Saturday, February 14, 2015

SoCon Action- February 14 & 15

Game of the Day- Wofford at Western Carolina (Saturday, 5:00)

What's the Story: Thursday night's results totally changed the shape of how both teams are viewed. The Terriers are no longer viewed as a lock to win the regular season title after losing at home to Chattanooga and seeing their lead cut to one game over the Mocs. The Catamounts stunned Mercer in Macon, and that put them in position to get all the way to the two or three seed in the SoCon Tournament. That means that Saturday's game will go a long way to determining where both of these teams wind up. If Wofford survives this one, they will feel much more comfortable about winning the regular season title. If Western Carolina can win in Cullowhee, they will have gone 3-0 against the current top three in three straight games and announced themselves as a real threat to win the SoCon Tournament. Mike Young has never lead Wofford to a win in Cullowhee. Now would be a good time to start.

Match-up: Lee Skinner is so important to the Terriers. When he is not performing at the top of his game, the Terriers are not as good. He will be battling with Torrion Brummitt in this one. Brummitt has been one of the pleasant surprises in the conference this year. Those two battling in the paint will be critical. Of course, Spencer Collins and Karl Cochran are the high volume shooters for the Terriers and James Sinclair and Mike Brown are the same for the Catamounts. The duo that shoots the best will have the best chance to win the game. Western Carolina is the second best three point shooting team in the conference, while the Terriers play the best three point defense in the conference. The Catamounts are 5-2 at home this year, with a surprising loss to Samford and a tough one to ETSU. Still, they have beaten both Mercer and Chattanooga at home this year. Cullowhee is a tough place to play. The Terriers are 5-1 on the road, but this is one of their toughest road tests of the young season.

Prediction: The Terriers and Catamounts both need a win. This game is one of the most interesting of the whole conference season after Thursday night. The Catamounts are such a good three point shooting team, but the Terriers defense will be tough to shoot against. They held the Catamounts to just 43 points the first time they played. They shot just 31% from three point range. Does Wofford respond to their loss like they did their first conference loss, when they came out and dominated the next several gams? Or do they continue to struggle? It is so hard to win in Cullowhee. The Catamounts  pull off the mild upset. Catamounts 58, Terriers 55.

Furman at ETSU (Saturday, 4:00)

What's the Story: This is another game that Thursday's results changed the feel of both teams. Furman was destroyed by VMI by 34 as the Keydets could not miss from three. The Paladins had just lost two nailbiters at home against Mercer and Chattanooga and many thought they could get the bye still. ETSU was heading the other direction rapidly. When they were down 12 in the second half at UNCG, it looked like they were done. Then they came back and boom...Saturday's game becomes critical and this team looks like a lock for a bye again. Furman upset ETSU in Greenville earlier this year, and would love to come up with the sweep. This game could help establish if the Paladins come out of their recent slide, or if they continue on their path downward in the conference race.

Match-up: ETSU is the third best three point shooting team in the conference while the Paladins just allowed VMI to make 24 of 45 from three point range on Thursday. That could make things difficult for Furman. Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley both can shoot the three. Will the Paladins be able to slow them down? The Paladins have the huge advantage in the paint. Kris Acox and Kendrec Ferrara need to have big games in the paint. Stephen Croone will be relied on to have a big game as well. Where is Furman mentally after the beat down they experienced on Thursday night? ETSU is living off a thrilling win and should carry the mental edge coming into the game.

Prediction: There is absolutely no way THAT happens again to Furman in this one. Right? Well, maybe. It is hard to imagine that the Paladins can turn around from that loss and win in Johnson City, but stranger things have certainly happened. However, the Bucs will not shoot anywhere near as well as VMI did on Thursday night, meaning this one will come down to the wire. The Bucs have not been blowing teams out even at home this year. They will come up with the win, but it will be a battle for most of the night. Bucs 73, Paladins 65.

UNCG at Mercer (Saturday, 4:00)

What's the Story: The Spartans and Bears both lost on Thursday night in disappointing fashion. UNCG needs to get back to winning in order to earn a bye, but it is going to be very difficult in Macon. UNCG is playing much better than they were just a few weeks ago, and they have developed a little bit of confidence. This is a tough place to keep that.  The Bears can ill afford another home upset if they are going to hold off Western Carolina for the number three seed or catch Chattanooga for the number two seed, or possibly even catch Wofford for the number one seed. This is not the time to lose a game they shouldn't.

Match-up: The Spartans and the Bears are two of the biggest teams in the SoCon. Kayel Locke, RJ  White and Marvin Smith going up against TJ Hallice and Darious Moten will be an interesting inside match-up. UNCG needs Nicholas Paulos and Clay Byrd to be knocking down threes as well. They are the Spartans best shooters, and were cold against ETSU. The Spartans, believe it or not, rank second in the conference in defensive eFG%. That means teams shoot the second worst in the conference against them, trailing only Wofford. Mercer is the second best shooting team in the conference. The Bears get a lot of credit for great defense, but per Pomeroy only rank fifth in the conference in defensive efficiency, while ranking first in offensive efficiency. The Bears are a fun team to watch offensively when they are playing well.

Prediction: An angry Bear is a dangerous Bear. After the loss to Western Carolina at home, Mercer should be angry and hungry. They also play very efficient offense that is very patient. That is the sort of offense that the Spartans struggle against. The Spartans will need to play great offense in this one, because, despite their defensive eFG%, they will struggle on that side of the ball in this one. The Spartans hang around for a little while, but Mercer pulls away for a relatively easy win. Bears 73, Spartans 59.

Samford at Chattanooga (Saturday, 6:00)

What's the Story: Samford's upset loss on Thursday came as the hunted. Now they can go back to being the hunter, where they have been successful and won a bunch of games recently. They head up to Chattanooga with a chance to pull off another upset and get themselves back into control of the bye race. The Mocs have a chance to win the regular season title after upsetting Wofford at Wofford on Thursday night. A win over the Bulldogs would keep them right in that position. The Mocs won a relatively close game at Samford earlier this year. This game really matters to both team in their quest to move up in the standings.

Match-up: The Bulldogs Michael Bradley is returning to his hometown and will be looking to have a big game against Justin Tuoyo. Tuoyo has not been playing well recently, and he needs to step up and have a big game for the Mocs to be as good as they can be. Casey Jones will be the best overall player on the floor for either side. But the key, as it often is for the Bulldogs, is what happens with turnovers. The Mocs turned the ball over eighteen times in their win over Wofford on Thursday and Samford forces a lot of turnovers. If the Mocs do not protect the ball, the Bulldogs will have every opportunity to walk into Chattanooga and come up with the win. That makes Greg Pryor and Rico White critical as they bring the ball up the floor against the pressure. Darius Jones-Gibson is the Bulldogs best player and will need to get to the basket and make shots for the Bulldogs.

Prediction: This is a definite trap game for the Mocs, much like The Citadel was a trap game for Samford on Thursday. The Mocs will need to protect the ball against the pressure and come out with the same defensive intensity they played with against Wofford. This game smells like big trouble for the Mocs. Still, the Mocs are the better team and are at home, where they rarely lose. This one will be a very close from start to finish, but Jones makes a big play in the final minute to come up with the win. Mocs 70, Bulldogs 67.

VMI at The Citadel (Sunday, 5:30)

What's the Story: After both teams won on Thursday, now things get much more interesting. The Keydets are currently 5-9 in SoCon play while the Bulldogs are 4-9. The winner really puts themselves in good position in the bye race, as the other three teams in the bye race are all on the road and underdogs on Saturday. The winner here will feel much better. How will these two teams handle prosperity? Neither team has handled it particularly well recently. The Keydets have won each of the two match-ups with the Bulldogs this year. If The Citadel can win one, they go a long way to getting the final bye. Really intriguing game for a Sunday early evening.

Match-up: Can the Keydets shoot like that again? Possibly. They have been so cold for so long. Even after Thursday's display, they still rank last in the league in two point shooting and three point shooting. After that showdown, maybe they get hot and keep it going for a few games. The Citadel is the worst defensive team in the conference, while being fairly efficient offensively. The game really comes down to a battle of the tempo. The Citadel likes to slow it down, while VMI likes to get up and down. If the Bulldogs get into a game at the Keydets  tempo, they will not be able to win. Phillip Anglade is the Keydets best inside threat, but Tim Marshall and Brian Brown were red hot on Thursday night. The Bulldogs need Ashton Moore to play well, but Brian White and Jake Wright stepped up in a big way on Thursday night and provided the Bulldogs with much needed offense.

Prediction: This is truly a mysterious game, even though these teams have matched up two times already. This one seems to be impossible to figure out still. The Keydets got the Bulldogs to speed up in their second meeting and that was crucial to their victory. I think they will be able to do it again in this one. VMI comes up with the road win by being good enough on offense and the Bulldogs being bad enough on defense. Keydets 75, Bulldogs 71.

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