This road trip has been tough on the Mocs in more ways than one. They got hammered by Elon and lost to UNCG last Sunday afternoon. Maybe worst of all, they lost Dontay Hampton to a torn ACL for the remainder of the season.
Besides the obvious question that Hampton's absence ask (how will the Mocs be able to beat Appalachian State in the closing seconds now?), it raises some more serious questions. How will the Mocs handle life without his leadership on the court? How do the minutes break down at point guard? When will Hampton be hired as an assistant coach for the Mocs? (Seriously- Hampton would make an incredible assistant coach in the not too distant future for almost any team.)
What state of mind are the Mocs in at the end of this road trip? There's really no telling. That may be about as important as any other factor involved in this game.
Fortunately for the Mocs (but unfortunately for any prognosticator), Georgia Southern has been one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams in the conference. This is the same team that won at home against Davidson and College of Charleston. They also lost three out of four since then, losing at home to The Citadel and at Appalachian State and at Furman. They won at Western Carolina, the team with the best SoCon record of any of those four teams.
Which Eagles team shows up in this one? No telling. Their seven point loss at Furman doesn't tell us anything either. The Eagles have been better at home than on the road, but have not been consistent there either, losing to The Citadel.
The Eagles have a potential NBA talent in Eric Ferguson. The 6-7 junior leads the team in scoring with 14.1 points per game and 7.2 boards per contest. He's made it to double digits in all but two games- an 18 point loss at Wofford, and a 19 point loss at Bradley. He shot 29.4% from the floor in those two games. In all other games, he has shot 49.3% from the floor. He is also averaging 15.1 points per game in the other contests. So Ferguson has been very good. He isn't as dominant as some people think he should be, but he is explosive. He also averages one block per game.
CJ Reed is second on the team in scoring with 12.1 points per game, along with a team high 3.8 assists per game. He is not a great shooter. He is shooting 37.6% from the field and 38% from three point range. He has made 41 threes on the year, a team high. He is a 6-3 guard, making Reed big for a point.
Cleon Roberts is the best three point shooter for the Eagles. He shot 42.0% from three, and 29 of 69 from long distance. He is averaging 8.2 points per game. As the Mocs always struggle to shut down a three point shooter, Roberts seems to be the most likely to go off from long range.
Kameron Dunnican is second on the team in blocks with 0.6 blocks per game. He is 6-8. He is a valuable part of the Eagles defensive strategy.
The Eagles have been struggling from three point range. They rank 11th in the SoCon in three point shooting since conference play started. They also rank 11th in three point defense. Also, opponents have shot better than 50% from two point range against them in conference games. They also have shot better than 50%. They have been forcing a high percentage of turnovers.
This is really a battle of pace. The Mocs play the second fastest pace in the SoCon, while the Eagles play the slowest pace.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--Ferguson will not go off in "Trevis Simpson" Fashion. But he will score over 20 points.
--Roberts will make threes. Several.
--Z Mason and Drazen Zlovaric will have a difficult time being productive. Doesn't matter. Mason will still get his double-double. That's because he's good.
--I don't know how much Farad Cobb will play. If he plays at least twenty minutes and lets Rico White move off the ball, that will really help the Mocs offense. Cobb will play between ten and fifteen minutes. At the most.
--Gee McGhee will continue to show his development, making a couple of critical shots.
--Georgia Southern 68, Mocs 60. Which team of each shows up? If the Mocs shoot well from three point range, they can make this a game. The Eagles offense has been wildly inconsistent. If the Eagles offense doesn't show up, the Mocs could keep them under 60 points. If they do that, the Mocs will win. The problem is, the Mocs defense has not shown many signs of being capable of holding a team under 60 points- even a team as inconsistent offensively as the Eagles.