Tag: Karl Cochran

Karl Cochran (Getty Images)

Southern Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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Karl Cochran (Getty Images)

The SoCon looks quite a bit different than it has in past seasons, as Davidson and the College of Charleston are no longer in the league while new additions like Mercer and East Tennessee State have made an immediate impact. And while there has been some turnover in the membership, the league’s power still ended up being Wofford, as many predicted prior to the season. The Terriers are a veteran-laden group, but they split their two games with Chattanooga, who finished in second in the conference, this season.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

The Bracket


When: March 6-9

Where: U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.

Final: Monday, March 9 7:00 p.m. ESPN2

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Wofford

The Terriers returned essentially their entire roster from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and it showed during the season. After notching a number of quality non-conference wins — Iona, Charleston Southern, N.C. State — Wofford ended up winning the outright SoCon title. Wofford is led by league Player of the Year. Karl Cochran.

And if they lose?: Chattanooga

Shaka Smart protégé Will Wade has turned the Mocs into one of the most promising mid-major programs in the country. The goal is to eventually run ‘Chaos’, which is the mid-major version of VCU’s ‘Havoc’, and while they aren’t completely chaotic just yet, this is still a team that has won quite a few games in the past two years. The addition of VCU transfer Justin Tuoyo this season was huge.


  • Mercer: Last season, the Bears won the Atlantic Sun to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where they upset Duke in the opening round. They lost seven seniors off that team, but they also changed leagues and, led by a powerfully athletic guard like Ike Nwamu, finished in third in the always-tough SoCon.
  • Western Carolina: The Catamounts are led by the SoCon’s most dynamic guard, James Sinclair, and while they finished just 9-9 in league play, they were one of just three teams that were actually able to notch a win over either Wofford or Chattanooga.

Player of the Year: Karl Cochran, Wofford

A 6-foot-1 guard, Cochran was the spark for Wofford’s offense this season. He averaged 15.0 points, 5.8 boards, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals on the season while shooting 37.5 percent from three as the team’s only real perimeter threat.

Coach of the Year: Mike Young, Wofford

Young is the easy pick here, as he was able to back up the preseason projections and win the league’s regular season title. His job was made easier by the fact that he had a veteran team coming off of a league tournament championship from last season.

All-Southern Conference Team:

  • Cochran
  • Jalen Riley, ETSU – Riley finished the season averaging a league-best 20.7 points.
  • Ike Nwamu, Mercer – Nwamu led the Bears in their first season in the SoCon, leading them to a third place finish in the league.
  • Casey Jones, Chattanooga – Jones was the leading scorer and the best player for the Mocs, the clear-cut second-best team in the conference.
  • James Sinclair, Western Carolina – Sinclair was the most dynamic player in the conference, averaging 19.1 points, 5.7 boards and 3.1 assists, which included the 40 points he had against VMI.

CBT PREDICTION: Wofford returns to the tournament by beating Mercer in the finals.

Second half surge gives Wofford an early morning win over Iona

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On Monday, Wofford announced plans for a new arena, a gift provided by alum and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. The 92,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in September 2017. For now, the Benjamin Johnson Arena will do work just fine, as evident by the packed crowd on hand for the Terriers’ 7 a.m. tip with MAAC favorite Iona on Tuesday morning.

Wofford, the reigning Southern Conference champion, and favorite to retain that title, outdueled the Gaels, 86-73, in an offensive shootout to pick up its first win of the season.

The Terriers shot 54 percent from the field, including a 6-of-9 shooting from three in the second half (9-of-17 in the game) to turn a three-point halftime deficit into a 13-point victory.

Iona and Wofford traded the lead three times to begin the game before the Terriers began to attack the offensive glass, using second-chance points to spark a lengthy run to extend the lead to double-digits. Wofford led 60-56 when a Justin Gordon putback slam livened the 3,500 in attendance. A minute later Lee Skinner (15 points, nine rebounds) attacked the glass again leading to another second-chance bucket.

Wofford turned 11 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points.

Iona’s first half shooting as the morning coffee in Spartanburg, South Carolina: hot, converting on 56 percent its shots while connecting on 7-of-12 from beyond the arc. Although in the second half, a David Laury triple would account for the Gaels’ only deep ball (1-of-5). Laury and A.J. English made eight trips each to the line, converting on 13-of-16 attempts. Unfortunately, for almost seven minutes in the second half, that was the only source of offense for Tim Cluess’ program. In that span, Wofford turned a four-point lead into an 82-66 advantage.

Laury led all scorers with 23 points. English followed with 22 points, four rebounds and three assists. Karl Cochran (20 points) was one of four Terriers in double figures along with Skinner (15), Justin Gordon (13) and Jaylen Allen (11).

