This is the preview I hoped I wouldn't have to write. I was really hoping the Mocs would not see Maine in this tournament. All the way up until sometime around 4:30 Eastern on Sunday afternoon, I was hoping to see Middle Tennessee in the Championship Game.
Then, suddenly, the Maine Black Bears couldn't miss a shot and made 14 of 22 from three point range and stunned Middle Tennessee 89-85 in overtime. That was when I decided that, yes, I did want to write a preview of a Maine-Chattanooga game after all.
It was unexpected to see Maine pull off that shocking upset. They were significant underdogs (given only an 8% chance of winning on Pomeroy's site and ranked 345th out of 351 teams). But they did it. Now, they get a chance to do it again against the homestanding Mocs.
Maine, which shot 31.2% from three point range heading into Sunday, will look to stay hot from long distance. Dimitry Akanda-Coronel made 5 of 8 from three point range and scored 27 points against Middle Tennessee. He was shooting 26.8% from three point range heading into the game and averaging 13.7 points per game. He had been in single digits in scoring for the five games previous to this one. Does he stay hot on Monday night?
Zarko Valjarevic made 4 of 6 from three point range on Sunday against Middle Tennessee. He, at least, is a 45% shooter from three point range on the season. He's averaging 13.4 points per game. So he is a dangerous shooter that could go off against the Mocs on Monday night.
Xavier Pollard, the Black Bears leading scorer and rebounder, sat out on Sunday afternoon. He will probably be out against the Mocs as well. He is their best player when he plays.
The Black Bears have a few tall players on their team, but they do not play a ton of minutes. Christian Ejiga is 6-8 and started on Sunday, but played just 18 minutes. Shaun Lawton is 6-5, and is averaging 4.7 assists per game and 3.2 rebounds per game, to go along with ten points per game.
This is not a big team, but they are big enough to give the Mocs problems. They are a team that generally scores more shooting twos than threes, but put home a ton of threes on Sunday. The Mocs do not match up quite as well against this team as they did against Grand Canyon. They are a more likely team to drive into the lane. Do the Antelopes stay hot from long range? If not, do they keep on shooting from long range because of their hot streak on Sunday?
The Mocs will need Z Mason, Lance Stokes and Casey Jones to bring their A game. If they do, the Mocs should be able to win the battle in the paint, which will make it much less important for the Mocs to shoot well from long range. I expect Maine to score some points, but not be able to stop the Mocs offensively. The Black Bears rank 341st in both OR% and DR%, which means the Mocs should be able to win on the boards. They also let teams score at will inside the paint. That just looks like a good match-up for these Mocs offensively. Defensively, this could be ugly, but the Mocs will win a shootout. Mocs 81, Maine 76.