Friday, January 31, 2014

Furman Preview: Bouncing Back

The Mocs loss to Davidson on Thursday was not unexpected. But the utter domination that was
experienced by the Mocs was slightly astonishing. Now, the Mocs have to return home and play good basketball, less than 48 hours later. The Mocs need a win to stay on track for a SoCon bye, and get back onto the winning track.

The Mocs are in an interesting situation. This is the second time they have played a team for a second time. They beat Wofford by one the first time they played them and then fourteen the second time. They beat Furman by nine the first time they played. What will the Mocs do in McKenzie Arena on Saturday night as they try to bounce back?

Ironically, the first time the Mocs played a team for a second time, they had a week off to prepare for the game. Now, Furman also did not play on Thursday (because the weather did not permit Samford to travel to Greenville). So, the Paladins come in well rested.

It will be interesting to see how this game differs from the first. In the first game, Stephen Croone scored 19 for Furman, while Kendrec Ferrara scored 13. The Mocs got 23 offensive rebounds to the Paladins 26 defensive rebounds. Casey Jones had 13 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. Z Mason scored 20 with 13 rebounds and six blocks. Rico White had 13 points, while Martynas Bareika scored just 5 points. The Mocs shot 6 of 21 from three point range on the game.

Furman ranks 11th in the SoCon in TO%. The Paladins are the fourth best shooting team in eFG% in the SoCon, but rank 9th in defensive eFG%. This is a below average rebounding team, that shoots the ball pretty well, but turns over the ball too much and isn't a great defensive team.

Stephen Croone is the Paladins best player. He can drive to the basket and make things happen. He did an OK job of that against the Mocs in the first game, but was not quite as effective as he has been in other games.

The real breakout star for the Paladins since that game has been Ferrara. He is getting better every game it seems like. He is an effective inside player for the Paladins. The 6-9 sophomore is growing in confidence, and could present a match-up problem for the Mocs.

Larry Wideman is another effective Paladin. He is averaging just 7.2 points per game. He has made the most three pointers on the team. He's made 38. William Gates Jr is the best three point shooter on the team, shooting 45.7% from long distance. Charlie Reddick seems to be getting back to himself. He scored 28 points in the last two games combined. That's effective. He may finally be getting back to himself after the injury.


The Mocs are going to play a lousy first ten minutes as the Mocs struggle to get over the blowout loss to Davidson. But Furman will not be able to build a big lead. At that point, the Mocs will wake up. Bareika will play a good game in front of the home crowd. Jones will continue to bring his top game. Mason will step up and play a phenomenal second half and the Mocs will pull away in the final ten minutes and win it fairly easily. It's a big night for the Mocs. This is a game that they need to win and bounce back. They'll get it done, despite the struggle to slow down Croone. Mocs 78, Paladins 65.


Daily Dribbles- 1/31/14

--On this last day of January, it's time to take a feel of where the SoCon race is right now.
Appalachian State, Furman, and The Citadel are in the biggest trouble for a SoCon bye. I'd say every other team has to feel good about their chances to get a bye. At the same time, it feels a little like there are five teams in best position to earn a bye- Chattanooga, Davidson, Elon, Western Carolina and Wofford. UNCG, Samford and Georgia Southern are all right on their heels, but they just feel like they are a hair behind right now.

--Thursday recaps here.

--Saturday previews here.

--Missed this earlier. A discussion on how Mike Kobani is doing for App.

--Davidson took control of the SoCon race in dominating fashion on Thursday night by hammering the Mocs 94-51. It was a complete and total takeover by the Wildcats. The Mocs showed a lot of chinks in the armor.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wildcats 94, Mocs 51

It was coming. We knew it was coming. Eventually the magic carpet ride of the ten game winning streak was going to come to an end. We all knew it.

We just didn't expect it to end quite that hard.

The Mocs came out and were simply too tight and not ready for the moment. Yes, the Wildcats had a lot to do with it. The Mocs didn't make a three pointer. They made very few shots. They did not rebound well. And the Mocs old bugaboo (terrible defense leading to a lot of layups) came back to bite them for the first time since the Northern Kentucky game.

DeMon Brooks made a statement that he deseved the Player of the Year and that Z Mason did not. Mason had his worst game of the year and Brooks was brilliant. Mason was 0 for 4 from the field and 0 for 3 from three point range. That is not Mason's game. He likes to shoot the three occassionally, but not at that frequency. Barieka was a terrible 1 of 9 from the floor.

Casey Jones lead the Mocs with 20 points and eight rebounds. Jones has shown that he is a pretty good player. He continues to make a case to be on an All SoCon team.

The critical thing all along for the Mocs was to rebound from this game (win or lose) and come out and beat Furman on Saturday in McKenzie Arena. This is an important game for the Mocs, possibly made more important by the margin in this contest. The Mocs are a critical junction of the season. Do the Mocs respond by playing a great game and coming away with a big win on Saturday night? Or do they wilt and show that they were not ready for the spotlight?

Saturday is all about responding.

But tonight was all about proving that they were not ready for this kind of game. It was very difficult in Belk Arena. The Mocs were not ready for that atmosphere. Just like last weekend Elon wasn't ready for the atmosphere in Chattanooga and ran into a buzzsaw. I'll quote Kentucky coach John Calipari- nobody is playing true road games in March. That's very true. It's all about being able to win on a neutral floor. We'll see if the Mocs can do anything different in Asheville if they get the chance.

In the mean time, the Mocs need to get back to winning. They are still up by two and a half games on the third seed and are up 3.5 games for the bye. So they are still in great shape for all of those things. The road to winning the regular season SoCon Championship just got a whole lot tougher.

It all starts again on Saturday.

Better nights are still coming.....


Four Factors: Davidson

Wildcats- 63.4%
Mocs- 32.7%
Advantage- Wildcats

Wildcats- 12.9%
Mocs- 20.5%
Advantage- Wildcats

Wildcats- 42.4%
Mocs- 25.9%
Advantage- Wildcats

Wildcats- 11.3%
Mocs- 53.1%
Advantage- Mocs

Wildcats- 6
Mocs- 5
Advantage- Wildcats

Wildcats- 42.9%
Mocs- 0.0%
Advantage- Wildcats

Possessions: 69

SoCon Thursday- 1/30/14

Davidson 94, Chattanooga 51

Key Stat: Davidson 59.2% from the floor. The Mocs were dominated on the rebounding glass. They shot below 33% from the floor. They did not make a single three pointer. Davidson made nearly 60% of their shots from the floor. It was a wonderful night for Davidson. The hot shooting was a reminder that the Mocs have been really bad on offense for much of the year.

Player of the Game: DeMon Brooks. Brooks collected 27 points and had twelve rebounds. He made a statement about the Player of the Year race. He was very good in this one. He was 12 of 18 from the floor and collected five offensive rebounds.

What It All Means: For Chattanooga, this was the coming down to earth game. It was eventually going to come. That was just one loss though. The Mocs still actually lead the SoCon by one half game over Davidson. The Mocs defense has holes that they have been working to cover up. They were uncovered tonight. They ran into a buzzsaw looking to make a point tonight, but still, the Mocs had to hope for better than that. Davidson came out with the intent of making a statement, and they did just that. They are the clear favorite to win the SoCon at this point. They trail the Mocs in the standings still, but are in really good shape in the overall standings. The Wildcats played nearly flawlessly and the Mocs played a terrible game. If they meet in Asheville, it will likely be a closer game, but Davidson made a huge statement.

Elon 74, Western Carolina 60

Key Stat: Elon seven personal fouls. That's not in the first half. That's in the whole game. The Catamounts did not shoot a single free throw in the game. Elon shot 23 free throws. How in the world was Western Carolina going to win the game with those numbers? Pretty unlikely.

Player of the Game: Lucas Troutman. Troutman scored 17 points and ten rebounds. He made 6 of 10 from the floor. He also had three steals. He made just 5 of 9 free throws. But his double-double was more than enough to lead the Phoenix to the victory.

