Game of the Night- Chattanooga at Wofford (7:00 PM)
What's The Story: These two teams played a very memorable game in early January that Wofford came from behind led by Karl Cochran for a dramatic win. The Terriers are in first place in the conference and up two games on Chattanooga and Mercer. If the Mocs don't win, their slim chances of winning the conference regular season title are over. The loss to Western Carolina hurt them in that regard. More importantly, they are trying to get themselves back into the two seed position. The Terriers can inch one game closer to putting the conference regular season title away at home. They have gone back to not playing full games recently, especially against VMI on Saturday. They need to bounce back from that and reassert themselves.
Match-up: Will Karl Cochran go off again like he did in his career night the first time against the Mocs? He has been up and down since then a bit. The Terriers Lee Skinner against the Mocs Justin Tuoyo is really a nice match-up. It should be interesting to see which one of them does better. The Mocs are hoping that the production from Chuck Ester and Duke Ethridge keeps up. They have not put it together on the same night yet, but if they do, this team becomes much more dynamic. Casey Jones was Player of the Month for the month of January. Can the Terriers contain him? The Mocs have been struggling out of the gate early in games lately, and Wofford has been struggling late in games lately. Interestingly, if the Terriers jump out to a big early lead, the Mocs may be able to make a comeback similar to what Wofford did to them in Chattanooga.
Prediction: This is two of the three best teams in the league and played probably the most memorable game of the conference season in early January. But Chattanooga is not playing well right now, and Wofford can virtually put the Mocs out of the conference race with a win so they will be motivated. The Mocs are good enough to hang around despite that, but in the end, the Terriers pull away for a win. Terriers 69, Mocs 62.
Western Carolina at Mercer (7:00 PM)
What's The Story: The Catamounts are hoping to make one final push to move up in the seedings, and that has to get going in earnest here. They are down just one and a half games on Chattanooga and Mercer for second. A win here could really propel the Catamounts up the standings and get them right back into the race for second. Mercer, who is tied with Chattanooga for second, needs to win to stay in the race for the SoCon title. The Bears lost at Western Carolina earlier this year, but Mercer has been one of the most consistent teams in the conference. They have been so good, particularly at home. Will Western Carolina be able to win another road game, or will their road winning streak end at two?
Match-up: Mercer plays the best team basketball in the conference. You never know what player is going to lead the way. Darious Moten has been the star lately along with TJ Hallice. Ike Nwamu was the leader earlier in the year. Phillip Leonard is the driving force at point guard. Western Carolina is a little bit different. Mike Brown and James Sinclair have been the scoring leaders for the Catamounts, with Rhett Harrelson having hit a cold spell. Torrion Brummitt has come on rapidly during conference play. He will need to stay out of foul trouble against Hallice. Brummitt and Hallice may be the best match-up in the league. These two teams may be the two best home teams in the league. The Bears are hungry to get into second place in the league, and a win on Thursday puts them in great position for that.
Prediction: Look out for Nwamu to have a big game. Something about this game smells like a game where he goes off. He is the most athletic player on either team. Sinclair, coming off his Player of the Week award, will also have a good game and keep Western Carolina close, but winning in Macon is too tough for a team that is not a great road team to begin with. Mercer wins behind another very efficient offensive performance. Bears 70, Catamounts 64.
ETSU at UNCG (7:00 PM)
What's The Story: Now things get interesting. UNCG trails ETSU by just one and a half games for the fifth seed, but the Bucs have been in a bit of a free fall. They have not done well lately. On the other hand, UNCG has won back to back games to get back into it. Could UNCG catch ETSU and earn a bye? If they want to do it, this game will play a major role in it. The Spartans upset the Bucs in Johnson City in December. A win here could signal a permanent change in this season- for the good for the Spartans and for the bad for the Bucs. It is now or never for both teams.
