2014-15 Southern Conference Basketball Preview - The Southern Conference has changed a lot in the last few years losing several high profile members, but this year one of the nation's oldest conferences looks to it's past for new members and added three new faces. Who is the team to beat in the new look SoCon and who are some of the teams to keep an eye on?
The pillaging of the Southern Conference is likely over for a while as Charleston, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Elon, and Davidson have all found new homes. To replace their losses the SoCon invited VMI and East Tennessee State back and also added Atlantic Sun power Mercer to the fray. Can the Wofford Terriers defend their conference title in the new look SoCon?
1. Wofford Terriers Last Year: 20-13 (11-5), t-3 SoCon, SoCon Tournament Champion, NCAA 2nd RdDepartures: Aerris Smith (1.5 ppg), Indiana Faithfull (TR, 1.8 ppg), Zac Grossenbacher (TR, 1.9 ppg)Key Returners: Karl Cochran (15.7 ppg), Spencer Collins (12.5 ppg), Lee Skinner (11.1 ppg)Must Follow: @TalkinTerriers
After flirting a bit with the opening at Charleston, Wofford head coach Mike Young is back with a loaded roster that won the Southern Conference Tournament a year ago. Karl Cochran, who averaged 15.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game a year ago will likely be the SoCon Preseason Player of the Year and he'll be joined by a solid scoring tandem in fellow senior Lee Skinner and junior guard Spencer Collins. The Terriers will be tested early and often with out-of-conference road trips to Stanford, North Carolina State, West Virginia, and Duke. Despite the tough early slate, expect the Terriers to be top dogs in the SoCon again this year.
2. East Tennessee State BuccaneersLast Year: 19-16 (10-8), t-4 ASun, 2nd Rd CITDepartures: Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard (10.9 ppg), Hunter Harris (9.1 ppg), Lukas Poderis (1.9 ppg), Todd Halvorsen (1 ppg), Maurice O'Field (TR)Key Returners: Rashawn Rembert (16.8 ppg), Jalen Riley (13.4 ppg), Lester Wilson (10.1 ppg)Must Follow: @ETSUfans
The Bucs are back in the Southern Conference after a decade in the Atlantic Sun and they come back to their old home with quite a bit of momentum from the 2013-14 season. After a 10-8 finish in the ASun, ETSU nearly knocked off Florida Gulf Coast in the conference tournament and then was invited to the CIT where they took down Chattanooga in the first round. While the Bucs did lose a little of their scoring power form last year, Rashawn Rembert will be among the best players in the SoCon after averaging 16.8 points a year ago. Two names to keep an eye on is Providence transfer Ron Giplaye and former Northeastern and Tennessee State forward Alex Bates. Giplaye played sparingly a year ago after open heart surgery in August and Bates adds some experience to the Bucs frontcourt.
3. VMI KeydetsLast Year: 22-13 (11-5), 2nd Big South, CIT SemifinalsDepartures: DJ Covington (20.1 ppg), Rodney Glasgow (18.9 ppg), Drew Absher (1.4 ppg)Key Returners: QJ Peterson (19 ppg), Brian Brown (6.8 ppg), Jordan Weethee (6.7 ppg)Must Follow: @VMIathletics
Duggar Baucom made the Keydets a household name due to their scoring prowess and style of play in the Big South. Unfortunately for VMI that style never reaped any Big South Championships but it should still keep the Keydets very competitive in the SoCon. While Baucom losses a lot in all-everything post presence DJ Covington and stellar point guard Rodney Glasgow, the tenth year head coach always seems to reload. QJ Peterson stepped right in for Stan Okoye last year finishing the year ranked fourth among freshman scorers with 19 points per game. The Keydets may have another freshman sensation this year in 6'4 guard Jon Elmore who had offers from programs in the Atlantic 10, MAC, Sun Belt and American Athletic Conference. Also, look for Brian Brown and Jordan Weethee to become double-digit scorers in the SoCon as well. Don't be surprised if you find the Keydets dancing for the first time since 1977.
4. Chattanooga MocsLast Year: 18-15 (12-4), 2nd SoCon, 1st Rd CITDepartures: Z Mason (18.1 ppg), Andrew Houts (1.8 ppg), Anthanee Doyle (TR, 2.1 ppg), Gee McGhee (TR, 10 ppg), T.J. Williams (TR, 1.5 ppg)Key Returners: Casey Jones (12.2 ppg), Ronrico White (10.8 ppg)Must Follow: @GoMocsMBB
Will Wade's first year at Chattanooga was a successful one when he installed CHAOS to match VCU's HAVOC for the Mocs. Now the real test begins for Wade though without one of the nation's most chaotic players in Z Mason, who has graduated. Beyond losing Mason another blow was thrown the Mocs way when guard Gee McGhee decided to transfer to Murray State. Despite losing both Mason and McGhee, the Mocs do return some fire power and 23 points per game in senior Ronrico White and junior Casey Jones. UTC will also get a lift with former VCU big man Justin Tuoyo joining the fray along with a slew of JUCO transfers. We'll find out just how good of a coach Wade is this year dependent on how fast the new look Mocs can gel.
