We’re a little over a month into the 2022-23 season, and it’s becoming apparent the SoCon is a little down this year and with only eight of the top 25 scorers returning in the early season, it was a concern that the league might struggle this season.
I will split this notebook up into two separate articles, with part 1 taking a look at teams 1-5, as they were predicted to finish by the league’s head coaches and media polls. For reference purposes, I will just go in the order in which the coaches had the teams ordered to finish the 2022-23 season.
News, notes, superlative performances from the opening month of SoCon Hoops
Much of the league has been kind of bipolar when it comes to their team performances, as some only seem to be putting up big offensive totals through the opening month, while having trouble defending anyone. Other teams in the league have been more defensive-minded.
Below is a rundown of the 10 teams and some news and notes from games they have played during the first month of the season.
1.Furman (6-3, 0-0 SoCon)--One of the stranger teams to actually get a good gauge on so far in the SoCon is Bob Richey’s Furman Paladins. The ‘Dins came into the season as the preseason pick to win the league, and while the Paladins haven’t had any issues either shooting or scoring the basketball, they have had massive issues keeping teams from doing the same.
The Paladins might be the most bipolar team in the league, and there are several of them that have shown up in the opening month. For instance, the Paladins lead the Southern Conference and rank 13th nationally in total field goal percentage (50%), while ranking 19th nationally in efficient field goal percentage (57.4%). The Paladins also have had not had trouble scoring the basketball, as the ‘Dins rank 29th nationally in scoring offense, posting 82.3 PPG.
Just as alarming has been how poorly the Paladins have defended the three-pointer this season, ranking 349th in the country in three-point field goal percentage defense this season, as the Paladins have allowed foes to shoot nearly 40% from three-point land this season, with opponents knocking down 38.0% from long range through nine games this season.
The problem for Bob Richey’s club has most glaringly been on the other end of the floor, which is somewhat surprising considering the Paladins returned the league’s top defensive player, in reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Jalen Slawson.
Following Tuesday night’s 85-82 home loss to High Point, the Paladins currently rank 235th nationally in points given up per game, surrendering an average of 71.1 PPG through the first nine games of the season.
Aside from even the home loss Tuesday night is the fact that an unsettling theme has begun to unfold for the 2022-23 Southern Conference favorites, and it has everything to do with how they have defended in the opening halves of Furman’s three losses this season, which have come against Penn State (L, 68-73), Old Dominion (L, 77-82) and now High Point (L, 82-85). In those three losses, that aforementioned trio has managed to shoot 58.5% (48-of-82) in the opening half of those games, which includes a 56.6% (17-of-30) clip from three-point range.
The Paladins also haven’t exactly been challenging teams hard to score the basketball either, and the Paladins rank among the lower third of college basketball in field goal percentage through the first nine games of the season. The Paladins are seeing teams shoot on average of 47.1% against them, and just Tuesday night, High Point scorched the nets at a blistering 59.3% for the game. That included an astounding 11-for-17 performance from three-point range, which saw the Panthers make their first seven three-pointers.
Other issues seem to be resolving for the ‘Dins, however. One the biggest question marks coming into the season was how do you replace a guy like Alex Hunter at point guard. The answer is you don’t. Hunter was one of a kind and will go down in the annals as one of the best point guards to ever suit up for the Paladins.
With that said, Furman entered the season with three capable point guards, with clearly J.P. Pegues now having separated himself as the top guy at the point for the ‘Dins.
Pegues finished the loss to High Point with 12 points, which included scoring eight-straight points during a key late stretch to keep the Paladins in the game. Earlier this season in a loss to Old Dominion, Pegues posted a career-high 20 points. Tuesday night’s game saw Pegues post his second double-figure scoring effort of the season.
Both Joe Anderson and Carter Whitt have settled into the No. 2 and No. 3 positions on the depth chart behind Pegues. Anderson is playing well in every aspect of the game except as a shooter. He’s struggling to find the confidence in his shot this season after shooting a blistering 47% from long range a year ago.
Anderson is currently connecting on just 33.3% (5-of-15) from three-point range through the first nine games of the season.
