UT-Chattanooga head coach Will Wade has done a terrific job rebuilding the Mocs’ basketball program, earning Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors last season after guiding the Mocs to eighteen wins. Wade’s rapid turnaround cannot be overstated as the 30-year-old coach took over a once-proud program that had been in decline after losing forty games the previous two season before his arriving in Chattanooga in 2013. The Mocs ended last season with a ten-game win streak, the longest such streak since 1997, which earned them a postseason berth (CIT).
With three starters returning and greater depth, coach Wade has the ability to implement his “Chaos” system that utilizes a full-court press to create points off turnovers. The most significant upgrade to Chattanooga’s roster is VCU transfer Justin Tuoyo, who is averaging 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season, while also boasting a team and conference-leading 48 blocked shots (3.1 per game). “He’s a defensive presence who also helps us with our rebounding and to control the paint a little bit more,” Wade said.
Chattanooga’s backcourt is anchored by returning players Casey Jones, Greg Pryor and Ronrico White, all of whom were critical components to the Mocs’ late-season run last year. Jones was the team’s second-leading score last season, but the big news could be the progress made by Pryor during the offseason. “He’s going to have a breakout season,” Wade said. “He’s worked on his shooting and getting his stroke more consistent.” This season, Jones leads with he team with 12.9 points per game (50.8% FG), while Pryor is second with 12.1 points per game and White third with 10.4 points per game.
Chattanooga leads the Southern Conference in field goal percentage (45.0%) and scoring margin (+6.1). The Mocs are 8-1 SU and 4-1 ATS at home this season where they are averaging 81.6 points per game on 47.4% shooting from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. Guard Eric Robertson has been a key component off the bench where he is averaging 10.4 points per game over the last seven contests.
In fact, Robertson scored a career-high 20 points in last Monday’s win over Lipscomb. I also like the fact that Wade’s “Chaos” system seems to be developing well as the Mocs are limiting opponents to a mere 63.3 points per game at McKenzie Arena. Chattanooga is also limiting conference foes to a mere 54.0 points per game this season.
Wofford will struggle to score tonight as the Terriers are 3-6 on the road this season where they are averaging just 59.2 points per game on 42.5% shooting from the field. The Terriers are also averaging just 57.2 points on 38.4% shooting from the floor and 29.3% from three-point territory over the last five games. Overall, Wofford is 2.4 points per game worse than average offensively (65.6 points per game against teams that would allow 68.0 points per game), which gives the Mocs a decisive edge at the defensive end of the floor.
Wofford’s success is predicated upon a very good defense that is 9.1 points per game better than average (61.7 points per game to teams that would combine to average 70.8 points per game), but the Terriers’ defensive intensity has been in decline over the last several weeks.
Indeed, Wofford is yielding 67.6 points over its last five games and 65.0 points per game against conference opponents, both of which are well-above the Terriers’ defensive numbers for the season. I also like the mindset of Chattanooga’s players for tonight’s game against the preseason #1 team in the Conference.
“It’s a conference home game,”Justin Tuoyo said. “It’s gonna be a good game against a good team. We’re going to prepare the same way, and the coaches are going to do everything with the scouting report. We’ll prepare right and come out and play our hardest.” Finally, Chattanooga has dramatically improved in two key categories over the last eight games – assist-to-turnover ratio (from 0.67 to 1.27) and rebounding margin (from -4.2 to +5.6).
People snickered when Chattanooga hired a 30-year-old to be its new basketball coach, but Wade has proven the doubters wrong by his impressive recruiting efforts and changing the team’s overall chemistry. “We made some off-the-court strides in terms of culture and how we practice and how we go about our business,” Wade said.
Chattanooga is 20-3 in McKenzie Center under Wade, including 9-1 versus conference opponents. Grab the points and invest with confidence.