College basketball practice officially begins on Friday, and Nooga.com gives you an examination of Southern Conference basketball. Here’s the second installment — a key question for each of the SoCon’s six South Division schools:
The Citadel—Will added experience pay off for the Bulldogs?
The Bulldogs struggled a year ago.
They made less than 44 percent of their field goal attempts and averaged just 64 points.
There is good news for The Citadel, though. While limping to last season’s 6-24 finish, the Bulldogs had an extremely young team. Head coach Chuck Driesell hopes that added year of experience pays off.
“They knew they were young and they knew if they put in their work it would pay off down the road, and that’s what we’re anticipating this season,” Driesell said.
Center Mike Groselle will log big minutes again this season, but beyond the 6-8 senior, the Bulldogs are left with seven sophomores and five freshmen.
Guards Marshall Harris III (4.5 ppg, 2.5 apg), Ashton Moore (7.4 ppg) and Lawrence Miller (6.2 ppg) all saw plenty of playing time as true freshmen, as did forwards C.J. Bray (4.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and P.J. Horgan (1.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
College of Charleston—What can the Cougars expect from coach Doug Wojcik?
The Cougars are coming off a 19-win season in 2011-12, and they return a solid nucleus from a year ago. They appear to have all the pieces in place to win 20 games for the fourth time in the last five seasons, but will have to do so without former head coach Bobby Cremins, who retired last spring.
The new man in charge is Doug Wojcik. Wojcik, who spent the last seven years at Tulsa, posted a 140-92 record with the Golden Hurricanes but was fired after last year’s 17-14 finish.
“Coach Cremins and his staff did a very good job,” Wojcik said. “They got kids with high character. It’s a very attractive job and allows me personally to get back to the East Coast.”
Wojcik played at Navy and was an assistant for the Midshipmen before spending two seasons at Michigan State under Spartans legend Tom Izzo.
“I thought Tom, who was like a big brother to me, had the greatest effect on my career,” Wojcik said. “He impacted me more than anyone else in terms of running a complete program.”
Davidson—How good can the Wildcats be?
Head coach Bob McKillop returns his top eight scorers from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and there doesn’t appear to be anything stopping Davidson from returning to the Big Dance again this season.
“That’s something that inspires and motivates our guys,” McKillop said. “The guys understood they accomplished a lot, but they didn’t accomplish enough. They’ve been passionate in their willingness to push themselves further and take themselves out of any comfort zones.”
The Wildcats’ backcourt is loaded with talent — Nik Cochran (10.9 ppg, 3.6 apg), JP Kuhlman (10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Chris Czerapowicz (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Tom Droney (3.8 ppg, 2.7 apg).
The team’s top two scorers from a season ago — De’Mon Brooks (15.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Jake Cohen (14.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) — will man the frontcourt.
Furman—Can the Paladins stay healthy?
Furman didn’t have an experienced team to begin with last season, and constant injuries only made things worse.
Paladins head coach Jeff Jackson had to regularly shuffle his starting lineup, and the seventh-year head coach started 11 different players throughout the course of the year.
“It really created a situation where we weren’t bad, we weren’t good, we were kind of somewhere in between,” Jackson said. “Not a whole lot we could do about it except to get healthy. For most part, we hung in there. It was a year where we’d win one, lose one, win one, lose one. That pretty much became our pattern.”
Furman looks to break that pattern this season with several key contributors returning, including Jordan Loyd (6.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Bobby Austin (7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and Charlie Reddick (10.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg).
The Paladins have a chance, if their players can stay on the court.
Georgia Southern—How will the Eagles’ late-season momentum carry over to this year?
The Eagles enter 2012-13 with last year’s late-season push for a SoCon South title fresh in their minds.
That could be a good thing, but then again, it might be bad.
“We had a little success, and it wasn’t nearly the success we expect, and these guys really thought they were the Beatles,” head coach Charlton Young said.
The team stumbled out of the gate, losing eight of 11, but by January, Georgia Southern started clicking. The Eagles completed an 8-1 stretch in SoCon play that lasted nearly a month and defeated Chattanooga 76-70 in the first round of the conference tournament.
Georgia Southern’s Eric Ferguson is arguably the best player in the conference. At 6-7, the sophomore led the league in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg) — the last player to do so since former NBA player Michael Curry accomplished that feat in 1989-90.
The talent is certainly there in Statesboro, but will the Eagles play up to their potential?
“It takes more than talent to win,” Young said. “We’ve got a little talent, but it takes more than talent. We just need to find a way to improve our discipline.
Wofford—Can the Terriers reload again this season?
Last season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Terriers.
It turned out to be anything but that. Wofford finished the season with 19 wins, and made its third straight postseason appearance.
The Terriers will be charged with a similar task this season, as head coach Mike Young has 13 underclassmen on his roster.
“This is year 27, so it's not the first time I've been faced with it,” Young said. “Let's be honest—it's not ideal, but in some ways it’s refreshing to get back. We went through three years there when we started with K’s in the alphabet instead of A's in terms of how we do things.
“We're going to have to start back at the beginning in terms of our style and in terms of how we do it, but that's not all bad either. I like our group, and it will be fun putting it together.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.