Slawson and Bothwell
Both Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell are enough to keep the Paladins in the mix for a championship even if the Furman struggles defensively. However, at times in the early portions of the season, Slawson has either struggled to stay out of foul trouble, or stay out of Bob Richey’s dog house at times for losing focus on the defensive end.
With that said, Slawson might be the most athletically gifted and skilled basketball player than any other player in the SoCon. In Tuesday night’s loss to High Point, Slawson was not on the floor enough with Bothwell to help the Paladins pull out a win at home, which was due in large part to foul trouble.
Saddled with early foul trouble last night, Slawson finished with just eight points, three rebounds, five assists, and three blocks in almost 27 minutes of action on the floor. It was the first time this season that Slawson has failed to find his way into double figures.
For Furman to even have a remote chance to win the regular-season title and take home the title in Asheville, its paramount that Slawson pick up his game on the defensive end of the floor. When he dedicates himself to sitting down and guarding, there’s not a better post defender in the SoCon on the ball. He heads into Saturday’s game against Winthrop averaging 14.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and has 25 steals and 13 blocks through the first month.
While Slawson has had some ups and downs through the early portions of the season, that has not been the case for Mike Bothwell. He had a season-high 29 points in the loss to High Point Tuesday night and has been arguably, along with Chattanooga’s Jake Stephens, one of the top players in the SoCon all season.
Bothwell has scored in double figures in all nine games this season, including five in which he has had 20 or more points. The senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, currently ranks second in the SoCon in scoring, averaging 20.8 PPG and also ranks third in the league in assists-per-game (4.3). His 19 made three-pointers leads Furman and ranks 10th overall in the league.
The Paladins have gotten some solid play from Garrett Hien and Alex Williams, and it was Williams, who scored a career-high of 15 points in just nine minutes of action off the bench in Saturday’s win over South Carolina State in his second game back after returning from a suspension. He also has a chance to be a big key for Furman in terms of depth in the paint as the season progresses. Garrett Hien posted his career-high as a Paladin against the University of South Carolina in Furman’s 19-point win a couple of weeks back, finishing with a career-high 20 points in the 79-60 victory in the final game of the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic.
The Paladins have been every game to this point in the season, and have two non-Division I wins over both North Greenville (W, 91-55) and Tusculum (W, 102-74), however, for the most part have played a challenging slate, highlighted by the three games in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic last month, as the Paladins faced off against Penn State (L, 68-73), Old Dominion (L, 77-82) and South Carolina (W, 79-60). Furman’s win over the Gamecocks in the third game in the Lowcountry represents the SoCon’s lone win over a power six conference foe to this point in the 2022-23. By this time last season, the SoCon already had four.
Furman’s best win to this point is an 89-74 win over new Missouri Valley Conference member Belmont back in early November. The Paladins also picked up a solid 65-61 win at gritty Appalachian State last week.
Furman will have a tough three-game stretch at the end of non-conference, starting Saturday with a home game with Winthrop (5-5) before traveling to North Carolina State (8-2).
The Wolfpack have losses to both Kansas (L, 74-80) and on the home floor vs. Pittsburgh (L, 60-68) in their ACC opener. It represents one of the last opportunities for the SoCon to pick up another win for league over a power conference.
The Paladins will turn around and play perennial Southland Conference power Stephen F. Austin (6-2) in the Greenville Winter Invitational slated for Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena before closing out non-conference play against Division II Anderson on Dec. 19. It will be a reunion of sorts for Paladin basketball, as former Furman assistant coach Jimmie Williams is currently the head coach of the Trojans.
Furman will commence its 2022-23 Southern Conference basketball slate by hosting VMI in a 7 p.m. contest before traveling to Western Carolina for a 4 p.m. EST game on New Year’s Eve.
2. Samford (6-4, 0-0 SoCon)-Without question the most embarrassing SoCon loss to this point in the season is the one in which Samford, which plays the 346th-ranked schedule in all of Division I college basketball, lost to a team named Tennessee Southern.
Formerly known as Martin Methodist, Tennessee Southern took advantage of an underhanded Bulldogs team, which was playing without leading scorer and point guard Ques Glover (13.8 PPG), who is currently out with a minor injury. In fact, the Bulldogs played without their two top scorers missing the game, as Jermaine Marshall (12.1 PPG) also missed the game for Samford due to being suspended.
