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October 17, 2010

League preview: Southern Conference

We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.

The breakdowns will become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.


By Gary Mondello

The two new coaches in the Southern Conference this season come from similarly successful coaching families, but the roads Appalachian State's Jason Capel and The Citadel's Chuck Driesell took to their first Division I head-coaching positions are quite different.

Capel spent just one season as an assistant, at Appalachian State, before landing the top job. Driesell, meanwhile, spent the better part of two decades working his way up, including the past four seasons as an assistant for Gary Williams at Maryland.

Driesell's road to a division title could be long as well. The Citadel competes in the tough South Division with defending league champion Wofford, College of Charleston, Davidson, potential sleeper Georgia Southern and Furman.

Wofford returns four starters off a 26-win team, led by SoCon player of the year Noah Dahlman (16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Tim Johnson (7.9 rpg). The Terriers have an excellent chance to repeat as champs, although top recruit Josh Corry's decision to leave the program hurts.

The College of Charleston returns an excellent backcourt in Andrew Goudelock (19.4 ppg), who should become the school's leading career scorer this season, and Donavan Monroe (12.3 ppg). F Jeremy Simmons (11.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg), the SoCon co-defensive player of the year in 2009-10, is also back for coach Bobby Cremins' Cougars.

Davidson found life after Stephen Curry difficult as it finished 16-15 last season, but the Wildcats should rebound nicely in 2010-11. F Jake Cohen (13.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and G J.P. Kuhlman (12.6 ppg) made the All-SoCon freshman team last season, and G Brendan McKillop, coach Bob McKillop's son, is back for his final season. He led the SoCon in assist-turnover ratio (2.7-1) in 2009-10. Three-star freshman G Tom Droney will give the Wildcats added depth in the backcourt.

Georgia Southern was 9-23 last season under new coach Charlton Young. But a stellar recruiting class, led by three-star G Jelani Hewitt, and the return of senior G Willie Powers (14.7 ppg, 5.5 apg) could make the Eagles the SoCon's surprise team. All five starters return for Furman, led by All-SoCon F Amu Saaka (15.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

That's a lot for Driesell and The Citadel to overcome, so they'll have to go to the Wells - as in Cameron Wells (17.2 ppg) - quite often. The senior guard was an all-league selection last season, but others need to step up if Driesell is going to have success in his debut season.

Things look a bit brighter for Capel and the Mountaineers in the weaker North Division. That's because all-league G Donald Sims (20.4 ppg) returns from a 24-13 squad in Buzz Peterson's one and only season as coach. But the status of C Isaac Butts (knee surgery in August) and F Anthony Breeze (arrested last month on felony drug charges) remains in doubt. That could be a major setback for the Mountaineers' frontcourt as well as their division title hopes.

Chattanooga had a big setback this offseason when it was placed on two years' probation for violations in its athletics program, including men's basketball. The Mocs, though, still will be eligible for postseason play. And the return of three starters, including Gs Ricky Taylor (11.4 ppg) and Keegan Bell (7.6 ppg), offers hope for a postseason trip.

Western Carolina may not be as fortunate after the departures of all-league G Brandon Giles and SoCon co-defensive player of the year Brigham Waginger. G Mike Williams (10.0 ppg) is the only double-digit scorer back for the Catamounts. Elon returns a solid backcourt in Drew Spradlin (13.9 ppg) and Chris Long (9.9 ppg). Leading scorer Josh Davis (12.5 ppg) is back for Samford. UNC Greensboro returns only one senior in G Brandon Evans (8.5 ppg), but sophomore G Kyle Randall (9.5 ppg) could have a breakout season.

F Noah Dahlman, Wofford (6-6/220, Sr.)
F Amu Saaka, Furman (6-6/210, Sr.)
G Andrew Goudelock, C of C (6-2/200, Sr.)
G Donald Sims, Appalachian St. (6-1/170, Sr.)
G Cameron Wells, The Citadel (6-1/195, Sr.)
F Jake Cohen, Davidson (6-10/220, Soph.)
F Tim Johnson, Wofford (6-6/228, Sr.)
F Jeremy Simmons, C of C (6-8/230, Sr.)
G J.P. Kuhlman, Davidson (6-4/190, Soph.)
G Willie Powers, Ga. Southern (6-2/200, Sr.)

PLAYER OF YEAR: F Noah Dahlman, Wofford
NEWCOMER OF YEAR: G Jelani Hewitt,
Georgia Southern (6-2/186, Fr.)


1. Chattanooga
2. Appalachian State
3. Western Carolina
4. Elon
5. Samford
6. UNC Greensboro
1. Wofford
2. College of Charleston
3. Davidson
4. Georgia Southern
5. The Citadel
6. Furman

New coaches: Jason Capel at Appalachian State (promoted from assistant); Chuck Driesell at The Citadel (had been an assistant at Maryland)
Regular-season winner last season: Wofford won the South Division and had the best overall record. Appalachian State won the North Division.
Tourney winner last season: Wofford
League RPI in each of the past three seasons: 17th in 2009-10, 20th in 2008-09, 21st in 2007-08
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2008, Davidson as a No. 10 seed reached Elite Eight
2011 conference tournament: March 4-7, Chattanooga, Tenn.

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