel and VMI.

As we begin the month of December, three SoCon teams have already three high-major wins. It sets the stage for even more potential high-major wins in the final month of non-conference play, with several of those coming up soon.

Upsets

The latest of those wins of high-major programs came when UNC Greensboro went to then-14th-ranked Arkansas and handed the Razorbacks a 78-72 setback in Bud Walton Arena.

Not only did UNCG knock off its first SEC foe in its hoops history, it also did so in one of the toughest environments to do so for non-conference opposition, as the Spartans became just the fifth non-conference foe to win there.

The win over the Razorbacks also marked the SoCon’s first non-conference win over a ranked team in the regular season since Wofford knocked off No. 17 North Carolina 68-64 on Dec. 15, 2019. Furman took down No. 9 Virginia 68-67 in the NCAA Tournament last March.

What makes the UNCG win even more impressive is that the Razorbacks recently knocked off No. 9 Duke Blue Devils, 80-75, in the ACC-SEC challenge at Bud Walton Arena.

Chattanooga took down Louisville 81-71, and Western Carolina defeated Notre Dame 74-64 on the road.

Western Carolina also has wins over Middle Tennessee State and McNeese State, which may be more impressive than the win over the Irish. According to KenPom, the Cowboys currently rank No. 88. Notre Dame is nearly 100 spots lower, ranking 179.

ETSU’s win over No. 139 Davidson was also impressive.

How did the Spartans do it?

Keyshaun Langley was once again at the center of the huge upset by the Spartans as he posted 23 points to lead the way for the Blue and Gold. Langley’s 23 points came on a 6-of-11 shooting performance from the field, which included a 5-for-8 effort from long range. He also dished out five of the team’s 15 helpers and recorded three rebounds.

Langley was one of three Spartans in double figures in the contest, as he was joined by both Mikeal Brown-Jones, who added 17 points, and Joryam Saizonou, who tallied a career-high 12 points.

The Spartans’ defense was on display for all to see, as UNCG held the Razorbacks to just 43.1% shooting for the contest and 17.4% shooting (4-of-23) from long range.

Arkansas took one of its two leads in the contest on its opening possession, as an offensive rebound and putback would see the hometown team assume what was a 2-0 lead, however, an 11-2 run by UNCG would see the Spartans surprise Arkansas, but only briefly, as Arkansas charged back with a 9-2 run of its own to tie the game, 15-15.

UNCG would slowly but surely build its lead as the half progressed, while Arkansas continued to struggle to find its shooting touch. With 1:40 remaining in the half, newcomer Tim Cesar, who has been one of the top additions for anyone in the SoCon to this point, made UNCG’s fourth triple of the contest, allowing UNCG to assume what was its first double-digit lead of the contest. Langley added another triple before the two teams entered the halftime locker room and all of the sudden UNCG’s lead had ballooned to 38-24.

As these matchups seemingly always go when a SoCon team or any mid-major is trying to knock off a giant, the nationally-ranked Razorbacks were always going to make a charge. That charge came shortly after the two teams took the floor for the second half, as a 15-5 run out of the locker room saw Arkansas trim the UNCG advantage to just eight.

The Razorbacks would get as close as four on two occasions in the second half, but the Spartans never allowed Arkansas get any closer. This marked the biggest win the program has had since it knocked off NC State 81-76 in Raleigh on Dec. 16, 2017.

UNCG then won the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship, getting wins over Kansas City 76-64, Delaware 88-77, and UIC 58-57 to take home the in-season tournament trophy.

Mikeal Brown-Jones was named the tournament MVP, and to this point in the season, might well be the SoCon’s overall MVP. He posted a game-high 15 points in the hard-fought championship win over UIC and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.

Through the first six games this season, Brown-Jones leads the Spartans in scoring (18.3 PPG), rebounding (7.0 RPG), blocks (6), and he’s blistering the nets at a sizzling 60.6% in the opening month of the 2023-24 season.

East Tennessee State showing signs

Another of the major upsets in the opening month saw East Tennessee State take down former SoCon rival Davidson, as the Bucs claimed a 70-68 win over former league rival and current Atlantic 10 member Davidson inside a raucous Freedom Hall. This marked ETSU head coach Brooks Savage’s first win over a Division I opponent.