It led to an embarrassing result for both Samford and the Southern Conference, as Tennessee Southern came to the Pete Hanna Center and handed Samford an 84-82 loss. The loss to Tennessee Southern was the second of what would become a four-game losing streak for the Bulldogs.
After getting off to a 6-0 start to the season, the Bulldogs tasted defeat for the first time this season with a 79-76 loss at home to a solid Louisiana Tech club. Losses followed against Depaul (L, 98-103) and Central Florida (L, 77-80), with both of those games going to overtime.
The Bulldogs have not had trouble scoring the basketball this season, however, some of that can be attributed to playing four non-Division I foes. The Bulldogs are averaging are averaging a league-leading 85.3 PPG this season, which is three points more than Furman, which is averaging
Glover is expected to be out until about the middle of January, so it will be incumbent upon guys like JermaineMarshall (12.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG), Jaden Campbell (11.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG) and Bubba Parham (10.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG) to pick up the scoring slack in absence of Glover. The player off the maybe the best start for the Bulldogs this season has been Logan Dye (11.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG), who is having an outstanding season.
The Bulldogs are still an excellent basketball team, despite hitting a little bit of a snag in what should have been a relatively manageable non-conference slate. The Bulldogs have three non-conference games remaining before beginning SoCon play. The Bulldogs have games remaining in non-conference play against Sun Belt favorite Louisiana (Dec. 10), South Carolina State (Dec. 17) and Belmont (Dec. 21), with all three games being on the road.
Not only has Samford scored the basketball well this season, leading the league in scoring and ranking sixth in total field goal percentage (45.0%), but Samford has also excelled on the defensive end of the floor this season, ranking second in the league in field goal percentage defense (41.0%). The Bulldogs are also rebounding the basketball exceptionally well this season, ranking second to only Wofford in total rebounding margin (+6.7) this season.
The Bulldogs will begin Southern Conference play on Dec. 28, hosting Mercer in what will be the first Southern Conference game of the season.
3. UNCG (4-6, 0-0 SoCon)–The SoCon has been inconsistent in the non-conference so far, with UNC Greensboro being one of the prime examples of this. The Spartans did not fare well in a loss to North Carolina A&T last week, however, on Tuesday night at Arkansas, the Spartans put a major scare into the ninth-ranked Razorbacks.
The stifling Spartans defense limited the powerful Razorbacks to just 21 points in the opening half, and it was UNCG that went to the locker room with a 26-21 halftime lead. The 21 points scored in the opening half against the Spartans were the lowest total in a first half of any game this season for Arkansas.
The Spartans had three finish in double figures, with freshman guard Donovan Atwell pacing the Spartans with 12 points, while Dante Treacy added 11 points, and Kobe Langley added a season-high 10. The Spartans connected on only 31.3% shots from the field, however, the Spartans managed to hold one of the most explosive offensive teams in the SEC and nationally to just 33.1% shooting for the game. Arkansas was held to just 3-for-18 shooting from the three-point range in the loss.
UNCG might have set the defensive blueprint for other teams when they play against the Razorbacks in the coming weeks. The Spartans have been setting the defensive standard in the Southern Conference long before Mike Jones arrived a couple of years ago, however, Jones has taken what was established under Wes Miller and only elevated it. It hasn’t necessarily shown up in the Southern Conference stats this season, but you can be sure that by season’s end that it will.
The Spartans are currently rank third in the league in field goal percentage defense (41.5%) and second overall in scoring defense (67.2 PPG). Among the top players on the roster came into the program via the transfer portal, in Keondre Kennedy, who came over to UNCG from UMBC in the transfer. Like De’Monte Buckingham did last season in his one year for Mike Jones and UNCG, Kennedy is currently leading the team in both scoring (13.9 PPG) and rebounding (6.6 RPG).
Another calling card for the Spartans over the past few years has been rebounding. However, the Spartans have struggled rebounding the basketball through the early portions of this season, ranking ninth out of 10 league teams in rebounding margin (+0.9) through the first portion of the schedule. Some of that, of course, also has to do with the tough schedule the Spartans have taken on during the non-conference.