What It All Means: The Catamounts now have lost three out of four games. Trey Sumler was held to six points. He has averaged eight in the last two games. What's going on with him right now? The Catamounts are now 5-3 and have over a week off before hosting Appalachian State and Furman next weekend. Western has to get it together. Elon is 4-3 in SoCon games and stopped the bleeding a bit. They have split the season series with Western Carolina. Elon has a trip to Boone this Saturday in a game the Phoenix have to show up and win. Elon is in good position to get a bye at this point, but they can't afford a slip up.

Georgia Southern 83, The Citadel 52

Key Stat: Georgia Southern 53.4% from the floor. The Bulldogs shot 35.1% from the floor. They were dominated on the rebounding glass. They made just one three pointer. The Eagles were amazing from the floor. They even made 50% of their shots from three point range. It was an incredibly good performance for the Eagles.

Player of the Game: Jelani Hewitt. Hewitt scored 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the floor. He had one rebound and five assists. He made 4 of 6 from three point range. Hewitt absolutely made everything tonight, and showed again why he is one of the SoCon's top players on a night the Eagles needed him to dominate.

What It All Means: The Eagles were absolutely brilliant in this one. They dominated almost from the outset. The Eagles needed to get a win really bad. They now have three road games, beginning with UNCG on Saturday. They are only one game out of the final bye spot right now. They are in a position to contend for one, but need to play well on Saturday against the Spartans to stay there. The Bulldogs remain winless in SoCon play. They continue to be dominated in this one. They go to Davidson on Saturday. They have been getting pounded lately. The Bulldogs are really bad right now. They will probably eventually get a SoCon win, but they look far away from that right now.

UNCG 66, Appalachian State 61
Key Stat: Mountaineers 34.3% from the floor. The Mountaineers went ice cold and could not recover. They were up big in the first half, but could not make shots in the second half and could not slow down the Spartans. The Mountaineers shooting was simply not good.

Player of the Game: Jordan Potts. Potts made 8 of 13 from three point range and scored 26 points. He had one assist and two steals. Potts red hot shooting was the reason the Spartans were able to pull out the come from behind win that they desperately needed.

What It All Means: The Mountaineers had a double digit lead and looked like they were rolling to a 3-4 SoCon record and a three game winning streak. But then it fell apart. Almost as quickly as they built the lead, it was gone. The Mountaineers host Elon on Saturday in a game they absolutely have to have if they want to get back into the bye race. The Spartans won this critical game and now is one half game behind Elon for the final bye spot and one full game behind Wofford and Western Carolina. The Spartans needed to win both games at home this weekend and they are halfway there. With a game against 3-4 Georgia Southern in Greensboro on Saturday, that game will matter a great deal. They need to come up with the win and stay ahead of the Eagles in the standings.

Daily Dribbles- 1/30/14

--Thursday previews here.

--SoCon Game of the Week: Chattanooga at Davidson here.

--The Samford-Furman game scheduled for Thursday night in Greenville has been postponed until Monday night. Samford will play Wofford on Saturday now. Furman will play Chattanooga in their next game. This is possibly an advantage to Furman when they play Chattanooga- they will not be travelling right after playing a game. The Mocs will be travelling back from a taxing game at Davidson. Could make that game more interesting. Samford and Wofford now both have Thursday off.

--Thursday is here. That means conference action is here again. Along with Chattanooga-Davidson, thre's also the Western Carolina-Elon game, not to mention the UNCG-Appalachian State game. The Citadel also visits Georgia Southern. For those who enjoy SoCon basketball, this should be a really intriguing Thursday of games that will play a large role in figuring out a lot more about the positioning of certain teams, especially along the bye lines.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Davidson Preview: Everything and Nothing

There is a preview of the Davidson game elsewhere. Much like the Elon game a week ago, that means that this preview will be a little different.

What does this game really mean to the Mocs? It means everything, and yet nothing.

If the Mocs win, they will have a two game lead in the loss column on Davidson, and possibly the same lead on Western Carolina, or possibly a three game lead in the loss column on Western Carolina, Elon and Wofford. There will no longer be any doubt about where the Mocs stand in the SoCon race- they will be the favorite at that point.

The Mocs will move to having an eleven game winning streak, the second longest in school history, and will be 11-0 with their full lineup available. That could help them with seeding in the NCAA Tournament if they get that far. The team and fans would have total faith in Will Wade.

That being said, the Mocs will still have to come home and beat Furman, who had their game with Samford postponed, so will have had a week off between games. If they beat Davidson but follow it up with a loss to Furman, the SoCon race will be thrown back open to debate, and any good will the Mocs have worked up will have been lost.

If the Mocs lose, they will be tied with Davidson in the loss column, but still ahead by half a game in the standings. Their lead in the bye race will be trimmed and the Mocs will have a little bit of self doubt creep in, possibly. The Mocs will be in a dogfight for the bye and for the conference title.

The Mocs win streak will be over, and they will drop to 10-1 with their full lineup. With a trip to Eastern Kentucky looming next Tuesday, that could easily pick up a second loss.

That being said, the Mocs will still have to come home and beat Furman. A loss to Davidson followed by a loss to Furman starts a real live losing streak, especially with Eastern Kentucky looming. The bye race will be wide open, plenty of self doubt could creep in, the SoCon regular season championship will be in real jeopardy and the good faith the Mocs had worked up with the fans could start to fade.

In other words, the game against Furman is the biggest game of this week. The Mocs absolutely have to beat Furman on Saturday night, regardless of the outcome against Davidson on Thursday night. That is the critical game at this junction. A loss to Davidson can be recovered from, assuming the Mocs can beat Furman. A win at Davidson needs to be backed up by beating Furman. While Davidson is the game everyone is paying attention to, the Fuman game is the one we all need to be fired up about.

I hope the Mocs beat Davidson on Thursday night. They are the clear underdog in the game, but have the ability to come up with the win if they play a really good game. I am really looking forward to the game and expect it to be a pretty interesting one. We'll see what happens. Excitement will probably not describe my feelings Saturday. Nervous is the more likely description.


Daily Dribbles- 1/29/14

--SoCon This Week is here.

--The Perils of Every Week Existence is always a good read. Can App really get to 4-4 this week in the SoCon? Maybe.

--Tim Williams of Samford won the SoCon Player of the Week. I think it was obvious that he deserved it, and he won the award in Scanning the SoCon too.

--I said it in the SoCon This Week, but I'm really interested in the UNCG games this weekend as they fight it out for a bye. They have a shot to get there, but need to win a couple of games.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SoCon This Week: Week Five

Feature Article: February- This Month Matters
SoCon Schedule- Week Five
SoCon Weekly Release
Scanning the SoCon: Week Thirteen
SoCon Monster Game of the Week: Chattanooga at Davidson
Thursday SoCon Previews
Saturday SoCon Previews
Thursday SoCon Reviews
Saturday SoCon Reviews

SoCon Monster Game of the Week: Chattanooga at Davidson

Who had this circled as the SoCon Game of the Year in the preseason? Maybe a few. Who had this
circled as the SoCon Game of the Year in mid-December? I'd harbor a guess that no one did. Is it the SoCon Game of the Year now? You can certainly make that case. There will be other big games as the season progresses, but this is a match-up of the only two teams with one conference loss or less- and it is their only match-up of the regular season. This game could go a long way to determining who wins the regular season championship. If the two teams end up tied for first, the winner of this game would get the higher seed in the SoCon Tournament and an automatic bid to the NIT if they lose in Asheville.

So this game matters. For Davidson, they expected to be in this situation. They expected to have one SoCon loss or less at this point and be playing games with the conference title on the line. No one doubts that Davidson is for real. For Chattanooga, few people expected them to be here. Many people thought they'd be fighting it out for a bye, but not be unbeaten in the SoCon. Despite the fact that the Mocs beat Elon by 21 (and it wasn't that close) last Thursday, there are many people wondering if the Mocs are for real.

Chattanooga is lead by Z Mason. Mason might be the leading in the SoCon Player of the Year race. Mason is averaging 18.8 points per game and 9.5 rebounds. He also leads the SoCon in blocks per game at 2.9. He shot 50.7% from the field and 68.8% from the free throw line. He has also made the second most three pointers on the team and is at 35% from three point range on the year. That's part of what makes him such a dangerous player. He can take you inside or outside.

Since Rico White has been playing more than five minutes and Z Mason has been back healthy, the Mocs have gone on a ten game winning streak. White is averaging 12.1 points per game and is averaging two assists per game with only .8 turnovers. He is shooting 83.8% from the free throw line and 43.5% from three point range. Casey Jones is making a case to be on an All SoCon team as well. He's averaging 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He is shooting 57.9% from the floor. Martynas Bareika has been a streaky three point shooter as well, knocking down 35.6% from long distance. He's gotten better at getting to the paint as well.

The Mocs are the best OR% in SoCon games. They also are the league leader in drawing fouls. They are the best defensive team in the league in opponents three point shooting, and that has helped them lead the league in defensive eFG%. They are the second best team in the league at not committing fouls defensively.

Davidson is lead by DeMon Brooks. Brooks is probably in trouble in the SoCon Player of the Year race because of the injury earlier in this year that made him miss six games, but he will be in contention. He's averaging 17.6 points per game and 6.9 rebounds. He is shooting 54.5% from the floor. He does not step out to shoot the three quite as much as Mason, but he can make it when he does. He is shooting 35% from three point range on the year, though he only attempts just over one per game.

Tyler Kalinoski has turned into a pretty good player. He leads the Wildcats in assists with 3.3 per game. He is making 46.4% from three point range on the year, while averaging 11.1 points per game. He's also second on the team in rebounds with 5.4 per game. Brian Sullivan is the team's leader in three pointers made. He is making 34.7% from three point range and second on the team in scoring at 12.5 per game. He is only 5-11.

Davidson leads the conference in shooting. They are the leading three point shooting team, two point shooting team and free throw shooting team. They also rank second in league games in eFG%. However, when they lost to Elon, they let the Phoenix get a lot of offensive rebounds (something they aren't particularly good at) and shoot pretty well. The Wildcats need to do those things in order to win these games. They are 6th in the conference in OR% and DR%. That's slightly below average.


The Mocs and Wildcats are actually a pretty good match-up. The Mocs strength is in rebounding, and the Wildcats aren't a great rebounding team. The Wildcats do have a size advantage, though. The match-up between Mason and Brooks should be interesting. They are both very good. The Mocs zone defense has been very good, and the Wildcats could have a hard time with it. I think in Asheville this game could be very close. But at Davidson, this is the time for the Mocs to fall down a peg. They'll be in the game in the final minutes, but Davidson will win. Wildcats 78, Mocs 71.

February: This Month Matters

On Saturday, the calendar will turn from January to February. It's a bit closer to spring, a little bit colder (normally), but also one month closer to March Madness.

In the college basketball world, March is all that matters. Some of the sports world doesn't even turn their attention to college basketball until March. There are other fans that start to pick up on what's going on in February, though, as they prepare to make their bracket (which will wind up losing to a woman with pink hair that thinks the ball is square).

After the Super Bowl ends on Sunday night is when much of the sports world starts paying attention to college basketball. Everything every team has done up until now has been to put themselves into a position to matter in February (when the best attendance will show up if the team is relevant). February is all about trying to get in a position to succeed in Marchby getting your team ready for tournament play.

It's no different in the SoCon. Yes, the SoCon is pretty clearly a one bid league at this point (and probably for the foreseeable future). But everything up until now has all been about getting yourself in a position to be playing truly meaningful games in February.

Davidson, Chattanooga and Western Carolina have put themselves in a position to be playing meaningful games in the month as they fight for a conference championship and the NIT bid that goes with it. Elon and Wofford are on the edges of that championship race, but are also battling for a bye, which is critical. UNCG, Georgia Southern, and even Samford and Appalachian State have put themselves in a position to battle for one of those bye spots in the SoCon Tournament. We all know how critical those spots can be. No SoCon team has won four games in four days.

So this month is absolutely critical for at least nine of the eleven SoCon teams as they fight for tournament seeding and prepare themselves for trying to win in Asheville in March. 

It will be a fun month as we all prepare for what's ahead. This month matters. I know every month matters. But this one matters more than the rest. There's simply no way around it.

Team to Watch This Week- UNCG

If the Spartans want to get a bye in the SoCon Tournament, they desperately need to win both of these games. The Spartans have two home games against Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. Those are two tough games against two other teams fighting for a bye in the SoCon Tournament. The Spartans really need to get both of these games and stop their three game losing streak. This is a huge week to watch the Spartans.

Thing You May Not Know...But Probably Should

This is something that almost all of you probably do know, but it is something that I feel like is worth pointing out anyway. There are two layers to the byes this year. Yes, five teams are getting the SoCon bye. One of the benefits of a bye is that a team gets to play a team that has already had to play a game in your first game. Yes, that can lead to rust and that the team with the bye can not show up quite as well. Regardless, the best thing of a bye is to play a team that has already played.

That means that the four and five seed do not receive the full benefit of having a bye. Their first round game is against each other. That means that there is an advantage to getting into the top three in the SoCon standings. Getting into the top three seed is going to be very important in the SoCon Tournament.

Since no team has ever won four games in four days in the SoCon, getting a bye is critical for obvious reasons. Getting into the top three is also critical. So pay attention to the standings for getting a bye and getting into the top three.

Daily Dribbles- 1/28/14

--UNCG lost to Chattanooga over the weekend, and Dash has his reaction here

--Purple & Gold has a preview of Western Carolina's game against Elon on Thursday night, which should be a great game.

--Scanning the SoCon is here.

--The SoCon is going to have a huge game on Thursday night when the Mocs play Davidson on the road. This is the match-up between the top two teams in the SoCon right now. The Mocs have no losses, while Davidson has one loss in SoCon play. It should be an intriguing match-up. How far along are the Mocs? Can the Wildcats prove they are still the clear class of the conference?

Monday, January 27, 2014

SoCon Saturday Preview: 2/1/14

A daily preview of each SoCon game.

Saturday Thought

Samford-Wofford? Georgia Southern-UNCG? Elon-Appalachian State? Sounds like three great games in the bye race as we get February underway. The day will be full of intrigue with those three days. It is February. It is time to start getting ready for SoCon play. Just 35 days until the start of the SoCon Tournament.

Elon at Appalachian State

If Elon and Appalachian State both win on Thursday night, this game will take on huge meaning. The Mountaineers, regardless of what happens on Thursday, will have a huge opportunity on Thursday night to prove that they belong in the SoCon discussion. Michael Obacha and Tommy Spagnolo will try to contain the Phoenix big men. The Phoenix are not a team that likes to drive the ball, and that plays well to the Mountaineers strength. This is going to be a very tough game for Elon, despite the fact that they are the better team. The Phoenix won by 9 at Elon earlier in January. I think the Mountaineers keep it very close, but Elon holds on and survives. Phoenix 72, Mountaineers 70.

The Citadel at Davidson

This may be the biggest mismatch in the entire conference. It's hard to come up with a way that the Bulldogs keep this game close. The best chance for The Citadel is that the Wildcats will have played Chattanooga on Thursday night in what could be a draining game. If the Wildcats come out flat, and if The Citadel gets back to playing the way they did when they seemed to be keeping every game close, maybe the Bulldogs can hang around in this one. But even at that, it's hard to find a way for this game to be much closer than just a single digit game. DeMon Brooks and Brian Sullivan are each major mismatches for the Bulldogs. Davidson wins with ease. Wildcats 86, Bulldogs 60.

Georgia Southern at UNCG

UNCG needs this game every bit as much as they need Thursday night's game. The Spartans need to get home wins over other teams competing for the final bye. This is one of those games. The Spartans have a huge inside advantage over almost any team they play with Kayel Locke and Kyle Cain. That's even more pronounced for the Eagles. How will they contain Locke and Cain? It's hard to even come up with a way. Equally interesting is that it's hard to come up with a way that the Spartans are going to slow down Jelani Hewitt and Tre Bussey. Yes, Tevon Saddler can do a lot of things. But contain an entire perimeter game? Not likely. Both teams are struggling a bit right now. The Spartans get the home win because they are the better team and they are at home, but it will be a really good game. Spartans 69, Eagles 65.

