Basketball teams are looking forward to MIAA conference

By Emily Larkin, Staff Writer

The men’s and women’s basketball teams are gearing up to take on the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) in November.

The men’s team was picked to finish 11th in the 2019 MIAA Conference Preseason Coaches Poll and ninth in the MIAA Media Poll.

Men’s Basketball Coach R.J. Allen said that these rankings will only influence the team’s determination.

“I haven’t been through the league, so I don’t know what that looks like. I think we want to take it one game at a time and try to do the best we can with what we have,” he said. “Come February and March, preseason rankings don’t mean much. It’s just a little motivation for us. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves because there is no bigger game than the current one we are preparing to play.”

Allen said that moving into the MIAA hasn’t changed how the team has begun to prepare.

“If you are practicing differently because you are playing this opponent or this opponent, you are not preparing the right way,” he said. “Your resiliency will be tested because you will play better teams night in and night out, but how you prepare for those good teams should not change at all.”

Senior Marshawn Blackmon said that if the team pushes forward and works hard, he can see success in the future.

“If we come day in and day out and abide by those standards and trust the process, then I like our chances of finishing higher than the 11th seed,” he said.

Senior Anthony Harvey Jr. said the the poll gives them the push they need to compete at this higher level.

“The coaches poll is just more motivation for us to go harder every day in practice and prove everybody wrong,” he said. “We are new to the MIAA, and I think this is a very good opportunity to prove ourselves in the best Division II Basketball Conference in the country.”

The men’s basketball team will play its first game against Henderson State at 5 p.m. on Nov. 8 in Dallas.

The women’s basketball team was picked to finish eighth in the 2019 MIAA Conference Preseason Coaches Poll and ninth in the MIAA Media Poll.

Women’s Basketball Coach Darin Spence said this is reasonable.

“That’s probably right where I would put us. A realistic goal would be to finish in the top half of the league,” he said. “I think if we’re in the top five then we will have had a very good year.”

Senior Haley Albers said that this ranking is not going to ultimately change how they prepare.

“We’re going to go work hard in practice regardless of whether we’re picked to finish first or last,” she said. “It is a testament to how tough this new conference is, so we just have to prepare in a way where we are giving it our all, which is something that Coach Spence has always expected of us.”

The women’s basketball team will start the season with a mixed roster of under and upperclassmen, Spence said.

“We have good experience. We have a number of players who are good shooters. Now let's hope they are shot makers. We are going to be a solid team that defends well,” he said. “We’re not going to be a flashy type of team. We are going to try to score some points, but we are also a very basic defensive team.”

Spence said that moving into the MIAA, the top women’s basketball conference in the country, is going to be a challenge, but they plan to make it to the conference tournament.

“It is going to take us time to learn some of the venues where we’ll play,” he said. “We’ve played a handful of them in years past, but it’s different when you play in a November or December non-conference game versus playing every Thursday and Saturday. The level of competition is off the charts.”

The top 10 team out of the 14 in the conference go to the end-of-season tournament. The women’s team will host its first game against Ouachita Baptist at 2 p.m. Nov. 8 in Fugate Gymnasium.

PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, Newman Athletics.