Ebby Asamoah led the Bucs with 24 points in the contest, as he was a big part of a second half that saw the Bucs put up 47 points, out-scoring the Wildcats 47-37 to overcome what was a 31-23 halftime deficit. The 47 points came in a second half that saw the Bucs shoot an impressive 52% from the field. In fact, the 47 points scored by ETSU in the second half matched the total it had the entire game against Butler.

It was also ETSU’s best rebounding performance of the season, as the Bucs claimed the battle of the boards for the first time this season, owning a 42-32 advantage on the backboards.

The opening half of the contest was a foul-fest, as the two teams were called for a combined 25 fouls. The Wildcats overcame just a 33.3% (8-of-24) shooting effort from the field by connecting on 14-of-17 from the charity stripe.

In the second half, ETSU chipped away at the Davidson lead, tying the game at 41 and 43 before eventually taking a 45-44 lead following a Quimari Peterson layup with 11:36 remaining. From that point, memories of some of those great Southern Conference battles crept into the thoughts of many longtime hoops fans on both sides, as it was the first meeting between the two in nearly 19 years.

Davidson threatened to take control of the contest after Reed Bailey scored five-straight points to give the Wildcats a 56-52 lead with eight-and-a-half minutes left. ETSU responded with an 8-0 run to assume a 60-56 lead, ending with a three from Peterson with just over six minutes remaining.

The Bucs would eventually take their largest lead of the night with 4:40 left following a pair of free throws from Karon Boyd, giving the Bucs a 63-58 lead. Boyd was ETSU’s second-leading scorer behind Asamoah with 17 points, and he was one of three Bucs’ in double figures.

However, Davidson would come back to tie the game, 64-64, when Achile Spadone connected on a triple with 2:03 remaining. With the game tied, Asamoah squared up for an elbow three with 1:20 left and the ball hit nothing but net to give the Bucs a 67-64 lead, and it would be a lead the Blue and Gold would not relinquish.

Peterson played all 40 minutes en route to his 14-point performance. He also dished out seven assists, three rebounds and two steals.

After Davidson cut the ETSU lead to two on a pair of free throws by David Skogman with six seconds left, the Bucs turned the ball over, which left the Wildcats one last chance at a victory. However, a big block by freshman Meki Johnson on Bobby Durk’s potential game-winning three-point attempt sealed the win.

ETSU then went on the road to Cleveland State to take part in the Viking Invitational and dropped a 72-70 decision on the road.

The Vikings ended up getting the winning layup from Tristan Enaruna with just 4.2 seconds remaining.

The Bucs picked up their third win of the season, evening their record at 3-3 with an 82-71 win over Alabama A&M in the second game of the Cleveland State MTE. ETSU got a combined 43 points from backcourt mates Asamoah (22 pts) and Peterson (21 pts), and the 82-point pace is more like where Savage would like to see the Bucs scoring regularly.

Fittingly, ETSU would close out the opening month visiting another of its old Southern Conference rivals, and its oldest hoops rival in general, as the Bucs traveled just over Roan Mountain to the the Holmes Convocation Center to take one of the Sun Belt Conference favorites, in the Appalachian State Mountaineers.

The Black and Gold, who rank 103rd in the latest KenPom rankings, didn’t overlook their former league rival with a home date looming with SEC power Auburn coming up on Sunday.

After App State used a hot-shooting half to take a 20-point lead to the half, the Bucs would get back into the game with defense in the second half, trimming the margin to eight on two occasions before eventually falling 72-61.

Asamoah, Peterson and Jadyn Parker all tied for team-high scoring honors, posting 12 points apiece. With the loss, the Bucs end the first month of the 2023-24 college basketball season under their rookie head coach with a respectable 3-4 record. The Bucs will open up the final month of 2023 with a Dec. 3 road test at Jacksonville State.

Furman’s tough schedule

Furman has one of the more attractive non-conference schedules in all of mid-major basketball, and what head coach Bob Richey hasn’t been able to get in terms of procuring power five opportunities, he’s been able to make up for in mid-major blockbusters.

The Paladins have an impressive, 23-point home win over Missouri Valley member Belmont, which was their first over a Division I foe this season. The Paladins followed that up with a trip to Myrtle Beach to take part in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Despite posting a disappointing 1-2 mark in the tournament, with losses to Liberty and Wyoming, the Paladins got a breakout tournament from redshirt senior guard Marcus Foster.