Match-up: Now, this is a match-up that UNCG should like better. ETSU does not work the ball as much on offense and that plays into UNCG's defensive weaknesses. Also, the Bucs do not have size inside. The Spartans do. The Spartans have RJ White and Kayel Locke and should be able to control the game in the paint. However, the Bucs have Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley are going to be the two best shooters on the floor. They can both make shots from anywhere on the floor. In Johnson City, the Bucs made a comeback by using a pressure defense against the Spartans, which they could not handle. Will ETSU use the press more in this game and try to take control? Possibly. But UNCG handled VMI's press well last Tuesday, so maybe they have figured out how to beat the press now.
Prediction: This game could almost make a case for Game of the Day status. This game really matters in the bye race. If ETSU is going to right the ship, this is the game to do it in. If UNCG is going to make a push at the bye, this is the game they will do it in. We find out just how serious things are right now for these two teams. The Spartans dominate in the paint and slow down the Rembert, Riley and Lester Wilson train enough to come up with a solid win. Spartans 79, Bucs 76.
Furman at VMI (7:00 PM)
What's The Story: As the two teams that were the leaders in the bye race heading into last week, now the Paladins are a half game out and VMI is a full game out. This game is critical to both teams chances of getting back into the bye race. The loser here will be in a lot of trouble, while the winner could find themselves in decent shape to still get the bye. This is the fifth and final home game of the homestand for the Keydets that has seen them go 1-3. However, the Paladins lost at home to VMI by ten earlier this year. Only one team will be left in the bye race more than likely after this one.
Match-up: Say what you want about Furman, they are a much improved team from a year ago. Stephen Croone is the only elite player they have, but there are a ton of complementary parts on this club. Kris Acox, Kendrec Ferrara, Devin Sibley, Daniel Fowler, Geoff Beans and Larry Wideman have all had their moments. Their problem? No one can consistently count on any of them. The Paladins need to find at least one or two guys to consistently count on to be Robin to Croone's Batman. VMI is in a bit of a free fall without QJ Peterson. Phillip Anglade has been playing well. He rebounds well and has been making shots from the paint. But on the whole, the Keydets are struggling offensively. They simply can not make shots. It's very difficult to win when you aren't making shots. They played so well in the second half against Wofford. Does any of that carry over to Thursday night? We'll find out.
Prediction: If VMI plays like they did against Wofford in the second half, the Keydets should win this game. However, they have not played like that often recently. Croone and the Paladins are primed for a break out performance. Last week, the Paladins played well and did not win. This time, they play well and come up with a huge road win. Paladins 74, Keydets 73.
The Citadel at Samford (8:00)
What's The Story: The two Bulldogs battle in a key match-up. The Citadel has lost six straight games and finds themselves in last place at this point. However, they are still just a game and a half out of the final bye. If they can somehow pull the upset at Samford, they can get back into the bye race. Samford has won five straight since starting 0-8. They are now in solid position for the final bye and maybe even more. They did lose by ten in Charleston earlier this year. Samford needs to not lose momentum now, as they will play three road games in their final four after this, with their lone home game coming against Mercer. How will Samford do as the hunted instead of the hunter?
Match-up: Two teams heading in opposite directions. Still, both sets of Bulldogs have some inside presence. Michael Bradley has been playing well lately, while The Citadel has PJ Horgan and CJ Bray. The inside match-up is intriguing. Of course, Ashton Moore is the real scorer for The Citadel that has to be slowed down. Christen Cunningham and Darius Jones-Gibson will be trying to do that for Samford. Tyler Hood made a couple of huge shots last Thursday at Western Carolina and continues to provide leadership on the court. Samford likes to try to speed teams up while The Citadel likes to try to slow them down. When The Citadel was winning earlier this year, they were doing it by getting teams into slow down games. During this losing streak, they have not been able to get things slowed down as much and have often played at the other teams tempo, having the style dictated to them. The Citadel will need to slow this game down and not commit turnovers to stay in it.
Prediction: Samford is absolutely rolling right now. The biggest threat to them is that they will overlook The Citadel, as they just won at Western Carolina and ETSU and have a trip to Chattanooga coming up on Saturday. Truthfully, the coaching job done by Scott Padgett borders on magnificent, and it seems unlikely that he lets them slip up now. They are just playing too well and The Citadel is too bad at defense to slow down the train. Samford Bulldogs 76, The Citadel Bulldogs 63.