5. Mercer BearsLast Year: 27-9 (14-4), ASun Tournament Champion, NCAA 3rd RoundDepartures: Langston Hall (14.7 ppg), Daniel Coursey (10.1 ppg), Bud Thomas (8.9 ppg), Anthony White Jr. (8.5 ppg), Jakob Gollon (8.1 ppg), Monty Brown (4.5 ppg), Kevin Canevari (1.5 ppg)Key Returners: Ike Nwamu (8.3 ppg)Must Follow: @MercerMBB
Nearly everyone is gone from last year's Cinderella team that knocked off Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, so why are the Bears picked towards the middle of the pack in the SoCon? Two words... Bob Hoffman. Hoffman will rely on a slew of newcomers but he'll definitely have his Bears competing. Ike Nwamu becomes the go-to scorer for the Bears and they'll also look for immediate impact from JUCO transfers Jestin Lewis and 7'1 Andrew Fishler. Five freshmen will also help to rebuild Mercer including guard Jordan Strawberry, who turned down an offer from Saint Louis.
6. UNC Greensboro SpartansLast Year: 14-18 (7-9), 6th SoConDepartures: Kyle Cain (15.4 ppg), Drew Parker (1.8 ppg), Allen Baez (TR), Tyrone Outlaw (TR, 5.4 ppg), Jordan Potts (TR, 6.6 ppg)Key Returners: Tevon Saddler (12.5 ppg), Kayel Locke (11.6 ppg), Nicholas Paulos (8.5 ppg)Must Follow: @G_Fans_Nation
UNC Greensboro looked like it was over before it began this summer when Kyle Cain moved on for a pro career and Tyrone Outlaw, Jordan Potts, and Tevon Saddler planned to transfer. Wes Miller got some good news though when Saddler, the reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year, chose to return to UNCG. The Spartans have a shot to make some noise in the SoCon with scoring trio Saddler, Kayel Locke, and Nicholas Paulos. Wes Miller also has a bit of a wild card in Loyola Marymount transfer Ben Dickinson who was given immediate eligibility by the NCAA.
7. Western Carolina Catamounts Last Year: 19-15 (10-6), 5th SoConDepartures: Trey Sumler (17.4 ppg), Brandon Boggs (12.5 ppg), Tom Tankelwicz (8.9 ppg), Tawaski King (7.6 ppg), Josh Mendenhall (1.8 ppg)Key Returners: James Sinclair (11.8 ppg)Must Follow: @CatSportsForum
Larry Hunter's Catamounts knocked off Elon and Davidson in route to the SoCon Championship Game a year ago where they fell to Wofford 56-53. Unfortunately for Hunter and Catamount fans the roster is nearly depleted with the bulk of talent, including dynamite guard Trey Sumler, moving on. James Sinclair is now the Catamount premier scoring threat and newcomer Ashley Williams has a chance to make an immediate impact.
8. Furman PaladinsLast Year: 9-21 (3-13), 10th SoConDepartures: Charlie Reddick (6.8 ppg), Keith Belfield (TR, 5.5 ppg), Dominic Early (TR, 4.4 ppg), Damien Leonard (TR), Adonis Rwabigwi (TR, 4.8 ppg)Key Returners: Stephen Croone (19.1 ppg), Kendric Ferrara (9.8 ppg), Larry Wideman (9.0 ppg), William Gates Jr. (8.2 ppg)Must Follow: @SoConJohn22
Neko Medved struggled in his first year as the Paladins head coach with a super young squad. The good news was that Furman had a slew of scorers and South Carolina transfer Damien Leonard was set to give the Paladins a shot in the arm. Instead Leonard opted to head to Division II Georgia Southwestern and three other Paladins transferred. Scoring machine Stephen Croone is back but Furman is still a really young squad that needs to find their way.
9. Samford Bulldogs Last Year: 13-20 (6-10), 8th SoConDepartures: Hamilton Bailey (0.8 ppg), Tony Thompson, Jordan Capps (TR, 5.3 ppg), Raijon Kelly (TR, 10.1 ppg), Chris Longoria (TR, 3.8 ppg), Connor Miller (TR, 6.4 ppg), Isaiah Williams (TR, 11.9 ppg), Tim Williams (TR, 17.6 ppg), Russell Wilson (TR, 3.0 ppg)Key Returners: Tyler Hood (7.8 ppg)Must Follow: @samford_sports
Samford was ready to compete for a SoCon title this upcoming year but then Bennie Seltzer was fired very late in the coaching carousel process. Dominos started to fall and seven Bulldogs transferred before former Kentucky star Scott Padgett could take over the reigns. Padgett's first season now likely depends on the performance of JUCO transfers Darius Gibson and Jamal Shabazz. Padgett also made signed solid high school recruits Evan Taylor and Gerald Smith. Maybe Samford could surprise some teams this season?
10. The Citadel Bulldogs
Last Year: 7-26 (2-14), 11th SoConDepartures: Raemond Robinson (TR, 2.9 ppg), Dylen Setzekorn (4.5 ppg), Matt Van Scyoc (14.3 ppg)Key Returners: Ashton Moore (14.1 ppg), Brian White (11.2 ppg)Must Follow: @SandlapperSpike
Chuck Driesell is likely fighting for his job in Charleston this year and needs a decent year from his Bulldogs. Unfortunately the Citadel's leading scorer, Matt Van Scyoc, bolted for Indiana State and no one is coming in to really bolster the Bulldogs lineup. Look for Ashton Moore and Brian White to both be double-digit scorers again, but they might be the only highlight for the Bulldogs this year.