Foster had quite a weekend scoring the basketball, posting back-to-back 30-point performances before finishing with 18 points in the final game against Wyoming in the seven-point setback to the Cowboys. He set a new tournament scoring record by totaling 78 total points in three games.

The Paladins struggled shooting basketball from three-point range the entire weekend, connecting on just 24-of-96 from downtown over a three-game stretch, as the Paladins struggled to find their range the entire weekend.

Foster’s 22.1 PPG leads the SoCon, and he is the first Paladin since Karim Souchu in February 2003.

Missing several key players with injuries, including Alex Williams, Ben VanderWal and Tyrese Hughey, Furman had a seven-man rotation in their win over Coastal Carolina, and Hughey had a minutes restriction in the final game of the tournament against Wyoming.

Foster continued his strong play for the Paladins in Birmingham this past Saturday night, as he posted 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. He has led the Paladins in scoring four time in six games this season.

Foster is currently shooting the ball at a 50% clip from the field this season.

In the loss to UAB this past Saturday night, the Paladins shot the ball well enough to win the basketball game, finishing the night connecting on 50.8% (30-of-59) from the field, while also connecting at a 44.0% (11-of-25) clip from three-point land.

The problem for the Paladins for most of the season has been on the defensive end of the floor, and the Paladins have yet to hold a team under 76 points this season.

In their seventh game of the 2023-24 season against South Carolina State, the Paladins got a strong offensive performance from a new player as Lee University transfer PJay Smith Jr. led six Paladins in double figures, posting 20 points on a 7-for-10 shooting effort from the field, which included a 6-for-9 effort from long range. The Paladins downed the Bulldogs 86-78 at Timmons Arena.

The win saw the Paladins improve to 4-3 on the season, as Furman improved to 100-16 at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 season, which includes a 44-8 mark against non-conference competition.

Smith Jr. would be joined in double figures in the winning effort by the Paladins by Marcus Foster (16 pts), Garrett Hien (12 pts), Alex Williams (12 pts), JP Pegues (11 pts) and Carter Whitt (10 pts).

Pegues also led the Paladins with eight rebounds, while also dishing out six assists. Carter Whitt led the team with seven helpers as the Paladins finished the contest with an impressive 24 helpers.

The Paladins now brace for a particularly tough start to the month of December, facing a pair of 2023 Sweet 16 participants from last season: Princeton (7-0) Saturday afternoon and Arkansas (5-3) Monday night.

Though the Paladins are 4-3 through their first seven games of the season, Furman has at times shown glimpses of its championship form last season. Furman is expected to be back to full strength in the very near future, with VanderWal’s return from an appendectomy imminent, and could even be when the Paladins visit the Tigers Saturday. The Paladins and Tigers will tip it up at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon from Jadwin Gym.

The Citadel plays well in the Buies Creek Classic

One of the major winners of Feast Week and really the early portions of the 2023-24 season is The Citadel, which claimed wins over North Carolina Central 67-61 and Idaho State 62-61 before dropping a 65-58 contest to Campbell in the final game of the tournament.

The opening night of the tournament saw Ed Conroy’s Bulldogs tangle with the Idaho State Bengals, and it would see The Citadel put together a strong second half overcoming a first half that saw the Bulldogs score trail 23-13 at the half.

The second half, however, was completely different as the Bulldogs scored 49 points in the second half alone and out-scoring the Bengals 49-38.

AJ Smith was easily the Bulldogs’ best player in the tournament, as he posted 19 points in the win over Idaho State, before turning around and adding 21 points in the win over North Carolina Central.

The Bulldogs finally met their match, but gave the Camels all they could handle on their home floor before losing by seven in the end. The Bulldogs surrendered what was a 48-45 lead with seven minutes remaining, however, a barrage of five triples in five minutes by the Camels allowed the hometown team to snatch a win from the grasp of Conroy’s Bulldogs in come-from-behind fashion.

The final game of the month for the Bulldogs saw them deliver their most complete performance of the young season, as The Citadel captured a resounding 81-52 win over local rival Charleston Southern on the final Tuesday in the month of November.

In the win at McAlister Field House, the Bulldogs shot better than 50% from both the field (28-of-56) and three-point range (8-of-16).