The other major addition Jones brought in via the transfer portal for the 2022-23 season is Mikeal Brown-Jones, and the VCU transfer currently ranks third on the team in scoring average this season, posting 10.3 PPG and 4.0 RPG so far this season. He rounds out the double figure scoring average players for the Spartans. Keyshaun Langley has also gotten off to a solid start to the 2022=23 season, averaging 11.3 PPG, leading the team with 27 assists, while ranking second on the team in total steals, with 12 thefts so far this season. Only his brother Kobe Langley (4.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG) has more steals, as he has recorded 21 thefts off the bench for UNCG this season.
UNCG’s best wins of the non-conference slate so far this season came against Montana State, with a 77-66 win over the Bobcats in an MTE in Montreal, Canada, while posting an impressive 76-72 win over perennial America East member UMBC just a couple of days prior to Thanksgiving.
The Spartans have played one of the most challenging non-conference slates in the league so far, having also faced solid mid-major programs like Hofstra out of the CAA, as well as taken on UMBC (W, 76-72) out the America East and Towson (L, 53-56), which also plays in the CAA, and that trio of teams is just a small sample size of what has been a challenging non-conference slate.
The Spartans also played a more than respectable contest on the road at ACC member and reigning Sweet Sixteen program Miami (L, 65-79) in the early portion of the season before dropping a 14-point decision. The Spartans have three games remaining in the non-conference, as UNCG will host former Southern Conference member Marshall (7-1) on Dec. 13 before facing Warren Wilson five days later. The Spartans will close out non-conference play with a trip to Richmond, KY, to take on Eastern Kentucky (4-5) just before Christmas on Dec. 22.
UNCG begins Southern Conference play on Dec. 29 with a trip to Cullowhee to take on the Western Carolina Catamounts.
4. Chattanooga (5-3, 0-0 SoCon) —Reigning Southern Conference champion Chattanooga has had plenty of new faces that have been plugged in to try and help the Mocs defend what was a return to excellence type season for the Mocs last season.
The Mocs were selected to finish fourth by the league’s head coaches coming into the season, and at least to through the first nine games, look like they will exceed those prognostications by the league’s nine head coaches who could vote for the Mocs.
And while Malachi Smith nor David Jean Baptiste are no longer reigning threes, the new crop of talent brought in by new head coach Dan Earl has been impressive for a guy that had never dealt with getting a player from the transfer portal during his time at VMI prior to taking Lamont Paris’ vacated post in the Scenic City.
The first addition that Earl made was a rather easy one, or maybe a slam dunk, as Earl brought Jake Stephens with him from Lexington to Chattanooga. Stephens was a player that Earl had help to develop into being the player he is currently, and it might come as surprise that Stephens didn’t draw too much any program outside the Keydets basketball program during the recruiting process.
Stephens has played with a chip on his shoulder ever since and coming off an outstanding final season at VMI in 2021-22, the graduate senior has his eyes set on helping the Mocs repeat as league champions, while being able to potentially experience March Madness for the first time in his collegiate career.
With that said, there’s still a lot of work to be done for the preseason SoCon Player of the Year and his head coach if the Mocs hope to achieve that goal once again this season.
Stephens was the SoCon’s Player of the Month for the month of November, helping lead the Mocs to a 4-3 mark in the opening month of the college basketball season. All Stephens did was average 20.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG and 3.1 APG to get the Mocs off and running in 2022-23, and for him personally, picked up right where he left off in his outstanding final season at VMI.
During the month of November, Stephens finished in double figures in all seven games, and posted four double-doubles in the opening seven games of the campaign.
After closing out the month with a pair of double-double efforts against both Murray State and Tennessee Tech, posting 27 points and 11 boards in a 69-66 win over the Racers, while posting 27 points and 10 rebounds in an 81-74 victory over the Golden Eagles.
To start the month of December, Stephens has continued to produce at a high level, having posted 27 points for a third-straight game, and he just missed a double-double, finishing with nine boards in an 82-71 road win over the Runnin’ Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb.
