The Wildcat basketball team has high hopes, despite a low season last year.
Due to injuries and a tough schedule, the Wildcats finished 10-16 last season, but a lot of fresh faces will give ACU a chance to get back into the habit of winning.
The Lone Star Conference released its preseason rankings and the Wildcats were slotted to finish in fifth out of six teams in the LSC South Division.
“I think we can exceed expectations this year,” said Head Coach Jason Copeland. “Preseason rankings don’t mean a lot. It’s based on how you finished last year, and we didn’t have a great finish. We should finish higher than fifth.”
The rankings predicted Midwestern State will win the conference for the second straight year. Midwestern is followed by Angelo State, Tarleton State, West Texas A&M and Texas A&M-Kingsville. ACU and East New Mexico round out the LSC South.
The team will look different this year. Only three players with significant playing time are returning; center Kendrick Johnson and guards Riley Lambert and Kevin White.
“We have a lot of new guys this year,” Copeland said. “We are going to try to get some kids different looks at different spots. We are also going to do some new things defensively.”
Copeland brought in three transfers to help boost the ACU squad. NCAA Division I transfers Preston Davis, (Stephen F. Austin), and Abby Kabba, (New Hampshire), as well as junior college transfer Eddie Thompson, (Paris JC), will help bolster a lineup that aims to be more up-tempo than last year’s.
Two years ago, the Wildcats made a run for the LSC semifinals. Copeland wants the Wildcats to return to that style of play. Point guard Justin Heiman’s quick and speedy play will be the driving force of the new offense.
Another factor that should help the Wildcats is their schedule. The Wildcats are slated to play 16 home games this season, as opposed to only 13 last season.
“Anytime you can play at and get used to that friendly environment, it’s a plus,” Copeland said. “We need to get in here and play and let the chips fall where they may.”
Moody Coliseum has indeed been a friendly environment for the ‘Cats. Last year, ACU went 8-5 at home, while going 2-11 on the road. Eight of the first 10 games will be in Moody, beginning with the season-opener against Baptist Bible College at 7 p.m Tuesday.