There's a time for striving to not be number one. That time is now for the Mocs.
The UNC-Greensboro Spartans are 0-13 on the year. The Mocs are desperately hoping to avoid becoming their first victim.
Of course, the Spartans have played an incredibly difficult schedule, losing to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest, Clemson, and Duke, all ACC schools. VCU and Richmond are solid mid-majors, and they lost to both of them as well. East Carolina is not terrible, and they lost to them. North Carolina A&T is really the only out of conference game that it could be argued that the Spartans really should have won, but they lost that one as well. They have lost in SoCon play at Wofford, and at home to Samford and Furman, three pretty good SoCon teams.
Wow. That's not easy.
Since December 8, when Maryland handed a 43 point beatdown to the Spartans, UNCG has played Wake Forest, Clemson, Richmond, Duke, and Samford. The average score of those games (excludine Duke) has been 67.75-61.25, so they have been playing pretty well since that loss to the Terps.
Trevis Simpson has really been coming on lately for the Spartans. Over the last three non-Duke games, Simpson has averaged 14.7 points per game and 4 rebounds. He's a freshman and he is only getting better.
Aloysius Henry is the Spartans most dangerous player. He leads the team in scoring, averaging 11.2 points per game. He also leads the team in rebounding, with 5.9 per game. The 6-10 junior in his first year with the program has really been a spark for the team. He has been very consistent- never scoring more than 18 points, and only not reaching double figures twice (against East Carolina and Duke). He has scored between 10 and 12 points in seven out of thirteen games. He has been remarkably consistent.
Kyle Randall leads the Spartans in assists with 3.6 per game. He is also second on the team in scoring, with 10.7 points per game. He's a decent shooter, making nearly 43% of his three pointers. Over the last four games, Randall has struggled. He has been shooting just 25% over the last four games from the field. He also has had 13 assists over that span- with 13 turnovers. Someone might say Duke is to blame for that, but he shot 3 of 11 against Duke (over 25%) and had five assists and just one turnover against the Blue Devils.
Korey VanDussen has been stepping it up lately. He is second on the team in assists with 2.4 per game. He's been turning the ball over a lot, but he has been scoring a lot at a high percentage. He is averaging 10.4 points per game. He is shooting 82.% from the free throw line, and 43.6% from three point range.
Brandon Evans has made more threes than anyone else on the team with 17. He is shooting 45.7% from three point range.
David Williams ia a 6-6 freshman that plays guard. He provides some height to an otherwise short lineup. Aaron Brackett, Brian Cole, and Drew Parker are their other big bodies, and they are all decent rebounders, but not very good scorers.
The Mocs should have a huge edge on glass. The Mocs have moved all the way up to 18th in the country in rebounding, which is very impressive. UNCG ranks 274th in rebounding. If you look at KenPom's stats, they indicate similar things about rebounding. The Mocs should be able to dominate the defensive boards, and should be able to battle on the offensive boards as well. Chris Early and DeAntre Jefferson are the keys to that, as they both average 7.1 rebounds per game. They will have to match-up with Henry and whoever else is in the game for the Spartans.
The Mocs ability to neutralize Henry on the inside could be a big key. Jefferson and Early could certainly have the ability to do that. Saffore, if he'll get his hands up, could also prove a challenge for Henry. He doesn't face many guys taller than him at 6-10.
Keegan Bell is one of the nation's leaders in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Bell and Ricky Taylor will have important match-ups with Randall and VanDussen. Those two will look to make shots, like Austin Peay did to the Mocs on Monday night. If Randall and VanDussen and Evans make a bunch of threes, then the Mocs could find themselves in a very difficult position.
KEYS TO THE GAME
--Rebounding. The Mocs need to dominate the boards.
--Mindset. Where is UNCG's head right now? Do they know how to win given that they are 0-13? Where is the Mocs head right now? Have they recovered from the utter embarassment to Austin Peay on Monday night? The team with the right mindset may come out with the win.
--Energy. The Mocs need to come out with energy. They have fallen behind big early against Murray State, Elon, Georgia State, and Austin Peay, or their last four D1 opponents. They have come back and won one and made two others close, but they need to play with a lot of energy early in this game and get off on the right foot, creating doubt in a winless team's mind.
--The last time people were writing off the Mocs like they are right now following losses to Jackson State and FIU, the Mocs came out and played one of their best games in beating Appalachian State. Do it again.
--For the love of everything, wear the right color undershirt Omar Wattad!!!!
WHAT I'LL DO IF THE MOCS WIN
--Get re-energized about the season.
--Breathe a sigh of relief that we are not number one.
--Feel satisfied for the rest of the day.
WHAT I'LL DO IF THE MOCS LOSE
--Lose a lot of energy about the season.
--Try to remind myself that UNCG is substantially better than their record indicates.
--Sigh, take a deep breath, and remember that tomorrow is another day.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--Wattad is going to have a huge game.
--So is Taylor.
--Bell will not score in big chunks, but will control the game with his ball handling and lack of turnovers.
--Jefferson is either going to be a monster, or the double teams will throw off the whole offense again.
--UNCG will scare us all to death.
--Mocs 74, UNC-Greensboro 66. The Mocs are good enough to win this game easily. On paper, they probably should. The Spartans will play well, though. They are good enough to win this game- no questions asked. But they will lack the confidence to close the deal, and the Mocs will pull away to some degree in the last five minutes.