The Mocs will be playing Northern Kentucky two full weeks after playing Georgia. In between, they will play Montreat (a non-D1) and travel to The Citadel to open SoCon play. It is a full five days after playing The Citadel. The Mocs were beaten down by Northern Kentucky last year without Z Mason. They will be without Z Mason in this one as well, of course. Martynas Bareika had a massive game for the Mocs.
Northern Kentucky was partially let out of purgatory this offseason, when it was announced that they will be allowed to participate in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament this offseason. They were hoping to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament as well, but that was not granted.
While the Mocs do not come in with a ton of experience this year, Northern Kentucky has loads of experience. In reality, the Norse have six starters returning. Chad Jackson elected to redshirt last year so that he would possibly be able to participate in postseason play this season. He averaged 10.1 points per game two years ago. He joins the other five returning starters for the Norse. Tyler White and Jordan Jackson both averaged in double figures a year ago.
The three tallest players on the Norse roster are 6-7. Cole Murray and Jake Giesler are two of those, and they each started a handful of games a year ago. The other player is one the Mocs are familiar with- Jared Bryant. Bryant was a part of the last two Shulman coached Mocs teams. Jalen Billups is the team's leading returning rebounder, as he averaged 5.2 per game a year ago. He is 6-6, 240 pounds. He is a lot like Z Mason, in some ways- undersized, but good at blocking shots (coming up with 32 a year ago), rebounding and heart.
Northern Kentucky was picked to finish fifth in the preseason Atlantic Sun polls by the media and the coaches. That means they were picked one spot ahead of Kennesaw State. The Mocs will have a good idea where they are after they play Kennesaw State a couple of weeks before this. This is a match-up that could present some problems for the Mocs, because the guard oriented teams can present problems with the pressure defense. Then again, the Mocs are getting a little longer each year and that will just present more and more problems for teams like this one.
The Mocs will like to prove that last year was a fluke when they lost to Northern Kentucky. It was really after that game that the Mocs began playing substantially better. At this point, we will have a pretty good idea where the Mocs stand in the out of conference portion of their schedule. The new guys should be starting to gel at this point and this should be a game that the Mocs play well in. Of course, the game that the Mocs need to play the best in is the game against The Citadel on the Thursday before this one, because that game will stick with you in March. This one should be an interesting battle. At home, the Mocs will be favored, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.