In Stephens’ most recent outing, he and the Mocs helped snap what had been a five-game winning streak for Milwaukee out of the Horizon League, and in the process, helped Chattanooga to a fourth-straight win. The Mocs picked up what was a pretty impressive 88-76 win and Stephens finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds to lead to help the Mocs improve to a 6-3 start.
While Stephens has been good this season, leading the SoCon in scoring average (22.1 PPG) and rebounding (9.6 RPG), he certainly hasn’t been the only addition to come from the portal that has paid off in a big way for the Mocs this season.
A couple of other big additions that Earl and staff added from the portal are 6-9 forward Demetrius Davis (10.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG) from Lawson State Community College in Alabama, while Earl also added 6-5 wing Jamal Johnson (10.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG) from UAB, point guard Dalvin White (9.0 PPG, 1.9 RPG) from USC Upstate, and Khristion Courseault (6.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG) by way of Sam Houston State.
The Mocs already had a solid supporting cast returning from a team that won 27 games a year ago en route to the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament title runs. Players like sharp-shooting guards A.J. Caldwell (4.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG) and Grant Ledford came back, as did guard Jamaal Walker (6.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG), who sat out almost the entire 2021-22 season with blood clots in his legs, while wing K.C. Hankton is back for his third year with the Mocs since transferring in from St Louis. Both Hankton and Ledford have only seen action in one game this season, while Caldwell has started all nine games for the Mocs in 2022-23.
Chattanooga has been getting it done on both ends of the floor this season, and the Southern Conference statistics bear witness to that. On the offensive end of things through nine games, the Mocs currently rank third in the Southern Conference in scoring offense (80.3 PPG), while also ranking fourth in scoring defense (68.7 PPG).
The Mocs have also exercised great shot selection early on this season, which is a result of running good offensive sets. Like scoring offense, the Mocs also rank third in the league in team field goal percentage (47.7%), while also ranking fourth in the league in field goal percentage defense (41.5%).
Like UNCG, the Mocs have gone out and challenged themselves by taking on a pretty solid schedule. Chattanooga started the season by taking on one of the top mid-major basketball programs in all of the nation to this point in the season, starting the season on the road with a close loss at College of Charleson (L, 78-85) to open the 2022-23 college basketball season. The Mocs have also faced a pair of other solid mid-major, in-state foes, in both Lipscomb (L, 66-72) and Tennessee Tech (W, 81-74), while having also notched a big win over perennial mid-major power Murray State (W, 69-66). The Mocs also played a power five foe, dropping a contest at Ole Miss (L, 58-70) back in the second week of November.
The Mocs have four games remaining on their non-conference slate before beginning Southern Conference play in late December.
Chattanooga has one game against non-Division I competition when it takes on Johnson University at noon on Saturday at the Roundhouse. The Mocs will then take travel to Middle Tennessee State (6-3) on Dec. 15 before returning home to take on Belmont (6-4) on Dec. 18. Chattanooga will close out non-conference play on the road, with a trip to take on a second power five and SEC foe in the non-conference, when Chattanooga travels to Georgia (7-3) on Dec. 21.
Chattanooga will start league play eight days later with its first of three league games on the road to start out the conference slate. The Mocs will be at The Citadel on Dec. 29 before facing off against Mercer in Macon on New Year’s Eve.
5. Wofford (6-4, 0-0 SoCon)–If you watched Wofford’s 71-61 win over Coastal Carolina this past Tuesday night, other than not having fourth-year head coach Jay McAuley physically on the sidelines coaching the Terriers, you might not have been able to discern Wofford was playing under current interim head coach Dwight Perry.
Why is Perry all of the sudden the interim head coach of the Terriers you might ask? It was announced just 24 hours before the Terriers’ game with Coastal Carolina that Wofford’s McAuley would be taking a ‘leave of absence’ from his team after Director of Athletics Richard Johnson met with the team prior to the news of the announcement regarding McAuley.
Prior to having taken his ‘leave of absence’, McAuley had put together a 58-42 worksheet in his fourth season at the helm of the Terriers basketball program. There’s been no word from Wofford on the length of the ‘leave of absence’ or if McAuley will return to the sidelines to coach Wofford at any point in the remainder of the 2022-23 season. If I had to give an estimate as to when a decision will be made one way or another concerning McAuley and his future with the Wofford basketball program, I would venture to guess that a final decision on the matter will be made by the time the Terriers open up Southern Conference play on Dec. 29 when Wofford hosts East Tennessee State at the Jerry Ricardson Indoor Stadium.
