2016-2017 Overall Rank: #84
Conference Rank: #1 SoCon
There was a little bit of concern at Chattanooga when former coach Will Wade left to take the VCU job. But Matt McCall stepped in last season and did an amazing job. The Mocs went 15-3 in Southern Conference play and won a total of 29 games during the 2015-2016 campaign. Chattanooga won the SoCon Tournament to reach the NCAAs, but fell 99-74 to Indiana. Chattanooga did earn a 12 seed last season and with four starters back, the expectations are even higher than that heading into 2016-2017. And one of those four starters was not Casey Jones, who only played in eight games last season due to an ankle injury. The 6-5 senior earned a medical redshirt and two years ago led the Mocs with 14.2 points and 7.0 rebounds.
2015-16 Record: 29-6, 15-3
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Matt McCall
Coach Record: 29-6 at Chattanooga, 29-6 overall
The only starter lost is Eric Robertson, a 6-4 guard who was by far the best three-point shooter on the team last season. On the year, Robertson averaged 8.6 points and 80 of his 98 made shots were from beyond the arc. Losing his outside shooting is certainly going to change the dynamic of the Mocs offense this season. Also gone is Dee Oldham, who was often the team’s sixth man and a decent outside shooter in his own right. Duke Ethridge was the forward who came in off of the bench during his senior season. He averaged 7.5 points and 3.8 rebounds and his absence leaves Chattanooga dangerously thin in the frontcourt.
The closest thing Coach McCall has to a new forward is 6-4 wing Nat Dixon. The former Boston College wide receiver is not really a forward though; he is a shooter who can use his size to attack the basket. At East Mississippi Junior College, where Dixon transferred after his one season playing collegiate football, he knocked down 41 three-pointers. He will be more of a replacement for Oldham as a shooter off of the bench than for Ethridge. There are three incoming freshmen too, but Rodney Chatman, Makale Foreman and David Jean-Baptiste are all guards. There could be room for one of them as another shooter off of the bench type of player, but all of the freshmen will have time to develop.
Who to Watch:
The only active forwards on the roster are 6-10 Justin Tuoyo, 6-7 Chuck Ester and 6-5 Tre’ McLean. Those are three great forwards who all started last season, but Coach McCall is going to have to balance Tuoyo and Ester at the five spot more carefully this year. Regardless, Tuoyo is a superb interior scorer and defender. Last season he averaged 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Ester had a breakout junior campaign in 2015-2016, stepping into the starting lineup and averaging 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds. It is plausible that Ester finds himself starting out on the bench this season, but either way he is a strong forward who can score and occasionally stretch the defense with his shooting ability. Not counting Jones and his eight games played before his injury, it was McLean who was the team’s top scorer and rebounder last season with 12.1 and 6.3, respectively. He is a good shooter, but a better slasher. And he has enough size and strength to man the four spot.
And it is that versatile size and strength that makes Chattanooga so difficult to deal with for most teams. They may lack frontcourt depth, but there are a lot of big, tough guards like Jones and smaller forwards like McLean who can be extremely difficult to matchup with on both ends of the floor. Greg Pryor and Johnathan Burroughs-Cook are basically the only two players on the roster who are not effective on the glass. Pryor is the starting point guard and averaged 9.8 points and 3.5 assists last season. Burroughs-Cook, another senior, can handle the ball too and will likely be the first guard off of the bench this season. With Jones back, this team could dominate the Southern Conference even more than they did last season. However, the lack of frontcourt depth could become a much bigger issue against NCAA Tournament caliber teams.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Greg Pryor, Senior, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Casey Jones, Senior, Guard, 12.6 points per game
Tre’ McLean, Senior, Forward, 12.1 points per game
Chuck Ester, Senior, Forward, 7.7 points per game
Justin Tuoyo, Senior, Forward, 11.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.8 (111th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.5 (69, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.7 (82, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.0 (205, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.5 (125, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.9 (117, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.5 (44, 2)
Rebound Margin: 3.2 (69, 3)
Assists Per Game: 14.4 (99, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.5 (153, 3)