By Jamie Crawley
There is one thing that is certain about fall besides football and falling leaves: basketball season is right around the corner. The men’s basketball team at Virginia Wesleyan is ready to get a national championship.
With a new season, there are always new expectations. This year is no exception considering Division III News ranked the Marlins second in the latest preseason poll. The only team that is currently in front of them is the defending champions, Augustana College. This does not come as a surprise to many as last year’s youth-filled Marlins team competed beyond many people’s predictions by advancing further than expected in the NCAA Tournament. Virginia Wesleyan made their way to the Final Four last year, but lost the match to the Pointers of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and fell short of advancing to the title game.
Virginia Wesleyan’s slew of returning players could be part of the reason for the Marlin’s prestigious preseason ranking. The team only graduated three seniors, so a majority of the players are returning for the 2015-16 season. Last year’s starting backcourt of Tim Jones and Khory Moore along with the backcourt duo, Nick Doyle and Kaelin Poe, are among the returning players. There will be no shortage of leadership or NCAA experience this year.
The players say they are optimistic heading into the season, but they would rather put in the work necessary to succeed rather than to fall into the hype of a preseason poll.
“We don’t really look at it. I think our coach decided to make us pay attention to the work we have to do. I think if we start paying attention to that, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. It’s all about controlling what we can control and let these talks of expectations and rankings come from other people,” senior Nick Doyle said.
Junior Tim Jones says he feels similarly to Doyle about the polls.
“I mean we care about it, but at the same time we don’t try to pay attention to it just for the fact that since we’re number two in the polls, that’s going to want to make teams give us their best shot night in and night out,” Jones said. “That makes the target that much bigger on our back so we try not to pay attention to the whole ranking talk because it can change at any time. Any slip-ups can change those rankings, so we try to take it day by day and not be concerned with the polls.”
With this hardworking attitude, the Marlins expect success. Optimism is in the air just like in past years, but the Marlins say they feel like their offseason work can be what sets them apart from other teams.
“I’m really excited about how we’re looking. I think we worked really hard this offseason. The preseason has been going really well, and it’s going to be a very good year,” Doyle said.
Jones said he feels extremely positive about this season because of the returning leadership and the young guns joining the program.
“We feel pretty confident about the year. Everybody pretty much is coming back, as well as a lot of leaders. We have some new, talented freshmen that can play big roles, but at the end of the day, it’s about working every day and taking this day by day, constantly getting better,” Jones said.
The expectations are always clear for this Division III powerhouse and the Marlins are endlessly preparing to rise to the occasion.
The Marlins first tip will be at Wesley College on Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. Their home-opener is scheduled for Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. This marks the start of the Marlin Tip-Off Tournament, which is a two-day tournament hosted at Virginia Wesleyan College.