The turkey’s barely been digested and Clowney just sacked Tajh Boyd again, but it’s already time for Southern Conference basketball.
The SoCon season tips off Wednesday with Elon at Georgia Southern and Western Carolina at Furman. Our two local squads swing into league action Saturday, with College of Charleston at Elon and The Citadel at UNC Greensboro.
So what have we learned so far?
As we suspected, it looks like there is a Big Two — Davidson and College of Charleston, both from the South Division — and everybody else in the SoCon this season, with Elon looking like the class of the North.
College of Charleston’s 63-59 win at Baylor (No. 27 Pomeroy) over the weekend is by far the best non-conference win for the league thus far, out-classing Davidson’s 63-60 takedown of No. 60 West Virginia. Some of the shine came off the Cougars’ win over ACC Boston College when BC lost to D-I newbie Bryant College. And SEC Vanderbilt followed up its 75-62 loss to Davidson by scoring 33 points in a loss to Marist.
Elon is the only other club in the SoCon with more than one D-I win, including a 65-53 victory at SEC South Carolina. Davidson, CofC and Elon are 8-7 against D-I competition; the rest of the league is 5-35 by my count, with two of those wins over Kennesaw State (329).
The Wildcats are earning a lot of love as the team coaches don’t want to see in their bracket come March, and deservedly so. Coach Bob McKillop’s senior-laden squad is tough and skilled and has a difference maker in 6-7 junior De’Mon Brooks. Davidson may already have lost too many games for an at-large bid from the SoCon, which Pomeroy currently ranks 25th out of 31 leagues. But the Wildcats, whose strength of schedule ranks No. 21 thus far, still have games with top 100 clubs Charlotte, Richmond, Drexel and Duke before their SoCon RPI slide starts.
College of Charleston could join Davidson on that team-you-don’t-want-to-play list as long as point guard Andrew Lawrence stays healthy (and assuming an eventual return for Trent Wiedeman). The Cougars probably would have beaten Auburn at the Charleston Classic if Lawrence had not taken ill, and already are showing defensive improvement under coach Doug Wojcik. CofC is No. 118 in defensive efficiency thus far, allowing .973 points per possession. That’s better than last year’s .998 (No. 142 in the nation) and way better than the 1.015 mark of 2010-11.
The Cougars face a tough test Wednesday night at Charleston Southern (No. 154), but then have only three more games against top 100 clubs — two against Davidson and No. 5 Louisville at home on Dec. 4. Pomeroy, by the way, says CSU will beat CofC by 70-67, with a 40 percent change of a Cougar victory.
As for the rest of the league … it’s not off to a stellar start. Perhaps the biggest surprise is 1-4 UNC Greensboro, which has beaten only D-II Winston-Salem State and is 0-4 against D-I teams, including a loss to No. 284 High Point. But the Spartans have lost to top 100 clubs Virginia Tech and Rutgers, and on the road to a decent East Carolina team. And coach Wes Miller’s team is used to slow starts — the Spartans were 2-14 when they started their run to the North Division title last year.
And finally, The Citadel. The Bulldogs got off to an encouraging start with their win over VMI, which now stands at No. 239 with wins over Old Dominion and Elon. But the first half of a 74-61 loss to Radford on Saturday was just as discouraging, and the Bulldogs have yet to make the defensive improvements they’ve been working for. The Citadel’s 1.086 points allowed per possession ranks No. 329, and and it’s turnover rate of 28.1 percent is No. 333. The Citadel has been a good shooting team thus far, ranking No. 5 in FT percentage, No. 21 in 2-point percentage and No. 99 in 3-point percentage, according to Pomeroy. If the Bulldogs can get their turnovers under control, that should help their defensive numbers, too. They need it.
The SoCon so far:
Team Record vs. D-I Pomeroy Best DI wins
Davidson 3-3 2-3 52 Vandy (112), W. Virginia (60)
Charleston 3-2 3-2 140 Boston College (182), Baylor (27)
Wofford 2-5 1-5 221 Hampton (282)
Ga. Southern 2-3 1-3 256 Kennesaw State (329)
Furman 2-3 0-3 295 N/A
Citadel 3-2 1-2 303 VMI (239)
Elon 4-2 3-2 191 USC (146), Fla. Atlantic (246)
UNCG 1-4 0-4 222 N/A
W. Carolina 2-4 1-4 226 Howard (314)
Chattanooga 2-4 1-4 276 Kennesaw State (329)
App State 1-4 0-4 297 N/A
Samford 1-6 0-6 299 N/A