The COVID-19 pandemic, limited fan capacity and a new home court contribute to what will be the most unusual season in recent memory for the Wildcats.
ACU finished the 2019-20 season with a 20-11 record and the No. 2 seed in the Southland conference Tournament, winning its last eight-out-of-nine matchups of the season.
While losing their leading scorer, head coach Joe Golding is confident his team will be in the hunt for a conference championship.
“I’ve had a lot of fun coaching this team,” Golding said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys back, and there’s a comfort level there. Offensively, we’re learning how to play without last year’s seniors. Defensively, I think we’re a little bit ahead. We’ve got so many guys back.”
While Golding believes there is much to be grateful for entering a new season, coronavirus has created challenges for teams across the nation.
“The hardest part right now for this team and every team across the country is we don’t have any scrimmages or exhibitions this year,” Golding said. “So you kind of have something to look forward to. This year is just straight through going against each other.”
Payton Ricks led the team in scoring with 14.3 ppg last season and often had the ball in the final seconds of close games. Golding said they don’t plan to have a go-to target early in the season.
“Going in, I think it’s going to be a team effort,” Golding said. “This team moves the ball offensively better than any team we’ve had at this point. I think that’s a huge plus to trust each other.”
With the NCAA’s decision to offer a blanket redshirt to all college athletes, several incoming freshmen will see minutes on the court this season.
“I don’t think it makes any sense to redshirt,” Golding said. “They’re not ready to play extended minutes at this point in time, but you never know when the lights turn on and you start playing games.”
Junior forward Joe Pleasant was second behind Ricks in points per game in the 2019-20 season. He is eagerly anticipating the first tip of the season to showcase their talents for the first time since March.
“We’re really excited,” Pleasant said. “We’re just happy to have another opportunity to go out there again and not take anything for granted.”
Pleasant was selected preseason second-team all-conference following an efficient 51% shooting effort in his sophomore year.
The Wildcats begin their 2020 season in Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase against East Tennessee State, the 2020 Southern conference Tournament champion, Nov. 25.
“This is the toughest schedule we’ve probably had across the board,” Golding said. “We’re going to get challenged right off the bat, but I’m excited for that. I think this team needs a challenge right off the bat.”
Because of Moody Coliseum’s renovation, all home games will be hosted at the Teague Special Events Center. Fans will be allowed at a limited capacity.
“It’s going to be different,” Golding said. “I’m extremely proud of our administration. I think it’s going to be a neat atmosphere, but I do think Teague is going to be really loud, and we’ll have a home-court advantage.”
While much remains unknown entering a new season, Golding is emphasizing to the team what he has for years.
“It sounds simple, but we just have to trust the process and be us,” Golding said. “We’re going to try and get better every day. We’ve built a great culture, and we don’t want to create peaks and valleys. We want to build a consistent program that competes for championships.”