One of the most anticipated basketball seasons in Wildcat history may be just around the corner.
In their first year of post-conference eligibility, the Wildcats begin the season ranked seventh in the preseason polls. The ranking does come as a bit of a surprise, considering ACU returns all five of its starters, the previous two freshman of the year award-winners and knocked off Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State and eventual NCAA tournament qualifier New Orleans. But head coach Joe Golding and his team are well aware of their 7-11 conference finish last year and, despite the anticipation, will have to prove themselves.
“It’s a daily reminder to those guys that the future is bright and on this team there is a lot of potential,” Golding said. “I think it’s going to be an incredible year for ACU basketball, but we haven’t done anything yet.”
Although the Wildcats had several defining wins last year, the team will look to develop more consistency from game to game. ACU began last year’s conference season 0-3 and finished the campaign 1-3, but over the other 11 games were above .500 at 6-5.
“I think our depth is better this year, we can play 10 or 11 guys, so that’s exciting,” Golding said. “And I think we have some flexibility, different lineups we can do whether we go small or big.”
Along with his returners, Golding brings his first-ever graduate transfer in Tevin Foster. Foster averaged 13.8 points at Drury College last year and joins a back court with experience and potential.
“It’s a good mix,” Golding said. “There’s guys with a lot of maturity and guys that have been through the battles and they are battle tested, not only in conference but non conference and hopefully that sets up for a great year.”
The Wildcats open the season Friday night against Randall University. The two teams met during the middle of the season last year, and ACU nearly lost but held on for the 78-74 victory. Golding said each player on the team improved over the summer and everyone is excited to get the season going.
“You can tell this week in practices, they’ve really kind of stepped it up a bit, or guys really realize the season is just around the corner,” Golding said.
The players also realize this could be a year of historical proportions and Golding said he believes his team will do what’s needed to be done to get to the conference tournament in Katy and have a shot at advancing beyond that.
“Somebody is going to make the NCAA tournament at Abilene Christian – it’s gonna happen,” Golding said. “And it’s gonna be a heck of a dream come true for our university. This is a special group and I think they’re going to continue to work hard and put themselves in a position come March that we’ll have a chance to compete for that.
The team will play three of its first four games at home before traveling to the Campbell Tournament in North Carolina. After the tournament, the Wildcats will play an even three home games and three away games before starting conference play against New Orleans Dec. 28.