Make no mistake about this- this game is the most important game of the year to date. If the Mocs lose to Samford on Monday night, they will trail the Bulldogs by three games for the fourth and final bye spot. If the Mocs beat Samford, they will trail them by just one game (potentially trailing Western Carolina and Appalachian State by anywhere from one half game to one and a half games, depending on their results of Monday's games) and have swept the Bulldogs in two head-to-head meetings.
In other words, when the Mocs take the floor for the Blackout on Monday night, they will have a chance to really get themselves right into the middle of the bye race. A loss all but eliminates them. So, basically, a lot of the season hangs in the balance in this one.
The Mocs beat Samford back on January 5, 74-70 on the road. What has changed since then? Some, but not a ton.
The Bulldogs are still lead by two freshman Tim Williams and Clide Geffrard, Jr. They are the two leading rebounders on the team. Williams is averaging 6.8 boards per game, and Geffrard is averaging 4.5. Geffrard is averaging 10.5 points per game and is shooting 43% from three point range. He is also second on the team in blocks with 0.6 per game. Geffrard is very good. He's not the best freshman on the team, but he is a very solid contributor.
Williams is the team's best freshman. He leads the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game. He is shooting an astounding 55.3% from the floor for the season. He also leads the team with 1.3 blocks per game and 1.5 steals per game. In other words, he is not only the best offensive player and the best defensive player on the team. Williams could be a very special player in the coming years.
Raijon Kelly is second on the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game. He leads the team in assists with 4.5 per contest. He is the team's best three point shooter, making 43.9% from that distance. The problem of course for him is that he averages 3.3 turnovers per game.
Given the Mocs propsenity to giving up a lot of threes, it's important to always focuse on the players that shoot a lot of threes and might make a bunch. Connor Miller made 41 threes so far this year. He shot 36.3% from long range so far this year. He is averaging 7.0 points per game. Is Miller about to go off in this one?
Samford is tenth in SoCon games in TO%, so the Bulldogs commit a great deal of turnovers. Can the Mocs newfound pressure defense cause problems? Potentially. We'll see. They are also the second best in the SoCon at forcing turnovers. The Mocs offense, which has been much-improved at not committing turnovers, will need to be just as good as ever.
Samford has been a very poor rebounding team in SoCon play. There is a lot of importance for Z Mason and Drazen Zlovaric to play well, rebound well, and continue shooting the ball well. This is a very important game for the Mocs big men against Williams, Geffrard, and the rest of the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have also had the worst two point defense in the SoCon so far this year. Gee McGhee, Rico White, and the big men will need to be very good at slashing to the hoop and getting the big baskets.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--The Mocs bigs will score plenty of points.
--Gee McGhee will have another big night scoring-wise.
--Rico White will shoot better than the 2 for 13 he put up against College of Charleston.
--Williams and Gerrard will be big players.
--Kelly and Miller will both make a bunch of threes.
--Mocs 75, Samford 69. The Mocs blackout will have the place excited, and the Mocs will play one of their best games yet. The Mocs played so well against College of Charleston only to come up with a loss. If they bounce back emotionally from that tough loss, the Mocs will come up with the win against Samford. If they have a hang over from the loss, they could easily lose. Watch the first ten minutes carefully to see the Mocs state of mind. Even if they fall way behind, the Mocs have proven capable of coming back. Still, the Mocs need to not fall behind again.