Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why I Don't Think The Mocs Should "Dream Big"

Over the last decade, four mid-major teams have been to the Final Four. Butler advanced twice to the national championship game out of the Horizon League. George Mason and VCU got to the Final Four out of the CAA. Wichita State advanced to the Final Four this past season out of the Missouri Valley Conference.

It seems that many years teams advance to the Elite Eight from mid-major conferences. Even Davidson out of the SoCon advanced that far a few years back.

Florida Gulf Coast advanced to the Sweet Sixteen as a 15 seed just this past season.

If anything, the mid-majors have proven recently that it is not only possible, but doable for a team to advance far in the NCAA Tournament, no matter what seed they have.

The Mocs last advanced in the NCAA Tournament back in 1997, when they got to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Providence, in a game they could have easily won.

Everyone talks about "dreaming big" and hoping that one day the Mocs will advance to the Final Four, championship game, or (wow) even win the national title. It would be a miracle and many Mocs fans over the years have woken up from a nice dream where something like that happened, or have daydreamed about the possibility. They've thought about it. They've dreamed about it.

Thinking big. Dreaming Big.

I'm sick of it.

You know- when I was ten years old I had a dream. I dreamed that I was Batman....and flying. This didn't make any sense, because Batman can't fly. Also, I'm not Batman. This is a shocker. I know everyone is stunned by this.

When I woke up, I knew the dream wasn't real. I knew there was no chance I was going to be able to fly. I knew there was no chance that I was going to be Batman.

It's time to stop dreaming, because dreams aren't real.

It's time to start believing. Belief is something that people really feel from within. When people believe in something, they know that it is true with every fiber of their being. There are times of doubt and struggles to believe at time. But in the end, generally people come back to believing.

From this point forward, I want everyone to start Believing Big. The players, the coaches, the fans, everyone. Give up on dreaming. Believing is what needs to be done.

From this point forward, I am going to believe that the Mocs are going to do great things. This program is destined for greatness. If VCU can do it, if George Mason can do it, why not Chattanooga? No- really. Why not the Mocs?

The recruiting will have to be superb. The player development will have to be great. The effort from the players will have to be spectacular. The gameplan will have to be perfect. The fan support will need to grow, be loud and be proud.

That's asking a lot. But it can happen. It can happen here. I'm going to Believe Big from now on. I plan on posting on a lot of my Twitter posts #BelieveBig from now on.

It's my mantra to remind me that the Mocs can get there. We can do it. We just have to put the perfect effort in from the top to the bottom of the program. It's time to get there.

With a new coach in Will Wade and new enthusiasm filling up the program, it just feels like this program is ready to explode again.

Yes, my optimism may wind up killing me here. But I am tired of just having expectations of showing up and winning some games, and getting to the NCAA Tournament sometimes. I want to believe that bigger things are possible.

Join me. I think you Mocs fans want to believe that too.

It's time to believe big.


Monday, June 17, 2013

A Modest Proposal: Mid-Major Madness

Beginning June 17,  a series of  articles titled "A Modest Proposal" will be appearing every other Monday. The dates are June 17, July 1, July 15, July 29, August 12, August 26, September 9, September 23, October 7, and October 21. The ten part series will include ideas for ways to increase attention to the SoCon, Mocs basketball, NCAA basketball, or mid-major basketball. This is part one. Here's a link to all the articles.

ESPN announced last winter that BracketBusters would not be continued past 2012-13. People had all kinds of reactions to this. Some praised it, saying that BracketBusters just hurt the losers and did not help the winners. Others were upset about it, saying that BracketBusters helped mid-major programs schedule semi-quality opponents, home-and-home.

There were rumors that something else would come up sparked by this quote in the linked article by ESPN:

"We'll continue to work with our conference partners to develop new, creative events to further grow the sport. Our goal is to maintain the BracketBusters brand in some fashion in the future."

Ummm....OK. So where is this "creative event" to maintain the "BracketBusters brand"?

The one thing we all agree on is that the mid-majors could use a high profile event on their schedule early in the season. So here is a new solution that could be a start to the answer to this problem.

