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Mid-Major Spotlight: The Miracle Mocs?

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

(Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As conference championship week winds down and we close in on selection Sunday there are a handful of tickets already punched by dangerous mid-majors. One of the teams to really keep an eye on just might be the Chattanooga Mocs of the Southern Conference led by fifth year head coach Lamont Paris. The year over year improvement shown in his tenure is truly a testament to the culture Coach Paris has built as they have gradually improved from 10-23 (3-15 in conference) his first year in charge to 27-7 (14-4 in conference) this season.

A major factor leading to this improvement has been Coach Paris’ ability to recruit via the transfer portal, most notably leading scorer Malachi Smith previously of Wright State and power five big man Silvio De Sousa who had a tumultuous last three years at Kansas, in addition to multiple other rotation pieces like Darius Banks who joins the Mocs from James Madison and AJ Caldwell from South Alabama. Malachi Smith finished the regular season in the top twenty in the country in points per game and is the type of player who can heat up fast and lead to massive runs on the offensive end. And on the defensive end Silvio De Sousa is a dominating paint presence that few if any other mid-majors can match, factor in the veteran presence of the team's second leading scorer and graduate student guard David Jean-Baptiste and the Mocs have all the makings of a dangerous matchup for any power conference opponent unlucky enough to run into them the first weekend of the tournament.

In the non-conference portion of their schedule the Mocs picked up a quality road win against current bubble team VCU and suffered a tough but competitive loss at Murray State who is likely a single digit seed. Those non-con games could serve as great experience and have given them an opportunity to learn from moving forward. Taking a look at the analytics there are a couple areas of concern for Chattanooga that could ruin their chances of being a darling of the 2022 tournament however. Defensively they certainly have room for improvement having a 98.5 defensive efficiency margin per which is good for 103rd in the nation. However many of their offensive numbers make up for the at times disappointing defense, they boast a 107.8 offensive efficiency margin which is 79th in the country and their shooting splits show two areas of strength. As a team they shoot a spectacular 76.6% from the free throw line which is 29th in the country and 53.9% from two which is good for 41st in the country, however three point shooting is an eye sore at 34.1% which is only 151st in the nation. If Chattanooga can get to the charity stripe and get some threes to fall early it could be a tough day for whoever they face next weekend.

As selection Sunday approaches shows Chattanooga as the top 13 seed however if we see them sneak onto the 12 seed line I don’t think many bracketologists would be shocked. I for one would not want to see my favorite team drawn opposite them however as a neutral fan can’t wait to watch what they may be able to accomplish!


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