Friday, January 3, 2014

Furman Preview: A Whole New Season

These two programs were not good last year. They were bad in fact. Both determined that they
needed new head coaches. Furman hired Niko Medved. Chattanooga hired Will Wade. Furman went 6-7 out of conference, beating D1 opponents Gardner Webb, Presbyterian, Liberty and UC-Davis along the way (I'll only put the loss to Mars Hill in parentheses so maybe fewer people see it). The Mocs went 6-8 out of conference, beating D1 opponents IUPUI, Grand Canyon and Maine. The Mocs just got Rico White back to full strength and Z Mason back as well. They promptly won two straight. Now a whole new season starts for two teams that are going through new beginnings with new coaches.

The Paladins are hoping that Charlie Reddick gets back to full force at some point. He missed the first seven games, but has played in the last six. Against UC-Davis in the most recent game, he played his best game. He played 32 minutes with 11 points and seven rebounds, all season highs. The 6-5 senior needs to be a leader on this team. As he gets back into the swing of things, he will get better and make this team better.

Of course, this team belongs to Stephen Croone. Croone is a 6-0 point guard that I voted for the SoCon Player of the Year two weeks back in Scanning the SoCon. He leads the Paladins in scoring, rebounding and assists. He is averaging 20.1 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per contest. Croone had 40 against Liberty back on December 20. He is shooting 51.2% from the floor and 35.0% from three point range. He is one of the best in the conference at driving the ball into the paint and scoring in the SoCon. Croone is also an 80% free throw shooter. The Mocs, who struggle to stop guys who drive the ball, will have a nightmarish time trying to contain Croone. Rico White and Greg Pryor will have a huge responsibility ahead of them.

Kendrec Ferrara will also be a handful for the Mocs. He is 6-9, and second on the team in rebounds with 4.9. He is also averaging one block per game and 7.5 points. Ferrara took a team high twelve shots against their last opponent, UC-Davis and scored 14 points. He will be a handful for the Mocs inside players- Lance Stokes, Casey Jones, Z Mason and Martynas Bareika.

Larry Wideman is averaging 12.2 points per game on 38% shooting from three point range. He has made 26 threes on the year. William Gates Jr. is averaging 10.8 points per game with 17 threes on 48.6% shooting from three point range.

Furman made nearly 52% of their shots against UC-Davis in the win. They shot 82% from the free throw line. If they shoot the ball that well, any team is tough to beat.

This Furman team is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. They rank 241st in the country in OR% and 339th in DR%. The Mocs rank 193rd in OR% and 224th in DR%. The Mocs are a better rebounding team than Furman. Casey Jones and Z Mason will be relied upon to come up with a bunch of rebounds. They can do it, but that will be necessary.

Furman is not a good defensive team- much like Maine on Monday night. They resemble Maine in a lot of ways. The Mocs will be looking to come up with the kind of plays that helped them win the Dr Pepper Classic when they take to the road on Saturday.


The key in this game is Croone. If the Mocs come up with a gimmick defense to slow down Croone without letting someone else completely going off, they will have a very good chance to win. Croone is so good and is kind of the Mocs kryptonite- a guard who can drive the ball. Will Wideman or Gates go off shooting threes when they collapse on Croone driving? Or will their shots be off? Furman is a slow paced team and the Mocs like to speed it up. The same thing happened against Northern Kentucky. The team seemed to really start coming together in the Dr Pepper Classic as everyone seemed to be starting to find their role. The Mocs will bring the effort and be in the game until the end, but won't be able to come up with a way to stop Croone and will just barely fall. Paladins 82, Mocs 77.

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