The Mocs were threatened to be run out of town and not allowed to return nearly two weeks ago, when the Mocs were destroyed at Austin Peay by 32 points. If they had returned to play a home game right after that, no one may have showed up for the game. It could have been ugly.
But now the Mocs have won back-to-back games (on a road trip that I predicted them to go 1-2 on, they went 2-1), and there is some positive energy surrounding theit 5-0 SoCon start. But can they carry that momentum home and beat rival Samford?
The Citadel and Samford play very similar styles of offense. That may or may not bode well for the Mocs. There are plenty of backcuts and the Bulldogs slow the game down to a snail's pace. The Mocs are used to the snail's pace after playing The Citadel, but those Bulldogs shot 50% from the floor against the Mocs defense. The Mocs will need to play better defense than that against Samford.
Samford ranks 301st in the nation in scoring, but is 187th in shooting percentage. They are also 97th in assists, which tells you just how efficiently they run their offense. They also rank 338th out of 345 teams in rebounding, averaging just 28.7 boards per game. According to KenPom and offensive rebounding percentage, they are the second worst offensive rebounding team in the country, and rank 260th on the defensive end. So this is a very poor rebounding team, going against the Mocs solid rebounding team- who ranks 18th in the country in rebounding, and ranks in the top 30 on the defensive end. Samford will not come up with many offensive rebounds in this game.
Jeffrey Merritt is shooting 51.2% from the field, while leading the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game. He also is one of the leading rebounders in the SoCon, with 7.2 per game. That is basically a fourth of the team's rebounds per game. He is absolutely critical to the team's success.
Gregory Wooten is shooting just 58.9% from the free throw line, but is averaging 8.6 points per game, and is another critical player to the Bulldogs success. Josh Davis is a tremendous free throw shooter, making 94.4% from the free throw line. He is scoring 10.3 points per game.
No one that plays a lot is a particularly great three point shooter, but the whole team will shoot them, and the Bulldogs are shooting 38.2% from three point range. The Mocs will have to make sure they get out and cover all of the Bulldogs beyond the arc, because all of them are capable of shooting from anywhere on the floor.
Josh Bedwell is the best three point shooter, making 28 on the year, and shooting 44% from three point range. So the Mocs will have to make sure they locate him.
Drew Windler is the only player over 6'7 that plays with any consistency. John Peterson is 6'7. And everyone else is 6'6 or shorter that plays very much. The Mocs will have a size advantage.
KEYS TO THE GAME
--Rebounding. Dominate the boards. The Mocs are the best rebounding team in the SoCon, and Samford the worst. The Mocs should be able to utterly dominate the boards.
--Keegan Bell. Bell leads the SoCon in assists, and also in assists/turnover margin. He will need to control the tempo of the game.
--Pace. The Mocs will want to get Samford running.
--Guard the full 35 seconds. The Mocs have to guard every cut and screen by the Bulldogs. This seems typical. But Samford could easily use 25 seconds every time down. The Mocs have to guard for all of it. They have not shown great talent at this so far.
--Burroughs, Early, Saffore, and Jefferson need to have monster games. This is a real chance to dominate against the Samford bigs.
WHAT I'LL DO IF THE MOCS WIN
--Wonder when the next win will come....
--Be relieved to have beaten Samford again.
WHAT I'LL DO IF THE MOCS LOSE
--Wonder when the next win will come...
--Hope that the Mocs can hold onto the North Division lead over the next critical week.
--Throw something in frustration.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--Wattad will score over 20 points again.
--Jefferson, Burroughs, Early, and Saffore will combine for 30+ points and 20+ rebounds.
--The game will be very low scoring.
--Taylor will make a couple of big shots.
--The Mocs will win the battle of boards by ten or more over Samford.
--Mocs 72, Samford 66. Given that the Mocs can't seem to win a game by a wide margin, they should be relieved to win at all. With College of Charleston on Monday, followed by road trips to Wofford and Furman in the next week, the Mocs desperately need this one to stay on the right track. The Mocs will dominate down low, and if they can just play decent defense, then they should come up with the home win.