Furman at Chattanooga

The Mocs took out the Paladins by nine points in Greenville in the SoCon opener. A lot has changed since then. The Mocs have grown in confidence, and the Paladins confidence has shrunk. Regardless, with Kendrec Ferrara playing better, and Stephen Croone being a tough match-up for any defense, the Paladins are a dangerous team if the Mocs don't come out ready to play. Coming off of the Davidson game, regardless of the outcome, this will be a tough game for the Mocs to be prepared for. The Mocs have the home court advantage, but both teams will have travelled a long way to get to Chattanooga after their Thursday game. So this will not be easy for the Mocs. I think Z Mason is too much for the Paladins, but this one will be close for a while before the Mocs pull away late. Mocs 78, Paladins 67.

Samford at Wofford

This is another huge game in terms of sorting out the bye positioning. The Bulldogs have been playing well as of late and could really make a statement this week to get into the bye race. They go to Furman on Thursday and will go just up the road to take on the Terriers. Tim Williams against the underrated Lee Skinner should be an interesting inside match-up. The Terriers beat Samford by ten on the road in the SoCon opener. But Samford is playing so much better right now. Will Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins be able to continue to play as well as they did last week? I'm not sure. This is a better match-up than the ten point game they played the first time. Wofford wins at home after the week off, but this one should be close. Terriers 73, Bulldogs 70.

SoCon Thursday Preview- 1/30/14

A daily preview of each SoCon game.

Thursday Thought

Thursdays seem to be the big day in SoCon play this year. Chattanooga and Davidson match-up in a game between the top two teams in the SoCon. Of course, the bye race is really heating up. Western Carolina is in good shape...for now. With Elon, Samford, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and UNCG all fighting for positioning, today should be a load of fun. Remember last Thursday when Chattanooga played Elon and Western Carolina played Davidson? The two home teams go on the road this week and they switch opponents. More potential SoCon semifinal previews.

Chattanooga at Davidson

This is the SoCon Monster Game of the Week. And it deserves it. The Mocs have been rolling to an undefeated SoCon start halfway through the conference season. The Wildcats are 6-1 in SoCon play, with their one loss being a home overtime loss to Elon. This is going to be an incredibly interesting game. DeMon Brooks and Z Mason may be the two best players in the SoCon, and they'll probably be head-to-head for much of the night. The Wildcats are the bigger team, and if they can win the rebounding battle handily, they will win this game relatively easily. Casey Jones has been so good lately. Rico White has been too. Tyler Kalinoski has been playing well lately. Brian Sullivan has also been red hot. This is a pretty good match-up, but I think that Davidson being at home in a huge game will come out and the Mocs just aren't quite ready to win this kind of game. Yet. Wildcats 78, Mocs 71.

Western Carolina at Elon

The Catamounts and the Phoenix hooked up in Cullowhee and Western Carolina won by 12 on January 4. Lucas Troutman scored 15 points with nine rebounds for the Phoenix. The Phoenix are 7-2 at home this year. Can they bounce back from the blowout loss in Cullowhee and win at home? The Phoenix have lost three straight games since beating Davidson in overtime. It's almost like they thought they had arrived after beating Davidson. It's hard to imagine how the Catamounts match up size-wise with the Phoenix. But that was also true the first time. Trey Sumler will be good. Here's the key- Tanner Samson won't go 0 for 7 this time. The Phoenix will get a very close home win. Phoenix 77, Catamounts 75.

Samford at Furman

Kendrec Ferrara. Tim Williams. Ferrara is one of the most underrated big men in the SoCon for the Paladins. Williams is one of the best big men in the SoCon. Both are big and will be a lot of fun for both teams to handle. Stephen Croone is a great player driving the ball to the basket, but the Bulldogs Raijon Kelly and Isaiah Williams will be solid on the perimeter as well. Samford snuck by Furman 57-55 at home back on January 11. Since that time, the Bulldogs have gone 2-1, losing by just three at Western Carolina. Furman lost in overtime to Georgia Southern, beat The Citadel and were destroyed by Wofford. My belief is that Furman is not playing right now and that Samford is playing their best basketball. Bulldogs 61, Paladins 54.

The Citadel at Georgia Southern

This is a match-up of two teams equally desperate to get a win. The Bulldogs are not doing well. They are winless. The Eagles have been blown out in three straight and won in overtime against Furman after losing to Western Carolina. Jelani Hewitt and Tre Bussey of Georgia Southern should have a field day against The Citadel's guards. Matt Van Scyoc is likely to contribute in this game for the Bulldogs. But on the road? Against a team with two stud guards? While playing terrible in their last few games? This is not a good match-up for the Bulldogs. Eagles 79, Bulldogs 66.

Appalachian State at UNCG

I know everyone is excited about Chattanooga-Davidson. I also understand that Western Carolina-Elon is another huge game. But in some ways, this may be the most intriguing game of Thursday night. These two teams seem to be moving in opposite directions. Appalachian State has won two straight games. UNCG has lost three straight. If either team is going to make a real run at a bye spot, this feels like it is the game that each team will make a statement. The Spartans will need Kyle Cain and Kayel Locke to dominate in the paint. The Mountaineers will need a full team effort with Jay Canty still out. They've been getting it so far. I think the Spartans will win at home, but it will be too close for some Spartan fans. Spartans 71, Mountaineers 67.

Mocs Making It Worthwhile

For the past five years, I have been writing this blog. The Mocs made the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09. I began writing this blog right at the beginning of the 2009-10 season, but did not make it through the season due to a lot commitments that I had that year. This is the fourth year I have been fully committed to this blog and have been writing to cover the games, etc.

Three years ago, the Mocs started 7-0 in SoCon play, and wound up finishing tied for the North Division title. But they were beaten in the first round of the SoCon Tournament by Furman in Chattanooga. Two years ago, the Mocs were predicted to win the SoCon Championship in the preseason. But the Mocs fell flat on their face and really were not good. Then, last year, the Mocs were rebuilding, and actually looked pretty good all things considered, but still were nowhere near ready to win a championship.

In other words, covering the Mocs over the previous seasons has been a bit like pulling teeth. I considered stopping the blog multiple times over the previous four years. It's been tough. I remember telling my wife multiple times, "I just want to cover the Mocs when they are good and have a good season."

The closest the Mocs have come to that was three years ago when they tied for the North Division title. They finished just 16-16 that year overall. That was the most wins they had during these previous four years.

It has not been the best. Not going to lie.

When the Mocs hired Will Wade this offseason, I had hope. I thought that possibly the Mocs were going to start finding ways to win. I thought maybe things were about to turn. I wasn't sure when it would be, but I figured it would come eventually.

When the season started 4-8, I was pretty sure I was in for another year like the previous years. I was hoping the Mocs would get it together. But I was trying not to get my hopes up.

As the Mocs have gone on a ten game winning streak, I have enjoyed writing this blog more than ever before. The Mocs are 14-8, six games over .500 for the first time in my blogging era. The Mocs have been rolling.

Not only have the fans been rolling into McKenzie (6648 showed up on Saturday), but my belief in the team has been rolling up. Do I think this team is destined to never lose another game on the way to the national title? No, of course not. The Mocs may not win the SoCon regular season title or the tournament title. I have no idea.

But one thing is for sure. I've enjoyed this ride. This ride is something I am thoroughly enjoying. On Thursday, we'll find out where the Mocs stand in relation to Davidson. Regardless of the outcome, it won't mean that something different can't happen in the SoCon Tournament.

The Mocs have never won a SoCon game in the last three days. Four years ago (after I stopped writing because of extra busy-ness), the Mocs did win one, but lost one in the SoCon Tournament. Can the Mocs finally get another SoCon Tournament win? Could the Mocs get to the NCAA Tournament?

Keep on believing everyone. This Mocs team is good and they are making college basketball season fun again.


Scanning the SoCon- Week Thirteen

Each week, bloggers and fans from each SoCon school get together and answer questions and vote on awards. This is the third year of Scanning the SoCon, and hopefully the best year yet.


