A pleasant surprise has landed in men's college basketball. It's in the form of a team that beat two of last season's Final Four: Furman. The #25 Paladins defeated Loyola-Chicago in a nail-biter on November 9 and defeated defending champion Villanova in overtime a week later. Considering that both games were on the road, this makes these feats more impressive.
A big catalyst for Furman's success has been Matt Rafferty. The senior forward has 18.7 ppg and leads the team in rebounds per game with 9.1. Rafferty is a sizable body who mainly scores on the inside, giving Furman a presence in the paint. The Paladins also have a good three-point option in Jordan Lyons, who's averaging 20.2 ppg, and sophomore forward Clay Mounce, who makes 48.3% of his three-point shots. The junior guard from Peachtree City, Georgia has a three-point percentage of .367, making Lyons a good compliment for Mounce.
This is the first time that the small South Carolina school has ever been ranked. It's awesome to see teams such as Furman get ranked, for they come from conferences like the Southern Conference (Furman's conference) and the Mid-American Conference (#19 Buffalo). Believe it or not, these conferences have as many currently-ranked schools as the Pac-12 and Big East do.
But which teams in the Southern Conference are a threat to Furman? The UNC-Greensboro Spartans are one threat and they gave Kentucky a scare last Saturday. Francis Alonso is the top scorer for UNC-Greensboro (19.3 ppg) and he can score inside and outside. The Citadel is also another team that can topple Furman. Guard Lew Stallworth (17.4 ppg, 7.0 apg) is the team leader and the team has many players that can attack the boards. Also keep an eye out for Wofford, who went toe-to-toe with #2 Kansas a couple days ago (Kansas eventually pulled away).
Furman actually has another chance to boost their tournament resume further. They have a road game at LSU in a couple weeks, where they can certify themselves as a legitimate mid-major threat. In the meantime, Furman fans, students, and college basketball fans alike should enjoy this ride.
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