Furman (3-2) –Furman has played a tough early-season schedule and has two of the SoCon’s more impressive wins in the non-conference, with wins over both Belmont (89-74) and power five South Carolina (79-60) at the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic. Mike Bothwell (20.2 PPG) and Jalen Slawson (14.6 PPG) were recently named to the Lou Henson Award Watch List. Of particular impressiveness was Furman’s win over South Carolina last Sunday in its final game of the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic. The Paladins got a career-high 20 points off the bench from Garrett Hien, and the Paladins shot 50.8% from the field and connected on 12-of-27 from three-point land in the win. Furman will look to improve to 4-2 on Black Friday when the Paladins face Tusculum in a 2 p.m. contest at Timmons Arena.
Samford (6-0)–The Bulldogs have played absolutely no one yet but haven’t done anything to show that they aren’t one of the league title contenders to this point early on in non-conference play. Like Furman’s Bothwell and Slawson, Bulldogs guard Ques Glover (13.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.2 APG) also is on the Lou Henson’s Award Watch List. The Bulldogs’ latest win came by 30 on Thanksgiving Day Eve, as Samford were able to post what was a lopsided 79-49 win over Valpo. Samford has also seen wing Jermaine Marshall (13.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG) pick up where he left off last season, as he is tied for the team lead in scoring average, posting 13.0 PPG, while his 6.7 RPG leads the team. The Bulldogs face a solid test Friday at home against Louisiana Tech (3-2), who will be in town for a 2 p.m. tip-off at the Pete Hanna Center. The Bulldogs have won 18 of their past 20 games at the Pete Hanna Center, including having won 12-straight on the home floor. The 6-0 start for the Bulldogs is their best start since the 1960-61 season.
Chattanooga (2-3)–The Mocs have losses to both Ole Miss (L, 58-70) and College of Charleston (L, 78-85), and both wins have come against Non-Division I foes, in Covenant (W, 108-55) and against Oakland City (W, 93-49). The Mocs are still in search of their first win over a Division I opponent this season, having dropped their most recent outing in what was a thriller in the Scenic City, as Lipscomb was able to claim the Volunteer State battle between the two teams, as the game featured 11 lead changes and 10 ties. Jake Stephens (17.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG) is off to a strong start in his final season and has found his new surroundings in the Scenic City just as comfortable as ones in he had in Lexington at VMI, and he’s been named to the Lou Henson Award Watch List. He had a team-leading 18 points in Wednesday afternoon’s loss to Lipscomb.
UNC Greensboro (2-2)–UNCG is off to a .500 start in year two under Mike Jones, with a good win over UMBC (W, 76-72), as well as competitive performances on the road losses at both Miami (L, 65-79) and Towson (L, 53-56). The Spartans will head to the Northern Classic this weekend, taking on Montana State in their first game of the tournament. The Spartans currently rank fourth in the league in field goal percentage defense (41.6%) and currently also rank fourth in the SoCon in scoring defense (66.8 PPG). UMBC transfer Keondre Kennedy currently leads the Spartans, averaging 15.3 PPG.
Wofford (4-2)–The Terriers have gotten off to a nice start to the 2022-23 season, having won four of their first six games to start the season. One of those performances included an outstanding performance in a loss, with an 80-72 setback at mid-major power Drake. With so many key pieces lost from last year’s team, there was always going to be new contributors this season for Terriers fourth-year head coach Jay McAuley. Those players that have stepped up early and given some cushion to leading scorer B.J. Mack (16.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG) have been sharp-shooting guard Jackson Paveletzke (16.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG) and Corey Tripp (10.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG), and both have answered some early questions about the backcourt. The Terriers take on their first power conference foe when traveling to the Pete Maravich Center for a Sunday afternoon showdown with the LSU Tigers.