Wofford’s first win comes days after an opening night loss to Stanford. The Terriers travel to Fairfield on Friday night to take on another MAAC opponent. Iona, coming off a five-point win against Cleveland State, has a road meeting with Danny Manning and Wake Forest on Friday.

Not even Wofford’s coach saw them becoming the Southern Conference’s best program

Wofford guard Karl Cochran (Getty Images)
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Wofford guard Karl Cochran (Getty Images)

For years, the Southern Conference has been considered one of the strongest mid-major conferences in the country.

The reason for that, more than anything, was the presence of Davidson at the top of the conference. Regardless of how good the Wildcats have been, ever since Steph Curry burst onto the scene, first leading Davidson to within a 3-pointer of the Final Four and then playing his way into the top 10 of the NBA Draft, the Wildcats have been a default pick as one of the nation’s best mid-major teams.

That’s no longer the case, however, as Davidson has made the move to the Atlantic 10 for this season. Elon, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern followed the Wildcats out the door, which mattered less for the basketball side of things than last season’s departure of the College of Charleston.

The news isn’t all bad for the league. VMI won 24 games last season and will be rejoining the conference after spending time in the Big South. East Tennessee State and Mercer, two quality basketball programs that are well-funded and well-supported, join the conference as well. And that’s before mentioning that Will Wade has turned Chattanooga into the epicenter of ‘Chaos’. Perhaps the best news for the SoCon is that the Wofford Terriers are currently the best program in the conference, which, for those of you that aren’t fluent in South Carolina basketball, is quite surprising.

That’s not me being mean, either.

Wofford’s head coach Mike Young will tell you the same thing, and he would know. He’s been with the program since 1989. He’s been the head coach since 2002. He knows the program better than anyone else in the entire world.

“Not a chance in hell,” Young said when I asked him if he ever thought the Terriers would be in this spot, and he wasn’t done driving the point home, either. “Nope. Not. A chance. In hell.”

And there’s a reason for that.

You see, when Young first joined the Wofford staff, he was joining a program that was making the transition from the NAIA to the NCAA. Division II, that is. It was almost a decade until the Terriers would move up to the highest level of college sports, but it would still take another 13 seasons before Wofford would make their first NCAA tournament.

That was in 2010.

And here we are in 2014, and the Terriers have won three of the last five automatic bids, own a pair of regular season titles during that stretch and will enter this season as the favorite to make the Big Dance once again.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that was attainable,” Young said. “But here we are. We’ve done it and we’ve it the right way and continue to do it the right way, and that’s a special feeling.”

The example that Young gives when he talks about doing things “the right way” is Aerris Smith, a senior on last year’s NCAA tournament team that just so happened to be the only holdover from the group that made the 2011 tournament. That didn’t mean he played much, however, as Smith had the kind of knee issues that would have forced him to sit out if his future was in professional basketball. He needed microfracture surgery, the procedure that helped turn Amare Stoudamire and Greg Oden into a shell of themselves.

But Smith couldn’t do anymore damage to himself by playing and putting off the surgery, so he put off the surgery, swam six mornings a week at the Y to stay in shape, sat out every single practice of his senior season and gave Young the seven or eight minutes a night off the bench that he knew the team needed to help them win.

By the time the regular season was over, Smith knew that he had had enough. He would play out the SoCon tournament and then get the surgery, regardless of how the Terriers did.

“He came into my office and, very matter of factly, no emotion, said, ‘Coach, I can’t do it anymore. I’m having trouble sleeping now. I’ve got to get this thing taken care of,'” Young said, pausing to keep compose himself. “I get emotional thinking about it.”

You know the rest of the story. Wofford won the automatic bid, and Smith announced that his career was over in a powerful, emotional postgame interview.

Smith is gone, coaching high school ball back in his native Charlotte, but everyone else on the Terrier roster is back this season. That includes nine of the 10 players on the Wofford roster that started at least five games last year.

Karl Cochran, who averaged 15.7 points and 3.0 assists, will likely enter the season as the SoCon Player of the Year even though he may not be the most valuable player on the roster. That title goes to Les Skinner, Young says, an undersized power forward that averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 boards through sheer determination.

“He’s the straw that stirs our drink,” Young says. “He doesn’t get the notoriety and accolades that some others may get, but we’re not nearly as good without him.”

Skinner and Cochran are both seniors, which means that, regardless of how this season plays out, Wofford will have some pieces to replace next season. But Spencer Collins, a 6-foot-4 guard that was the team’s second-leading scorer last year, has started every game in his first two seasons on campus. And according to Young, the team’s two most improved players — sophomore Jaylen Allen and junior Justin Gordon — both have a long time left in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Wofford is a basketball power right now.

No one, quite literally, saw that coming.