The Mocs will be playing a couple of Conference USA teams back-to-back following the Northern Kentucky game. Both will be televised by the American Sports Network. The first of those will be at Middle Tennessee, in a return trip for a game that never happened. The Mocs agreed to play a game at Middle Tennessee if the Blue Raiders would play in the Dr Pepper Classic a year ago. The Mocs were going to play Grand Canyon in the first game (a game the Mocs were expected to win and did). The Blue Raiders were playing Maine, a team even worse than Grand Canyon. They were expected to roll. They did not show up and the Bears pulled off the upset. That meant that the in-state battle between Chattanooga and Middle Tennessee in McKenzie Arena for the Dr Pepper Classic Championship never materialized and the Mocs had a return trip to Middle Tennessee all lined up. This is that return trip.
The Blue Raiders finished in a tie for the Conference USA championship a year ago with Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. Yes, that's a four way tie at 13-3. The Blue Raiders, however, lost their top four scorers from a year ago. Reggie Upshaw Jr is the lone returning starter from a year ago. He averaged 6.4 points per game as a freshman from Baylor in Chattanooga. Gavin Gibson also attended Baylor. Jacquez Rozier may be one of the most important players on the team. At 6-7, 220 pounds, he averaged 3.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game a year ago. Jaqawn Raymond is the leading returning scorer, averaging 6.5 points per contest.
JaQuel Richmond is a freshman from Greensboro that is expected to start as a true freshman this year at point guard. His development could be a major key to this season and to this game in particular. As I've talked about in previous previews, good guard play can sometimes stop the Mocs pressure defense. Richmond will be a true freshman facing the defense.
The Blue Raiders schedule is not easy. They play Murray State, Cincinnati, either Ole Miss or Creighton, Belmont, Akron and Oklahoma State before taking on the Mocs, along with a host of other teams. This team will be battle tested by the time the Mocs play them. Of course, the Mocs will have already played Wisconsin, Butler, Tennessee Tech and Georgia. Both teams will have learned a lot about themselves by this point.
The Mocs will be seeking to come up with a win that would be noted by the faithful of Chattanooga. Beating Middle Tennessee on the road will send a signal back to the hometown, even if Middle Tennessee is not as good as they have been in recent years. The Mocs will want to send that signal with this one before hosting another strong Conference USA school, UAB, three days after this one. This game will be a very important one for the Mocs.