Chattanooga at Davidson
Western Carolina at Elon
The Citadel at Georgia Southern
Samford at Furman
Appalachian State at UNCG

Elon at Appalachian State
The Citadel at Davidson
Georgia Southern at UNCG
Samford at Wofford
Furman at Chattanooga


1t) Davidson 94 (5)
1t) Chattanooga 94 (4)
3)      Western Carolina 80
4)      Elon 70
5)      Wofford 66
6)      Samford 51
7)      UNCG 47
8)      Appalachian State 34
9)      Georgia Southern 31
10)  Furman 18
11)  The Citadel 9


Tim Williams, Samford- 6 votes

Others receiving votes- Karl Cochran, Wofford (2 votes), Tyler Kalinoski- Davidson (1)


Chattanooga at Davidson- 8 votes

Others receiving votes- Western Carolina at Elon (1 vote)


Sum up your team.

Chattanooga- Where do you begin with the turnaround that has taken place in the last few weeks? I’m not even sure where to start. It starts with a change in defensive philosophy. But it isn’t just that. It’s a team that has bought into their roles and has bought into the idea that they can win. Z Mason is the favorite in the Player of the Year race. Rico White would be in the race for All SoCon if he had been healthy in out of conference play. Casey Jones is probably in the running to be on some All SoCon team. The Davidson game will be telling to some degree, but it is not the most important game.

Davidson- Since I last wrote about the Wildcats, they've had their best stretch of the season. 5-1. First was a dominating win at Furman. Then a nice home win over ASU. The loss was a bad one. The Wildcats had a large lead late in the game. At home. And pissed it away to Elon. The Wildcats followed that loss with road wins against UNCG and WCU. On Saturday, the Wildcats picked up another home win by destroying GSU. The lead reached 71-34 before the Wildcats cruised to a 30-point victory. The Wildcats are shooting the ball better and playing tougher defense. The team looks more confident. Free throw shooting (16-17 against GSU) has improved lately. Overall, the Wildcats are playing solid basketball. It comes at a good time. In just a few days, the Chattanooga Mocs come to town. They are all alone in first place in the conference at 8-0. It should be a great test for both teams.

UNCG-Following the UNCG Spartans this season has been interesting. Just when I think they've figured everything out and are playing well, they completely crap the bed. Then I temper expectations and they will play lights out for several games in a row. Rinse. Repeat. Ever since a home win against Furman several weeks ago, UNCG has been on one of its downward swoons. It took overtime to beat the Citadel in a game that honestly UNCG didn't deserve to win. That was followed by the first 3 games losing streak of the season.  The Spartans have begaun to clean up their turnover problems of earlier, but have started a new awful trend. Silly fouls and arguing with refs. UNCG players can't help but to foul and they have compounded it with a lot of pouting, bitching and moaning. It's resulted in 4 technical fouls in the last 4 games. Even worse it seems to be the sole focus of some players and coaches. Good teams ca put marginal calls behind them and fight on. The Spartans are young and just haven't shown that ability. They are now looking at 2 winnable home games this coming week that should really tell us where G will stack up at the end of the season.

Which team with four or more SoCon losses do you believe has the best chance to win multiple games in Asheville?

Chattanooga- This is interesting. The teams most likely to win in a tournament setting are the teams with a player that can simply take over for a series of days. Georgia Southern has Jelani Hewitt. Samford has Tim Williams. UNCG has Kyle Cain. Appalachian State will have Jay Canty. So I think those teams are all dangerous in their own right. I think Samford has the best chance to win multiple games. Williams is very good. Tyler Hood and Raijon Kelly seem to be coming into their own now. The Bulldogs blew their first game in the SoCon Tournament last year. I think they will perform better this year. I think they could certainly get to the semifinals or championship game if things break right for them.

Davidson-Easy. Samford. They are 3-4 right now, but that's a pretty good basketball team. In the preseason, most people had them projected to earn a bye. I had them 4th. They were 1-4 before taking home wins over UNCG and Elon. They'll be tough to beat from here on out.

The Citadel- Samford could easily win multiple games in the league tourney. I thought the Birmingham Bulldogs would be one of the SoCon's better squads prior to the beginning of the season, but SU got off to a terrible start. Based on recent results, including the win over Elon on Saturday, Samford may be putting things together.

UNCG- This might be odd to say, but I don't think any of them will win more than one game in Asheville. Three teams look to be much, much better than everyone else in the league. Davidson and Western Carolina are very good and I just don't see them losing to any inferior opponent. I've been waiting for the Chattanooga Mocs to lose at some point. But there's just so many "this is the real test" games they can win before you just have to say that they are very good. By Sunday in Asheville, I expect to see those 3 teams and the 4/5 winner and I don't think any of the other 8 teams will come home with more than 1 win.

Dean Keener says in his post on that there are no superstars in the SoCon. How do you define a superstar player? Do you think there is one in the SoCon right now?

Chattanooga- Obviously, there is no superstar on the level of Steph Curry in the SoCon right now. But to say that there are no star players ignores the fact that the SoCon is full of players that are stars in their own right. I think a star is a player who can take a team and carry them on their shoulders and a long way in the conference tournament. That easily fits several players in the conference. DeMon Brooks of Davidson and Z Mason of Chattanooga obviously fit that mold.  Trey Sumler does too.

Davidson- Star vs superstar. I guess a star is a guy who leads his team and a superstar is a guy who would lead anybody's team. I guess I'll agree with Dean that we don't have any superstar players right now. We have guys like Williams, Mason, Sumler, and Brooks who can carry their team for a game. Or for a season. Would they carry Kentucky or Michigan State? Will they be NBA all-stars?

UNCG-I would define a star player as that can draw me to watch a team that I had no interest in seeing play otherwise. It's hard to say anyone in the SoCon has generated even a portion of the buzz that Stephen Curry generated several seasons ago. However, I think there are still stars on a more scaled down basis. Z Mason and De'Mon Brooks definitely qualify this year.

It was around this time that BracketBuster match-ups used to be announced. Of course, the BracketBusters are no more. Do you miss them or are you glad they are gone?

Chattanooga- I’m fighting a lonely battle. I liked the BracketBusters. I found them enjoyable and always looked forward to them. I watched a lot of basketball that weekend and it was almost entirely mid-major basketball. It was fun. Was it perfect? No. Was it good? Sure was. I hope they come up with another thing to celebrate mid-major basketball.

Davidson-I do miss the Bracket-Buster weekend. It was fun. But it had become bloated. There were way too many teams in the last few years of the event. When ESPN brings it back, I hope they are a bit more selective with the teams.

The Citadel- In my opinion, Bracketbusters was only worth it if a team picked up an extra TV game. For the vast majority of the participants it resulted in an inconvenient break in the conference season, a non-league game the following year that may or may not have been wanted, minimal media coverage, and very little else. Good riddance.

UNCG-Honestly, UNCG very rarely ever played in the bracketbusters. So, the fact that they went away didn't even occur to me until reading this question. Even though that event was billed as a mid major showcase, it really was only a WCC and MVC showcase. So, it doesn't bother me that it's gone. It was a nice idea that had outlived its time.

Daily Dribbles- 1/27/14

--Saturday recaps here.

--AppHoops caught up with Donald Sims recently. Here's the Sims interview.

--Purple & Gold has a nice review of the Catamounts win over the Bulldogs on Saturday.

--The bye race has actually gotten more interesting in some ways. With Elon losing twice, they now have three SoCon losses. So does Wofford. UNCG, Appalachian State, Samford and Georgia Southern all have four losses. Western Carolina has two losses. Western Carolina's trip to Elon and Appalachian State's trip to UNCG are huge games on Thursday for the bye race. Does it get any bigger?

--Well, maybe. Chattanooga and Davidson are playing Thursday. The two teams with one loss or less in SoCon play.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

SoCon Schedule- Week Five


Chattanooga at Davidson, 7:00
The Mocs and Wildcats square off as the teams with the two best records in the SoCon. This game is the only meeting between the two this regular season.

