This is the fourth installment of the Players to Watch series, featuring the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Ben Smith - Jacksonville
Senior Ben Smith is the clear leader of this Jacksonville team. He led the team in scoring and assists last season as a junior, and is doing the same thing so far as a senior. Smith has been playing 30 or more minutes per game since he was a freshman and has only been getting better.
He is the leader of the Dolphins, and his numbers certainly show why. Jacksonville has only played three games so far, but Smith has been stellar. He had a down game against California, scoring nine points, but the team only scored 47 total. However, against South Carolina, Smith exploded for 31 points, seven assists, and four steals.
Look for this kind of dominance to continue this season from Smith as Jacksonville will try to lead the Atlantic Sun again.
Tommy Hubbard - East Tennessee State
Hubbard is only a junior but he and fellow junior Justin Tubbs are clearly the leaders of this East Tennessee team. Hubbard did not play as much last season because of stand-out players Kevin Tiggs and Courtney Pigram, but he is seeing much more action this season and making the most of it.
Hubbard has already had four double-doubles this season, and dropped 26 points and 13 rebounds on Chattanooga in a tight loss. However, he outdid himself a few games later against Arkansas, a much tougher opponent, where he scored 32 points and added 10 rebounds in a win.
East Tennessee State should improve throughout the season behind the strong play of juniors Justin Tubbs and Tommy Hubbard.
Adnan Hodzic - Lipscomb
If Lipscomb wants to do anything this year, it will be behind the play of junior Adnan Hodzic. Hodzic was outstanding last season, and is continuing his dominance this season. Through five games, he has scored 18 or more points in each game while playing formidable opponents such as Ohio State and Vanderbilt.
Hodzic has two double-doubles already this season, and a 26-point performance against Elon. Look for the Bison to be strong again this season in conference play, where Hodzic should really start to take control of the team.
James Florence - Mercer
Florence, a senior at Mercer, can easily be argued as the best player in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and he is really starting to make a name for himself against big-time programs.
He is averaging 22 points per game this season, and had a 33-point game against Bucknell. More notably, Florence dropped 40 points on Georgia Tech.
Florence is the returning lead scorer of the Atlantic Sun, and with one more year under his belt, should improve upon that. Be sure to check out his stat-line after every game, as Florence is becoming the Stephen Curry of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
(Photo of James Florence by Rick Schmitt)