Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SoCon Previews- February 19

Game of the Day- Mercer at Chattanooga (7:00 PM)

What's The Story: Does Mercer want to get back into the championship race, or at least have a shot at the two seed? Then this game is a must win for the Bears. They have a brutal four game finishing stretch, but a win in this one would mean they had swept the Mocs, which would give them the tiebreaker over the Mocs and likely Wofford as well. The Bears would be tied with Chattanooga and two games behind Wofford with a game against the Terriers still remaining. The Mocs have a shot to  wrap up the number two seed with wins over Mercer and ETSU this weekend. Chattanooga came up just short when they went to Macon, losing in overtime to Mercer. They would like to avenge that loss, and try to finish up conference play at home with just one conference loss and two home losses overall on the season. Win both games this weekend, and the Mocs can do just that. It also keeps a bit of pressure on Wofford as they try to track down the Terriers in the conference race.

Match-up: Casey Jones has won the Player of the Week two of the last three weeks, and he has truly developed into one of the top players in the SoCon. Justin Tuoyo has been solid in the paint on both ends of the floor for much of the season, and had a great game on Saturday against Samford. The key for the Mocs may be the continued development of Duke Ethridge, who has been playing much better lately. Also, Eric Robertson is the most important shooter as he knocks down long shots more consistently than anyone else on the team. Mercer is an interesting team, because they play such team basketball- more so than any other team. There is no telling who will step up in any one game. Phillip Leonard has turned into one of the better point guards in the league. He leads the league with 4.7 assists per game. TJ Hallice has been excellent in the paint, so watching Hallice go against Tuoyo should be entertaining. Darious Moten and Ike Nwamu are the leading scorers. Mercer is well known for their defensive prowess, but it is actually their offensive prowess that they should be known for. They are the most efficient offense in the conference, but only fourth in defensive efficiency. They are the best rebounding team in the league. This is a good team that will be a tough out for anyone.

Prediction: The Mocs are at home and playing in a game that they are fired up about since they lost in overtime at Mercer. Remember when the Mocs hosted Elon last year in a game where they were looking to prove themselves at home? It turned into a blowout. Remember last week when the Mocs went to Wofford last week trying to prove that they could compete with the Terriers? It turned into a ten point road win. The Bears are a good team and will not go down without a fight, but this is the game the Mocs have been pointing to, even more than the ETSU rivalry game on Saturday. Look for the Mocs best home performance of the season. It will still be closer than they would like, but a comfortable win none the less. Mocs 72, Bears 64.

The Citadel at Furman (7:00 PM)

What's The Story: These two teams are tied for eighth, or last, depending on the way you look at it. Both teams are 4-10 in SoCon play. They are behind VMI by a game and a half. Both teams lose the tiebreaker to the Keydets, so things are certainly looking bleak for them. However, the Paladins have the tiebreaker currently over the Bulldogs and really need to win this game to stop some of the bleeding. The five game losing streak has not featured all bad basketball, but it has featured enough. The Bulldogs are coming off a disappointing home loss to VMI that followed a stirring upset of Samford. Their finishing kick is brutally tough, though. The loser of this game almost completely falls out of the bye picture, while the winner keeps their hopes alive.

Match-up: Ashton Moore and Stephen Croone are possibly the two most important players in the league to their respective teams. Which ones produces big in this one? It is important that they both produce big games. It is also important to see who gets the supporting cast. Neither team has gotten consistent production from the supporting cast. Devin Sibley, Daniel Fowler and Geoff Beans need to put together decent games for the Paladins. PJ Horgan and Jake Wright are the biggest contributors for The Citadel. The Bulldogs are one of the worst defensive teams in the country, which they cover up with their efficient, slow paced offense. The Paladins are a good two point shooting team, so they may be able to put some points on the board from there.

Prediction: Furman did not look great on the road last week, but they have been solid at home this year. They are 3-3 in SoCon play at home this year, with close losses to Mercer and Chattanooga. The Paladins offense should put some good numbers up. This is a game that The Citadel should like because the Paladins will not try to speed up the game dramatically. But the Paladins are a decent team at home and they come up with the important win. Paladins 69, Bulldogs 62.

UNCG at Wofford (7:00 PM)

What's The Story: The Spartans are also right in the thick of the bye race, down one and a half games, but owning the tiebreaker over VMI. With three home games, two of them against other bye contenders, following this one, the Spartans have a chance for a good finishing kick. They did not play that badly at home against Wofford earlier this year and now are playing with much more confidence than they were then. They could really use another confidence boosting performance in this one. The Terriers are looking to lock down the number one seed. They can not afford a slip up in a home game. They have two road games to wrap up the season, but host UNCG and The Citadel this weekend. Each win puts them that much closer to wrapping up the regular season title.

Match-up: The Terriers inside game is mostly Lee Skinner, and the Spartans certainly have an answer to that. Kayel Locke, RJ White and Marvin Smith are good enough in the paint that they can actually present a problem to the Terriers. They need to take advantage of that and do the most they can with it. But the Terriers have one of the league's most patient offenses- something that the Spartans have struggled with. That is, until recently, when they beat The Citadel and challenged Mercer. There is no doubt that the Spartans have improved since their first meeting with the Terriers, but can they slow down Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins and Eric Garcia? The Terriers looked a team rejuvenated by losing to Chattanooga when they went into Cullowhee and won by twenty points on Saturday. Does that carry over to this one?

Prediction: The Spartans are going to make this more interesting than the first time around. This team is showing much more grit and guts than they were playing with then. However, expecting them to come up with a win is just too much. In Spartanburg, the Terriers have lost just once this year and they are not about to let it happen again. Cochran has a big night and propels the Terriers to a ho-hum win. Terriers 68, Spartans 55.

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