I don't know how to pull this off. My main problem? I don't know where you schedule the event that I am talking about. Where does it get played that people would actually show up? I'm not sure. I also know that all of these conferences do not have deals with the same networks. That's a problem. I'm not sure how this gets done with that being the case. I don't care. Let's try to get it done. There are plenty of smart people out there that can figure this out.

There are quite a few mid-major conferences willing to participate in something like. To start things off, we need to narrow down what conferences are participating to just sixteen conferences.

Those conferences are the Patriot, America East, Northeast, Metro Atlantic, Southern, Big South, Atlantic Sun, Colonial, Horizon, Ohio Valley, Mid Eastern Atlantic, Southwest Athletic, Big West, Big Sky, Southland, and Summit. (If anyone wants to argue about who should participate, that's not really the point. The point is- sixteen mid-major conferences.)

Each of those conferences will pick one team to represent them. A particular team is only allowed to participate once every four years, just like any other exempt tournament.

The conferences are pre-divided up into four "regions." It's not 100% based on geography, but it is mostly. The conferences in the "regions" will rotate hosting the four team tournaments over a four year period. So each conference will get to host a four team tournament once every four years.

I think that the "Final Four" of this tournament could be a really compelling and deserves a big stage. But I don't know where you play it that people would actually be able to attend. I do think that when you play this in early to mid-November, you can attract some attention. It will give quality games to each team participating in the tournament. If ESPN, or whatever network, promoted this heavily, it could be a really big deal.

Each team at each site would play two games, including at the Final Four. It could be branded Mid- Major Madness and attract fanfare to mid-majors. It would be in the middle of football season, but could get people interested, because of March- much like Feast Week garners attention. Putting the focus on this tournament (at least the Final Four portion) as a way to see what teams could be Cinderella in March would get some people's attention- even in the midst of football season.

Also helping it would be the consistent rivalry between conferences. The winner of each "region" would have bragging rights over the other conferences in their region.

Here are the regions:

Region 1:
America East

Region 2:
Big South
Atlantic Sun

Region 3:

Region 4:
Big West
Big Sky

I'm curious to hear other people make suggestions for ways to improve this, because I do think there are ways to improve it. I just think there needs to be a discussion about ways to make sure that mid-majors get more coverage now that BracketBusters are going away.

If you have any ideas, feel free to share them with me privately (mocsbasketball97@yahoo.com) or in the comments. Let's get this conversation started.

SoCon News & Notes

News & Notes: The Realignment Edition

Mocs Offseason News & Notes

News & Notes July 16
News & Notes June 5
Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational Look Ahead

A Modest Proposal: The Full Series

June 17: Mid-Major Madness
July 1: Mid-Major Friday
July 15: Changing the Conference Tournaments
July 29: Messing With the Bubble

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational Look Ahead

The Mocs will be playing on Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving in Las Vegas in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. We do not know the official match-ups yet.

Here is what we do know. The Mocs will likely play two games against teams from the "A" level on their campus. The "B" level teams will compete in a four team tournament in Las Vegas.

We also know who those teams are, their 2012-13 record and final RPI.

A Level
UCLA (25-10, 26)
Missouri (23-11, 36)
Nevada (12-19, 171)
Northwestern (13-19, 168)

B Level
Chattanooga (13-19, 292)
IUPUI (6-26, 326)
Morehead State  (15-18, 172)
Gardner Webb (21-13, 194)

So what does this mean for the Mocs? Well, rumor has it that the Mocs will be playing UCLA, Missouri on the road. That's good for the RPI. Missouri and UCLA both probably won't be quite as good as last year, but both are probably better than Nevada and Northwestern still. Winning is unlikely against either, though you never know. Still, playing them will not be a drain on the RPI, which is a very good thing.

Now, looking at the Las Vegas portion of the tournament, and where the Mocs can really hope to be competitive. IUPUI should be improved from a year ago. Gardner-Webb is losing probably their two best  players- Tashan Newsome and Kevin Hartley. Morehead State is losing their top scorer from a year ago, Milton Chavis.

So- there you go. I believe any of these four schools could win in Las Vegas and that all are going to be decent teams. All could be a moderate drag on the RPI (lower than 250) but not a terrible drag (I believe that all will be ranked in the Top 300- better than several SoCon teams).

The games last year featured Cornell, Presbyterian, Florida A&M, and Longwood. They started on the first day at 2:00 PM and 4:30 PM Eastern time. On the second day, the losers played at 3:00 PM and the winners played at 5:30. So set aside some time on Thanksgivings to watch at 2:00 or 4:30, more than likely. Schedule the turkey dinner around it. Go on and start doing that now. Or plan your trip to Las Vegas. Whichever you prefer. It does not appear that any of the games a year ago were available on ESPN3 or any network. I'm not sure if this year will be any different. Hopefully, there will be some internet availability.

I am very interested in seeing how this November tournament goes. It will tell us a lot about where the Mocs stand early in the year. The Mocs will be a more experienced team this year than they were last year. With Will Wade in the mix, how will they look? These two games will tell an early story.

The season is slowly working its way towards us. I am so ready for this thing to get started.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Interview with Coach Wade

I got the great opportunity to talk to the Mocs new head basketball coach, Will Wade, on Thursday night.

Before I get to the full transcript, let me start by saying the things that won't come across in the written word. Wade was very energetic and very articulate. He was fired up about coaching at Chattanooga. I hung up from the phone call very excited about the future of Chattanooga basketball. Even more than I had been- which is saying something. I hope that comes off in the transcript.

Below is the transcript from the phone call I had with Coach Wade on Thursday night.

Q. You said that you told Shaka Smart three years ago that Chattanooga was your top choice for job you’d be interested in. What attracted you to the job?

Wade: When I was growing up in Nashville it was Chattanooga’s heyday in the nineties. I knew there was great potential here for growth. My cousin played football here, so I knew a lot about the school and had a familiarity with it. The more I learned about the city and area, it became obvious it would be a good spot. I knew that it had been really good in the past and that my cousin loved it there and coached football there when I said that to Shaka. Now the more I found out about it through the interview process and the city- it was even better than I thought. So I just kind of had a gut feeling initially because I had more information on it than any of the other schools because of my family. The longer I’ve been here, and I’ve only been here three weeks, the stronger I feel about it.

Q. You’ve brought a renewed energy to the program. Fans are excited about Chattanooga basketball. How do you plan on keeping that energy going as you go forward?

Wade: I am an energetic guy. There are five core values in the program and enthusiasm is number two. It’s something I believe in. I want to be the most enthusiastic team every night. I want our players to be enthusiastic every day about being here and playing. I run the whole thing off of enthusiasm. I think our fans and the people of Chattanooga are going to see a blue collar team that plays really hard and is really enthusiastic about being there and playing every night. You only get 35 or 40 chances to play a year. You need to be fired up those days. You need to be fired up every day that leads to those days. I think people and fans and the town will respect a blue collar, enthusiastic, hard working team and really get behind them.

I think you keep the energy going by your style of play, and keeping enthusiasm. I’m not going to stop.  This is who I am. This is what I believe in. I haven’t turned down a speaking engagement since I’ve been here, and I don’t plan to as long as it fits into my schedule. We’re just going to keep spreading the word. Once we get them into the arena we’re going to show them a highly enthusiastic team, a highly enthusiastic coaching staff, a highly enthusiastic program that plays incredibly hard. There will be a level of respect there. That’s what you use to keep it going until it reaches a crescendo.

Q. You said the number two value was enthusiasm. What are all five of the core values?

Wade: Appreciation is number one. Enthusiasm is number two. Competitiveness is number three. Unselfishness is number four. Accountability is number five. Appreciation is the top one, but the other ones are not really in an order.

Q. You’ve been on some staffs with some great coaches- Shaka Smart, Tommy Amaker, and Oliver Purnell. What did you take from them as you’ve moved into a head coaching position yourself?

Wade: We’re not going to be all VCU or all Harvard. As an assistant, you take things you like from each guy. One thing I think Coach Purnell is one of the top guys in the country at building programs and the structure of your program. So a lot of the structure of the program and how we do things will be exactly like what Coach Purnell did at Clemson while I was there and now at DePaul. A lot of it is what we did at VCU because we both learned it from Coach Purnell. A lot of the nuts and bolts of how I structure the program will come from him.

A lot of the recruiting philosophy comes from Coach Amaker. I think he’s absolutely one of the elite level recruiters in the entire country. I learned so much just being around him, going to home visits with him, listening to him on the phone, and just the way he had a vision for that Harvard basketball program and was able to articulate that to recruits and the team. I think that’s critical, because when Coach Amaker got to Harvard, there wasn’t a whole lot to sale. They had never won the Ivy League and had not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1946. It was tough sledding. He had an unbelievable vision and was able to articulate that and getting people enthusiastic and excited about the program. That’s similar to what we have to do here. Chattanooga had a lot more success more recently. But we’ve got to be able to sell our vision for this program and to be passionate about our vision for this program and get people to buy into it. I learned a lot of that from Coach Amaker.

Obviously, with Coach Smart, he’s been a phenomenal mentor for me and resource. Actually, I got off the phone with him about twenty minutes ago for some things. A lot of what we do offensively and defensively will be similar. We’ll add our own kick and twist based on certain experiences we have. A lot of the culture of our program and the building blocks of our program, from the core values, to the way we train, to the way we practice and all that sort of stuff will have a heavy influence from Coach Smart.

Q. You just mentioned that you will be similar and different philosophically from what VCU did. You have mentioned the Chattanooga Chaos defense in the past. How will that look different and how will it look the same to the VCU Havoc?

Wade:  First of all, the Chaos system will feature both offense and defense. The defense gets a lot of attention and a lot of the bite. At VCU last year, we were Top Ten in the country in scoring offense. The system is offensively and defensively oriented. A lot of times the defense leads to offense. It will be very similar. I handled all of our pressing and defensive adjustments and things like that at VCU. So it’s something that I’m very comfortable with going back to when I was at Clemson. We’ll do some different things. We’ll probably press a little more after misses than we did at VCU. That was something that I’ve studied very hard and really want to implement. We’ll probably add a different press that we didn’t use at VCU that I have a little bit of a background in. So we’ll change up what we’re doing, but the base of what we’re doing is two presses- a man-to-man press and a zone press. It will be almost the exact same as what we did at VCU.

Offensively, I think Coach Smart is one of the smartest offensive minds in all of college basketball so it would be crazy not to borrow from him. We’re going to take a lot of what we learned at VCU and get our guys going downhill and towards the rim. We’re going to shoot a lot of threes and crash the offensive glass. That’s a pretty good formula. With our style of play if we can make threes, limit the other teams threes and get a lot of steals, we’ve got a good chance to win. We don’t necessarily have to do all three. If we can get two of those three to hit our numbers, we’re going to be in really good shape to win the game. We have a formula already to figure out if we did it or not.

Q.  How do you think the current roster fits into that philosophy?

Wade: I think there’s some really good pieces for it and guys that we’ll have to adjust roles for and find roles for and tweak what we do. I’m not going to try to fit a square peg in a round hole. We might have to pre-rotate some stuff. We might have to change the way we do some things. I’m comfortable with that. There definitely are some very good pieces on the roster for pressing, and we’re going to get the most out of those guys. We’re going to find the guys who may be not the best pressers in the world or the best for the system and we’re going to find a role for them to. We’re going to find a way for them to play and find a niche that they can have on our team that contributes to winning and can help us succeed.

Q.  You kept Casey Long on the staff. How important was keeping someone with a connection to the current roster?

Wade:  It was really important. I did not know Casey very well, but I got to know him really well really quickly. I did a lot of calls on him and a lot of background on him. He came up absolutely top notch. I call him “The Mayor” because everywhere I go in town, everyone knows him. He’s got a great smile and a great personality. I thought he would be a great fit and do a great job. He’s surpassed everything I thought he would be. He’s phenomenal. He just did a tremendous job in the interim of keeping the team together, keeping the guys working out, keeping the guys on track for the most part academically. He did a really good job in really tough circumstances. I recognized that right away. He just has a way about him with people. He’s unbelievable- a caring person, has a great heart, loves the players, loves the town, loves the university, loves the basketball program. He’s been a phenomenal resource to have around. We’d be in real trouble without him. He knows his way around this city and around this university like nobody else. We’re very fortunate that he wanted to stay and that he is here. He’s worked out great.

Q. Obviously, you’re a very young guy. When you hired Wes Long, did hiring someone with head coaching experience play a part in that?

Wade: I was looking for someone with head coaching experience, but I was also looking for somebody who believed in our core values and exuded enthusiasm. He certainly fits the bill with that. I thought it was important for me to have someone with head coaching experience who, when I’m out of the office or handling other things, he can step in. I know and trust Wes. He’s been awesome since he’s been here as well- everything I thought he’d be and more. I knew when I got the job that I was going to hire someone with head coaching experience, but I also didn’t want to lose sight of what’s going to make us good. I really believe in those core values with every bit of my fiber, and he believes in them as well. I didn’t want to lose some of that by hiring someone who had been a head coach. He fits the mold perfectly. He left a really good head coaching job where he was. Queens has explored going Division 1 and has a brand new arena opening. They’ve got all sorts of stuff going on that’s really enticing. I’m happy that he wanted to come here, join us and be a part of it. He’s someone I can bounce ideas off of. He’s in a Chief of Staff type role within our staff. He’s been a head coach for five years and turned a program around. They were 7-21 his first year and 21-7 his last year. They won a couple of conference championships, played and advanced in the NCAA Tournament and got a lot of experience even at a relatively young age.

Q. Turner Battle came from Buffalo. Reading through his profile, there’s not an obvious connection to you. What brought your attention to him?

Wade: First of all, he’s the best guard in our program right now. He was the MAC Player of the Year in 2005. He was a really good player. He coached nine All MAC guards in six years at Buffalo. So that was very attractive. I knew him because when he was playing at Buffalo, Coach Smart was coaching at Akron. Coach Smart took a liking to him and was in touch with him. I got in touch with him through Coach Smart a couple of years ago and we spent a lot of time together at the Final Four multiple times. He’s from North Carolina. That’s an area I recruited very hard at Harvard and VCU. We’d see each other recruiting in North Carolina all the time and grab a meal. We just stayed in touch. I love what he is about, and love his work ethic. He’s great at developing guards. He was what we were looking for in the staff. His track record and character speak for themselves.

Q. News today was that you hired Brooks Savage. Tell me a little about him.

Wade: He’s a jack of all trades guy. We’re fortunate to get him. He left an assistant coaching position in the Big South to come here and be the operations guy. So he can’t go on the road and recruit for us here. There are a lot of things he can’t do. He felt strongly enough to come here and be our ops guy, which is phenomenal. He can do a lot of things. We need a versatile guy in that position. We do not have all the support staff in the world so he’s got to multi-task and do lots of different things. I’ve known him for a long time since he interviewed for a position with us at VCU. Usually when a person interviews for a position and they don’t get it, they stop talking to you. He did not. He stayed in touch and we developed a really close friendship. We stayed in close contact. He did video at Tulane and has done all sorts of statistical stuff. He’s been an assistant at a junior college national runner up and worked with Steve Forbes, a tremendous coach. He’s worked at Presbyterian. He did administrative stuff at Tennessee. He’s got a wide array of experience. He can wear a lot of different hats which is very important in that position.

Q.  You mentioned that you wanted to play more in-state teams in your scheduling. What is your overall philosophy involving money games and scheduling?

Wade: I want to play the best teams that we can that will build our program, drum up the most interest in our program, build our brand within the region and get those guys to come to McKenzie as well. We’re working hard on that. To be brutally honest, we inherited some stuff on the schedule that was tough for us to work around this season. We’ve got a scheduling four year gameplan on exactly what we’re going to do. I think by our second year we’ll be well up and running within that gameplan and have an attractive home schedule. We’ll also have a road schedule that our fans can make it to a lot of the road games. We can drum up interest in areas that we have a lot of alumni. I think it’s really important that we play Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, and Tennessee-Martin. I think it’s really important that we play those guys as much as we can. One- they’re close. Two- they’re programs that we have rivalries with. Our fans work with alumni from the other school. It’s good rivalry. We’re an hour fifteen minutes from Cookeville. I was talking to Steve Payne, their coach. We weren’t able to work anything out for this year, but in the future we were talking about working something out on an equitable date every year in November or early December to try to create a rivalry with them. We’re going to explore all those options and get as many of those guys on the schedule as we can. It just makes sense to play local teams for support purposes. I think it’s good for the fans.

Q. You want to play teams that will come to McKenzie. Should we be making plans for VCU to come anytime soon?

Wade: That’s what everyone asks. Not anytime soon. I’d have a tough time playing Coach Smart. They’re a great program. They’ll have a Top Fifteen team next year, probably even better than that. Now I’m putting pressure on him. He has a hard time playing guys he’s close with. I would too. In fact, it would be really tough on both of us. We’ll attract the best teams we can to McKenzie but I don’t know that VCU will be one anytime soon.

Q. How is the schedule shaping up for next year?

Wade: It’s shaping. We’re working on it. We spend a lot of time on it every day. We’re filling out the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. We’re in the process of adding a quality home game. We’re really just setting it up for future schedules. We’re clearing some things off the books so that we can get things wide open for the next couple of years to really aggressively pursue our scheduling philosophy and how we want to do things. We’re finishing it off. I’d be lying to you if I said it was going to be the best schedule you’ve ever seen. I do think there will be some exciting games. We’ve added some pop to it, which I’m excited about. In future years, it will be much, much better.

Q. When will the schedule be released?

Wade: I’m hoping by the end of the month. Lots of administrators on vacation right now, so it may not quite be that soon. We have a pretty good framework in place.

Q. You’ve signed two guys since you were hired. Justin Tuoyo played for you at VCU, so you obviously know him pretty well.  What will he bring to the table when he’s eligible in the 2014-15 season?

Wade: He’ll bring a lot of athleticism, and great shot blocking. He’s got a lot of room for growth offensively that he can develop into a great offensive player. He’s a very good shooter. He can become an excellent shooter. He’s got great size and great athleticism. He’s very long. Obviously, he won’t be able to help us on the court until 2014-15. But he will invaluable this year as well for a lot of our guys because he knows the system. He knows me as well as anybody. I recruited him for two years at VCU. I know his family. He’ll be a great resource for our guys- what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, what we’re about. I think his value on the court will be great. Down the line, he could be a tremendous player. Coach Smart had a difficult time letting him go because he knew the same thing about his potential. This year will be good for him to help him put on some weight in the weight room and continue to hone his shot, while working on his inside game as well. He can make an impact in 2014-15, but I think 2013-14, he’ll have a big impact on our team off the court.

Q. When Anthanee Doyle signed, you said you liked his shot making ability and a shooter. What else are you hoping to get out of him this year?

Wade: I think he brings three things that we need. He can handle the ball a little bit. He can shoot. He can really guard the ball. He’s long and quick. He’ll be able to hound the ball, engulf the ball, and turn the ball handlers multiple times which will give us trapping opportunities in the backcourt. He’s a great kid, a great student and has been raised the right way by his mother and father. He’ll be a really nice piece for us.

Q. Every coach has sorts of kids they look for to recruit. What are you looking for when you go out?

Wade: We’ve got a very specific recruiting profile that has twelve to fifteen attributes that we’re looking for and that we rate kids on. We put them in a formula and we can spit out some data on exactly what we’re getting. Mainly, we’re looking for guys with great stamina who have a great appreciation for being able to play at Chattanooga. We want guys who are long who have a high motor who can shoot the ball. There’s a bunch of other things in there, but that’s kind of the basis. One thing we’re never going to sacrifice on is character for talent. So we’ll take a guy who may be too skinny or too short for the height requirements for their position (which I don’t really understand), but we’re never going to sacrifice on character or get a guy who academically is not prepared to graduate from Chattanooga.

Q. Rico White played a lot of point last year, but is not a true point guard in most people’s opinion. What do you think of where he will be playing next year?

Wade: Rico can play point guard. But I also think he is really good at the shooting guard position or as a combo guard. He shot 45% as a freshman and 28% as a sophomore when he was playing more point. A lot of that was late shot clock stuff. I’ve talked to Rico in depth about that in the short time I’ve been here. He will certainly factor at point some, and so will Anthanee (Doyle). I feel confident we will be fine at that position.

Q. What are your thoughts on some of the shifting membership in the Southern Conference?

Wade: That’s just the world we live in right now. I know the Mercer coaching staff pretty well. They won the Atlantic Sun last year and will be really good again this year. ETSU is great for us. We talked about playing in-state teams and teams that our fans are familiar with. Certainly ETSU is at the top of that list in terms of having another rival. VMI is a team we have played a lot in the past. They are all three teams we have a familiarity with. I think the additions are good for the league.

One thing I will say. I really don’t care about who else is in our league, or conference alignment, or how it makes everything look. I think our job is to make Chattanooga basketball to be the best Chattanooga basketball can be. If we put all of our focus on making Chattanooga great, and put all our energy and time into being great at Chattanooga, we’re going to win no matter who is in our league. That’s just the way I feel. It’s got a lot of potential, and has a lot of great things to it. If we put all that time into our players, and focus on Chattanooga, everything else will take care of itself, regardless of who is in the league or out of the league. My sole focus is on Chattanooga and whoever is in the Southern Conference we will look forward to playing them and competing with them and developing good rivalries with them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

News & Notes: The Mocs Edition

So many news and notes to get to. Yesterday, we hit on SoCon realignment. Today it's time to hit on everything going on with the Mocs since the hiring of Will Wade.

Let's do some bullets and analysis.

--The coaching staff has been filled out. Casey Long has been retained. Virtually everyone who is a Mocs fan applauds this decision. Long is a former Moc and had been in charge of the team since Coach John Shulman left the program. Based on what we're seeing from the outside, Casey Long had been doing a good job of keeping the team together. I think Long will do a great job.

The second hire was Wes Long. He is the former head coach at Charlotte's Queens University, a Division II school. Will Wade said that he was going to be instrumental in the half court defense and working with the post players. He was successful at Queens, and should be a solid addition to the staff. It is good to have a former head coach on the staff since Wade is inexperienced in that department. Wes Long is young, but has that experience. Looks like a good hire from here.

The third hire was Turner Battle. He has been an assistant at Buffalo. He played in the NBA Developmental League after starring at Buffalo. He worked with the Bulls backcourt and recruited. He helped develop a really strong backcourt, that has featured during his time a player that lead the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, and one that is the Bulls single season assist leader. Very remarkable.

The coaching staff is young, but seems full of energy. I am very excited to see what this team can do on the recruiting trail and with the team next fall.

--Two new recruits that we will take one bullet at a time. Anthanee Doyle is the first one I'll discuss. He is a combo guard who played a lot of point guard in high school. He will be a freshman. The Mocs, with the loss of Jonathan Stark to this year's recruiting class and Farad Cobb from last year's team, desperately need someone who can play point guard. He was recruited by Queens prior to Long leaving and coming to Chattanooga. He is long. He can make threes, which is something Wade really values. Can Doyle push for the starting point guard spot? I'm not sure if he can as a freshman. It should be interesting. I like Doyle's 6-4 height and length. I like his shooting. Could be a really good find in the Chaos defense.

--The second recruit is Justin Tuoyo. He is 6-9 and transferring from VCU. He will have to sit out a year and will have three years of eligibility starting next year. He was ranked #84 in the country coming out of high school. He averaged a double-double as a junior and senior in high school. He came up with 7.6 blocks per game his senior year. He did not play a lot for the Rams. That being said, he should be tremendous in this situation in 2014-15. He is very long and athletic. I see no reason to think he will not succeed at Chattanooga. He will have success. Combine him with TJ Williams and Christian Kennedy (both over 6-8 and incoming freshman), and this class has a lot of size. The Mocs are going to probably be the biggest team in the SoCon if all three of those guys work out reasonably well for three years once Tuoyo is eligible. This is very exciting. He is also already familiar with Coach Will Wade and his defensive philosophies. He should be good in the Chaos defense.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

News & Notes- The SoCon Realignment Edition

So many news and notes to get to. Where do we even begin? Tomorrow we'll hit on the recruits added and the coaching staff.

Let's do some bullet points with some long analysis.

--Elon, Davidson, Appalachian State, and Georgia Southern have all joined College of Charleston in leaving the SoCon. Elon is joining the Cougars in going to the CAA. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are going to the Sun Belt. Davidson is going to the Atlantic 10. What does it all mean?

From a men's basketball perspective (which, let's face it, is what I care most about on this blog), it's bad, but not as bad as you might think. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were mediocre at basketball at best. The Eagles have been average to below average most years in basketball, even by SoCon standards. Appalachian State has been a middle of the road program for most of their existence. Elon has recently gotten good, but they have below average facilities, and have only advanced to one SoCon Tournament Championship Game (that I can think of off the top of my head).

Davidson and College of Charleston hurt. No questions asked. The Cougars have not won a SoCon Tournament except for once in their time in the league, but they were a quality program, that drew national attention because of what John Kresse had done at the school and Bobby Cremins time at the school, not to mention the "destination location" of the school. Davidson has been the most successful school nationally in the SoCon for the past decade.

That being said, Chattanooga has been down for much of the time the Cougars have been in the SoCon. There is reason to believe (and hope) that with Wade taking over the program, maybe the Mocs are ready to jump back to being a leader of the SoCon, and replacing either Davidson or College of Charleston as a program that draws national attention. If they do that, then the conference needs one more team to step up and join them to replace Davidson and College of Charleston as a consistent team near the top. Truthfully, it seems logical to me that UNCG or Wofford would be that team from the current members. Wofford is a private institution like Davidson, and has had moderate success nationally in recent years, reaching the NCAA Tournament twice and being competitive in both NCAA Tournament games. UNCG is in a major city, play a very strong out of conference schedule, and would be a nice program to get going. Samford? Furman? The Citadel? Western Carolina? Any of those would be OK, but probably would not carry the national cache of either of the other two. Samford is in Birmingham, and they are not a bad option. Furman and The Citadel don't seem like they are ready to make that leap at the moment. Western Carolina I would not mind being strong, but I'm curious if they would carry the national cache. Of course, Wofford's two NCAA Tournaments rose them to the level where I think they could, so any of these teams can get there with a couple of NCAA Tournament appearances. With Davidson (and the others) out of the picture, there is room for anyone to win the SoCon...and anyone to make that leap.

--But what of the new schools joining? ETSU, Mercer, and VMI have all formally accepted invitations to join the SoCon. They will join beginning in the 2014-15 season. What do I think about these teams joining?

I think VMI is fun to watch with their exciting offense. Watching VMI's up and down offense against the Mocs Chaos defense could be a lot of fun in years to come. But all in all, VMI does not bring a ton to the table in the SoCon men's basketball. I'm not sure they really make the SoCon a better conference. They do not hurt the conference, though. They are fine. They also provide a very nice rivalry for The Citadel, who is losing their in-city rivalry with College of Charleston.

ETSU can be a very good addition. They were not a particularly good team last year. Over the last eleven seasons, they have been to the NCAA Tournament four times. In the eight years away from the SoCon, they won the Atlantic Sun twice. They will provide a tremendous rivalry instantly for the Mocs- someone for the Mocs to hate again in the SoCon. Personally, I love ETSU coming back, and think that it does provide some bonus for the SoCon. I think that they CAN join the Mocs atop the SoCon again, and could be the second team, if the Mocs are the first.

Mercer is on the rise. They split with Florida Gulf Coast during the regular season before losing to them in the Atlantic Sun Championship Game. The Bears actually finished ahead of FGCU in the Atlantic Sun regular season by one game. That's the same team that went to the Sweet Sixteen as America's sweethearts for this year. Mercer has not been to the tournament since 1985, but won 24 games last year, and won 26 games in 2011-2012. This is a program on the rise. They are also capable of moving to the top of the SoCon.

--All in all, the SoCon movement has left me feeling like this- it's going to leave the SoCon a little bit down. But I don't think it will be down for the long haul. I think on the whole, if Furman and Chattanooga with their new coaching staffs improve, if ETSU and Mercer bring what I think they can bring to the conference, if Samford continues to improve, and if Wofford can build off of their two NCAA tournament appearances, then this SoCon will be better than last year's. Now, it would be hard to be worse than last year's SoCon. But getting the conference RPI back up into the Top 25 would be good. I think the SoCon can do that with these members. We'll see in history if I'm right or wrong.

Am I too optimistic about the Mocs chances? Few schools care as much about basketball as Chattanooga in the new SoCon. No team has as much tradition as Chattanooga. That makes Chattanooga the prime candidate to step up and take the lead in the new SoCon. Someone has to. The SoCon needs them to. Could someone other than the Mocs do that? Sure. But tradition, fan base, and facilities make Chattanooga the most likely candidate.

I'm sure every other school is saying similar things, though.

It's an interesting time in the SoCon. I'm glad to be along for the ride.