Western Carolina at Elon, 7:00
The Catamounts and Phoenix are supposed to be the next two best teams in the SoCon. Western Carolina beat Elon once already. Elon is in a fight for their lives in the bye race.

Samford at Furman, 7:00
Can the Bulldogs keep their modest winning streak going? They are in a fight to stay in the bye race and this game is critical. The Paladins just need to show up again.

The Citadel at Georgia Southern, 7:00
The Bulldogs have not been playing well. Then again, neither have the Eagles. If Georgia Southern thinks they can keep up in the bye race, this a game they must have.

Appalachian State at UNCG, 7:00
The Mountaineers have inched their way into the bye race. The Spartans seem to be playing their way out of it. This is a must win for the Spartans, and not unimportant to the Mountaineers.


Elon at Appalachian State, 2:00
Can the Mountaineers stay hot? They've been playing well in their last couple of games. A win here would put them in much better position and really hurt the Phoenix.

The Citadel at Davidson, 4:00
It's hard to find anything nice to say here. Davidson will need to be focused on this one regardless of the outcome of the game Thursday. The Bulldogs have had a couple of decent performances. But not lately.

Georgia Southern at UNCG, 5:00
If the Spartans can win both home games, then they will prove that they will be in the bye race all the way until the end. An upset home loss could doom them. The Eagles have got to get rolling again themselves. How will the Eagles handle Locke and Cain?

Furman at Chattanooga, 7:00
The Mocs started their SoCon season with a win over the Paladins on the road. Now they get them at home. Can the Mocs win another one? Furman was close in the first one. Can they steal one on the road? If the Mocs are not focused after their game against Davidson, who knows?

Samford at Wofford, 7:00
The Bulldogs and Terriers match-up in what is probably the best game of the day. The Terriers played well last week to take some control, but the Bulldogs got back in the race with a good week at home too. This is a chance for both teams to make statements about their standing. Tim Williams? Karl Cochran? Yes, please.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mocs 77, Spartans 67

The Mocs needed to put the Elon game behind them and show up with focus and energy against UNCG on Saturday night. The Mocs did that for the most part. That's why the Mocs jumped out to an eleven point halftime lead.

But, then, the Mocs seemed to relax a bit. They relaxed just a touch at the start, and suddenly the Mocs found themselves in a world of trouble. Down 53-50 with 8:58 left in the game, the Mocs needed something to happen. Casey Jones stepped up and made huge plays down the stretch as the Mocs showed that they could win the game. The lead was three for the Mocs when Martynas Bareika knocked down a big three to make the lead six with 5:30 left. Then, with the lead at four for the Mocs, Z Mason drained another three and pushed the lead up to 7 with 3:28 left. From there the Mocs more or less coasted.

That's Bareika and Jones making the biggest plays in this one, with a dose of Mason. That shows what this team has become- they have become a team. They can rely on anyone to step up at a key moment. They have Z Mason and Rico White, that are scorers and can step up and make plays for this team at any moment. Jones is turning into that kind of player too. The rest of the team is making big plays at big moments. When teams start making things like that happen, it becomes contagious. For this team, winning has become contagious.

The Mocs first half defense held the Spartans to 34.4% from the floor. The Spartans then shot 57.1% from the floor in the second half. That's not good defense for the Mocs. The Mocs need to play a more consistent game in order to keep their winning streak going when they go to Davidson next Thursday. That will be their toughest test yet in SoCon far.

The Mocs did not shoot well from three point range. Bareika was only 2 of 7. White was 2 of 8. Mason was 1 of 3. That's not good three point shooting. The team was 5 of 21 from three point range on the night. They also were outrebounded, 39-33. Those are both bad numbers, to go along with the Spartans second half shooting. But the Mocs found a way to win on a night that they were not playing their best. There are a lot of positives to take away from that. Anyone should have known that the Mocs were due for a letdown tonight. That they were able to win by ten points despite that is impressive.

This team is just that- a team. At 8-0 in SoCon play, the Mocs need to keep on playing as a team if the want to keep on contending in the SoCon race. The Davidson game looms. It's the next game on the schedule.


Four Factors: UNCG

Spartans- 46.7%
Mocs- 52.0%
Advantage- Mocs

Spartans- 24.0%
Mocs- 16.7%
Advantage- Mocs

Spartans- 31.6%
Mocs- 20.6%
Advantage- Spartans

Spartans- 31.7%
Mocs- 64.7%
Advantage- Mocs

Spartans- 5
Mocs- 8
Advantage- Mocs

Spartans- 20.0%
Mocs- 23.8%
Advantage- Mocs

Possessions: 73

SoCon Saturday- 1/25/14

Wofford 76, Furman 52
Key Stat: Cochran and Collins combined 17 of 29 from the floor. Wow. Right now, these two guys can't miss. If these two are making 58.6% of their shots, Wofford is going to be almost impossible to beat. They seem to be doing that a lot this week, which is why the Terriers find themselves at 3-0 on the week and back in the SoCon race.

Player of the Game: Karl Cochran. Cochran made 10 of 17 by himself, scoring 22 points and collecting five rebounds. Cochran is starting to make a push for All SoCon performer. Many thought he was overrated prior to the last couple of weeks, but he has been playing so well the last couple of weeks, it is hard to ignore his stellar play.

What It All Means: Wofford is halfway through their SoCon schedule and sits at 5-3. They are positioning themselves well for getting a bye in the SoCon Tournament, and with the way they have played in the last six days, they have done nothing but help themselves. They have gone from 2-3 to 5-3 this week, and have looked like a real, live SoCon contender in the process. This team is going to be a tough out the rest of the way. For Furman, this was the game that they have been avoiding. They have avoided really big blowouts. But they couldn't in this one. Now they have a home date with Samford and a road trip to Chattanooga next week. At 1-6, they are real trouble in the SoCon. The bye is all but gone from reach, and it's time to start just trying to get in the best position possible. Again, I worry that Niko Medved might be losing his team. A nice showing next week is critical to keeping them focused.

Davidson 82, Georgia Southern 52

Key Stat: Wildcats 46 rebounds, Eagles 26. The Eagles are undersized and don't have great big men. That was always going to be a problem in trying to contain DeMon Brooks and the Wildcats. Davidson got 14 offensive rebounds. The Eagles came up with just 13 defensive rebounds. That's not good. The Wildcats shot over 50% from the floor, and rebounded more than half their misses. That's how you blowout a team.

Player of the Game: Brian Sullivan. Sullivan and Brooks both got 21 points. Sullivan had five rebounds and three assists. He also made 4 of 9 from three point range. That was the difference in the game here. Plus, it's always nice to break up the monotony of picking Brooks a little bit.

What It All Means: Georgia Southern may not be one of the upper crust of SoCon teams. I thought that they might be in the mix for a bye, and they are not out of that mix by any means, but they have looked outmatched in their last three games against Appalachian State, Wofford and now Davidson. This is a struggling team right now. They have great guard play, but until they get more from the paint (Eric Ferguson will be back next year), they are going to struggle. Davidson has decided that they are mad since losing to Elon at home. They have run off three straight wins, two on the road against UNCG and Western Carolina. Now they have hammered Georgia Southern at home. Next Thursday, they take on Chattanooga at home. It is the only match-up of the year for the two teams that are currently the top two in the SoCon. The Wildcats look like they are ready for that one.

Chattanooga 77, UNCG 67

Key Stat: UNCG 11 of 19 from the free throw line. Yes, the Mocs got to the free throw line 33 times and that is almost as important as this stat. But the Spartans only converted 57.9% of their free throws on the night. You've got to do better than that to win a road conference game against a good team. 

Player of the Game: Casey Jones. Z Mason gets a lot of the press for the Mocs. Rico White has gotten a lot of good pub since the Mocs are now 10-0 with him and Mason both healthy. Gee McGhee had the SportsCenter number one play of the night and was second in Freshman of the Year voting a year ago. Jones gets forgotten. But he deserves to be on some All SoCon team based on his play so far this year. Tonight, he had 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and five steals. That's filling up the stat sheet. It's kind of been what he's been doing for the last few weeks. He really seems to be fitting into the Chaos system perfectly.

