#125 Chattanooga Men's Basketball Preview

Chattanooga Mocs

Overall Rank: #125
Conference Rank: #3 Southern

Chattanooga Logo

Chattanooga Team Page

2010-11: 16-16, 12-6
2010-11 postseason: none
Coach: John Shulman (120-105 at Chattanooga, 120-105 overall)

For the second straight season, Chattanooga ended their basketball season with disappointment. Two years ago they managed just a 6-12 conference record. Last year that number flipped to 12-6, but the team fell in their first game of the Southern Conference Tournament and their 16-16 record did not attract many suitors when it came to finding another postseason tournament. This year should be different. Point guard Keegan Bell leads an experienced squad and he should lead this group back to the postseason. Bell dished out 5.7 assists per game last season and again proved to be a capable scorer, tallying 9.7 points per game. He is ready for a big senior season.

Who’s Out:
The problem lies in the frontcourt. DeAntre Jefferson and Jeremy Saffore split time at the five spot and now both are gone. Jefferson was the more productive of the two, averaging 8.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. Saffore added 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds, but was a monster under the basket with his 7-1 frame. Losing one would be bad for the frontcourt depth of the Mocs, but losing both could turn into a huge problem. Guard Troy Cage, who averaged 4.1 points per game last season, is the other major departure.

Who’s In:
Coach John Shulman was ready to replace his big men. Drazen Zlovaric spent two years at Georgia where he played a somewhat big role off the bench at times. The 6-9 Serbian can play inside and out and is a nice fit on a team that will likely take advantage of the fact that they are an athletic bunch who can get up and down the floor and shoot the long ball. Incoming freshman Jared Bryant and former Mississippi tight end Z. Mason will battle for playing time in the post as well. Lance Stokes is more of a wing, but he could play at the four spot if necessary…and it may be necessary at times. The future of the wing positions look good with the addition of Trey Brown and Rico White, as well as redshirt freshmen Martynas Bareika and Ryan Gentle. Point guard Xavian Rimmer rounds out the large group of newcomers. All of the new players on the perimeter will have some time to adjust to SoCon life, but one or two of them will need to step up and provide a spark off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
The most important players to keep an eye on are in the frontcourt. Chris Early is back to man the power forward position. The 6-7 senior who started off his collegiate career at Oklahoma had a superb junior season and should help fill the void left behind by Jefferson and Saffore. He is a dangerous slasher who can also score with his back to the basket against weaker defenders. Early can even step out and hit the long ball on occasion. However, his most important role on this team is to rebound and that is where he really needs to pick up the slack. Jahmal Burroughs did not play too much during his first year with the Mocs after transferring from the junior college ranks, but he is certainly somebody who can come in and help out on the glass. He will not be much of a scoring threat, but he plays bigger than his 6-6 height would indicate. Drew Baker, who redshirted last year, is even an option at the four spot if the newcomers are not ready. The walk-on added some strength during his year off, but if Chattanooga has to rely on Baker, the frontcourt is likely in trouble.

Final Projection:
The wings will never be in trouble. Ricky Taylor and Omar Wattad are two of the best in the conference. Taylor averaged 13.0 points per game last season and does a fine job shooting from the outside or using his 6-5 frame to attack the basket. Wattad is more of a shooter, but he too has the size and strength to attack the basket. Wattad led the Mocs with 14.2 points per game last year and connected on 2.8 three-pointers per game. When either one of those two need a rest, Dontay Hampton, or one of the newcomers, can fill in. Hampton, a 6-1 junior, averaged 3.1 points per game last season despite playing in less than ten minutes per game. With Cage gone, Hampton will get an opportunity for more playing time, but the newcomers will push him sooner rather than later.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Keegan Bell, Senior, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Ricky Taylor, Senior, Guard, 13.0 points per game
Omar Wattad, Senior, Forward, 14.2 points per game
Chris Early, Senior, Forward, 9.3 points per game
Drazen Zlovaric, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

Check out another story about Chattanooga basketball