One of the staples of Ed-Conroy-coached teams is always defense. The Bulldogs currently rank second in the SoCon behind Western Carolina in scoring defense (66.3 PPG) while ranking fifth in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense (33.6%).

For a team picked to finish towards the bottom of the league, the 4-4 start has put more of a positive outlook on things moving forward for the Bulldogs.

Western Carolina off to a hot start

Western Carolina’s 5-0 start to the season has been highlighted by a trio of impressive wins, as the Catamounts have recorded wins over ACC’s Notre Dame 71-61, Conference USA co-favorite Middle Tennessee State 66-64 and Southland Conference favorite McNeese State 76-74.

In the Catamounts’ win over the Fighting Irish, preseason SoCon Player of the Year Vonterius Woolbright posted a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Russell Jones Jr. added 20 points, and DJ Campbell finished with 12 points, helping off-set an off shooting night for Tre Jackson, who posted only five points in the win.

Next time out, the Catamounts were on the road at Middle Tennessee State and put together maybe their best performance of the season, getting a 66-64 road win over Conference USA co-favorite Middle Tennessee State. Woolbright posted a second-straight double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. He also dished out five assists.

The game against the Blue Raiders was another one in which Jackson struggled shooting the basketball, finishing with just five points on a 1-for-9 shooting effort from the field, which included an 0-for-3 effort from three-point land in the win.

Yet again, the Catamounts had others step up when Jackson struggled, as DJ Campbell added 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field. He was also 4-for-6 from the free throw line. Cornelious Williams added 10 points off the bench for the Catamounts. It was Woolbright’s two foul shots with three seconds left, which helped the Catamounts notch another big non-conference win for the SoCon.

Western Carolina next had a tricky game against a good McNeese State club, assembled almost entirely from the transfer portal from new head coach Will Wade, who is serving a 10-game suspension issued by the NCAA to start the 2023-24 season.

While Wade has been out, the Cowboys have already proven they are the clear frontrunners in the Southland Conference with a win over VCU. Western Carolina moved to 4-0 on the young season, posting a solid 76-74 win over the Cowboys.

Jones Jr. led the Catamounts in this contest as he posted 19 points. Jackson finished with 15, but it was Woolbright, who continued his strong start to the season with 14 points that helped seal the win with his jumper with 4.6 seconds remaining.

The win over McNeese State is arguably the Catamounts’ most impressive to this point in the season, with the Cowboys have hovered around the low-to-mid 80s in KenPom early in the season.

The Catamounts improved to 5-0 by posting a win over a solid North Alabama team that won 18 games a year ago. They won 81-63. The 5-0 start to the campaign marked WCU’s best start to a season since the 1981-82 campaign.

It was a breakout game for former Mercer guard Kamar Robertson, who posted his first double-figure scoring effort as a Catamount, finishing with 16 points.

Western Carolina’s latest victim in its impressive 6-0 start to the campaign was Tennessee Tech, a team that the Catamounts have had some thrilling battles with over the past couple of seasons.

This time around, the Catamounts went on the road and came away with a 69-65 win in Cookeville. WCU trailed by four with just three minutes remaining and then scored 10 of the game’s final 12 points remaining perfect on the season to match the program’s best start in nearly six decades (1965-66).

Woolbright again did his thing, leading three Catamounts in double figures, including posting his fourth double-double as he finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds. He finished the contest 10-of-19 shooting from the field, including going 2-for-3 from long-range. Jones Jr. and DJ Campbell added 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Like UNCG, it is apparent the Catamounts have a litany of different scoring options, and that’s the kind of trait that can make a team tough to beat come March.

The Catamounts seem to be a more comprehensive offensive team this season, and through the first six games of the season, they are averaging 78.2 PPG, ranking fourth in the SoCon in scoring offense. The 78.2 PPG this season is about a little over four points better than the 73.9 PPG the Catamounts finished the 2023-24 campaign.

What’s been the most impressive facet of Western Carolina’s hot start to open the season has been what they have been able to do on the defensive end of the floor, holding opponents to just 65.3 PPG and ranking fourth in the league in field goal percentage defense (41.9%).

The Catamounts have easily been the best rebounding team through the first month of the season, currently leading the league in rebounding margin (+8.7). The portal additions of Charles Lampten (College of Charleston) and Cornelious Williams (LSU) have helped somewhat compensate for the rebounding force that Tyzhaun Claude was in the paint for WCU last season.