Despite that internal turmoil heading into Tuesday night’s showdown with in-state rival Coastal Carolina, the Terriers certainly didn’t play with any signs indicating any sort of negative cloud being over the program, especially with their play in the second half, as Wofford used a key 22-4 run en route to capturing a 10-point win to improve to 6-4 as we head down the home stretch of non-conference play.
In a game that featured solid scoring runs for both teams, the Terriers would be led in scoring by freshman guard Jackson Paveletzke’s 20-point scoring effort, while preseason All-SoCon selection and big man B.J. Mack added 18 points and six boards, with University of Virginia transfer guard Carson McCorkle adding a team-high seven rebounds, while Southern Illinois transfer big man Kyler Filewich just missed being the third Terrier in the double figures scoring column, as he finished out the contest by scoring eight points and grabbing six boards.
Coming into the season, McAuley had to deal with plenty of issues off the floor, having to pick up the pieces following what amounted to somewhat of a mass exodus in the span of several days, as Wofford lost key players like Ryan Larsen (College of Charleston), Max Klesmit (Wisconsin), Sam Godwin (Oklahoma), Isaiah Bigelow (Richmond), Morgan Safford (Miami OH), Austin Patterson (Sacramento State) and Luke Turner (UC Riverside) all exiting the Terrier basketball program for the transfer portal late last March.
That meant McAuley and staff had to make a quick run to the portal themselves, and they came back with a solid group of talent, adding guards Carson McCorkle (University of Virginia) and Jackson Sivlills (Murray State), while getting a huge commitment, in 6-9 forward Kyler Filewich (Southern Illinois), to add some depth and an even a boost to an already strong Terrier front court.
Filewich added to a Wofford frontcourt, which already entered the season as one of the top units in the SoCon, returning a pair of all-conference caliber players to the fold for the 2022-23 season, in both B.J. Mack (16.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG) and Messiah Jones (8.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG), who have been instrumental in helping Wofford rank tops overall in the league in rebound margin (+6.7) through the early portions of the 2022-23 season.
The bigger question by default coming into the season was the backcourt, and at least so far, the Terriers have past the test with flying colors, thanks in large part to the play of freshman sharp-shooting guard Jackson Paveletzke (15.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG), as well as maybe the most improved player on the roster, Corey Tripp (9.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG).
Paveltzke has easily been the league’s top freshman performer through the first month of the season, and it’s really not that close. He currently ranks fifth in the SoCon in three-point field goal percentage (52.2%/12-of-23), as well as ranking fifth in scoring average (15.7 PPG).
Wofford has gone out and challenged itself in the non-conference, traveling to mid-major powerhouse and Missouri Valley Conference favorite Drake (L, 72-80) early on in non-conference play, while putting a scare into a pair of power five programs, in both LSU (L, 75-78), as well as Vanderbilt (L, 62-65).
The Terriers also dropped an early-season road contest at Big South title contender High Point (L, 80-91), which is off to its best start in program history. The four losses for the Terriers have come against four programs with a combined overall record of 28-7. The four losses have come by a combined 25 points.
Wofford will have three more opportunities in non-conference play before beginning SoCon play. The Terriers will be in Statesboro, GA., this coming Saturday to battle the Georgia Southern Eagles (5-4) at Hanner Fieldhouse Saturday in a 3 p.m. contest. The final game of non-conference play will come on Saturday, Dec. 17, against Montreat before closing out non-conference play with a trip to College Station, TX, to face Texas A&M (5-3) Dec. 20, with tip-off time for that contest set for 2 p.m. EST.
Wofford will get its Southern Conference slate underway on Dec. 29, with the aforementioned battle with East Tennessee State at 7 p.m. at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. The Terriers will be back in the friendly confines on New Year’s Eve, as UNCG visits for a 2 p.m. contest.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the non-conference update, which will take a look at teams predicted to finish 6-10 in the SoCon preseason coaches poll, as we inch ever closer to the opening day of conference play coming up at the end of December.