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Dean's List - Preseason preview, part 2
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 11/07/2017
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Courtesy: Southern Conference
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Note: The following piece was prepared by Dean Keener, who provides commentary on Southern Conference men’s basketball broadcasts.

Keener played collegiately at Davidson before embarking on a successful 20-year coaching career. He served as head coach at James Madison from 2004-08. You can follow him on twitter: @DeanKeener1

The Dean’s List
This is the second part of a two-part preseason series on Southern Conference men’s basketball

While there are several terrific players and six or seven really good teams in the Southern Conference this season, I don’t believe there is a clear-cut team to win the league. Taking care of home court will be one of the keys to win the regular season. For that reason, it should be fun watching all of the stories that unfold this year. 

Again this year, I have put together my predications for the coming season. I’m certain some of these will cause debate among Southern Conference fans at each of the 10 schools. I know nothing is exact and there is always a lot of uncertainty, especially this early in the season, but here are my “Best Bets” for the 2017-18 season:

Best nonconference games

• Nov. 10: South Carolina at Wofford
What a terrific game to open the new Richardson Indoor Stadium

• Nov. 10: Samford at Arkansas
Opening night of college hoops and something tells me Scott Padgett’s crew will be ready for the Razorbacks

• Nov. 17: ETSU at Kentucky
The Bucs travel to Rupp Arena. Could Steve Forbes team catch the young Wildcats before they are primed?

• Nov. 29: Furman at Winthrop
An under-the-radar game, but one of those games the Southern Conference needs to win in order to help its conference RPI

• Nov. 29: Mercer at Tennessee
The veteran Bears have a legitimate chance in this one

• Dec. 6 Georgia Tech at Wofford
An ACC school visiting Wofford. Something tells me the Terriers will play very well

• Dec. 10 Charlotte at Chattanooga
The Mocs are always good at home. This is another one of those nonconference games the league needs to capture 

• Dec. 13: UNCW at UNCG
One of the few home games a SoCon teams has against an NCAA tournament team from a year ago

Best conference games

• Dec. 30: Chattanooga at Samford
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs get the Mocs without the students. Regardless, this is a big game

• Dec. 31: ETSU at Mercer
What a way to start conference play! Happy New Year to all! 

• Jan. 13: Chattanooga at The Citadel
Saturday games at McAlister Field House are always tough on the visitors. The Mocs lost last year and will have to be ready for a track meet or else

• Feb. 10: Wofford at Furman
These two programs have developed an intense rivalry

• Feb. 17: Furman at Samford
Senior Day for the Bulldogs

• Feb. 25: Furman at ETSU
This game could have major implications. Can the Bucs play well on Senior Night? 

• Feb. 25: Mercer at Wofford
I love this growing rivalry

• Feb. 25: Samford at UNCG
This game looms very large in the last week of the regular season

The Best …

• Perimeter scorer
Preston Parks (The Citadel)

• Low post scorer
Cameron Jackson (Wofford)

• Passer
Christen Cunningham (Samford)

• Shooter
Fletcher Magee (Wofford) 

• Rebounder
Wyatt Walker (Samford)

• Shot blocker
James Dickey (UNCG)

• Defender
Josh Sharkey (Samford)

• In the clutch
Fletcher Magee (Wofford)

• Speed
Justin Coleman (Samford)

• Toughness
Francis Alonso (UNCG)

• Potential X-factor
Ethan Stair (Mercer)

• Transfer
Kanayo Obi-Rapu (ETSU)
Justin Coleman (Samford)

• Versatility
Stephon Jelks (Mercer)

• Frontcourt
Mercer

• Backcourt
Samford

Player most likely to …

Lead the league in scoring
Fletcher Magee (Wofford)

• Lead the league in rebounding
Wyatt Walker (Samford)

• Lead the league in assists
Christen Cunningham (Samford)

• Lead the league in shots per minute
Preston Parks (The Citadel)

• Lead the league in charges taken
Alex Peters (Samford)

• Have a breakout year
Matt Rafferty (Furman)

