College Basketball Preview: Kentucky vs. Chattanooga

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The Chattanooga Mocs come in to Saturday’s game with a 3-7 record. Of their three wins, two wins are against Non-DI teams as they absolutely throttled Spalding (W, 98-48) and Warren Wilson (W, 88-36). Their lone win over a DI school is versus Savannah State (W, 65-63). Needless to say, this won’t be much of a test for the Wildcats and should provide them ample opportunity to rid themselves of their frustration following Saturday’s loss to Indiana.

Despite their struggles this year, the Mocs are the dominant team when it comes to Southern Conference play. In their 34 years since joining the SoCon, they have a league-high 20 regular season titles as well as ten tournament titles. Head coach John Shulman is in his eighth season at Chattanooga and he has led the Mocs to two NCAA Tournaments (2005, 2009). Overall, he has compiled a 124-113 record.

The Mocs are led by a pair of senior guards in Omar Wattad (6-5, 216) and Ricky Taylor (6-5, 180), both of which who lead the team with 12.2 points-per-game. Wattad is their returning starter at the 3-position and last year he led the team in scoring with 14.3 per game. He was named preseason SoCon Player of the Year by College Sports Madness and started the year off with a bang as he put up 24 points and shot 5-for-10 from three-point range in their season opening loss at Indiana. He has the team lead with 28 threes made this year and is shooting 38-percent from deep.

Taylor returns as the Mocs 2-guard and is their best three-point shooter percentage-wise. He is shooting 46-percent from deep and has knocked down 18 three-point shots.

Underneath they are led by junior transfer Drazen Zlovaric (6-9, 214). Zlovaric is a transfer from Georgia and is leading the team in rebounding with 6.3 per game. He is third on the team in scoring with 9.3 points and is shooting 51-percent from the floor.

Running the show for Chattanooga is senior guard Keegan Bell (6-1, 185). Bell, who began his career at Vanderbilt, is a three-year starter for the Mocs and entered the 2011-12 season on the Bob Cousy Award watch list, which recognizes the nation’s top point guard. With 7.1 assists-per-game entering Saturday’s contest, he leads the Southern Conference and ranks ninth nationally. He has 412 assists in his career and is just two shy of tying the all-time Chattanooga record which is held by two different players. He will shoot it from deep, as he has 53 attempts on the season, but he has only knocked down 16 which is good for just 30-percent.

The Mocs have some decent guards, but they just aren’t deep enough, big enough, or talented enough to hang with the Wildcats. They are averaging just 37 rebounds a game, which ranks 107th in the country, and they have just 13 blocks on the season. Zloric leads them with three blocks. Let me restate that. They have 13 blocks on the season…AS A TEAM.

To put that number into perspective a bit. Kentucky has 93 blocks on the season. Anthony Davis leads Kentucky with 37 blocks by himself. He had a season-high eight blocks vs. St. John’s and has recorded three or more blocks in all but two games.

The Wildcats should obliterate the Mocs underneath. The only way Chattanooga hangs in there is if their trio of guards knocks down open threes, which should be a good test for UK’s perimeter defense. In their last two games UNC shot 11-for-18 from deep and then Indiana followed that with a 9-for-15 performance. UK has to find a way to guard the perimeter better.

I am also looking directly at Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague in this one. Will Jones rebound from what most are calling a lackluster performance last week? Will he be agressive? Will he rebound? Will he defend? And with Teague, I am looking for him to continue to be on the aggresive as he was last week in the second half. I think it goes without saying that Kentucky needs Teague to perform. Will he build off of a very strong second half performance against Indiana?

Get more great Kentucky news, recaps and analysis over at Strait Pinkie.