Experience isn’t a luxury Chattanooga has enjoyed this season, and when it comes to tournament experience, the Mocs have even less of it.
There’s only a handful of players on UTC’s roster that have experienced the Southern Conference Tournament, and even fewer have experienced any sort of success there.
“You’ve got to understand what’s on the line, and you’ve got to play with a sense of urgency like we played with against Elon here,” UTC coach John Shulman said. “I want them to understand that sense of urgency.”
How does Shulman plan on communicating that urgency to his team?
“We’re doing something daily to make sure they understand what’s at the end,” he said.
Monday’s activity included showing the players footage of their coach celebrating after his first SoCon Tournament title at UTC in March 2005.
“They filmed me for about five minutes after we won our first one,” Shulman said. “It was just raw footage, it wasn’t anything contrived. It was just raw footage of me celebrating after our first championship. We’re going to show them that so they can understand what’s on the back end.”
Shulman has something else planned for later in the week, too.
He’s having fifth-year senior Dontay Hampton, who hasn’t played since re-injuring his ACL at Elon on Jan. 24, address the team on Thursday evening, the night before the Mocs’ first-round game against UNC Greensboro.
“He needs to talk to them and explain what’s ahead of them,” Shulman said. “Tournaments are a different animal, and until you go there and experience it—that’s why young teams struggle in tournament play, and old teams do well.”
Hampton, the only current Moc around for Chattanooga’s 2008-09 charge into the Big Dance, obviously won’t be suiting up for UTC this week, so it’s the least he can do.
“He just told me that in a text (Monday),” Hampton said. “I don’t know what I’m going to say yet.”
The Mocs are just 1-3 in SoCon Tournament play since, and they’re coming off back-to-back first-round exits. In addition to Hampton, juniors Sam Watson and Drew Baker were the only others around for the team’s lone win during that stretch—an 82-62 opening-round victory over Georgia Southern in 2010.
The rest are winless in Asheville.
For SoCon All-Freshman selection Gee McGhee and the rest of the first-year players that will be taking in the tournament for the first time, they’re not too concerned.
“I feel like I’m ready,” McGhee said. “I’ve played in a state tournament before; that’s a notch on my belt. I’ve played in nationals, all type of things. This is my first college tournament, and we know it’s a one-and-done type deal, but I think we’re ready for it.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.