• Record a triple-double
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson (Samford)

• Score 40 points in a game
Fletcher Magee (Wofford)

SoCon “Super Six”

The league lost several good players from a year ago, but there is always another wave of talent, and this year is no different in the SoCon. While it’s not easy selecting players for a preseason all-conference team, these guys are simply some of the best the Southern Conference has to offer:

Devin Sibley (Furman)
The Player of the Year can do it all. Sibley will be a marked man this season, but he is up to the task. Look for this ultra-tough competitor to challenge for POY honors again

Fletcher Magee (Wofford)
Magee burst on the college scene as a freshman and has continued to establish himself as one of the top shooters in all of college basketball. He can score from 25 feet and in

Francis Alonso (UNCG)
Alonso became the all-time leading freshman scorer in UNCG history and was just a good as a sophomore. Like Magee, he is a gifted long-range shooter

Demetrius Denzel-Dyson (Samford)
Denzel-Dyson is one talented player! On a team full of really good players, he has the ability to shine the brightest as the best overall player

Stephon Jelks (Mercer)
If Jelks can get back to doing what he does best (rebound like a mad man and score inside 16 feet), he can be the most valuable player in the league. He can do a bit of everything and is also a great leader

Ria’n Holland (Mercer)
Holland is an extremely talented guard who has the confidence to think he can win the game by himself. While coaches love that in players, Holland simply needs to pick his spots, get to the free-throw line and distribute when double-teamed. If so, everything else will take care of itself

Others considered (alphabetically): Desonta Bradford (ETSU), Justin Coleman (Samford), Christen Cunningham (Samford), James Dickey (UNCG), Cameron Jackson (Wofford), Demetre Rivers (Mercer), Wyatt Walker (Samford)

SoCon "Off-Broadway"

I love compiling this annual list of the most indispensable players in the Southern Conference. This group is not necessarily the best players in the league. And while these guys don’t get always get the headlines; they are vitally important to the success of their team:

Josh Sharkey (Samford)
Personally, I think Sharkey is the best player no one has heard of in college basketball. He’s tough, quick and unselfish. That’s a great combination for any player, especially a point guard

Marc Gosselin (Western Carolina)
Gosselin needs to shoot a good percentage if the Catamounts are to make some noise in the SoCon

Desonta Bradford (ETSU)
Bradford is someone that could very well challenge for Player of the Year honors. He is that talented! He led the Bucs in assists and was second in scoring last year and is a solid defender

Daniel Fowler (Furman)
Fowler doesn’t always get the pub like his running mate, Devin Sibley, but the junior from Acworth, Georgia, can play with most in this league. He could go over 1,000 points before conference play begins

Zane Najdawi (The Citadel)
Yes, the Bulldogs play fast, very fast. But Najdawi’s numbers are crazy good regardless of the style of play

Seniors that need to step up

This is not necessarily a list of the best seniors or even the most indispensable. This is simply a list of seniors that possess everything necessary to make an impact this year. However, if they don’t excel, it could put major pressure on others in order for their respective programs to do well:

Devin Peterson (Western Carolina)
The Catamounts return five starters, but Peterson is the one that needs to be most solid from the point-guard position Armani Branch (VMI)The Keydets need help and Branch is capable at both ends of the floor. He has shown improvement each year and is expected to do the same during his senior year in Lexington 

Marvin Smith (UNCG)
Smith is athletic and can score in a variety of ways. In fact, he was second on the Spartans last year in 3-point field goals made with 55. He needs to be solid during his final campaign

David Burrell (ETSU)
On a team that lost over 52 points per game to graduation, Burrell needs to step up

Alex Thompson (Samford)
The Bulldogs have lots of talent, so Thompson simply needs to stay in his lane. That said, the stretch four averaged 11.7 points per game last year and was especially effective in high-low situations with teammate Wyatt Walker

This two-part series has been fun putting together regarding all things Southern Conference basketball. I love putting it together, but now it’s time for the real action to start. I look forward to seeing everyone at a SoCon game soon.

- Dean Keener

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