Western Carolina (4-2)–I said in the preseason that my sleeper in the Southern Conference this season is Western Carolina, and I still strongly about head coach Justin Gray’s team. The Catamounts have gotten the season off to a bright start, and like Wofford, have won four of their first six games. The Catamounts have been hot of late after losing their first two games of the season against both Georgia (L, 55-68) and Maryland (L, 51-71), and have since won four-straight over Brescia (W, 112-45), McNeese State (W, 88-69), Lamar (W, 98-91 OT) and Lindenwood (W, 90-88 OT). Newcomers Tre Jackson (16.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG) and Tyzhaun Claude (15.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG) have been as good as advertised through the early portion of the season thus far. The Catamounts have a huge Saturday afternoon clash against Blue Ridge Mountains rival UNC Asheville Saturday. The Bulldogs are one of the favorites to win the Big South title this season.
East Tennessee State (3-3)–The Bucs have played a challenging early-season slate, which includes games against three Sun Belt programs, as ETSU has taken on three teams in the top tier of the league, having taken on league favorite Louisiana (L, 77-81) and 2021 Sun Belt Tournament champion Appalachian State (L, 70-74). The lone win the Bucs own against a Sun Belt team this season came against perennial league title contender Little Rock (W, 84-76). The Bucs have gotten a nice boost from Virginia Tech transfer and big man Josh Haynes (13.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG), who reminds me a lot of former Bucs standout big man Dillion Sneed. DeAnthony Tipler (13.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG) has provided a nice supporting guard to Jordan King (14.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG) as a scorer in the backcourt for the Bucs. ETSU returns to action Sunday when they will face a Georgia Bulldogs team that the Bucs defeated just last season.
Mercer (2-3)–Greg Gary’s club has also taken on a challenging non-conference slate to this point, and if there’s one game the Bears would like to have back, they’d likely tell you it would be their season-opener on the road at East Carolina, as Mercer blew what was a 39-30 halftime lead and held a double-digit lead for over 12 minutes in the opening half of play before seeing the Pirates come back and score a 77-75 win in the end. Mercer’s most-recent outing was an 81-72 setback at Florida State, as the Seminoles claimed their first win of the season. The Bears have gotten a strong start to the season from point guard Kamar Robertson (14.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG), while newcomers like Jaylyn McCreary (14.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG) and Luis Hurtado Jr. (10.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG) have also been important additions for Mercer this season, adding some solid scoring depth. Mercer will take part in the Hostilo Community Classic beginning Friday night in Savannah against Robert Morris. The Bears will also face Fairfield (Nov. 26) and an outstanding Towson team (Nov. 27) to close out the tournament.
The Citadel (3-3)–The Bulldogs are off and running under new, old head coach Ed Conroy. Conroy, who is in his second stint as The Citadel’s head coach, has seen the Bulldogs get off to a respectable 3-3 start through their first six games of the season. The most recent outing saw the Bulldogs come up just short after mounting a second half comeback against Denver before dropping a 74-70 contest. Austin Ash (16.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG), who transferred into The Citadel from Iowa, has gotten off to a strong start for the Bulldogs this season and is one of two power conference transfers that have been impactful for the Bulldogs this season, as Ash is joined by Notre Dame transfer guard Elijah Morgan (7.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG) in that respect. Center Stephen Clark (14.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 11 blks) has looked every bit the part of an all-league player to this point in the season. The Bulldogs will take on IUPUI in a Friday evening contest.
VMI (1-5)--It’s been a tough start to the Andrew Wilson era in Lexington, VA., as the Keydets have won just one of their first six games. The Keydets played valiantly in a 75-71 loss to a solid Davidson team on Nov. 13, but followed up with lopsided losses to Big South favorite Longwood (L, 58-90) and SIU-Edwardsville (L, 67-93). The most-recent setback for the Keydets came this past Sunday, with a 93-89 setback to Fairleigh Dickinson. The Keydets return to action Saturday, facing Regent. The play of newcomer Asher Woods (13.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG) in the backcourt has been one of the early bright spots for Wilson’s Keydets in the 2022-23 season.
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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