The Catamounts open the month of December on Saturday, taking on Big South member Gardner-Webb on Saturday. Circle the date Dec. 9, as Western Carolina takes on Blue Ridge Mountain rival and Big South favorite UNC Asheville on a night when the Catamounts will honor legend Kevin Martin, who spent just three years in Cullowhee before entering the NBA Draft after his junior year in 2003-04, and he went on to enjoy a 14-year NBA career.

Other than that tilt with the Bulldogs, there aren’t too many hurdles remaining in the non-conference, as it is conceivable that the Catamounts could finish the non-conference with a 13-0 record. The potential of a second power-six win is a real possibility on Dec. 19, as the Catamounts face off against one of the weakest teams in the power six, facing the Vanderbilt Commodores at Memorial Gym.

If the Catamounts finish the non-conference slate 13-0, it is also conceivable that Western Carolina could find itself ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history. In the 2018-19 season, Furman started 12-0, which included a win over the Catamounts and No. 6 Villanova, and entered the polls in mid-December at No. 24.

That 12-0 start to a season by the Paladins was the best start to a campaign by a Southern Conference team since the 1963-64 Davidson Wildcats started the 1963-64 season 10-0.

Other Team Notes From the month of November:

–Samford has suddenly caught fire having won six-straight games after an 0-2 start with losses at No. 2 Purdue and at VCU. The Bulldogs got an impressive 88-65 win over Louisiana out of the Sun Belt, which was an NCAA Tournament team from a year ago. The win avenged last seaosn’s 75-58 road loss.

One of the comments made by head coach Bucky McMillan during SoCon media day was just how much Achor Achor had improved, and that has been readily apparent through the first eight games of the 2023-24 season. He leads the Bulldogs in scoring (15.1 PPG), rebounding (6.9 RPG), blocks (12) and field goal percentage (55.7%).

His hot start is all the more important with preseason All-SoCon selection Jermaine Marshall sidelined indefinitely with an undisclosed injury. Achor has seen his scoring average improve by 9.0 PPG (6.1 PPG in 2022-23), and he has upped his rebound average from 3.5 RPG a year ago.

Samford will face LaGrange (Dec. 3) and Alabama A&M (Dec. 11) before hosting against Belmont (Dec. 16) in another key opportunity for a SoCon team to get a major win for the league in the non-conference.

–Mercer is off to a rough start. Greg Gary’s Bears rung in the 2023-24 campaign with easily the SoCon’s worst loss – a 71-64 setback to Clark Atlanta. That marked the second-straight season the SoCon has had a team lose to a lower classification foe. Last season Samford had to endure the embarrassment of an 83-80 home loss to NAIA foe Tennessee Southern.

This is a Bears program that is now a shell of the program that came into the SoCon off the high of knocking off the Duke Blue Devils in the 2014 NCAA Tournament in what was the Bears swan-song in the Atlantic Sun.

With its 80-69 loss at Georgia to open the second month of the season at Stegman Coliseum Friday night, the Bears are off to a 2-5 start. Mercer charted a narrow 66-61 road win at Chicago State, while also getting a 60-59 win over Tennessee State.

The Bears have played a pair of SEC foes, as along with their loss to the Bulldogs on Dec. 1, the Bears also fell to then No. 22 Alabama by 31 back on Nov. 17. Other than playing the Bulldogs and and Crimson Tide, the Bears don’t exactly play a schedule too appetizing to the mid-major eye, facing the likes of non-Division I foes Thomas (Dec. 21) and Talladega (Dec. 29) before beginning Southern Conference play.

One recurring theme is that the Bears always seem to have good frontcourt play. Jaylyn McCreary can muscle-up just about anyone in mid-major hoops.

The Bears rank last in the SoCon in three-pointers made (6.9 made-per-game) but rank fourth in percentage (32.7%).

–Chattanooga’s win over Louisville was no doubt impressive. The Mocs once again lead the league through the first month in three-pointers made (9.7 threes per game). True to form, the three-point shot was a major factor in why the Mocs were able to claim a 81-71 win on the road over the Cardinals.

