Men’s basketball looks to defend PL title with new and old stars

Justin Schaumberger, Staff Writer

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Coming off back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and winning seven of the last eight Patriot League regular-season titles, the Bison men’s basketball team appears prepared for another big season ahead.

Over the summer, the team traveled to Europe to play games against teams from the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. This unforgettable experience for the team intended to prepare the Bison for a difficult non-conference schedule to start the year, which includes games at both Ohio State and St. Bonaventure.

Additionally, the Bison will be competing in Hawaii for the first time ever in the Diamond Head Classic against solid teams, including Rhode Island and TCU. The Bison’s non-conference foes combined to finish last season with a record of 193-108. Head coach Nathan Davis believes the tough schedule will help the team in the long run.

“I think it is very important to play good teams before we get into Patriot League play so that all of our flaws and weaknesses are exposed before January,” Davis said.

In order to succeed this season, the Bison must replace three key seniors from last season, including leading scorer Zach Thomas ’18 (20.5 PPG and 9.1 RPG), center Nana Foulland ’18 (15.2 PPG and 7 RPG), and point guard Stephen Brown ’18 (15.1 PPG and 4.3 APG). Overall, the Bison are relatively young, with only four seniors on the roster, although they do have several key players returning from last season’s NCAA tournament team.

These players include preseason All-Patriot League forward Nate Sestina ’19,  guard Kimbal Mackenzie ’19 (27.8 MPG), guard Jimmy Sotos ’21 (22.3 MPG), guard Bruce Moore ’20 (21.7 MPG) and guard Avi Toomer ’20 (19.9 MPG). Guard Andrew Funk ’22, forward Kahliel Spear ’22, and forward Walter Ellis ’22 will look to contribute and bring a new spark during their first year with the team.

Practices will be intense and competitive, forcing each guy to continue to improve,” Davis said.

The bar has been set high for the Bison due to their past successes. In the Patriot League preseason poll, the Bison received eight first-place votes and were ranked second, behind Lehigh.

The Bison opened the season on Nov. 7 with a thrilling 88-85 overtime victory over St. Bonaventure, led by Mackenzie’s 28 point effort.

The Bison will have their home opener on Nov. 10 against Fairfield at 7 p.m. The Orange and Blue will then face a tough stretch of games in mid-December as they travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on Ohio State on Dec. 15, followed by a road matchup against St. Mary’s, a team that narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament last year, following a 30-6 record. After these games, the Bison will travel to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic, where they will face a talented Rhode Island team on Dec. 22 that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season. Finally, the Bison will open up Patriot League play on Jan. 2 against Army West Point.

The Bison men’s basketball team will look to have another strong, dominant and memorable season, ending in a third consecutive March Madness berth.

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