I overreacted to the first set of games on Friday night. Now, every team (except for UNCG) has played at least one more game, so it’s time to react/overreact again. Here’s five quick thoughts on what we’ve been watching since Friday night.
That’s 4-4 vs. D1 competition since Friday
I was not kind to the SoCon teams on Friday night after an 0-8 showing against D1 competition. Since then, the SoCon has played eight more games against teams from the top level of college basketball, and gone a very respectable 4-4. The wins came against Alabama A&M, Savannah State, Jackson State, and Elon, not exactly a Who’s Who of college basketball powerhouses. The losses were to Virginia Tech, UAB, Cincinnati, and Duquesne. In other words, the SoCon teams won the four games they should have won and lost the four games they should have lost. Couple that with the now 4-0 record vs. non-D1 teams, and the conference is right about where it was expected to be.
Tariq Simmons is the best freshman so far.
I spoke highly of Simmons after his performance against Oglethorpe, and I will again after what The Citadel freshman did against Virginia Tech. Yes, I know that the Bulldogs style lends itself to high scoring totals and can make it misleading. But if you’ve watched The Citadel play, you’ll notice Simmons out there making plays. Maybe he hits a wall at some point, but right now, Simmons deserves a lot of credit.
Mercer, Furman, Samford…that’s more like it.
If Mercer, Furman and Samford are the conference favorites (and UNCG may have something to say about that), they have played like it since Friday night. Furman was fine on Friday playing a non-D1, but Samford was dreadful in their loss to Arkansas. Mercer had a bad ten minute stretch against UCF and lost because of it. But since then, Mercer dominated a non-D1 and then blew by Jackson State tonight. The Bears have looked very good, and while they probably do not deserve to be the preseason favorite like the coaches made them, they have looked like they belong in the conversation. Ria’n Holland has been shooting very well, knocking down 13 of 21 shots in the two wins. They have, as a team, shot over 50% in both games. Furman has the best win in the SoCon over a pretty good Elon team. Devin Sibley did not look great in the first half, but got 16 in the second half to propel the Paladins to the win. This team needs Matt Rafferty to be good. He has been so far. For Samford, their win over Alabama A&M was good, but Wyatt Walker needs to stay on the floor. He finished with a team high 14 points, but fouled out, playing just twenty minutes. He makes the Bulldogs so much better when he is on the floor. The Bulldogs are counting on him.
Inconsistency mars Chattanooga.
The Mocs hung around with a pretty good Wyoming team on Friday night, but were completely dismantled by a UAB that shouldn’t be much better than the Cowboys. When you are a team as young as Chattanooga, there are going to be nights like that. UAB packed it into the lane and forced the Mocs to shoot over them and dominated the young guys physically. That’s not the last night that will happen to Chattanooga this year. The question is if there will be more nights like Friday or like Monday.
ETSU out of sorts again, but gets the win.
The Bucs did not look great at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half against Northern Kentucky. They lost. On Monday, they played really well at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half against Savannah State. They won. I have to believe that the Bucs do not want to rely on Devontavius Payne to score 28 points every night to get the win. The Bucs have not looked particularly good this year yet. Yes, they are 1-1. But they have a bunch of newcomers and should improve as the year goes on. But there has been very little flash of greatness from these Bucs yet. Still, a 16 point win on the road is a 16 point win on the road. Now, the Bucs go to Kentucky on Friday night. Can they upset the young Cats?