EMU Basketball Men Hoping To Catch Another Round Of Lightning
Update: After a 79-71 win over Mary Washington University on Dec. 19, the Runnin Royals were 1-2 within the ODAC and 8-4 overall. The team returns to the court after the holiday break on Jan. 5 at Emory & Henry College.
EMU men’s basketball Coach Kirby Dean will quickly stop short of directly comparing this year’s team with his 2009-10 team which made the program’s only NCAA Tournament appearance. But it’s hard not to compare them.
In 2009-10, the Runnin Royals returned all five of their starters from a 15-11 campaign and vaulted to the Elite Eight in the national tourney, finishing with a final record of 25-5 and a No. 4 national ranking. This year, Eastern Mennonite returns all five starters from a 12-15 team, and Dean is brimming with optimism. And he will compare that.
“After the 15-11 year, going into the next year I thought we were going to be good,” said Dean. “But never in my wildest imagination did I see those guys ascending to that level of play. I didn’t see fourth in the country coming. But to be honest, I’m just as optimistic now as I was then. Can you catch lightning in a bottle twice? I don’t know, but it’s certainly something we’ll strive for.”
The Royals are perfect at 4-0 since beginning the season on Nov. 16. Read more about the 2012-13 team…
Women’s Basketball Hoping To Live Up To Own Expectations
Update: After an exciting 93-40 win over Cairn University on Dec. 29, the Lady Royals were 2-1 within the ODAC and 5-4 overall. Play continues through the holiday break as the ladies square off against St. Mary’s College of Maryland on January 2.
Last year a young EMU women’s basketball team got on a roll and finished with a 22-4 record, tied for second-best in program history. Yet the Royals lost in the ODAC Tournament semifinals and missed out on the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Kevin Griffin knew he had a talented crew last winter, but with just three upperclassmen on the roster, Griffin didn’t expect the explosion of wins his team earned.
“I was very surprised considering how young we were and what we had lost,” he said. “Things just sort of fell into place.”
This year the eighth-year mentor returns his top six players, including all five starters. Griffin acknowledges that returning core triggers an extra layer of pressure. (Check out the 2012-13 roster…)
“It means that expectations are high from ourselves and from others,” said Griffin. “And it means that we do have experience, which is why those expectations are so high. I think everybody expects we’re going to be good and so there’s a pressure. Our schedule is a lot tougher this year, but I think that pressure and schedule can be a good motivator. At the end of the day it’s basketball and we just need to go play, try to improve and see what happens.”