Early SoCon hoops power rankings

  1. Chattanooga (2-0)—The Mocs have been as good as advertised, going on the road to take down an upper echelon West Coast Conference team, in Loyola Marymount (75-64), as well as posting what was an impressive 30-point home opening win over what figures to be a Big South title contender, in UNC Asheville (75-45) on Sunday afternoon.

Best player so far: G, David Jean Baptiste (2 games, 20.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 46.7% on 7-of-15 shooting from 3pt range)

Up Next: vs Tennessee Tech (Nov. 16, 2021)

2. Furman (2-1)—Furman has been maybe even better than some thought, posting an expected 118-66 win over non-Division I foe North Greenville to open the season, while going on the road to play a pair of tough overtime games against Louisville and top mid-major program Belmont. The Paladins were 80-72 victors at ACC member Louisville, posting their first win over an ACC opponent since Nov. 21, 2000, when they downed Florida State, 79-74 in Tallahassee.

Best Player so far: G, Mike Bothwell (3 games, 25.5 PPG, 6 steals, 19-of-22 from the charity stripe/86.4 FT%)

Up Next: vs. Radford (Nov. 19, 2021)

3. Wofford (2-1)—Though its lone wins came against a non-Division I foes Bob Jones (W, 117-79) and Erskine (W, 98-41), Wofford’s performance on Friday at Clemson (L, 68-76) showed it once again belonged among the SoCon’s elite this season. The Terriers have shown the ability to effectively replace their two top scorers from a year ago through the early going. Wofford has a pair of games coming up on the road against SEC programs, which are both winnable, facing both South Carolina (Nov. 23) and at Georgia (Nov. 28).

Best player so far: G, Max Klesmit (3 games, 14.0 PPG, 51.7 FG%)

Up Next: vs. Hampton (Nov. 19, 2021)

4. UNC Greensboro (3-0)—Much like last year’s theme, it’s been strong defense that has led the Spartans to their strong start, as the Spartans rank second in the SoCon in scoring defense (56.7 PPG), as well as leading the league in field goal percentage defense (31.9%), which has helped offset offense that has been painful to watch at times for new head coach Mike Jones at times early this season. The Spartans have shot the ball just 30.5% (18-of-59) from three-point range through the first three games, but are holding foes to just 19.5% (17-of-87) from long-range through the first three games.

Best Player: G, De’Monte Buckingham (3 games, 15.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG)

Up Next: vs. Green Bay (Nov. 18, 2021/CBSSports Network)

5. The Citadel (2-1)—The Citadel raised more than a few eyebrows with its early-season win at Pittsburgh, showing how good the strength of the SoCon was collectively. Jason Roche shot the ball lights out in the 78-63 win by the Bulldogs in the season-opener, while Hayden Brown is living up to preseason accolades of player of the year plaudits—at least so far—having posted double-figure scoring performances in all three games to this point in the season. The Bulldogs also have a non-Division I win over Morris College (L, 67-108) and loss a heartbreaker in double-overtime to Presbyterian (L, 70-74) Monday night.

Best player so far: G, Jason Roche (3 games, 19.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 14-of-31 from 3, 45.2% 3pt FG%)

Up Next: vs Carver College (Nov. 18)

6. Mercer (0-2)—The SoCon has two of the best 0-2 teams in mid-major hoops right now, in both Mercer and East Tennessee State. Both have opened the season with a pair of road games, with the Bears having dropped both of their games, despite having halftime leads in both. The Bears opened the season with a 38-26 lead at the half at No. 18 Arkansas before losing 74-61, and this past weekend at Big South perennial power Winthrop, held a near identical halftime lead, at 38-27, before losing an 88-85 contest in OT. Felipe Haase poured in 41 points, which included 13 made field goals, including seven triples and was 8-of-11 from the line in the loss. Haase also added 10 rebounds in the road loss to the Eagles.

Best player so far: F/C Felipe Haase (2 games, 25.5 PPG, 68.0 FG%)

Up Next: vs. Life University (Nov. 16)

T-6 East Tennessee State (0-2)—The Bucs started on the road with losses over the weekend to Appalachian State (L, 67-69) and at No. 17 Tennessee (L, 62-94). An example of how things have changed under new coach Desmond Oliver as opposed to his predecessor Jason Shay is the concentration of shots from beyond the arc and overall a faster pace of play. In the first two games of the 2020-21 season, the Bucs launched 50 three-pointers, connecting on just 12 (24%). Through the first two games under Oliver, ETSU has taken 65 shots from long range, knocking down 20 of them (30.5%). Fifteen more shots is quite the difference in philosophy through two games, as the Bucs are looking to play a lot faster with more possessions.

Best player so far: G, David Sloan (2 games, 13.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 9 assists/4 turnovers)

Up Next: vs USC Upstate (Nov. 18)

8. VMI (1-1)—Hard to tell much about Dan Earl’s Keydets through the first two games of the season, opening with a 111-55 win on the strength of 22 made threes in the opener vs. non-Division I Carlow in the season opener last week before dropping a heartbreaking, 73-72, overtime loss on the road at Presbyterian Friday night. The Keydets loss on the road to the Blue Hose came despite holding a 63-59 lead with three minutes left in regulation and a 72-71 lead with 48 seconds remaining in overtime. The Keydets have knocked down 34-of-69 from three-point range in the first two games, leading the SoCon at a blistering 49.3% from three-point land.

Best player so far: C, Jake Stephens (2 games, 16.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8 blks)

Up Next: vs. Keystone College (Nov. 16, 2021)

9. Western Carolina (1-2)—Western Carolina first-year head coach Justin Gray needed overtime to yield the positive result against a Bowling Green squad that returned four starters off a club that finished a solid 14-12 a year ago, including finishing sixth in the MAC with a 10-8 record. However, losses to both Wake Forest (L, 75-87) and East Carolina (L, 79-95) have introduced some early, but predictable growing pains. The Catamounts have struggled shooting the ball at times through the first two games, ranking eighth out of 10 teams in team field goal percentage (41.1%) through the first four games.

Best player so far: G, Nicholas Robinson (17.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 13-of-24 from 3pt range/54.2%)

Up Next: vs. UMBC (Nov. 19/Lancer Invitational in Farmville, VA)

10. Samford (2-1)—Samford has a pair of wins over non-Division I foes against both Maryville College (W, 99-78) and Spring Hill College (W, 86-69), while in their first real test of the 2021-22 season against a good San Francisco Dons club out of the West Coast Conference on Monday night, the Bulldogs were soundly beaten, 77-55. Despite a career-high 24 points from Florida transfer Ques Glover, the Bulldogs couldn’t overcome 32.8% shooting from the field in the loss.

Best player so far: G, Ques Glover (3 games, 18.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG)

Up Next: at Oregon State (Nov. 18)

Published by soconjohn

I am a lover of all things SoCon, and I have had a passion to write about, follow and tell the world about this great conference for pretty much my entire life. While I do love the SoCon, and live in the SoCon city, which is home to the Furman Paladins, have a passion for sports in general, with college football and college hoops topping the list.

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