We are now roughly halfway through the conference season. In fact, everyone has played exactly half of their conference schedule except for Chattanooga (who has played just eight games) and Furman (who has played ten games).
Monday night's action features just two games. The Citadel heads to Chattanooga and Mercer goes to Samford.
The Citadel is just 3-6 in conference play, but has won three of their last five, including a road contest at Western Carolina. In their two losses, they lost in overtime at ETSU and a relatively close one to UNCG at home. So the Bulldogs are playing reasonably well, and they played Chattanooga close in Charleston back at the beginning of January. The Mocs are 7-1, and one of the better mid-majors in the country. Can the Bulldogs upset Chattanooga on the road? Or will the Mocs be able to continue their five game winning streak for another day?
The real battle of this game comes down to that Chattanooga is playing their second game in three days, and they played Samford on Saturday, a team that likes to pressure. The Bulldogs, of course, love to pressure and play fast. Will the Mocs have the legs to play fast throughout? They will need every ounce of energy in this one. Bench players like Dee Oldham, Johnathan Burroughs-Cook and Duke Etheridge will be critical in this one.
At Samford, Mercer will be looking to match Furman's 7-3 record and move into a tie for second in the league. The Bears offense centers on Phillip Leonard, Stephon Jelks and Jestin Lewis. Those guys lead an efficient Bears offense. They will need to show up at Samford. The Bears defense has been so good for so much of the year. The Bears do not foul much, but that may be good for Samford, because they are a lousy free throw shooting team.
Samford is currently 2-7 in SoCon play, but did win at Nebraska in out of conference play. The Bulldogs have some talent in Darius Jones-Gibson and Christen Cunningham, just to name a couple. This club can certainly create problems for SoCon teams, particularly at home. They have two home losses, but one was a narrow one to ETSU and one was the seven point loss to Chattanooga.
All in all, the match-ups do not look terribly appealing up front, but that is not a reason to be disinterested. The Mocs need the win to maintain their lead in the SoCon. Playing on the road has not been easy in this league this year, and Mercer really needs the road win to keep pace in the conference standings with Furman, Wofford and ETSU.
It should be another exciting night in SoCon basketball.