2015-16 College Basketball Previews: Chattanooga Mocs

The Mocs have a new head coach this season, in Matt McCall, but they return a roster full of talent, led by Casey Jones, as they look to climb to the top of the Southern Conference standings.
The Mocs have a new head coach this season, in Matt McCall, but they return a roster full of talent, led by Casey Jones, as Chattanooga looks to climb to the top of the Southern Conference standings.

The Chattanooga Mocs are coming off a heartbreak ending to what was an impressive 2014-15 campaign overall. The team won an impressive 22 games overall, and 15 in conference play, but couldn’t translate that into post-season success.

In 2015-16, the Mocs will be under the guidance of a new bench boss, and will look to make a climb to the top of the Southern Conference. With an experienced roster full of upperclassmen, including their projected starting lineup, the time is now for the Mocs to take the next step.

Below, take a look at what one can expect from the 2015-16 edition of the Chattanooga Mocs.

Who’s Missing

For the Chattanooga Mocs, there will be a high level of familiarity between the players on the team this season. The Mocs only lose one key contributor from last year’s team that went 15 – 3 in Southern Conference play. A loss from the coaching staff may have the biggest impact on the team, but it’s nothing that they can’t overcome.

In terms of players, the loss on Ronrico White may have an impact on the performance of the back court in 2015-16. As a senior last year, the 6’3” guard from Knoxville, Tennessee averaged 11.1 points per contest, good for the second-best mark on the team. White appeared in all 32 games for the Mocs in 2014-15, making 20 starts over the course of the year. With the Mocs only losing White from last year’s starting lineup, they will return a lot of talent in 2015-16.

In terms of the coaching staff, the Mocs found themselves affected by the ever-turning coaching carousel in the off-season. When Shaka Smart left VCU for Texas, the Rams came calling and Mocs head coach Will Wade returned to VCU, taking the head coaching position where he was once an assistant. The move of Wade to VCU left Chattanooga looking for a new coach of their own.

From there, Billy Donovan went to the NBA, and the dominoes would continue to fall. When the dust settled, Chattanooga had found their new bench boss. Matt McCall, who was an assistant at Florida under Donovan, took the job at Chattanooga. The first-time head coach has the similar philosophies that Wade had, and the team will still focus on applying pressure on the defensive end. The systems should remain the same, with a few minor tweaks, and the Chattanooga Mocs shouldn’t skip a beat

Who’s Returning

With only losing Ronrico White from the 2014-15 team that finished with 22-wins overall on the season, the Chattanooga Mocs will have one of the more experienced rosters in the country among mid-major teams, and they have the look of the top team in the Southern Conference.

Leading the way for the Mocs this season will be senior guard Casey Jones and junior forward Justin Tuoyo. Add in fellow returnees in Greg Pryor and Tre’ McLean, and Chattanooga’s starting lineup will be one filled with both experience and talent.

Last season, the 6’5” Jones led the Mocs in scoring, averaging 14.2 points to go along with 7.0 rebounds per game. He started all 32 games, and shot an impressive 51.9% from the field over the course of the year. His ability to put the ball in the basket and rack up points while being an impact player in terms of rebounds on both ends of the floor make him a tough match-up for opponents. Standing at 6’5” and weighing in at 200 pounds, he has the size that gives him an advantage over smaller, less physical guards.

Also in the back court, the Mocs will have point guard Greg Pryor alongside Casey Jones. As a sophomore last season, Pryor appeared and started in 30 games, averaging 11.3 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per contest. Pryor recorded 76 assists on the season, and that number should increase this season with more playing time coming Pryor’s way with the departure of White.

In the front court, the emerging Justin Tuoyo returns to bolster the front line and give Chattanoga a viable offensive threat in the paint. Last season, the 6’10” forward averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. He also recorded 104 blocks, emerging as one of the game’s up-and-coming rim protectors in the country. As he gains more experience and playing time, Tuoyo will become a household name in the NCAA before the year is done.

Add in Tre’ McLean (JR), Chuck Ester (JR), Duke Ethridge (SR), and Eric Robertson (SR) to the mix, and the core of the Mocs in 2015-16 are full of experience. McCall couldn’t have asked for a much better rotation of players to open his head coaching career in the NCAA.

Projected Starting Five

Guard: Greg Pryor (JR)

Guard: Casey Jones (SR)

Forward: Tre’ McLean (JR)

Forward: Chuck Ester (JR)

Forward: Justin Tuoyo  (JR)

Schedule Notes

The talent and experience of the Mocs will be put to the test right out of the gate in 2015-16, as they take on three power conference foes in their first four games. To open the year, the Mocs head to Athens, Georgia to take on the Georgia Bulldogs. With the Bulldogs returning their fair share of talent, the Mocs will be in tough to kick off 2015-16.

After a home date with Hiwasee, the Mocs go on the road to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in their opening game of the Emerald Coast Classic. Then, a road date to take on the high-powered Iowa State Cyclones caps off a tough opening four games for the Mocs. If they can score a win over one of the three power conference foes, and come out of it with a 2 – 2 record, things will be good in Chattanooga.

The Mocs head to Niceville, FL to partake in their bracket of the Emerald Coast Classic, opening up against SWAC-favourite Alabama State. Depending on their result, they will face either Chicago State or Jacksonville State in the second game. Chattanooga should be the favourite to win the tournament, and should find themselves in the championship game.

Road dates at Louisiana-Monroe and Dayton come up shortly after the Emerald Coast Classic, before an important three-game homestand in advance of conference play. The three games inside McKenzie Arena will be crucial for Chattanooga to put up a strong performance and gain momentum heading into Southern Conference action.

For the last few years, the Southern Conference has been dominated by the Wofford Terriers. The Terriers have been atop the SoCon totem pole, but this may be the Mocs’ year.

After finishing second last season in the regular season standings, and suffering an early exit from the conference tournament, the Chattanooga Mocs will undoubtedly come back hungry and ready for more this season. The Mocs have the look of the team to beat in the conference this season, and will look to punch their ticket to the Big Dance come March.

– T.B.


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