The college basketball season is finally here and with a new season underway the Pointers men’s basketball team is set for another year of lofty expectations.
The Pointers lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, but returned with the majority of their players, including eight of their top ten scorers.
This year, they started the season as the fourth ranked team in Division III, but players are trying to pay no mind to the high expectations.
“We try not to think about pre- season expectations. Instead, just focus on the task at hand one game at a time,” said senior Tyler Tillema. “We like the challenge.”
“I don’t think the team really thinks too much about what we are ranked,” said senior Clayton Heuer. “We just need to go out and prove with our record how good we are.”
Pointers assistant coach Kent Dernbach agreed with his players.
“We haven’t had a group of seniors like this in a while, so with that might come higher expectations from the fans, but we have the same goals of playing good basketball, to be in the hunt for the conference title, and be able to knock on the door of a National Championship,” Dernbachsaid.
Dernbach cited upperclassmen leadership as a reason for the high expectations from fans and that it was one of the team’s greatest strengths this season. However, they also have depth on their side.
“We have seven upperclassmen, and a lot of depth, which is really going to help us this season,” Dernbach said.
“We are very deep overall, esecially at the guard position, which allows us to run the floor on teams and score in bunches,” Tillema said.
The three seniors on the team, Tillema, Heuer and Trevor Hass, are pushing the team to be better this season, according to Dernbach.
“Our seniors are expecting us to be really good this season,” Dernbach said. “They want to make sure that we’re playing our best basketball at the end of the season and that everyone is getting better every day in practice.”
According to Dernbach, offense will not be a problem for the Pointers this season. It will be the team’s defense that will make a difference.
“We have enough guys that can put the ball in the hole on the offensive end, but we need to have a defensive mindset,” Dernbach said. “There are going to be games that we’re going to have to win with our defense rather than offense.”
The Pointers won their home opener last Saturday against Lawrence University with a final score of 99-73. The home crowd was out in force. That presence of fans at home is something that both Heuer and Tillema appreciate.
“We love the atmosphere we get at home games, it really gets us fired up and we try to feed off the energy the crowd provides,” Tillema said.
“The crowd is amazing here at Stevens Point,” Heuer said. “It makes the team fired up and allows for a great atmosphere to play in.”
The team certainly has the home crowd backing them for another season, but the question remains: how good can this team be?
“I think the team has a great shot to do something special the season,” Heuer said. “We just need to stay healthy and not have injuries like last season.”
“Realistically I believe the sky is the limit and we have enough depth and experience to take us all the way to the National Title,” Tillema said.
“With the right mindset, and a little luck, there is no reason that the goals the seniors have made can’t be reached,” Dernbach said.
The Pointers will return home on Saturday to take on Hope College at 7 p.m.