Men’s basketball shows a lot of promise this season

Aaron J. Pellot
Staff Writer

Confidence and Defense are the talk of the day

 

spartanWith a new season comes a new story. This year the Men’s basketball team hopes to close the story with a conference championship. Although the Spartans had a disappointing season last year with a 16-17 record, the preseason polling has high hopes for the matured team led by Torrey Craig.

In the preseason Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Poll, the Spartans have been picked to finish third in the conference, only behind Mercer and the NCAA Tournament’s most recent bracket buster, Florida Gulf Coast University.

During preseason voting by coaches for universities in the A-Sun Conference, three Upstate players were selected for the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team, including senior Craig, by unanimous decision, senior Ricardo Glenn, and junior Ty Greene. With the exception of Florida Gulf Coast, no other team had as many players selected. Dunk City had three players chosen this year. If that was not impressive enough, Torrey Craig was also chosen as the Preseason Player of the Year for the conference.

Craig, who has arguably been one of the best players in Spartan history, averaged 17.2 points last year. He is in need of 441 points to become the second player in USC Upstate history to score 2,000 points in a career. Craig has scored over 500 points in each of the past two years. Other leaders looking to help him score in the upcoming season are Greene, who averaged 12.6 points last season, and Ricardo Glenn, from the low-block, who averaged a career best 10.5 points last season.

With the hype and storylines set in the preseason, Upstate’s Media day for men’s basketball brought some answers for the upcoming season. On Oct. 22, 2013, Glenn, Coach Eddie Payne, and Torrey Craig opened themselves to questions about this coming season. The overall tone during the media day was one of confidence. