The first installment of the Southern Conference power rankings this season will reveal just how tough the league appears to be this season. It's been easy to determine the top overall team in the SoCon this season has been Chattanooga, having faced three teams which hail from power five conferences, defeating two of those teams. Here is how I have ranked the league's 10 teams in terms of how I think they rank through the first couple of weeks.
1. Chattanooga Mocs (5-1, 0-0 SoCon)--Hard to see anyone upending the Mocs the way they are playing right now. Chattanooga was able to get a 62-52 win over Jacksonville State on the road this past Saturday and will be back in action on Monday night with a clash against Sun Belt member Louisiana Monroe, who won 20 games last season, as well winning the CBI. Casey Jones (12.5 PPG) and Justin Tuoyo (11.2 PPG) continue to be the players that power this Mocs team, but the additions of Jonathan Burroughs-Cook (8.2 PPG) and Dee Oldham (5.5 PPG), and the continued strong play of Tre' McLean (7.0 PPG) will also be key.
2. Mercer Bears (6-1, 0-0 SoCon)-- Bob Hoffman's Bears have looked strong early on this season, and a team that appears to be one of those that can challenge the Mocs for the Southern Conference title and a potential NCAA Tournament bid. The Bears survived Appalachian State in the Music City Challenge, getting a 71-70 win over the Mountaineers, courtesy of a Phillip Leonard layup with time winding down, as well as four missed foul shots by the Mountaineers. The Bears are back in action on Sunday evening, facing off against one of the top teams in the MAC, in the Western Michigan Broncos.
3. Wofford Terriers (2-3, 0-0 SoCon)--The Terriers have played a tough early-season slate, but Spencer Collins starting to step up and be the leader this Wofford team needs him to be this season with the graduation of both Lee Skinner and Karl Cochran. In the 68-58 road win over PC on Saturday night, Collins posted a team-leading 21 points to lead the Terriers past the Blue Hose in a hard-fought battle. Wofford has a key battle coming up against ACC foe Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, which is a team that ETSU already knocked off earlier this season.
4. East Tennessee State Buccaneers (3-3, 0-0 SoCon)--The Bucs have been up and down so far in the Steve Forbes era, but boast one of the league's top wins to this point with last week's win over Georgia Tech. The addition of Ge'Lawn Guyn has been huge for the Bucs, and he figures to be one of the most electrifying players in the SoCon this season and will likely be among the SoCon's top scorers for much of the campaign. The Bucs are going to be an exciting team to watch, as their fun-n-gun style will captivate any audience. Look for the Bucs to be a real force in the league as the season progresses. The Bucs' inconsistency early has to be a bit of a concern, and while they are talented enough to win the league, a 94-73 loss to UNC Wilmington at home last night is the kind of thing that Buc fans continuosly harped on and berated former coach Murry Bartow about. ETSU committed a season-high 21 turnovers in the loss.
5. Furman Paladins (3-3, 0-0 SoCon)--The Paladins have Stephen Croone back, and after dropping three-straight games to UCONN (83-58), Charlotte (77-68) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (73-69), the Paladins would break through and get their first win with Croone back in the lineup on Black Friday, as the Paladins survived a furious second half rally from Mount St. Mary's to get a 69-60 win. In the win, Croone was impressive scoring 17 points to lead the Paladins. He has three double-figure scoring efforts in his four games he has seen action in this season for the Paladins, including a season-high 22 points in the setback to Corpus Christi. Freshman Matt Rafferty has been as impressive as any newcomer in the Southern Conference this season, and was the Mid-Major Madness Freshman of the Week last week.
6. Samford Bulldogs (5-2, 0-0 SoCon)--The Bulldogs had their five-game winning streak snapped last night, however, the Bulldogs had gotten off to their best start in 20 years prior to last night's setback heartbreaking, 74-73, setback at Austin Peay. It's been an impressive start to say the least for Scott Padgett's club, with the most impressive feat being winning the Mean Green Classic at North Texas last week, winning three-straight, as the Bulldogs knocked off Idaho (75-58), North Texas (74-72) and Troy (83-79). The backcourt of Christen Cunningham and Darius Jones-Gibson is playing as well as any in the league. Cunningham is off to a strong start to his sophomore season, averaging 15.1 PPG through the first seven games, while Jones-Gibson is posting 16.9 PPG. Freshman forward Matt Rose has come off the bench and been one the best players in the league in the young season, having posted 9.9 PPG scoring average through the first seven games this season.
7. Western Carolina Catamounts (2-3, 0-0 SoCon)--Western Carolina has played well so far despite losing one of the top players in the league, with the graduation of James Sinclair. Larry Hunter is one of the most successful coaches in Division I men's college basketball, and even though the Catamounts were selected by the coaches and media to finish in the lower half of the league this season, most won't be surprised to see the Catamounts finish higher than that. On Friday, the Catamounts lost a heartbreaker, 57-56, to former league rival College of Charleston at TD Arena in Charleston. The Catamounts have maybe the most dynamic player in the league this season, in guard Mike Brown, who was the SoCon's Player of the Week last week. So far this season, his 19.2 PPG ranks him third in the SoCon in scoring, while teammate Torrion Brummitt is averaging an impressive 16.2 PPG after averaging 11.5 PPG last season. The Catamounts will have a stern test against 6-0 South Carolina on Monday night.
8. UNC Greensboro Spartans (3-3, 0-0 SoCon)-- Although the Spartans are eighth in the first installment of the Southern Conference power rankings this season, don't expect it to be a long stay in the bottom half of the power rankings for Wes Miller's club, who have the talent to win the SoCon this season. If the Spartans did that, it would be only the second time since joining the SoCon in 1997-98 that the Spartans have won the SoCon, with the other time being the 2000-01 season. The Spartans were in action on Sunday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum, getting a 71-69 win over Atlantic Sun member Jacksonville. It was All-SoCon forward Kayel Locke that helped power the Spartans to their third win of the season, scoring nine of the team's final 11 points in the game, finishing with a game-high 19 points to lead the Spartans. Locke's 12.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG have powered the Spartans this season, while Clay Byrd has shot a blistering 44.4% (16-for-36) from three-point range this season.
9. The Citadel Bulldogs (5-2, 0-0 SoCon)--It's probably a shock to look at the SoCon stats and see The Citadel leading the SoCon leading the league in scoring offense, at 97.1 PPG. Baucom's system is like the Baylor's gridiron philosophy on the hardwood. The Bulldogs were 88-81 victors at winless USC Upstate last weekend, while also knocking off Georgia Southern, 95-90, in the USC Upstate tournament earlier this week.
10. VMI Keydets (2-2)-- Dan Earl's VMI Keydets look like they are going to factor into the Southern Conference race this season, and have an important game against former Big South opponent Campbell on Monday night. The Keydets currently rank third in the SoCon in field goal percentage defense (43.1%), which is probably surprising to most considering the Keydets saw foes shoot at nearly a 50% clip against them last season. Q.J. Peterson is back and doing his thing, as he once again leads the SoCon, averaging 20.8 PPG.