Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Road to Asheville (1-1-20)

Week nine brings us into serious conference play. On January 1st, eight SoCon teams are in action, here's a look at the four games.

Furman at VMI, 1 p.m.
Citadel at Samford, 3 p.m.
Wofford at ETSU, 7 p.m.
Mercer at UNCG, 7 p.m.

Probably the top game for the day will be the #5 Wofford Terriers at the co-#1 ETSU Bucs game, the Terriers come in at number five in our power ranking while the Bucs hold down the number one spot. With a 12-2 record, the Bucs come into the game ranked #5 in the mid-major top 25 poll, while the Terriers are in the "others receiving votes". Wofford has probably the best win of the season thus far for the conference, a 68-64 victory over then #17 UNC. While the Terriers can never be counted out, Massey projects a 76-69 ETSU win in Johnson City.

Gameday kicks off AT 1 pm with the co-#1 Furman Paladins at the #10 VMI Keydets. The Paladins are number 3 in our power ranking this week and are coming in at #9 on the mid-major top 25 rankings.  The Keydets hold down the number 10 spot in the power ranking. Just looking at the rankings on paper, this game should be a no-contest. However, VMI comes in second place in the SoCon in three-pointer shots, hitting 38% of their attempts, so if the Keydets have a hot shooting afternoon at home, it can be a game-changer. VMI comes into the game sporting a two-game losing streak, while the Paladins bring in a 4 game win streak. Massey projects a 79-66 win for the Paladins the road, and if they defend the three, I agree, and with the students on break, VMI is a much less intimidating place to play.

The day's afternoon games tips off at 3 pm and will feature the #7 Citadel Bulldogs at the #8 Samford Bulldogs. The Citadel ranks number nine in our power poll, while Samford comes in at number seven. This game will open the conference season for the Samford Bulldogs, while The Citadel has one conference loss, ETSU. Currently, the Citadel leads the conference in scoring offense, putting up 85 points per game (ppg), but also leads the conference in the most points given up, at 79 ppg. The Citadel is averaging 11 3-pointers per game, so like VMI, they are very dangerous when the threes are falling for them. The Citadel is coming off a road loss to NC State, while Samford is currently in a 3 game slide. Massey projects a 90-82 win for Samford at home.

In the second night game, the #9 Mercer Bears visits the co-#1 UNCG Spartans, and the Spartans are ranked #7 on this week's mid-major top 25 rankings. The Bears ranked number eight in our power ranking, while the Spartans come in at number two. Mercer brings in a 6-8 record to the game, and a conference loss to Furman, while the Spartans are 11-3 overall, and 1-0 in the SoCon with a win over VMI. The Spartans are 8-1 out of their last nine games, coming in on a 3 game win streak. Massey projects a 75-56 victory for the Spartans in Greensboro, where they have lost only once this season to NC State.

Who are the individual leaders in the SoCon up to this point in the season?  In scoring, WCU's Mason Faulkner leads the pack with 18.6 points per game (ppg), with Samford's Josh Sharkey a point behind, at 17.5 ppg.  For rebounding, it's Mercer's Ethan Stair with 9.6 rebounds per game followed by Western's Carlos Dotson at 8.8 per game. In assists, it's Samford's Josh Sharkey with 9.5 per game, followed by Western's Mason Faulkner and the Citadel's Tyson Batiste at 6.3 assists per game. Free throws are led by Wofford's Nathan Hoover, hitting 94.6% per game (35 of 37), followed by Mercer's Ethan Stair with 88.4% 38 if 43).

Current Power Rankings
3. Furman
4. Western Carolina
5. Wofford
6. Chattanooga
7. Samford
8. Mercer
9. The Citadel
10. VMI

Current Massey Rankings, as of 12-31-19
60 - ETSU
71 - UNCG
83 - Furman
106 - Wofford
144 - Western Carolina
176 - Chattanooga
250 - Samford
280 - Mercer
284 - The Citadel
327 - VMI


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