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.