Friday night, Carroll will host South Side in a rare night with four out of five match ups in the SAC being intriguing to watch. With the conference title picture now leaning toward Northrop, it is up to Carroll, Concordia and Homestead (as one loss conference teams) to play catch up.
The Chargers come in as winners of their last three and seven of their last eight games. South Side has won two in a row and handed then conference co-leader Concordia their first SAC loss last Friday.
1. A CHANCE AT THE SAC TITLE
This may not be a focus of Carroll but at the official midway point of SAC season, it has to be in the back of their minds. As noted before last Friday’s Game of the Weekend with Homestead and Snider, a second SAC loss likely takes you out of the title equation and that is what Carroll will be facing for the rest of their conference season.
2. EMERGENCE OF CHARGER SUPPORTING CAST
For as David Ejah and Dan McKeeman focused as we all were during the preseason, Carroll has thrived by committee overall. Ejah and McKeeman have had their games too. But from Preston Shearer to Richie Gross, they really have had a stellar supporting cast play a major role all season. Case in point: sophomore Ryan Preston averages 1.9 points per game, but scored 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting last Friday in a dominating win over Bishop Luers. There are plenty of guys who can do a little bit of everything in Carroll’s lineup.
3. WHAT SOUTH SIDE DO WE SEE?
South Side won their first four games. Then they lost four. Now they have won two. The losses aren’t bad, but after two physical losses to Northrop and being held in good check by Homestead, they dropped a surprising game to Marion. Then they beat a sneaky Canterbury team and picked up the big win last Friday against Concordia. So is this Friday’s South Side team one that will fold and turn the ball over a lot as they did in their four losses? Or will they be the high energy team? Playing away from home could be the difference.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. AMARI HALL, SOUTH SIDE
Hall has fought through some bad games this year with foul trouble, but he was an important cog in beating Concordia last Friday with a double double. Hall has as much varsity experience as anyone on the roster so he knows big games. He also represents somewhat of a size disparity in this game so he could get a lot of looks.
2. DAVID EJAH, CARROLL
Carroll is at their best when Ejah is at his. Of his three games scoring in single digits this year, the Chargers have lost two of them. Those games also represent his only three shooting less than 50 percent from the field (he shots 65% overall). Ejah is a finisher and a high percentage guy who fights for his good looks. A possible impending battle between he and J.T. Langston Jr. could be a lot of fun.
3. AUSTIN JORDAN, SOUTH SIDE
Jordan is still trying to figure out if he is a score first point guard or a modern distributor. He is skilled at both and certainly warrants praise as a pace controller. He has had as many as 8 assists in a game this season and as little as zero. His shooting percentage fluctuates too but if this is the night he finds consistency, he will be a handful. Jordan’s running floater in the lane is a thing of beauty if he can get it to fall often.
4. RICHIE GROSS, CARROLL
South Side is likely going to push the pace and try and score in transition and Gross is an important piece to try and stop that. Gross is a defensive minded hustler who certainly buys into the need for strong transition defense. Carroll’s best hopes of slowing South come, in part, with Gross’ effort on Friday night.
KEYS TO VICTORY — SOUTH SIDE
1. EXPLOIT THE POST
Not that Carroll is lacking inside as Ejah and Shearer are more than capable, but Langston and Hall are rooted more in true post fashion and Ashton Johnson is known sometimes too as a post up guy who can create with his body. South was one team that wasn’t afraid of Northrop’s Sydney Curry in the post and it shows their confidence and comfort taking the ball down low against any opponent.
2. DO NOT SETTLE
The Archers gave good shooters, specifically in Kamron Mitchell and Treveon Jones, but as a team they are only hitting 26 percent of their three point shots. Carroll isn’t going to just hand them long range looks but they will allow the Archers to settle. South Side has to be aggressive and attacking, while an occasional spot up three from one of their shooters isn’t a bad idea.
KEYS TO VICTORY — CARROLL
1. PACE, PACE AND MORE PACE
Generalists would classify this game as fast paced (South Side) versus slow pace (Carroll) and that isn’t exactly accurate. Carroll has prided themselves on being adaptable to whatever play style fit their needs that given night or even that given trip up the court. They have done this for years under coach Marty Beasley so quite a bit of success. Carroll will look very heavily at controlling this pace, balancing when to slow it down to half speed and when to try and force turnovers in a frantic pace.
2. DEFENSIVE AWARENESS
As noted with the take on Richie Gross, the defensive side of the ball is going to continue to be critically important for Carroll. Their guards are quite good at harassing offenses and creating for their own offensive side of the ball. South is going to have to try and avoid the pressure that Gross, McKeeman and Ray Vollmer are going to throw at them. Those three, among other Chargers, read defenses well and anticipate important elements of the game.
South Side succeeds at a chaotic pace and in big moments. That is the game they are going to try and create and it will be up to Carroll’s pacing and their home court advantage to try and stop that. It will be an interesting game to say the least. This one is close or its not. That sounds vague, but I think in a dogfight or a blowout, one team is more prepared for anywhere this game goes.
Bounce picks Carroll