Game of the Day- Samford at VMI (1:00 PM)
What's The Story: VMI has one objective- locking up the number six seed in the SoCon Tournament. They can do it with a win. A loss could send them slipping to seventh and not getting a bye in the tournament. Samford has a different objective- getting back to winning. They have now lost four straight after their five game winning streak. They are searching to get the best seed they can possibly get. This is a very important and intriguing game, between two of the teams that play full court pressure defense in the conference.
Match-up: The Bulldogs struggles have been highlighted, and they could use another big body. Michael Bradley has been fine, but he is all alone in the paint. VMI has Phillip Anglade in the paint. Anglade against Bradley should be at least entertaining. Which VMI shooter steps up in this one? Julian Eleby? Tim Marshall? Brian Brown? Those guys have taken turns shooting well in recent weeks. How Christen Cunningham handles the pressure for Samford may be the difference in this one. When they played at Samford, the Bulldogs had twenty turnovers, four by Darius Jones-Gibson. Jones-Gibson needs to be a scorer and not commit too many turnovers. Eleby scored 19 in their first match-up and was a major player. The Bulldogs have not been knocking down free throws during this losing streak at the same rate they did during the winning streak. That has been one major difference.
Prediction: Samford is a better team than they showed in the 22 point loss to VMI in December or in the 14 point loss to UNCG on Thursday. They will make this game interesting. How strong will VMI be after playing two double overtime games in a row. That equates to an extra half of basketball. Will they be fresh enough to play their tempo and shoot the ball well? Or will they have tired legs? That may well be the difference in this one. Still, with VMI at home, playing with so much on the line, they get the job done. Keydets 82, Bulldogs 76.
Western Carolina at The Citadel (1:00 PM)
What's The Story: The Bulldogs win over ETSU on Thursday gave The Citadel an opportunity to move as high as the seven seed. In the mean time, Western Carolina lost to Furman in a really ugly performance. The Catamounts are in a free fall and need to stop it before they get to Asheville. This team will be playing in the 4/5 game in Asheville next weekend no matter what, but they would love some positive momentum going in there. The Bulldogs are trying to keep their positive momentum going as they battle this one out.
Match-up: The Citadel matches up well with teams that do not necessarily like to get the ball in the paint. Western Carolina likes to shoot lots of threes. James Sinclair and Mike Brown are both good three point shooters, but Torrion Brummitt is the inside presence that will need to have a big game for the Catamounts to come up with the win. Rhett Harrelson scored 15 that time out, and he has not played that well in a while. In fact, he hasn't scored that many points since that outing. The Citadel needs Ashton Moore to keep on doing what he does. He has become a clutch shooter and an exciting player. Jake Wright is a very good shooter for The Citadel. He makes a bunch of threes. With how cold Western Carolina was shooting the other night, they will have to warm up to keep up with the Bulldogs offense in this one.
Prediction: The Bulldogs are at home and looking to close this out on a positive moment. The Catamounts are really stumbling right now, having lost three straight. The Bulldogs are actually better than the Catamounts right now. Western Carolina may get things going again in Asheville, but it won't happen in this one. Bulldogs 68, Catamounts 60.
Wofford at Furman (4:00 PM)
What's The Story: The Terriers have locked down the number one seed, so there is not much to this one for them...except for beating their rival on the road again. Wofford has dominated the Paladins recently and would love nothing more than to add another loss to the Paladins ledger. The Paladins are currently in last place, but their upset of Western Carolina on Thursday puts them in a position to where they can get out of that position with another upset. The Paladins are not a bad team given that they are in last place and would love to put on hold their recent struggles with their rival for at least one night.
Match-up: The Paladins showed up with a surprising effort against the Catamounts. Kris Acox had 12 points and 17 rebounds, making it his second 17 rebound effort in the last four games. Is Acox going to turn into a consistent threat? Maybe. It is still Stephen Croone's team, though. They need him and at least one other player to step up in a big way in this one. The Terriers will rely on Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins and Lee Skinner. Skinner and Acox (two guys that do a lot of little things on the floor) will be going against each other and that should be entertaining. Each just had two points in their first match-up. It will be interesting to see if Collins can continue to play at the level that he did against Mercer, when he was hot from the floor. If Collins is going to play like that the rest of this season, Wofford just got a whole lot better. He's always been a threat, but on Thursday he was on a different level.
Prediction: The Terriers are just vastly superior to the Paladins right now. Could Furman pull the upset? Absolutely, particularly since Wofford has nothing to play for. Plus there is always the chance that Croone has a game that reminds us why he was the Player of the Month in December. But this Paladins team needs things to break right for them to win this one. They have shown so few signs of being able to beat Wofford recently, it is hard to imagine that this is the day that changes. Terriers 72, Paladins 57.
ETSU at Mercer (4:00 PM)
What's The Story: This game has the least on the line of any game this Saturday. Mercer is locked into the three seed. ETSU is locked into the 4/5 game next Saturday. However, both teams had tough losses on Thursday night and would like to get back onto the winning track before heading to Asheville. Also, ETSU won by one point against Mercer earlier this year, inspiring Mercer to want revenge and ETSU goes for the sweep. Which team shows up and plays with passion in this one?
Match-up: ETSU has become one of the harder to predict teams in the league. Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley are good enough that they can score points on anyone. AJ Merriweather has been stepping up in a big way as this season has progressed. But, without any true inside presence, this is a team that is hard to rely on. The Bears will have opportunities with Darious Moten and TJ Hallice to score in the paint. In fact, Hallice should have a pretty solid performance against the Bucs. This is one of the biggest teams in the SoCon against one of the smallest. However, the Bucs kept up rebounding with the Bears the first time around.
Prediction: The Bucs can be dangerous if they are shooting well, but it is hard to figure out how they will guard Hallice consistently. Ike Nwamu's athleticism is also a challenge, but the Bucs are athletic enough on the perimeter to play with anyone. If this is the game where the Bucs get their act together, they may well win this one. That being said, the Bears will find a way to win this one at home on Senior Night. Bears 69, Bucs 63.
Chattanooga at UNCG (5:00 PM)
What's The Story: The Mocs have the two seed locked up and by the time this game tips off, UNCG will know a lot more about their fate. If VMI has won earlier the day, the Spartans will no longer be able to get the final bye. Only three teams in the league have currently won more than one game in a row. One is Wofford. The other two match-up in this one. In the end, these two have a chance to take some real momentum into Asheville, as it could be argued that these are two of the teams playing the best basketball as they go into the tournament. Yes, UNCG could still finish at the very bottom of the league, but the Spartans are playing well. The Mocs are gunning for their 20th D1 win of the season.
Match-up: This is one of the most interesting inside match-ups in the whole league. RJ White is playing so well right now. Kayel Locke is not an easy match-up for anyone. The Mocs have Justin Tuoyo, who is certainly one of the best big men in the conference. That makes this match-up really interesting. The Mocs will need Greg Pryor and Rico White to do a good job on Tevon Saddler and try to force him into some turnovers. Diante Baldwin has become the quiet engine on this Spartans team. Casey Jones needs to be a difference maker in this one. He only had eight points in the Mocs first match-up with the Spartans. Pryor did score 19. The Spartans need more from Nicholas Paulos, who scored just nine the first time around.
Prediction: It is Paulos' Senior Night. How will he handle his emotions on this night? My bet- he scores in double digits and has a solid performance. White is playing really well right now- much better than the first time these two teams hooked up. Stopping the Mocs will be tough for the Spartans, but with how they are playing right now, the Spartans find a way to eek out a close home win. Spartans 73, Mocs 70.