Chattanooga vs Furman Odds, Picks: SoCon Championship Betting Guide
Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Chattanooga’s Grant Ledford.
Chattanooga vs Furman Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Rarely do we get to see a true rematch from a conference title game only one year later. The SoCon has blessed us with the same matchup that produced arguably the best finish of any title bout last season when Chattanooga takes on Furman.
Now, the Paladins have an opportunity to avenge last season’s devastating loss by taking down the resurgent Mocs. Let’s break down this SoCon final and make a pick and prediction below.
We haven’t quite made it to Easter, but Chattanooga fans are already relishing the return of their star player.
Jake Stephens injured his hand and wrist in an attempt to grab a rebound almost two full months ago in January, and it just so happened to take place against Furman. Injuries happen, often randomly and without someone to point to as the cause. Nonetheless, one would have to think Stephens would take a SoCon title over the Paladins as an acceptable form of revenge.
If Stephens is still bothered by his hand injury, he hasn’t shown it in his first three games since returning. The numbers he has tallied in each stat sheet are easily identifiable.
Yet, Stephens’ biggest contributions may be his intangibles. He has clearly given his team an emotional lift upon his return, as the Mocs are now on the brink of earning another NCAA Tournament bid. Again, this would be the first chance for Stephens to play in the NCAA Tournament himself, so his motivation to get there is unquestioned.
As fellow Action Network contributor Jim Root of Three Man Weave pointed out on Twitter, Stephens may be the smartest player on the court as well. In the semifinal against Wofford, Stephens set up teammate Jamal Johnson to use him as a screen while jogging up the court by using a hand motion behind his back. He saw the play before it even happened.
Stephens is the catalyst in getting his team to play at a higher level than the sum of its parts. That’s easier said than done considering how different this year’s team is from last season’s.
When David Jean-Baptiste hit the incredible buzzer-beater that clinched Chattanooga’s SoCon title over Furman in last year’s epic championship game, a few key pieces from this year’s team weren’t there to take part in the celebration.
For one, head coach Dan Earl is wrapping up his first year leading the Mocs after former Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris left the program to take the head coaching job at South Carolina.
However, Earl’s first season has been underwhelming. Stephens, who followed Earl to Chattanooga after both were VMI Keydets last year, has a chance to change the entire perception of Earl’s first year by beating Furman tonight.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely already aware of Furman’s NCAA Tournament drought dating back to 1980. The weight of a fan base is on the Paladins’ shoulders again in a championship game here in 2023.
Head coach Bob Richey would likely concede his team was lucky to sneak by a lesser Western Carolina team in overtime in the semifinal. Hopefully for Richey’s team, the scare will allow Furman to play with more freedom in the SoCon final.
For Furman, this is the game and the opportunity every member of the program has wanted a chance to play in for the last 365 days. Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson used their COVID-19 exemptions to return for a fifth year of eligibility. And the chance to clinch by defeating a Chattanooga program that ended Furman’s season on a crushing buzzer-beater last year only adds to the Paladins’ motivation.
Furman has the coaching and the roster to get over the edge and clinch an elusive SoCon title. The only question is whether Furman will allow the pressure of the moment to affect its play.
Chattanooga vs Furman Betting Pick
I’m 3-for-3 in my SoCon Tournament best bets, backing the Mocs for two of those three winners. I will stick with Chattanooga in this spot.
Furman’s inability to put away Western Carolina in its semifinal matchup was concerning. The Paladins separated themselves from the rest of the SoCon throughout the regular season. However, the weight of overcoming Furman’s NCAA Tournament drought has seemingly made it more difficult for the Paladins to close out games.
I believe Furman is the better team and should get Richey over the edge with a win to finally earn that evasive automatic bid. Still, Stephens’ return makes Chattanooga dangerous. The Mocs are fully capable of keeping this margin within a couple of possessions.
Pick: Chattanooga +4.5
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