What It All Means: The Spartans now have lost three straight games and are 3-4 in SoCon play. They have a big week of home games coming up. They host Appalachian State and Georgia Southern this week and the Spartans really need to win both to keep their bye hopes going. That's two other teams in the bye race, and the Spartans can't afford to let the losses keep piling up. It's a Jekyll and Hyde team that played great for the first ten minutes of the second half, but was really mediocre the rest of the night. The Mocs played a great first twenty minutes and an excellent last five minutes. They seemed to lose focus a bit at the beginning of the second half and that cost them. This team's margins are small- they can't afford to let the foot off the gas even for a minute. But they did enough to win, and are now 8-0 in SoCon play. A trip to Davidson looms next week in a huge game. The game at home against Furman is critical too, though. The ten game winning streak is one short of the eleven game streak the Mocs had in 1996-97.

Samford 62, Elon 59

Key Stat: Phoenix 39.2% from the floor. The eFG% is significantly better for the Phoenix, because they made ten threes. It actually goes all the up to 49%. But the Phoenix shooting did them in tonight, particularly since the Bulldogs shot over 52% from the floor. The Bulldogs defense has been porous for much of the year, but tonight, they played one of their better games.

Player of the Game: Tim Williams. Williams continues to step up for the Bulldogs. What a great week it was for Williams. He scored 19 points and collected ten rebounds. He had three assists, one steal and two blocks. He made 7 of 10 from the floor and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Play like that and the Bulldogs will keep on winning.

What It All Means: It was a bit of a lost opportunity weekend for Elon. In a lot of ways, they let the Mocs loss beat them twice. They found themselves down seven at the half, and that was just a little bit too much to overcome. They had two threes in the final ten seconds with a chance to tie up the game, but couldn't get it done. Now, Elon is 3-3 and in fifth place in the SoCon. That means that they are up just one half game on UNCG and Samford for the the last bye spot. They're up one full game on Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. Hosting Western Carolina next Thursday becomes an absolutely critical game for the Phoenix. The Bulldogs have muscled their way back into the bye race thanks to winning two this weekend. They go to Furman and Wofford next week. If they somehow win both of those, they can actually be in position to get a bye in the SoCon Tournament. Considering that they were 0-3 in SoCon play, that's quite a turnaround in just a few weeks. This team is very dangerous when Williams, Tyler Hood and Raijon Kelly are playing as well as they are right now. Is this a second straight late season surge from the Bulldogs?

Western Carolina 78, The Citadel 60

Key Stat:  Bulldogs 37.0% eFG. The Catamounts entered the game as the best defensive team in the league per Pomeroy. They probably are not going to be any different after this one. The Bulldogs were absolutely dreadful from the floor. They could not make any shots. Can't win if you don't make shots.

Player of the Game: Justin Browning. In a weird night for the Catamounts, Browning scored ten points, has seven rebounds and three steals. Browning was an important force in this one for the Catamounts. In a game where Trey Sumler scored only ten points, Browning scored his ten on 5 of 8 shooting off the bench.

What It All Means: Western Carolina came in and bounced back from the loss to Davidson and easily handled the Bulldogs. They now find themselves third in the SoCon, two and a half games behind Chattanooga and one full game behind Davidson for second. The Catamounts go to Elon next Thursday in a key match-up in the whole bye race and seeding race. The Catamounts needed to end their two game losing streak, and they did. The Bulldogs are in big trouble. What's the most likely win left on the schedule? At Furman? At home against Georgia Southern? Wofford? Samford? I don't know. This team looks like a team that may not win a SoCon game. They are playing worse and worse now. After showing some real signs of life early in SoCon play, things are bad right now. Can they win a SoCon game? I'm not sure.

Friday, January 24, 2014

UNCG Preview: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

The Mocs, who were receiving the votes in the Mid Major Top 25, came out Thursday night in their
biggest game in three years against Elon at home. The Mocs hammered the Phoenix on Thursday night, and since have been receiving accolades that had them getting pats on the pack. Gee McGhee's three pointer at the buzzer of the first half was SportsCenter's top play. The Mocs are sitting alone atop the SoCon standings and are two games clear of everyone except for Davidson.

Now, the Mocs face what may be an even stiffer test than Elon. They have to not read their own press clippings. They have to believe that this game matters just as much as the one Thurtsday night. They have to show up ready to play. This is a game the Mocs are expected to win. They must show up with energy for this one.

The dangerous thing about this one is the Spartans are such an up and down team. There's no telling which team will show up each night. On Thursday night, the Spartans failed to show up, and Samford won by ten points at home. Now, the Spartans need to show up in a big way. The Spartans have dropped two straight to fall to 3-3 in SoCon play. The Spartans host Appalachian State and Georgia Southern next week, so a win here could get them on a nice roll.

The Spartans have been perceived (including by me) to be doing better on offense than defense this year. However, when looking at Pomeroy's statistics, it rates the Spartans as the worst team in SoCon play in offensive efficiency. They rank 10th in eFG%. They also rank 10th in TO%, meaning they turn over the ball a great deal and don't shoot well. Those are not good stats. They are 7th in OR%. They play the fastest tempo in the conference, but have really struggled against the zone defense and the press defense.

The Spartans defense, however, has been slightly better. They are the top DR% team in the conference. They have forced turnovers at 18.9% and are third in the SoCon. They rank 9th in eFG%. Opponents are shooting 40.0% from three point range against the Spartans. So, they are holding opponents to one shot and forcing turnovers, but are allowing teams to shoot well when they do get off a shot, particularly from three point range.

In terms of match-ups, the Mocs OR% is tops in the SoCon, and going against the Spartans top rated DR% should provide a very interesting match-up. The Mocs score so many points on second chances, that this is going to be difficult offensively for them. The Mocs play a zone defense that is solid, and so therefore, the Spartans offense could have problems. This is also a good team for the Mocs to press against. They could force quite a few turnovers.

The Spartans have very good inside play. They rely on Kayel Locke and Kyle Cain in the paint to do most of their scoring. Locke is 6-5 and Cain is 6-7. Cain is averaging 16.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. He is shooting 49.5% from the floor. Locke is averaging 12.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest while shooting 49.0% from the floor. They are the two best Spartans players and the Mocs will need Z Mason and Casey Jones to continue to play very well in the paint. It was much tougher against Elon, though, and Mason and Jones more than held their own in that one.

Freshman Tevon Saddler has been averaging 12.4 points per game and leads the team with 3.4 assists per contest. He is not a great shooter. The teams best shooter is Nicholas Paulos. Paulos is 6-7, and has knocked down 60 threes on the year. He's shooting 42% from three point range and is averaging 10.5 points per game.

Jordan Potts has also knocked down 25 threes. No one other than Paulos and Potts have knocked down double digit three pointers on the season.

The Mocs may need to find some outside shooters to help them win the game. Rico White, Gee McGhee and Martynas Bareika would be critical to this team. The Mocs need the shooting in this one. Then they need to play the zone defense necessary to win this one.


I certainly think that the Mocs need to be careful to play their best game in this one. But let's face it. This is a great match-up for the Mocs. The Mocs play a good zone defense, which the Spartans don't fare well against. The Mocs like to press, which the Spartans don't fare well against. More than likely, the Mocs will start off slow in this one as they struggle to refocus after Thursday's win. But this is the ideal match-up for the Mocs and they come up with the win, setting up a massive game with Davidson on Thursday night. Mocs 79, Spartans 72.

Daily Dribbles- 1/24/14

--Thursday recaps.

--Saturday previews.

--It was a big night in the SoCon. Appalachian State and Samford got back into the bye race, and Chattanooga and Davidson established themselves as the top two teams in the SoCon at this point.

--UNCG's trip to Chattanooga will test the Mocs mental toughness on Saturday. Georgia Southern's trip to Davidson will test the Wildcats ability to win at home. Both should be somewhat interesting. Also can Samford upset Elon at home and really get into the bye race?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mocs 84, Phoenix 63

The Mocs fell behind 8-0 in this one early, and there were some questions as to whether or not the Mocs were ready for this challenge. Maybe the Mocs just weren't as prepared as we thought they were for this kind of game.

