(gomocs.com) CHATTANOOGA—The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball squad is already hard at work preparing for the 2020-21 campaign. Coach Lamont Paris’ fourth edition eyes November’s start date eagerly looking to improve on the program’s 20th 20-win season completed just five months prior.
Paris announces this year’s ledger of 27 games with nine non-conference matchups combined with an 18-game home-and-home Southern Conference slate. Thirteen of those contests occur on the hallowed McKenzie Arena hardwood. It’s been quite the journey paring the original 31-game slate into the final model.
“It was a very challenging process,” Coach Lamont Paris shared. “One thing that helped us along was not being in a dedicated MTE (multi-team event) this year. That gave us a little more flexibility not having to wait to see if it was going to be played or if it would change venues or if the opponents in the tournament would change.
“That process was still difficult trying to find dates and determine if a certain contract would be honored or if guarantee money would stay the same. We moved a date or two, but it was a fairly seamless transition.”
The first two contests are in the Roundhouse setting the squad up for a quick start. The last time the Mocs opened at home? 2014-15, a 22-10 season followed. Three straight on the road are followed by two at home before a double on the road before the holidays closes out the non-conference slate.
It begins Nov. 25 with a visit from Bellarmine. Northern Kentucky comes to the Roundhouse soon after on the 28th before a three-game road trip. That sends the squad to Tennessee Tech (Nov. 30), Middle Tennessee (Dec. 6) and a return date at Bellarmine (Dec. 9). Cumberland and UNC Asheville are next in the Roundhouse on Dec. 12 and 16, respectively. The group closes the pre-holiday schedule with visits to UAB (Dec. 19) and Tennessee State (Dec. 22).
The longest road stretch comes midway through league play with three in a row from Jan. 27-Feb. 3 at ETSU, Furman and Western Carolina. There are back-to-back home games twice with Mercer and Wofford on Jan. 13-16 along with The Citadel and Western Carolina Feb. 13-17. Otherwise, the league schedule alternates home and road for a majority of the campaign. It ends as it starts at home on Feb. 27 against VMI.
“This year, how it sets you up for the conference season is lower on the list of priorities,” Paris added. “You’re scheduling with so many other factors that influence your ability to schedule. From the change of the original start date…with the COVID happening…testing protocols…budgets that have completely changed. There’s proximity, can I get up and back on the same day because scheduling games regionally has more value to it.
“We have a lot of good mid-major games that will be similar to what we’ll face [in the league]. Road games at an MTSU or UAB is equivalent to a good road game in our league. As the start date changed the original plan, it sent us into scramble mode like every team. Some of those aren’t even done yet. You’re really trying to find something that fits all the new factors rather than maybe a broader view you’d normally take.”
The Ingles Southern Conference Championships presented by General Shale returns to Asheville, N.C. The Mocs look to tie the league record of 12 titles March 5-8 in the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville.
McKenzie Arena is at limited capacity at the start of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic at 1,000 with no reserved seating. The general admission tickets are being sold on a single-game basis with no season sales for 2020-21. Masks are required with available seating clearly marked for social distancing.