SoCon hoops is upon us; hide the women and children

I long for a simpler time, when life’s problems were all solved in half-hour increments (allowing for an occasional one-hour special) and conference play in basketball didn’t start until January.  Those days are gone, however, and so it’s time for some SoCon hoops.  Last night Appalachian State kicked off the conference season by beating Furman.  There are two games tonight, College of Charleston-Elon and the game everyone in the nation is awaiting, The Citadel-UNC Greensboro.

This will be the seventeenth time these two non-rivals have faced off.  Sixteen of those appearances have come since UNCG attained Division I status in 1992.  The Citadel won the first four games of the series, but the Spartans have won 11 of the last 12, all of which have come since UNCG entered the Southern Conference (the Spartans began Division I existence in the Big South).  UNCG has had some good teams during that stretch, and The Citadel…has not.  The Citadel has only won at Fleming Gym in Greensboro one time, on its first visit in 1992, losing six straight at UNCG since then.  Overall the Spartans have beaten the Bulldogs eight straight times.

This season UNC-Greensboro must replace Kyle Hines, a 6’8″ bruiser who used The Citadel to enhance his All-Conference credentials, and it’s off to a tough start in doing so.  The Spartans are 1-3, with the one victory over non-Division I opponent Webber International.  UNCG has also lost non-competitive games at UNC Charlotte and North Carolina State, while also losing on the road to Central Arkansas (which beat The Citadel in Cancun last weekend, of course).

UNCG has some ugly offensive numbers so far this season.  It is shooting 39.7% from the field (44.8% eFG) and only 58.2% from the foul line.  Its turnover rate per possession is among the nation’s worst.  Its assist/turnover ratio is abysmal. 

Defensively, it is allowing opponents to shoot 2-pt. shots at a 56.9% clip, which is alarming.  Demetrius Nelson, take heed.  UNCG does appear to rebound the ball fairly well.  Again, with only three games played, warnings about small sample sizes need apply.

Individually, the Spartans are led by Mikko Koivisto, a 6’4″ guard from Finland averaging 15.8 points per game with solid stats across the board.  They employ a nine-man rotation (UNCG has only 10 scholarship players this season).  Ben Stywall, a 6’5″ forward, is the leading rebounder, pulling down 8 boards per game, but he’s not making shots, either from the field or the foul line (10-23 from the stripe). 

I don’t have a sense for how this game may turn out.  Considering how dominant UNCG has been in this series over the past decade, it would be hard to bet against them winning again tonight, but perhaps The Citadel can take advantage of some early-season struggles by the Spartans.  I like The Citadel’s recent trend of low-possession games, and I think that should continue (the Spartans’ games have mostly been played at an average tempo).  Offensively, the Bulldogs need to keep holding onto the ball, waiting for good shot opportunities, get some inside scoring, and take (and make) free throws.  Defensively, The Citadel needs to do a good job guarding the perimeter (especially against Koivisto) and hold its own on the boards.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: