--Johnny Taylor has come back to Chattanooga as a graduate assistant. This is incredible news for those of us who remember some of the Mocs best days. He was the star player on the 1997 team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. He was drafted 17th in the NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic, and has proceeded to play fifteen years in professional basketball. So he brings a lot of basketball experience to the sideline for the Mocs. In fact, he is now the oldest on the coaching staff at the ripe old age of 36. He is the senior statesman. That sounds odd.
He also is coming back to Chattanooga to complete his degree. This is really good news for him. If he wants to get into coaching, that is a necessity. He says he is interested in becoming a head coach one day. This is a great opportunity for him. But not only that- it is a great opportunity for Chattanooga basketball to reconnect to their roots and invigorate a fan base that has been apathetic in recent years. The fans that remember those days will be excited by this. It is certainly another right move by Will Wade- another right move. I'm very excited about this move.
--The 2013-14 schedule was announced on Monday morning. Is it a great schedule? I'll quote Will Wade from the interview earlier this summer. "It won't be the best schedule ever." Go check it out and then head back over.
Three non-D1s is a major problem. Covenant, Montreat, and Hiwassee are some of the non-conference games. Yuck.
However, we knew that coming in. Let's cut through those three games and look at the rest of the non-conference schedule. A trip to Radford and a home date against Kennesaw State are included with Covenant and Montreat in the first four games. Radford and Kennesaw State are not pushovers by any means. Radford was roughly equal to the Mocs last year, while Chattanooga beat Kennesaw State last year. There is a real chance to start 4-0, while Radford and Kennesaw do not provide terrible opposition early in the year. I think those are decent mid-major opponents for the Mocs to be playing, and don't have a problem with those two teams.
Then comes the Las Vegas Invitational, where UCLA and Nevada will be the first road games. The Bruins will be good, and the Wolfpack are rebuilding. It is not impossible to think that the Mocs come up with a win in one of those games that would establish in Chattanooga that the Mocs are back. That being said, the Mocs could lose both games.
In Las Vegas, the Mocs will play Morehead State on Thanksgiving and then either IUPUI or Gardner Webb the next day. This is not a great set of teams, though I like playing Morehead Stat, and IUPUI and Gardner Webb are not awful teams. I think this can be an intriguing piece of the schedule. It's obviously one of the most important parts of the early season schedule.
That tournament wraps up on Friday. On Monday, the Mocs head to Georgia. Wow. That's not an easy ten days. Trips to UCLA, Nevada, back-to-back games in Las Vegas against OK mid-majors, and a trip to Georgia.
After Hiwassee, trips to Northern Kentucky and UAB wrap up the pre-Christmas schedule. Both of those are winnable, and there is no reason to think NKU is not winnable and that UAB could not be competitive. Then, the Dr Pepper Classic features a game against new D1 member Grand Canyon. Maine and Middle Tennessee play in the other half. If the Mocs and Blue Raiders both win, there will be an interesting showdown between two Tennessee schools- Chattanooga and Middle Tennessee.
Finally, in the middle of the SoCon schedule, Eastern Kentucky hosts Chattanooga on February 4. That should be a very interesting, BracketBuster type of game. I'm excited about battling the Colonels in this contest.
The SoCon schedule features playing these teams once: Davidson (road), Elon (home), Georgia Southern (home), The Citadel (road).
Look at the beginning of the SoCon schedule: at Furman, at The Citadel, Samford, Wofford. If the Mocs can figure out how to win on the road, and can beat two teams that are probably middle of the pack SoCon teams at home, they could start the SoCon season 4-0. That would provide a huge confidence boost as the season rolls forward. Only have to play Davidson and Elon (the preseason top two teams in the SoCon) once is an advantage in the schedule, though it does not help the RPI. They don't play Western Carolina until February 13 and 27. The Catamounts are the other team that I think is the most likely to get a bye- so playing them later could be good, because the Mocs will be used to the new system and most ready to beat the Catamounts.
It could all come down to March 1 at home against Appalachian State. Nice way to wrap up the year on Senior Day. Huge night to say good-bye to the Mountaineers in the SoCon, and could be trying to wrap up some position in the SoCon. First? Maybe. A bye? Maybe. We'll see.
I think the schedule sets up nicely to possibly win as many as 20 games. I think it's possible. It's a lofty goal, but an attainable one. If the Mocs are 4-0 heading on their trip to Vegas, that would be a huge start and really start to get the fan base to believe that real change has happened.
GO MOCS! #BelieveBig