Friday, November 1, 2013

Preseason Preview: Southern Conference

On the eve of UNCG's first game (exhibition against Lees-McRae), it' time to look at the teams of the Southern Conference. My buddy John over at MocsMania has been doing one preview a day written by all of us that contribute to his "Scanning the SoCon" weekly Q&A series. I have decided that as opposed to doing a cookie cutter preview of the whole SoCon, I would post individual links to each of those previews. I am also going to post the preview that I wrote for UNCG in its entirety. Some of the things that John asked us to look at in our previews were schedules, new players and best/worst case scenarios for our teams.

Appalachian State
There's a solid core of six guys right now (Burgess, Neal, Hamilton, Canty, Baskin and Obacha) who will start and probably will be joined by Kobani and the remaining sixth-man guard is up for grabs to make the eight-man rotation. As far as a season overview, App has a really solid chance to finish high up in this conference. Anything less would be a disappointment.

The conference schedule features just one game against league favorites, Davidson and Elon. It also features just one game against the bottom two in the preseason polls, Georgia Southern and The Citadel. So the conference schedule basically balances out. There are trips to Furman and The Citadel to open SoCon schedule, and home dates with Samford and Wofford. If everything works out, there is a chance for a really fast start in SoCon play.

The Citadel
Clearly, the increase in non-D1 scheduling is partly about trying to fill out a home schedule as a low-major, with the reduction of the SoCon's league schedule to 16 games probably a factor. I do wonder, though, if the conference is trying to "game" the RPI to a certain extent.

NCAA rule changes to protect the ball-handler and help the scoring should benefit the Wildcats. They led the nation in free throw shooting last season at 79.5% and should be excellent free throw shooters again.

With all five starters returning from last year’s squad, Elon has a terrific opportunity to unseat the two-time defending Southern Conference champion Davidson Wildcats.

The Paladins are a team that is hard to figure, but they are likely better than UNCG, The Citadel and Georgia Southern on paper heading into the season. Look for Furman to start putting things together come March, and though a conference tournament title might be several years away, I wouldn't be shocked if Furman won a game in Asheville once again this season.

Georgia Southern
The two best players on the roster will be redshirting this year and the best player on the floor hasn’t played a game in 2 years. Most likely all 4 signess will see major minutes this year and outside of Dunnican at 6’8 nobody on the roster is over 6’7.

The much anticipated return game with Kentucky (2 for 1) did not materialize. Apparently the fine print in the contract said "Kentucky State", not University of Kentucky. The out of conference schedule includes (among others) Indiana, Florida Gulf Coast, ETSU and Marquette away and Austin Peay at home.

Western Carolina
Under ninth year head coach Larry Hunter, the Catamounts return five seniors to this years team – Brandon Boggs (guard), Tawaski King (forward), Josh Mendenhall (forward), Trey Sumler (guard) and Tom Tankelewicz (guard). This group of seniors is expected to provide the veteran leadership that was lacking from last season’s team, void of any seniors.

The key for the Terriers will be finding more offensive production. A year ago Karl Cochran took about 40% of the teams shots, and was not a particularly great shooter. They need to find a way to create more open looks for Cochran so that his shooting percentage can go up.