John Carroll, Mount Union face off again in men's basketball with high-level stakes

Jan. 9—In some respects, not much has changed between Mount Union and John Carroll in men's basketball since last season.

The teams are again ranked among the nation's elite — JCU No. 8 and Mount No. 12 in this week's Top 25 men's basketball poll — and will have a say in who wins the Ohio Athletic Conference in 2023-24.

The first tipoff between the Blue Streaks and Purple Raiders this season is 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at JCU's DeCarlo Center.

In other respects, there are some differences for Jan. 10.

Unfortunately for the home team, school is not in session. JCU students don't return from holiday break until next week, so expectations for a raucous atmosphere similar to last season when JCU won, 74-72, likely won't be in place.

Regardless, the competition for control of the Ohio Athletic Conference should be fierce. The Blue Streaks check in at 12-1 and 6-0 in the OAC. The Purple Raiders are 12-1 and 5-1 in the OAC.

Many of the stars on both sides are back this season. For JCU, the standout backcourt of Luke Chicone (Mentor) and Luke Frazier (Lake Catholic) have been as advertised. Chicone is second in the conference in scoring at 19.2 points and is averaging nearly five assists per game. Frazier is averaging 18.3 points (fourth in the OAC) and a team-leading 7.1 rebounds.

Mount's big two of Christian Parker (18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds) and Collen Gurley (12.8 points, 5.9 rebounds) has their team again in the hunt, despite an early loss to Wilmington (5-8, 1-5 OAC).

What is different — according to JCU coach Pete Moran — is the Purple Raiders' recent starting lineup of Parker and four guards. All of which presents some matchup issues, but in the big picture talent is talent and that's what Mount will bring to University Heights for the anticipated OAC showdown.

"They're really good again," said Moran. "I think they're a lot like they have been. They're mixing and matching early on and going with a smaller lineup and they're still very good."

On the flip side, Moran and his staff likes to play two big men opposite the backcourt of Chicone, Frazier and Chase Toppin. That could change if Mount features a four-guard lineup early.

"The game will likely come down to matchups and adjustments," said Moran.

With a win, JCU would have a win over its top in-conference competition, an NCAA resume-building victory and a two-game lead in the OAC. A win by Mount — the NCAA Division III runner-up last season — would put it in first place in the league.

"Guys like Luke Frazier and Gurley, these are dynamic players you don't get to see play every day in Division III," said Moran. "The games last year (against Mount), the physicality and intensity were there. That's why people want to come to John Carroll, to play in high-level basketball games like these."

Mount Union at John Carroll

When: 7 p.m., Jan. 10

Where: JCU's DeCarlo Center

Records: Mount 12-1, 5-1 OAC; JCU 12-1, 6-0 OAC

Rankings ( Mount No. 12; JCU No. 8