The Gulf South Conference (GSC) is one of the most fascinating leagues in college basketball. In just this week, Shorter had their gym floor pummeled by a light that fell and supposedly caught fire, Lee had ESPN broadcast one of their games and a 498 game streak snapped like a puny twig.
We’re doing weekly power rankings of the men’s teams because some of the off-the-court stuff is so bizarre or interesting and the level of play is among the highest in Division II.
The Gulf South hasn’t revealed who the good teams are besides Valdosta State and Alabama-Huntsville obviously being the top two. Eight teams are within two wins plus or minus of sixth place in the twelve team league. The last half of the season could easily see a team ranked fourth this week drop to tenth by the end of the season.
With the necessary background information out of the way, let’s get to the rankings.
12. Mississippi College 4-13 (1-12 in GSC)
I wasn’t going to write about Mississippi College initially because they’re so bad that I feel bad for them and didn’t want to heap on more of the punishment, but something horrible happened this week. On Saturday, January 28, 2017, Mississippi College didn’t make a single three point shot. This sorry “accomplishment” snapped a 498-game streak of making at least one three in every game, dating back to March 5, 1998. In an era of college basketball that sees more threes taken than ever before—Union University leads the conference with 10.8 made threes a game—this is the kind of game that makes me what to claw my own eyeballs out while watching it. Seeing this makes me understand why people are NBA fans and not college basketball fans.
11. West Georgia 8-11 (5-8 in GSC)
10. West Alabama 9-10 (4-9 in GSC)
Before you ask why West Georgia is behind West Alabama even though their conference record is worse, you should know these rankings are who I believe is the best or worse. Also, West Georgia lost to Mississippi College. There’s really nothing else to say. You can’t trust a team that lost to another college that couldn’t make a three in a whole game.
9. Lee 9-10 (5-8 in GSC)
8. Shorter 11-8 (5-8 in GSC)
7. North Alabama 11-8 (6-7 in GSC)
It’s halftime which means it’s time for strange thing of the week! This would normally involve a strange stat or fact about a certain team in the GSC, but this week I couldn’t help but share this with the world.
See the cheerleader on the left? She looks like she benches Camry’s. Her arms are bigger than most of the basketball players for Shorter or Union. The cheerleader on the right also has clear definition in her arms even if they’re not as big. I want to know who the athletic trainer for the Shorter cheerleaders is. How is that person not working for an NFL team?
When I first saw this I was confused, then I was really scared. I weigh about 145 pounds and have a wispy frame and I actively try to avoid working out around jacked people or college athletes. The other day I was using a machine and another guy jumped on it when I was done and put an extra 90 pounds on it while I quickly ran to the cardio machines because that’s where I belong in the gym. But if people have arms like this it’s game over for me and my fellow ectomorphic kind. Now I’ve got to work out in back alleys and random peoples’ garages to avoid being seen in the same gym as the Shorter cheerleading team.
6. Union 11-9 (6-8)
Union broke their four game losing streak this week by beating Lee in a nationally broadcasted game and bludgeoned Shorter 85-71. The Lee result was a product of the Bulldogs playing tough defense in front of one of the biggest and loudest crowds they’ll encounter all season.
The Shorter game was worse than the score indicated. Union led 53-30 at the half and led by 25 points at times in the second half. While this contest showcased the Bulldogs ability to shoot—they lead the conference in made threes per game and three point percentage— it also proved they could play defense and stop the most efficient offense in the conference.
Shorter scores 117.0 points per 100 possessions which leads the conference in offensive efficiency. That offense flows through Phil Taylor who average over 35 points per contest heading into the game against Union. Union held him to 21 points (plenty of his points came when the game was essentially over) on 21 shots—his lowest point total in any conference game this year. The key was the 6’6’’ Ashanti Day playing defense on 5’10’’ Taylor for most of the game. I’d love to say that Union cracked the code for the rest of the conference but very few teams have a player as big, strong, quick and athletic as Day and if they do that player usually has to match up with post players. Union’s ability to play to 6’8’’ big men at the same time as Day gives them the ability to do things others can’t.
If Union’s defense catches up with it’s offense on a regular basis they’ll be a tough out for every team.
5. West Florida 13-6 (8-6 in GSC)
4. Delta State 13-6 (8-5 in GSC)
3. Christian Brothers 12-8 (9-5 in GSC)
CBU’s incredible season after being so bad just the year before is because of the several freshmen and redshirt freshmen that contribute to this team. Mitch Mays, Brad Miller and Joe Laravie all have the ability to go off any night and when one or two are off another one picks up the scoring burden. Those three aren’t as important as reigning GSC Freshman of the Year and Most Likely to be a Middle Schooler in Disguise Award Adam Dieball and redshirt junior Jeff Larkin,
Larkin knows the offense well and runs it almost to perfection while being so quick and crafty he can get open on or off the ball to get to the rack. Dieball is everything head coach Mike Nienaber could dream up in a big man. Dieball can shoot threes, has an incredible low-post game for a player his age and is a great passer. CBU’s complex system is built around making backdoor cuts and all five guys on the floor being capable shooters. Dieball’s post-up game makes him a vicious distributor from the high post because he draws so much attention that the guards can make their cuts with ease if the defense has a lapse of focus for even a second. It’s essentially the Princeton Offense. It doesn’t require excellent athletes, it needs focused and highly skilled players to make it work which Dieball, Larkin and the freshman provide.
2. Valdosta State 17-3 (12-2 in GSC)
1. Alabama Huntsville 15-4 (11-2 in GSC)
Huntsville beat Valdosta earlier this season and they still have Seab Webster on their team so they’re still the favorites to win the conference again. Valdosta’s been closing the gap, but we’ll explore these two teams more next week.