2013-2014 Southern Conference Preview: Can Elon unseat reigning champ Davidson?

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source:
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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

When the realignment dominoes began tumbling the general consensus was that it would take a lot to impact the leagues that don’t sponsor FBS football. That assumption ended up being misguided, and the Southern Conference is an example of this. The College of Charleston is now in the CAA and four more schools, including Davidson, will leave at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.

But that won’t have an impact on the conference race this season, one that should be hotly contested. When discussing the SoCon, Bob McKillop’s Davidson squad has to be mentioned, but the Wildcats do have some key personnel losses to address. De’Mon Brooks, the team’s lone returning double-digit scorer, will be asked to lead the way and Miami-Ohio transfer Brian Sullivan should also have an impact after sitting out last season.

Even with the standard of excellence established by Davidson, the Wildcats aren’t seen as the favorites in the SoCon this season. Why? Because an Elon squad that won 21 games last season returns all five starters, including senior guard Jack Isenbarger. Add in forwards Ryley Beaumont (11.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Lucas Troutman (15.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and head coach Matt Matheny has a team more than ready to grab the league’s top spot.

Another program with the pieces needed to challenge for SoCon supremacy is Western Carolina, which returns its top five scorers from a season ago including the prolific Trey Sumler. But whether or not the Catamounts make a run at the title will depend upon their front court, with WCU finishing last season 11th in the SoCon in defensive rebounding percentage. Other teams with the potential to factor into the equation are Appalachian State, Samford and Wofford, with all three returning at least four starters from last season.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: None
Out: College of Charleston (CAA)

PRESEASON SOUTHERN CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: G Trey Sumler (Western Carolina)

Sumler averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game as a redshirt junior, posting a solid offensive rating of 111.0. Sumler failed to reach double figures in points just three times last season, scoring a season-high 32 in a loss at Elon in late-January. Given his ability to put points on the board, look for the fifth-year season to take home SoCon Player of the Year honors.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • F De’Mon Brooks (Davidson): With Jake Cohen gone the Wildcats will need even more from Brooks (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
  • G Jack Isenbarger (Elon): The versatile Isenbarger (13.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.6 apg) leads the way for the preseason favorites.
  • F Kyle Cain (UNC Greensboro): The Arizona State transfer possesses the tools needed to have an immediate impact after sitting out last season.
  • G Raijon Kelly (Samford): Kelly (14.1 ppg, 4.7 apg) is one reason why the Bulldogs should be much-improved in 2013-14.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Elon
2. Davidson
3. Western Carolina
4. Appalachian State
5. Wofford
6. Samford
7. Chattanooga
8. UNC Greensboro
9. Furman
10. Georgia Southern
11. The Citadel

 

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: