The Quinnipiac men’s basketball season will start off its season against the Troy Trojans at the Columbia Tournament on Friday. The Bobcats were picked seventh in the Northeast Conference (NEC) Preseason Coaches’ Poll, which would land them in the NEC tournament for the first time since 2003.
After disappointing 2004 and 2005 campaigns, this year looks to be a season of rebirth for the Bobcats. One benefit the team has this season that wasn’t available before is a new NCAA rule that allows teams to start practicing earlier. These extra practices, according to head coach Joe DeSantis, helps the team gel and could lead to better team chemistry.
“Previously, the NCAA only allowed you to work with players individually, now they allow you two hours, so we did a lot of team things,” DeSantis said. “The timing was right because we have so many new guys. It definitely helped.”
Senior guard and tri-captain Nicholas Tipson agrees.
“With new players coming in and a few leaving, it has taken time for everyone to pick up the new system, but because of the extra practices it helped us out a lot more than people were expecting, because we could start introducing new plays,” Tipson said. “Where we are now, as opposed to where we were last year, I think we are in better shape. With the six new guys on the team, it’s going to help us.”
There are only three seniors on the roster this season. Tipson, guard Craig Benson and forward Kevin Jolley were named captains for the upcoming season.
“We’re going to be helping the new guys out, helping them learn everything that they need to learn,” Jolley said. “Being one of the seniors you’re going to have to step up on and off the court.”
The Bobcats have a lot of new players coming into the system. Along with University of Tennessee transfer guard John Winchester, guard Adam Gonzalez and forwards Chris Wehye and Victor Akinyanju all transferred from Cecil Community College in Maryland, with Gonzalez and Wehye figuring to contribute right away for Quinnipiac.
There are also three freshmen on the team, forward Akeem Gooding and guards Jason Wilson and Job Casmir, all of whom could see some playing time this year
“It always takes freshmen a little time to get acquainted with the system,” Tipson said. “They’re used to high school where they might have been the top dog, and now they’re starting over, and picking things up that they need in college basketball, that they might not have needed in high school basketball.”
As far as expectations are concerned, the team’s predicted seventh-place finish is something that could spur the team forward.
“Obviously everybody would like to be picked first, because it shows you have a certain amount of respect, and you probably have a lot of upper-classmen back,” DeSantis said. “Being picked seventh hopefully will motivate us. I thought we’d be picked in the neighborhood of seven, eight and nine. But we were picked lower than seventh (tenth) the year we went to the NEC finals in 2002, and if we play well, the preseason rankings won’t matter.”
So while fate may be on the Bobcats’ side this basketball season, it’ll be an uphill climb in the NEC.