DANVILLE, Illinois — No. 1-ranked Mott Community College will take on Lakeland (Ohio) tonight at 9 p.m. eastern in the Final Four of the National Tournament in Danville, Illinois.
Lakeland was not ranked in the top 10 in the final national poll, but they are certainly not living above their means in the Final Four. Lakeland made it to Danville by defeating two teams that had gotten the best of them earlier in the season — Columbus State and Owens. The latter is coached by Dave Clark, an assistant coach at Mott last season who helped lead the Bears to the title game.
Very often game analysts will look immediately for common opponents; in the case of these two teams, there’s a precious little to be gleaned. Mott beat Owens twice while Lakeland beat them two out of three; Mott beat Oakland three times, while Lakeland defeated the Raiders in their only meeting; Mott has wins over Jackson, Schoolcraft and Delta — and so does Lakeland.
The majority of their respective victories were convincing, as one would expect from championship-caliber teams.
Mott’s advantage in this game is clearly on the defensive end. I don’t think you’d hear anyone argue against the statement that the Bears go harder defensively than any team in this tournament. Since the bulk of Lakeland’s scoring comes from the frontline, Mott will need big minutes out of 6-4 forward Walter Davis, 6-3 forward Kory Billups and 6-8 forward Robert Littlejohn. Those three have to limit Lakeland’s opportunities around the basket, rebound and hit their outlets. Mott’s forwards did a great job of hitting their guards to start the break against Louisburg Thursday night.
There’s no team in this tournament that the Bears are afraid to run on, and I think we’ll see that tonight.
To put it simply: if this game is about guards, Mott wins. Lakeland’s guards are young and will have their hands full with sophomore John Taylor. The 6-1 combo guard has scored 64 combined points in his first two games. The other poison to pick from is freshman guard Ralph Eason, a player who is far better than I think anyone imagined at the start of the season. He’s an absolute thoroughbred slashing to the basket.
Mott head coach Steve Schmidt will look to increase his national tournament record to 25-4 — currently the highest winning percentage in tournament history.
Click here to watch the game live starting at 9 p.m.