The Wittenberg Men’s Basketball season is set to tip-off on Saturday, Nov. 15, at Oberlin University. The Tigers are picked to finish third in the preseason North Coast Athletic Conference Coaches’ Poll. Witt received 79 votes behind last year’s tournament champs Wooster, who received nine of 10 first place votes, while DePauw received the final first place vote.
The Tigers will be led by just three seniors this season: guards Ben Bowen and Sam Collins, and forward John Albertson. A team that lost five seniors from the 2013-2014 season, it is not so much about what they do have, as much as what they don’t have. The seniors combined for a majority of the stats not only in minutes played, but also in scoring and rebounding.
“We are young, and it is a fact,” head coach Bill Brown expressed. “Some use that as a type of upfront excuse making; ‘they are young so nobody should have much expectations.'”
With only one junior on the team, Alex Fultz — who received his fair share of minutes as a sophomore — started in three games last season, averaging 14.1 minutes a game. The rest of the team is made up of all sophomores and freshmen. One player Brown seemed to talk about with some enthusiasm was the return of sophomore Jaelin Williams, after losing him two games into the season for undisclosed reasons. With a new-found dedication in Williams, Brown says he is one that could be ready to be a starter for the first game of the season.
The Tigers seem to have a head start on their competition, taking a training trip to Toronto, Canada, over fall break; they were allowed to start practicing 10 days before NCAA regulation. The three games played in Canada gave the coaching staff a good insight into the young team, as they played teams above the level of competition they might see during the season. This type of training and adversity gave a chance to the younger players who had the talent, but may not have had the experience to gain this before they got into the crucial conference games of the season.
As with any season, the Tigers hope to be regular season NCAC champions, giving them the highest seed in the tournament and the best chance to win the NCAC tournament, as well as an automatic bid to the big dance to the NCAA tournament.