But then, suddenly, there was no doubt. They were ready. They were ready and they were dominating. During the next 28 minutes of the game, they outscored Elon by 33 points. The final ten minutes were roughly even as the Mocs just tried to play out the string and not blow it. They didn't come close to blowing it.

Z Mason showed up and scored 27 points with 11 rebounds. He was a man tonight and dominated the paint, even against Lucas Troutman, a 6-10 player that failed to show up tonight in many ways. Of course, the turning point of the game may have been Gee McGhee. The Mocs were up 38-32 just before halftime, when McGhee drained a 3/4 foot shot at the halftime buzzer to give the Mocs the 41-32 lead. That seemed to take any remaining air out of the Phoenix sails. They simply did not have a chance after halftime to make a comeback. McGhee finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Rico White made three of five from long range. All three of his threes were in the first half.

What does this game mean for the Mocs? It means that the Mocs are not messing around anymore. There is no doubt that they are one of the SoCon favorites now. They hold the tiebreaker over Wofford and Elon. They hold a two loss or more lead on nine of the ten SoCon teams right now. They only lead Davidson by one loss, and play them just once this year. They go to Davidson a week from tonight. Will they be able to win a game like that on the road? Hard to imagine. But this whole season has become a little hard to imagine.

The Mocs next challenge though? Showing up focused and prepared when they take on UNCG on Saturday night. The Mocs could easily pat themselves on the back and not show up ready to play. The Spartans could take them out if they do not come ready to play. Will the Mocs show up ready?

Will Wade has proven himself beyond any doubt. If anyone was questioning if ht was the right man for the job, tonight should have ended any doubt about that as well. Coach Wade has done an amazing job. The Mocs nine game winning streak has been phenomenal. Unreal.


Four Factors: Elon

Mocs- 54.9%
Phoenix- 48.0%
Advantage- Mocs

Mocs- 15.3%
Phoenix- 20.3%
Advantage- Mocs

Mocs- 39.3%
Phoenix- 20.3%
Advantage- Mocs

Mocs- 62.8%
Phoenix- 38.0%
Advantage- Mocs

Mocs- 4
Phoenix- 2
Advantage- Mocs

Mocs- 57.1%
Phoenix- 33.3%
Advantage- Mocs

Possessions: 65

SoCon Thursday- 1/23/14

Chattanooga 84, Elon 63

Key Stat: Rebounds 35-25, Mocs. The Mocs outrebounded the Phoenix by ten. Elon was a significantly bigger team than the Mocs, but on this night, the Mocs were the more aggressive team on the glass and that was a huge difference as the Mocs came up with the win.

Player of the Game: Z Mason. Mason made 11 of 16 from the floor and two of three from three point range. He scored 27 points and had 11 rebounds. He did have just one block. But he put the Mocs on his back and carried them. Mason was better than Lucas Troutman (10 points and four rebounds) on this night.

What It Means: The Phoenix have lost two SoCon games now and are two games back of the Mocs in the loss column, and do not get a rematch at home. Therefore, they lose the tiebreaker to the Mocs. So they are three games behind the Mocs in reality. The Phoenix jumped out to an early lead, but could not hold on and rapidly fell behind. The Mocs should have silenced any doubters tonight. They were up 25 with ten minutes left in the game against the preseason favorite. The Mocs have to not let it go to their head. The Mocs need to show up for UNCG on Saturday. A win there would put them in firm control of the bye and have another shot going to Davidson next Thursday night.

Wofford 74, Georgia Southern 64

Key Stat: Terriers 50% from the floor. No one is going to mistake the Terriers for a good shooting team, but they were on this night. They made half of their shots from the floor. If this Terriers team is going to shoot that well, they are going to be extraordinarily diffiuclt to beat from this point forward, regardless of opponent.

Player of the Game: Karl Cochran. Look- I've been critical of Cochran over the last year or so. He takes a lot of shots, but doesn't make a ton of them. He's a volume shooter, and doesn't score in a high enough volume. Tonight he shot 50% from the floor and scored 25 points, to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

What It Means: The Terriers now are 4-3 in SoCon play. They have had two critical wins this week against Western Carolina and Georgia Southern. They are in good position in the bye race right now. They trail Chattanooga by three games and the tiebreaker, so there is plenty of ground to make up to win the SoCon, but any team with a bye has a shot in Asheville. The Terriers have a good shot at getting a bye. The Eagles have three SoCon losses as well, and are 2-3. Since losing by one to Western Carolina, they won in overtime against Furman, lost to Appalachian State and lost to Wofford. Things have not been good over the last three games. The good start is starting to slip away from the Eagles. They go to Davidson on Saturday. They could really use a win.

Davidson 82, Western Carolina 77

Key Stat: Wildcats 67.3 eFG%. When you turn the ball over 22 times and force only six turnovers, you better shoot the ball lights out to win. The Wildcats made 10 of 17 from three and 28 of 49 overall from the floor. When you shoot the ball that welll, you can overcome a lot of other flaws in the game.

Player of the Game: Chris Czerapowicz. Czerapowicz made 7 of 11 from the floor, scored 19 points and came up with six rebounds. He made 2 of 4 from long range. He has always been a streaky shooter that can really help the Wildcats when he is hot. He was very hot tonight. He was a difference maker for Davidson.

What It Means: Davidson continues to win on the road, despite their home struggles. They dominated the boards on this night, and shot lights out. They still only have one SoCon loss, and are alone in second place in the SoCon race right now. Davidson is probably the SoCon favorite despite the fact that they sit just behind the Mocs in the standings. The Catamounts lost their second straight game after starting conference play unbeaten. Their schedule has been brutal and they have survived to be 4-2 right now. They better be ready for the trip to The Citadel on Saturday or else they could get a third straight loss, though. The Catamounts still are in good position for a bye, but need to get back to winning.

Appalachian State 80, The Citadel 67

Key Stat: Mountaineers seven turnovers. Appalachian State's offense has not been the best. They did not turn the ball over tonight and shot 55.7% from the floor. If they are going to play that well on offense, they are going to win some more games as the season goes along.

Player of the Game: Mike Kobani. You can't deny Kobani. He scored 18 points and was 9 of 10 from the field. What a great shooting night for Kobani. He simply couldn't miss. That kind of shooting was critical off the bench for the Mountaineers as they put away the Bulldogs.

What It Means: Appalachian State is now the owner of a real live winning streak. Having won two straight games, the Mountaineers now have a week off before facing off with UNCG. Win that one and we can legitimately talk about Appalachian State as a contender for a bye spot. They are only a game and a half out of the bye spot now. Without Jay Canty, it's hard to imagine they can make a real run, but they are showing signs of life. For the Bulldogs, they seem to be losing heart. The losses are piling up and they can't seem to stop the bleeding. A team that just a week ago looked like they could be the one making the run to a bye now finds themselves still winless. It's trouble time in Charleston.

Samford 88, UNCG 78

Key Stat: Spartans 45.9 eFG%. The Bulldogs have struggled defensively all year long. But tonight, the Spartans shot just 25% from three and 42.6% from the floor. The Bulldogs defense is what really helped them win this game. Yes, the Bulldogs were red hot from the floor. But the difference was on the defensive side of the ball.

Player of the Game: Tim Williams. Williams scored 29 points and collected 12 rebounds. He made 11 of 17 from the floor and 7 of 12 from the free throw line. Williams also came up with four offensive rebounds. He was absolutely brilliant tonight, going up against Kyle Cain and Kayel Locke. He stepped up and delivered.

What It Means: Maybe UNCG isn't quite as good as we thought. The Spartans now have three SoCon losses, putting them even in the loss column with Georgia Southern and Wofford for the fifth seed. The Spartans have a trip to Chattanooga on Saturday night. The Mocs could be feeling too good about themselves after tonight, and that could benefit the Spartans. The Bulldogs are now 2-4 in SoCon play and find themselves back in the bye race. They are tied with Appalachian State. Now things get interesting. If they can find a way to beat Elon on Saturday, they will be back in the thick of the bye race. A loss could set them back a little, but this was an important win for them to come up with.