SoCon Tournament Day One Preview

It’s the first day of the SoCon Tournament!

No- none of these teams are particularly good. It would be possibly even more surprising than usual if one of these teams actually could get all the way to Monday night and cut down the nets.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t intrigue.

You’ll get to see First Team All SoCon performer Zane Najdawi.

You’ll get to see two teams (Samford and The Citadel) who both wonder what might have been if key pieces hadn’t gone missing before the calendar turned to 2018.

You’ll get to see two of the youngest teams (VMI and Chattanooga) in the entire conference, if not the entire country.

You’ll get to see two lower seeded teams that are a combined 3-1 against their higher seeded opponents.

You’ll get to see two really good natural SoCon rivalries.

So is the night worth watching? Well, it’s not exactly the semifinals on Sunday, but these two games both hold their own special charm.

Game of the Day
(8) The Citadel vs.(9) VMI
Time: 5:00 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: The Citadel beat ETSU once and nearly beat the Bucs the other time, exposing the Bucs to some degree. However, the Bulldogs were swept by VMI this year. The Keydets, led by freshman Bubba Parham, are a team that is improving and showing signs that they may be a tough out in the years to come. The Citadel was beaten soundly twice by UNCG this year, while VMI nearly beat them in Lexington.

Key Players: Let’s hit on the two stars. Zane Najdawi and Bubba Parham both had huge games in their match-ups this year. Najdawi is a big man and the Keydets struggle to slow that type of player down. Parham is a guard, but really played well against The Citadel, scoring 24 and 25 against the Bulldogs. If Parham scores in the 20s again, the Keydets will have a very good chance to get a third win.

Prediction: The Keydets played games the way they wanted to against the Bulldogs earlier this year. Should The Citadel be surprised if they lose a third time? Absolutely not. They are so up and down there is no telling what might happen here. The Keydets will bring the effort and Parham will respond with another big game in Asheville as VMI comes up with a nice win. Keydets 79, Bulldogs 74.

(7) Samford vs.(10) Chattanooga
Time:7:30 PM
Viewing: ESPN3

The Story: The Bulldogs are one of the most disappointing teams in the conference, though it is hardly their fault with Wyatt Walker and Christen Cunningham and others missing a lot of time due to injury. The Mocs are the youngest team in the entire country and lost a lot of close games this year. One team will see their season continue into Saturday when they will get to face off with ETSU, who blew both of them out twice this season.

Key Players: These two teams both do not have dominant big men. Josh Phillips for the Mocs is their most physical presence and if he can step up and play over his head, then the Mocs will have a very good chance to win. Against the Mocs the first time, Justin Coleman went off and dominated. In the second match-up, he did not. If Coleman can play like he did in the first match-up, the Bulldogs will be almost unstoppable.

Prediction: This is a total toss up. In games not against military academies this year, the Bulldogs are 2-12. Since they were 3-1 in conference play, Samford has not beaten a non-military academy, going 0-11 during that time not to VMI and The Citadel. Can the Mocs spring the upset? The Mocs have been struggling lately as well. Can Phillips and Nat Dixon get the job done? Or will Coleman dominate again? Will Demetrius Denzel-Dyson get rolling? Mocs 68, Bulldogs 67.

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