It’s been about a week since the last time I reacted/overreacted to Southern Conference basketball.
But I’m confused. Isn’t it Thanksgiving week? I’m supposed to be thankful this week.
So I guess I should just be thankful that I can react, because it’s time to get to five thoughts again.
Of course, with each passing game, things are less an overreaction and more actual good reactions. I’m learning more and more each day about these teams. But it is still November. Everything is still an overreaction.
Samford- the season has started, in case you were wondering.
I was as high on Samford as anyone in the preseason. I thought more of them than Brad did, for example. I thought there was a real chance we were wrong to put them second in our preseason podcast. Maybe it will play out that way. The opening schedule for the Bulldogs was always going to be brutal. Arkansas, LSU and Illinois Chicago are all good teams. But Samford hasn’t been close in any of these. They’ve averaged losing to those three teams by 26.3 points per game. Of course, 39 of those points were to Arkansas, but they were never really in the game against any of those teams. Wyatt Walker has been out for undisclosed reasons. Without Walker, this team is really not good. He’s one of the best players in the SoCon, but he hasn’t shown it yet. They play Valparaiso on Tuesday, but then have two easier games this weekend. They need to get those.
Mercer, Furman, UNCG all doing what we thought.
Preseason, you could have made a case that the top four teams were Furman, Samford, Mercer and UNCG. In our podcast, that’s what we said. Ignoring Samford, the other three teams have all lived up to expectations. Furman is 1-2 vs. D1 teams, Mercer is 3-2 and UNCG is 1-1. But the losses are all explainable. I think those three teams have clearly established themselves as the best of the bunch in the SoCon so far. Mercer’s performance at Paradise Jam (advancing to the title game before falling to Colorado) was really the most impressive thing a SoCon team has done so far. But if you’ve watched UNCG play (even against the non-D1s) it’s clear that this team may lack Diante Baldwin, but they are going to be really good. Furman’s losses to Butler and Duke are understandable, and the win over Elon is one of the conference’s better wins so far. They could use neutral court wins over New Hampshire and Northeastern this weekend.
ETSU is reloaded.
The Bucs didn’t play great against Kentucky on Friday night for about the twenty middle minutes, but they were respectable in their 17 point loss. They did not look good against Northern Kentucky. But they dominated Savannah State and Delaware State and looked really good. Those are probably two of the worst teams in America, though. Devontavius Payne and Desonata Bradford have been great so far. David Burrell has been solid as well. They also have Jalan McCloud and Peter Jurkin as seniors. That is five seniors on the roster that are contributors. Mladen Armus certainly showed what he was capable of scoring 15 tonight against Delaware State. He’s a freshman that is only going to get better. The Bucs are really good. They probably belong with the three listed above to make the top four of the conference.
Western Carolina and VMI- sorry, we were right.
These teams are bad. Not a little bad. Really bad. Yes, VMI beat Presbyterian by 20 points at home in their home opener. They are playing better than expected, by a little. But it still really seems like they are quite bad. Longwood at home on December 9 may be their next real shot at a D1 win. If they get one between now and then, consider it an upset, and a great testament to this team being much better than expected. Western Carolina has been getting smoked, but they have played three KenPom Top 50 teams. But they haven’t even really shown flashes, and they really struggled to put away Hiwassee. These two are the teams that seem to be the worst teams in the SoCon at this point. These teams are not very good right now. Things can always change, but right now, it’s not pretty.
Chattanooga still inconsistent.
Anyone shocked that the youngest team in America is wildly inconsistent? The Mocs played Wyoming close and then were destroyed by UAB. Then, the Mocs played Hiwassee (who played Western Carolina close) and left no doubt with a blowout win. Then the Mocs dominated Alabama State with a first half defensive performance to remember. The second half wasn’t as good, but they were up 29 late in the first half. Nat Dixon has been a revelation, capitalizing on the promise he showed in flashes last year. Makinde London and Rodney Chatman have been the other top performers. David Jean-Baptiste also has stood out in a few moments this year. It will be interesting to see which Mocs team shows up against Jacksonville State on Tuesday night. By February, this team will be better and might even be a top half SoCon team. They aren’t there yet. They are still a bottom half of the SoCon team.