The way the East Tennessee State basketball team looks at it, a new season is about to begin.
And it’s a good thing, because that old season wasn’t a whole lot of fun.
The Bucs open Atlantic Sun Conference play tonight at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena in Nashville after suffering through a difficult non-conference schedule that left a depleted team with a 2-11 record, its worst start in 37 years.
“I think right now the guys in our locker room are thinking we’re going into the Atlantic Sun and everybody’s 0-0,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “We always do a great job with our team in talking about non-conference and then conference. Now we get into a whole new season.”
The Bucs closed the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 109-58 home loss to Virginia Commonwealth, one of their worst defeats ever.
“My concern right now is we’re not a very good team,” Bartow said, “not that we’re 2-11. If you look at our schedule, there’s only two games you could say we should have won that we didn’t. I don’t panic that we’re 2-11, but I am concerned that we’re not a very good team.”
Lipscomb (5-8 overall, 0-2 A-Sun) has already opened A-Sun play with losses at North Florida and Jacksonville. But Bartow is clearly more concerned about his team than his opponent.
“If we think just because we’re going into the Atlantic Sun, we’re gonna start beating people, we’re not,” Bartow said. “We have to execute better. There’s 100 things we have to do better. Just because we’re going into the Atlantic Sun doesn’t mean we’re gonna magically start winning games right now.”
“If we keep playing the way we’re playing right now, Lipscomb will beat us 20 points Saturday and then Northern Kentucky could beat us. And then we’re 0-2 in the league and that would be a concern.”
Lipscomb comes in on a three-game losing streak. The Bison is led by Stephen Hurt, who averages 12.3 points a game. Martin Smith averages 12.0, Malcolm Smith 11.3 and Deonte Alexander 10.5.
Freshman Lester Wilson leads the Bucs in scoring at 15.5 points a game. Senior Jarvis Jones averages 13.8.
ETSU’s leading rebounder Hunter Harris missed much of the VCU game after hurting his knee. He is reportedly fine and is expected to play tonight. Point guard Petey McClain will likely see more action than his 14-minute outing against VCU after missing seven games with a sprained ankle.
ETSU is next to last in the A-Sun in scoring, averaging 57.1 points a game. Lipscomb, once known as the best defensive team in the league, allows the most points at 78.0.
The Bucs will continue the road trip Monday night at A-Sun newcomer Northern Kentucky.