The ACU men’s basketball opening game kickstarts college basketball across the country Wednesday against Eastern Tennessee State at 10:00 a.m. The Wildcats posted an impressive 20-11 record and finished second in the Southland conference standings. The preseason standings have the Wildcats finishing second again the conference.
Season Predictions: ACU men’s basketball
Owen: The loss of Payton Ricks will certainly be felt early in the season. The go-to shooter contributed to nearly half of all 3-pointers made in the 2019-20 season. The major question going into the upcoming season is who will be taking shots outside the perimeter? Another loss contributed to the graduation of Ricks is his defensive presence, leading the team with over two steals a game. However, the Wildcats have plenty of help returning this season. Seven out of the eight leading scorers for ACU are returning. Most notably, junior forward Joe Pleasant, who averaged 11 points per game and shot the ball at 50%. Sophomore forward Airion Simmons also saw increased minutes near the end of the season. At 6’5” 264lbs., it’s hard to imagine Simmons not making a dominant presence in his second season. Senior center Kolton Kohl made strides near the end of last season, as well. He scored double-digit points in five out of the last six games. Expect Kohl and Pleasant to dominate inside the paint. One notable player entering this season that could compensate for the loss of Ricks is junior forward Clay Gayman. He often led the Wildcats in scoring near the end of last season, shooting the ball at an efficient 53% rate and second in the team in 3-pointers made. Needless to say, this team is spoiled with experience and young talent. My expected starters are junior guard Damien Daniels, senior guard Coryon Mason, Gayman, Pleasant and Kohl. However, expect Simmons and senior guard Reggie Miller to fill in for some key minutes. This team will dominate inside. Now if they can just get one shooter to step up and help the Wildcats avoid a one-dimensional offense, the Southland conference championship is well within reach.
ACU: 19-6 (14-2 SLC)
Carrie: After a promising season cut short due to COVID-19, ACU men’s basketball will be back in action starting Wednesday. Though the loss of the graduating senior class (specifically Peyton Ricks) should be felt early on this season, there are plenty of players that will move in to fill the spots of those missing seniors. Some of those players that will potentially fill those leadership roles both on and off the court are junior forwards Joe Pleasant and Clay Gayman, senior guard Reggie Miller and center Kolton Kohl. With ACU’s most active 3-point shooter out of the line-up, except a massive shift in our offense strategy from a perimeter-based to an inside-based offense. No matter what happens, it will be crucial for the Wildcats to incorporate a perimeter offense so that the offense does not grow predictable and stagnant. Defensively, the same high-pressure defense should be expected, and be back better than ever. Again, some struggles and learning moments should be anticipated towards the beginning of the season, especially when you are scheduled to play power five programs like Arkansas and Texas Tech. But in the long run, head coach Joe Golding and the ACU roster will use those games to make themselves better and should be a force to be reckoned with once conference-play comes around.
ACU: 18-7 (13-3 SLC)
Tavian: The Wildcats are looking to continue with the success they’ve built on the last few years, but the loss of Payten Ricks, Trey Lennox and Hayden Howell is a huge loss that the Wildcats will miss this year. When looking at the roster this year the Wildcats still have a lot of key pieces that they bring including Junior Forward Joe Pleasant who’s projected to be an all conference player when the season is said and done. The biggest hole that’ll need to be filled is the scoring and shooting capability that Payten Ricks had last year. Now the Wildcats did bring on a talented group of freshmen in Logan McLaughlin, Cameron Steele, Payton Brooks, and Jameson Richardson. Out of this group I expect McLaughlin to provide some scoring coming into his first year and making a name for himself and eventually becoming an all conference star. Now this team in my opinion will rely heavily on their defense because I think early on they will be looking for a scorer and someone to step up as a leader on this team. The Wildcats do have a lot of pieces on their team and will dominate in conference play and will find their identity throughout non-conference play as they look to make a run to the NCAA Tournament.
ACU: 18-7 (12-4 SLC)
Jalen: The men’s team is in a very interesting position this season. Payten Ricks’ scoring absence will be one of the ultimate challenges for this team to get over throughout the season. However, this team has a large percentage of returning players. Junior forward Joe Pleasant will be the key player for this team’s success. Last season, Pleasant averaged 11 points per game while shooting over 50% from the field. He also scored in double digits in 18 games. Aside from Ricks, Pleasant’s presence will be crucial. Another major question will be how the Wildcats utilize senior center Kolton Kohl. As the biggest man on campus, his defensive presence will be needed for ACU to dominate opponents. Lastly, sophomore forward Airion Simmons had a standout season in his first collegiate season. Simmons provided a great post presence and energy for the team. We should expect an increase in his minutes on the floor. With these components, this team has the ability to dominate a large amount of their opponents. The only concern is head coach Joe Golding filling the void of Payten Ricks.