Chattanooga notched the SoCon’s first power conference win of the season, and it wasn’t an upset at all, as the Mocs were the better basketball team. The Mocs notched their first win vs. an ACC foe since 1985. The Mocs blistered the nets for 41.2% (14-of-34) from long range in the win.

Honor Huff posted a career-high 25 points as he went 9-of-19 from the field and connected on 7-of-13 from three-point land. Huff has been a great start in a Mocs uniform, helping UTC post what was a 5-2 record in the opening month of the season.

As good as Huff has been, leading the team with a 16.7 PPG scoring clip along with shooting 35.6% (21-of-59), much of the talk has been about high-level newcomer Myles Che (10.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG) in the backcourt, as well as Jan Zidek (13.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG) in the paint. Sam Alexis (13.4 PPG) is also much improved.

End of November Power Poll

  1. UNCG–Mike Jones has a rotation he likes and an experienced backcourt to lead a mature ballclub. The x-factor and a reason I think the Spartans are the favorites in 2023-24 is early-season SoCon MVP Mikeal Brown-Jones.
  2. Western Carolina–The Catamounts are doing things on a historic scale. For a team that was led to its only NCAA Tournament on the backs of guards like Anquell McCollum and Joel Fleming back in 1996, it’s fitting that Justin Gray’s guard-crazed Catamounts could be the type of talent assimilation that leads them back some 27 years later.
  3. Chattanooga–It’s not shocking the Mocs would be at No. 3 after one month of the 2023-24 season, but the Mocs played a nice schedule and got solid wins over Louisville and Bellarmine off-set what was a bit of a sour note, losing two of its final three games in the opening month to Evansville and Lipscomb.
  4. Furman–You have to hand it to Furman seventh-year head coach Bob Richey for finding a way to challenge his team, despite the fact that few power-six programs will entertain the idea of taking on the reigning SoCon champions. The Paladins will likely enter conference play with an ugly looking record. The Paladins still have much work to do if they hope to become the first team to defend a league crown successfully since Wofford was able to do so in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
  5. Samford–For a second-straight season, the Bulldogs have to deal with a significant injury to a key player during a key portion of non-conference play. Last season, the Bulldogs lost SoCon leading returning scorer for well over a month and lost seven-straight to close out non-conference play. While it doesn’t appear Jermaine Marshall will be out that long, the Bulldogs appear to be deeper and more equipped to handle it this season.
  6. East Tennessee State–The Bucs are off to a 3-4 start, and when ETSU is locked in defensively, it can compete with anyone in the SoCon. The Bucs’ athleticism and backcourt quickness will be a problem for all teams in the SoCon, and though they don’t have the physical muscle in the paint that some teams in the league have, I’d be shocked if the Bucs don’t finish the season towards the top of the league in offensive rebounding percentage and second chance scoring efficiency. That’s a testament to the type of athleticism and offensive ability I think both Jaden Seymour and Jadyn Parker have.
  7. The Citadel–If the Bulldogs aren’t on your radar, they should be. This team has a chance to be a surprise team in the SoCon with how they defend people.
  8. Wofford–It’s tough to know exactly what Wofford will bring to the table as a competitor in the league over the duration of January and February. Much like last season, I would expect the Terriers to gradually make some major improvements towards the end of December as we get closer to Christmas and the start of conference play. That was about exactly the time the Terriers sprung the upset at Texas A&M last year and captured the SoCon’s best non-conference regular-season win. There’s no Jackson Paveletzke or BJ Mack to rely on, but there’s enough of a team chemistry and dynamic to make the Terriers an interesting watch this season. Corey Tripp has quietly emerged as one of the SoCon’s top guards, and he leads the Terriers in scoring at 15.4 PPG.
  9. VMI–What you’re always going to get out of the Keydets is effort, and Andrew Wilson has a group that loves what it does on the defensive end of the floor. Much like I said of The Citadel and Ed Conroy’s bunch making their hay in the defensive end, the Keydets will do exactly the same. The 2-6 Keydets will look to bounce back from a 67-47 loss at Navy last Wednesday night when the Keydets host Presbyterian.
  10. Mercer–The Bears haven’t shown a lot of promise in what is Gary’s fifth season at the helm. The Bears rank last in the league in scoring margin (-8.1), ninth in scoring offense (65.4 PPG), and eighth in scoring defense (73.6 PPG). It could be a recipe for a 20-loss season for the Bears.