published Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The March to March in the SoCon

NORTH DIVISION

Appalachian State (3-2)

The march so far: ASU earned wins over two non-Division I teams and won at Tennessee Tech by five. But it also lost at East Tennessee State and against East Carolina.

Marching leaders: Junior college transfer Jamaal Trice (16.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) played 10 games at UConn as a freshman two years ago, and junior Omar Carter (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) got votes for SoCon preseason player of the year.

Prediction for March: The Mountaineers are learning to play without Donald Sims, who could bail them out of situations. Carter has control of the team on the court now, and Trice has been a surprise so far.

UTC (2-4)

The march so far: The Mocs earned an easy win over Warren Wilson and escaped Savannah State. Losses to Kennesaw State and Gardner-Webb at home were head-scratchers.

Marching leaders: It starts with the senior trio of point guard Keegan Bell (8.5 ppg, 6.5 apg), scoring leader Omar Wattad (11.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and shooting guard Ricky Taylor (10.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

Prediction for March: The Mocs started their season 2-8 the last time they reached the NCAA tournament. This team shouldn't fall to 2-6, let along 2-8. If so, it will be a cold winter in the Scenic City and a long wait until March.

Elon (3-2)

The march so far: The Phoenix have been solid, beating South Carolina and Princeton. Their losses are to UMass and N.C. State.

Marching leaders: Sophomore post Lucas Troutman (14.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) made a big leap. Drew Spradlin (11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Sebastian Koch (10.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are both shooting better than 45 percent from the arc.

Prediction for March: Elon is in its third season under former Davidson assistant Matt Matheny, who has turned the team into a North Division threat after going 7-11 in the SoCon last season.

Samford (1-3)

The march so far: The Bulldogs' lone win was at UT-Arlington.

Marching leaders: Senior guard Jeffrey Merritt (12.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is the main beneficiary of the Princeton-style offense.

Prediction for March: Samford is 19-37 in the SoCon after moving from the Ohio Valley Conference three years ago. Its best mark was 9-11 two years ago, and a .500 SoCon record this year would be a surprise.

UNC Greensboro (2-4)

The march so far: UNCG usually has one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country. It beat UNC Pembroke and Towson after losing at Tennessee and Georgetown.

Marching leaders: Sophomore Trevis Simpson (12.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) leads a team with only three seniors on the roster. Freshman Nick Paulos (7.8 ppg) has been a pleasant surprise.

Prediction for March: It's probably better to play the Spartans early before the youngsters mature. They have won six SoCon games the last two years and are capable of at least matching that number this season.

Western Carolina (3-4)

The march so far: WCU is 1-4 against Division I teams. Each of the four losses has been by at least 17 points, including a 59-39 defeat at Northern Iowa.

Marching leaders: Senior guard Harouna Mutombo (13.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg) has played several roles in his career and now must be the leader. Sophomore Brandon Boggs (11.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) improved from his first year, and sophomore Trey Sumler (10.3 ppg) is a sharp point guard.

Prediction for March: The Catamounts are off to a disappointing start, especially after sharing the North Division title last year. A repeat seems doubtful, but Larry Hunter is one of the 10 winningest active coaches.

SOUTH DIVISION

College of Charleston (5-1)

The march so far: The Cougars won at Clemson and beat Morehead State and UMass with its loss coming to Central Florida in the Bahamas.

Marching leaders: Senior Antwaine Wiggins (17.5 ppg, 5.8 ppg) is the star now that Andrew Goudelock graduated. Sophomore Trent Wiedeman (11.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and junior Andrew Lawrence (11.7 ppg) could be All-SoCon players.

Prediction for March: The Cougars fell to Wofford in the championship game in March. They are talented enough to win the South and vie for a return to the final. The only question is whether they'll continue o improve or let other teams catch up to them.

Davidson (4-1)

The march so far: The Wildcats beat Richmond, lost to Duke after leading by one at halftime and won at UNC Wilmington.

Marching leaders: Sophomore De'Mon Brooks ( 15.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg) leads a balanced attack with juniors J.P. Kuhlman (14.2 ppg) and Nik Cochran (10.4 ppg).

Prediction for March: Stephen Curry has been at practice, but not in practice. This is the most talented and experienced Davidson team since he left and is capable of challenging for the South Division title.

Furman (3-2)

The march so far: The Paladins lost by 20 at Mercer but also won at Columbia and against Loyola-Chicago.

Marching leaders: Junior Bryant Irwin (10.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has more than doubled his scoring and rebounding from last year. Senior Brandon Sebirumbi (9.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is one of the SoCon's best post players.

Prediction for March: The Paladins are a mix of experience and youth, which typically leads to inconsistency. Reaching 12 SoCon wins for a second straight year is a tall task.

Georgia Southern (1-4)

The march so far: The Eagles lost by nine at Wake Forest and grabbed their only win over Webber International.

Marching leaders: Sophomore Eric Ferguson (16.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) must have lived in the weight room this summer. Senior Willie Powers (10.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is back after losing last year to a knee injury.

Prediction for March: The Eagles have gone from one of the youngest teams in America last year to a team that's building on last year's experience with the addition of Powers to maintain composure. Their improvement should be drastic.

The Citadel (2-3)

The march so far: The Bulldogs beat Army in a military rivalry game but lost to VMI the day before, and most recently lost in overtime at High Point.

Marching leaders: Junior center Mike Groselle (18.2 ppg, 11.2 rpg) leads the SoCon in scoring and rebounding. Sophomore guard DeVontae Wright (9.2 ppg) had a career-high of four points before this year, and Barry Smith (8.8 ppg) played in only five games last year.

Prediction for March: Second-year coach Chuck Driesell said this feels more like his first season because so many youngsters are playing instead of the veterans he inherited. This is what's called a learning season.

Wofford (3-3)

The march so far: The Terriers opened with a loss a Georgia, scored only 33 points at Wisconsin and most recently beat Prairie View A&M.

Marching leaders: Seniors Kevin Giltner (14.3 ppg) and Brad Loesing (11.7 ppg) have the responsibility of carrying on the tradition of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.

Prediction for March: Hopefully the Terriers savored every second of the last two successful seasons, because success will have a different definition without graduates Noah Dahlman, Tim Johnson, Cameron Rundles and crew.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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