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UTC's Ricky Taylor (22) drives past Mike Groselle (31) of The Citadel during first half Saturday at UTC's McKenzie Area.

John Shulman considered starting an annual tradition one week early.

In each of his previous seven years as head coach, he's held a pre-dawn practice for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in preparation for the Southern Conference tournament.

Shulman said Saturday, after a 48-46 loss to The Citadel, that this team would hold a 6 a.m. practice today.

"I'd probably wake up at 4:30 and get to the gym by five," junior guard Dontay Hampton said. "I like to get shots up before practice."

Shulman -- whose team is 10-19 and 10-14 in the SoCon and has lost 11 of its last 12 games -- changed his mind after conferring with his assistant coaches late Saturday night.

He spoke with them about the idea of practicing before sunrise after losing to the Bulldogs (5-22, 2-14) who are one of the worst-rated teams in the country with an RPI of 336 out of a possible 344.

"Going early makes it look like punishment," Shulman said Sunday. "I don't want our guys to feel like I'm punishing them."

But they will slowly begin preparing for the SoCon tournament which begins March 2 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C.

The tournament seeding is about a clear as the eyes of anybody waking up two hours earlier than normal -- kind of clear, but a little hazy, and needing a cup of coffee before being ready.

Seedings can change considering every SoCon school has two regular-season games left to play between Tuesday and Saturday when all 12 teams will play.

It looks like the Mocs will have the sixth seed from the North Division. And it looks like Wofford (17-12, 10-6) will have the third seed from the South Division which would pair them together in the first round.

Wofford is two games behind Georgia Southern and two games ahead of the College of Charleston in the standings.

"We have a good idea of who we're going to play," said Shulman, whose team beat Wofford 51-48 in their only matchup this season on Jan. 12. "We'll have thoughts and ideas, and we'll start to prepare for that first game right now.

"But we're not throwing out our last two games."

Playing at Furman (13-14, 7-9) on Thursday and against Samford (11-16, 8-8) will give the Mocs a chance to test a few new things before using them in Asheville.

The most important of which is power-forward Zaccheus Mason. The 240-pound sophomore has not played since Jan. 26 due to a bone bruise in his knee.

Mason averaged 13 points and 10.2 rebounds in the four games prior to his injury against Davidson.

Mason is expected to be part of the 8:30 morning session along with most of the starters, and many of the reserves will practice in the afternoon.

"We'll be as close to being at full strength as we've been in a long time," Shulman said. "Besides working on new stuff, we have to get Z back in the mix."

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