There will be no preview of the Furman-Allen game, since it is not a conference game. Plus, hopefully Furman wins by 30+ points. No excitement, please, Paladins!
Game of the Day- ETSU at Wofford (7:00)
What's the Story: This is the Bucs chance to get back into the conference race. At 6-3, ETSU sits in fourth right now, but can get right into the conference race with an upset at Wofford on Saturday. The Bucs beat Mercer and lost to Chattanooga in close games. However, ETSU has also lost to UNCG and VMI. This team is such a mystery. No SoCon team (outside of possibly UNCG) is a bigger mystery. The Terriers are 6-1 in SoCon play, and tied for first with Chattanooga. Since losing to The Citadel, Wofford has played two dominating basketball games. Of course, those wins were over Western Carolina and Furman. ETSU is a definite step up in competition on that front. Next week, Wofford gets Mercer at home. It's a big couple of games coming up for the Terriers to try to continue re-establishing themselves as the best in the SoCon.
Match-up: Wofford has been the third best defense in the league for opponent's three point percentage. ETSU is the third best offense in the league on three point percentage. That is the key match-up in this one. Of course, the Bucs will have to find a way to slow down Lee Skinner inside. The Bucs lack height, but the Terriers are not exactly known for their height. This is a good match-up for ETSU for that reason. Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley can outscore almost anyone in the league. That being said, Karl Cochran and the forgotten Spencer Collins have been very efficient lately.
Prediction: The Bucs match-up well with Wofford. This is not going to be easy for the Terriers. The Bucs offense will present real challenges to the Terriers defense. But Wofford is playing so well right now and they are at home. This is a game that they can really re-establish themselves as the SoCon frontrunner by winning. Skinner will get a double-double and the Terriers will win by almost double digits. Terriers 77, Bucs 68.
The Citadel at VMI (1:00)
What's the Story: These military academies hook up for the first time as SoCon opponents but the second time this year. VMI beat The Citadel, 66-65, in the season opener in the Military Forces Classic. Now, they hook up for the second time. The Bulldogs are tied for sixth at 3-5 in SoCon play while VMI is one half game back at 3-6. Conference play is halfway over for the Keydets and will be halfway done by the end of this one for The Citadel. It may be a little early to panic about the SoCon race, but a win by The Citadel would put VMI a game and half back of the Bulldogs. If The Citadel is serious about getting a bye, winning this one would be a huge step in that direction.
Match-up: These two teams could not have more different styles of play. The Citadel likes to slow the game down to a snail's pace and VMI likes to run up and down the floor. That is what makes this game so compelling. Which pace wins? Ironically, VMI's offense is rated as having the worst efficiency in the league and The Citadel's defense is rated as the least efficient. Which team does better at what it is not good at? In their first match-up, QJ Peterson scored 25 points, but now he is no longer with the team. Brian Brown scored 16 points for the Keydets and will be expected to score more now with Peterson out. He is 5-11. Ashton Moore will be the big scorer for the Bulldogs. The Citadel is better inside than VMI.
Prediction: Intriguing battle. The two played a great game on a neutral court in November. Now, without their leading scorer, how will the Keydets perform? It's an interesting setting, but I think that the Keydets will win at home. VMI will pass The Citadel in the standings with this win which is part of why this is so interesting. Keydets 74, Bulldogs 72.
UNCG at Chattanooga (6:00)
What's the Story: The Spartans have been up and down but are just one half game out of the sixth spot in the SoCon race. They are really still right in the thick of the race. They beat ETSU in Johnson City, but lost to The Citadel at home and on the road against Furman and Samford. Who can figure this team out? If the excellent Spartans show up, they could hang around in this one, and this team is desperate to get a win. They host Wofford and Western Carolina in their next two after this, so things don't get much easier. For Chattanooga, they find themselves tied for the SoCon lead with Wofford. There is a huge road test at Mercer looming next Thursday, and four of their next five are on the road after this one. The Mocs really need to take care of business at home, get to 7-1 and get to this next stretch of the schedule, which is probably the toughest they will face all SoCon season long.
Match-up: Diante Baldwin is an underrated point guard for the Spartans, and Greg Pryor is what makes the Mocs go. That point guard match-up should be very entertaining to watch throughout the night. Almost as entertaining will be Tevon Saddler against Rico White. Saddler is a better driver to the basket (almost like Casey Jones for the Mocs) while White is a better shooter. The Spartans have solid post play when the guys perform. Kayel Locke and RJ White are good players. But Justin Tuoyo is waiting for them in there. After the way Michael Bradley of Samford played against UNCG on Thursday, Tuoyo must be licking his lips.
Prediction: The Spartans are inconsistent but have as much talent as almost anyone in the league. When they play up to their talent level, they can beat anyone. That includes this Chattanooga bunch. The Mocs are at home though and have been very good at home this year. If the Mocs take UNCG seriously and don't look past them, the Mocs should beat UNCG relatively easily. If they do look past them, and UNCG plays like they did at ETSU, the Spartans could easily come away with the win. The gut feeling is that Rico White will not let the Mocs look past anyone on the schedule at this point. Mocs 76, Spartans 63.
Western Carolina at Samford (7:00)
What's the Story: These are two teams going in the same direction. Western Carolina came up with their biggest win of the year against Mercer on Thursday night, while Samford had their first SoCon win of the year over UNCG on Thursday night. Now, both teams are trending up. Which team can keep that positive momentum going? The Catamounts are currently fifth in the SoCon, but sit just two games out of third, which is where they would need to get to make any true difference in their seed. While Samford sits two games behind UNCG for ninth in the conference, they are really only two and a half games out of the final bye spot. If Samford can turn that one win into two and three pretty quick here, the Bulldogs can put themselves in position to be battling for a bye. This game is critical to both Samford and Western Carolina's hopes of moving up in the conference standings.
Match-up: Is Michael Bradley going to step up again for the Bulldogs? He was good against UNCG on Thursday, and they could use him again in this one. But Darius Jones-Gibson has turned into the star scorer for the Bulldogs. Western Carolina ranks 8th in the league in TO%, and the Bulldogs pressure defense can force turnovers. The Catamounts will rely on James Sinclair and Rhett Harrelson to keep them in the game. Western Carolina is 0-3 on the road in SoCon play while they are 2-8 overall. Western Carolina will need to show up and win a big road game against the Bulldogs.
Prediction: All along, I've been writing that if Samford won one game they would quickly win several more. They are at home against the Catamounts now, which is not an ideal situation to string a second win together. Harrelson and Sinclair are tremendous shooters and Mike Brown will also work to keep the team in the game. Torrion Brummitt is an excellent inside player. But the Bulldogs are in position to win this one and pull out the win. I think they get it done, in what may wind up being the best game of the day. Bulldogs 79, Catamounts 77.