State of the Conference, Post non-Con:
As we stand on the brink of a brutal conference schedule, it is proper that we look back on the first 10 games of the season for the 12 members of the USA South. To begin, I should relate the results of the pre-season award voting:
The runner-up for the first annual pre-season all-USA South Conference point guard is... Eric Natale, Junior, La Grange. And the Award Winner, by an overwhelming margin, is Greensboro Junior Kevin Murphy!
The runner-up for All-Conference shooting guard, a junior out of North Carolina Wesleyan, is Michael Flowers. And your winner, again garnering most of the first-place ballots, is another junior, Samuel Delapaz from La Grange!
Moving on to the awards for small forwards, our runner up is only a sophomore. Out of Piedmont University, Rafael Hobbs! And the winner, a junior also from Piedmont University, Mathew Lauver!
The power forwards. Your runner up is a senior from Averett University: Antoine Maurer! And the winner is... Jeffrey Caple, the senior from Chowan.
This brings us to our last position, but they are certainly not least. In fact, these are the biggest guys on the court. Your centers - the runner up, a senior from Greensboro University, Victor Matney! And the winner, a 6'11", 243-pound behemoth, another senior and also from Greensboro, is Wilbur Sheets!
The relative scarcity of seniors among the All-Conference Team winners is a strong sign pointing towards a great future in the USA South Conference. Other strong signs of this same forthcoming greatness are featured amongst our candidates for Freshman of the Year. Expectations varied wildly among this group, so the runner-up award is actually shared by three players: La Grange Center David Somers (who, ironically, has yet to appear in a game), Shenandoah Small Forward Charles Fisk, and Methodist Center Jim McCadams (7.1 points, 6.2 reb/game). The winner is Greensboro guard Thomas Majors. Like Somers, Majors is coming off a redshirt season and comes into his redshirt freshman year with some knowledge of his team's system. Unlike Somers, he has played in every game, is averaging over 18 minutes, and has dished out over 3 assists per game while also scoring the odd bucket and grabbing a few boards.
The Defensive Player of the Year Pre-Season award will be shared. Your winners are William Anderson, the shot-blocking center from La Grange, and David Tankersley, a defensively minded junior guard from Methodist.
Our final Pre-Season Player Award is for the Conference Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see whether we feel the players we thought would be the best actually end up that way. The runner up is an offensively-minded Power Forward from Chowan University. Last season, Jeffrey Caple scored 9.8 points per game on nearly 54% shooting while also contributing 4.2 rebounds. He'll look to build on those numbers and provide senior leadership this season.
None of the positional awards were won by a unanimous decision. Remarkably, the Pre-Season CPOY was. Perhaps the fact that he doesn't fit perfectly into his "preferred" position cost him in the positional voting. This player is a junior guard out of Greensboro. Last year, Kevin Murphy scored over 10 points per game and also dished out 2.7 assists while shooting an incredible 44% from beyond the arc. This year he thinks he can actually improve upon this incredibly offensive performance, improving his shooting on what he hopes will be a larger number of shots to become a truly outstanding scorer.
Perhaps the most important award we hand out in the pre-season isn't for the players at all. We all know that while college basketball is played out on the court, it's the coaches who bring together the players and teach the skills that win Conference and National Championships. Most often the biggest part of that equation is bringing in the talent. Here in the USA South, we realize that having the right players is well over half the battle. Thus, Pre-Season "Recruiter of the Year" awards should be considered just as prestigious and perhaps more important than postseason "Coach of the Year" honors. With that in mind, this year's Recruiter of the Year award will be split between a veteran and a newcomer. The new guy is first-year Methodist coach dahsdebater. Methodist's five-man class included a sophomore junior college product being trained to run the point in Jamie Wellman, a defensive and rebounding oriented center in Joe Randall, a small forward with near limitless potential in Jason Evans, and Joe Mortensen and Jim McCadams, two future dominant players in the post who will solidify the interior of the Methodist squad for the next four years. The veteran is perennial national contender narcotico from Greensboro. Narcotico's class included two offensively-minded outside scoring point guards in John Hendricks and Ronnie Giordano. The class was rounded out with a potential monster in the low post, center Glenn Freitag.
Having doled out the pre-season hardware, it's time to take a quick look around the conference to see where we stand. Incredibly, the conference is doing quite well as a group in the non-conference schedule in spite of enduring 5 coaching changes in the offseason. We currently sport the 2nd-highest conference RPI (unfortunately stuck behind the hated ODAC) and combined for 75 wins in the non-conference portion of the schedule, more than any other conference except the Upstate, whose teams combined to equal our total. As of now we boast 2 ranked teams: narcotico's Greensboro group, ranked 4th and with an RPI of 12, and bobbynite's La Grange team, ranked 23rd but with an RPI of 3. The conference also holds two undefeated teams: dahsdebater's Methodist squad has gone 10-0 in spite of starting 3 freshmen, and jetwildcat's Palm Beach Atlantic team have equaled that total in the Western Division. Another first-year coach, dukenilnil of North Carolina Wesleyan, has won 9 of his 10 out-of-conference contests. Undoubtedly all of these coaches have benefited from the fairly easy non-con schedules they inherited from the previous coaches at their schools. We can only assume that they will schedule more challenging opponents next season, likely leading to a decrease in win totals but hopefully a simultaneous jump in the SOS and RPI numbers. Of course, the SOS for all schools in the conference (except perhaps Chowan, with a current SOS 6th toughest in the Nation and La Grange with the 8th most challenging slate so far) will likely be going up during conference play given the aggregate RPI and non-conference records already discussed.