ACU: 19-6 (14-2 SLC)
The ACU women’s basketball team boasted a 24-5 record in the previous season, it’s best record since 2016. However, the Wildcats lost three out of their four leading scorers from 2019-20. The Southland Conference preseason poll has ACU finishing in third.
Season Predictions: ACU women’s basketball
Owen: The amount of talent lost from last season is tremendous. It’s true that this year’s team will face trials throughout the season. Players that often found the bench will be thrown in as key roles in the 2020-21 season. While other members of the Southland conference are losing key pieces to their rotation, it pales in comparison to what the Wildcats have lost. Success this season will heavily rely on senior forward Makayla Mabry and guard Anna McLeod. But one key factor that can turn this young and inexperienced team into a contender is head coach Julie Goodenough. She finds herself in an unusual position compared to previous years. Last season she was successful in finding a short rotation to rely on throughout the season, but this year she may have to dig deeper into the bench to produce results. Tracking player minutes and finding the perfect five will prove daunting early in the season, but if Goodenough can mesh together this new squad, they will find success. The road to another Southland championship is certainly more challenging this season, but the future looks bright for these Wildcats.
ACU: 13-12 (8-8 SLC)
Carrie: This season will be filled with ups and downs for the women’s team. After having two strong years, the Wildcats are losing five seniors who not only lead the team in the stat sheet but led them to be better teammates and a united team that accomplished extraordinary things. The 2020-2021 season will be an exciting one since we will get to see new players step into the roles left behind by the graduated seniors. As the season progresses, some players to keep your eyes on are senior guard Anna McLeod and forward Makayla Mabry. Both had solid seasons for the Wildcats in the 2019-2020 season, but both need to do much more to fill the holes left by the seniors. Another player to watch is junior guard Madi Miller. She had some struggles last year due to some injuries, but she will be back healthy this season, so expect her to gain some significant minutes on the floor versus the previous season. It will also be necessary for the Wildcats to start developing their underclassmen because they are more important than ever to start filling the gaps left behind. More likely than not, the Wildcats will struggle at the beginning of this season. But after some time has passed, head coach Julie Goodenough and the Wildcats will be able to find a lineup to help them be successful and win games in the long term.
ACU: 15-10 (10-6 SLC)
Tavian: The ACU women’s basketball team is looking to continue with the success from last year until the season eventually came to the end due to COVID-19. They do bring back key seniors in Anna Mcleod and Makayla Mabry who will need to serve as leaders for a young Wildcat team. Throughout the past couple years we’ve seen an 8-player rotation, but early on in the season we might see an 11-person rotation due to the fact that the team needs to find who can step in during certain situations and who can help close out a game. Now looking at the team we can expect big minutes from junior guard Madi Miller to help provide shooting either off the bench or in the starting lineup due to her tenure on the team. Mcleod will probably play big minutes this year and will be an all conference player when the season is said and done. Mabry will continue with the success from last season and senior Alyssa Adams will have some opportunities to earn big minutes after a breakout season from last season. The key issue I see is who will run the point guard position early on and who will closeout games. I think we’ll see some struggles early on, but the Wildcats will bounce back.
ACU: 16-9 (9-7 SLC)
Jalen: Last season, this was the best team in the Southland conference. The Wildcats led in almost every statistical category. However, this season is going to look slightly different. The Wildcats lost five seniors, three of which were the leading scorers of the team. This year will be an interesting one to see who carries the scoring load. Those key players include senior forward Makayla Mabry and guard Anna McLeod. Another player that will be key to this team’s success this season is junior guard Madi Miller. She will be back healthy to provide quality minutes as a facilitator and leader. One of the biggest focuses for the Wildcats will be for head coach Julie Goodenough to find rhythm with a not so experienced team that includes four freshman players and two new transfers. Last season was arguably the greatest season ACU has ever had. With Goodenough’s style and veteran experience, this team will be one of the elite teams in the Southland conference. They will have struggles in the beginning, but they will find their groove throughout the season.
ACU: 15-10 (11-5 SLC)