New Wildcat head coach Brette Tanner will lead his team into Utah and Texas A&M to start his 2021-22 campaign on Nov. 9.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Tanner said. “We haven’t started the year like this for a long time where we get to play some big opponents like Utah and A&M right off the bat. It’s a challenge, but we’re excited about it.”
Despite the new coach and new conference, Tanner said the expectation is still very high for this program after a historic win over the University of Texas 53-52 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In the preseason Western Athletic Conference coaches and media polls, the Wildcats were predicted to finish fifth and fourth respectively. Senior guard Damien Daniels made the all-conference second team by the coaches and senior guards Coryon Mason and Reggie Miller made the all-conference second team by the media.
“We’re not gonna run from those expectations,” Tanner said. “The past is the past, and we’re not real worried about what we’ve done in the past couple years. We’re trying to attack this year. This is not the same team that took the court last year just like last year’s team wasn’t the same team that took the court the year before against Kentucky.”
Returning for the Wildcats are seven guards featuring seniors Coryon Mason, Reggie Miller, Mahki Morris, Tobias Cameron and Damien Daniels. At the forward position, the Wildcats return three featuring junior Airion Simmons. Over the offseason, the Wildcats brought in three transfers and two freshmen to help reset in a new conference under a new coach. Tanner said the leadership of this team has been huge.
“Our guys expect to be good,” Tanner said. “No longer do we just think, ‘Man I hope we can be good,’ our guys expect to be good. That’s been the change in the program over the past couple years. I think that’s gonna carry us in some games people may not expect us to compete in, and I’d be shocked if we don’t because we have that mindset.”
The Wildcats start off with road tests against Utah, Texas A&M, and UT-Arlington before heading to the Bahamas for the 2021 Nassau Championship against mid-major programs Jacksonville State, Toledo, Charlotte, Drexel, Tulane, Coastal Carolina and Valparaiso.
“I think the Bahamas is going to be a great test for us,” Tanner said. “I think it’s going to be a good measuring stick for us on where we are as a program. We’re excited about that, but every game is important.”
There are several unknowns for a basketball program that made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, but it all kicks off for Tanner and the Wildcats on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at Utah.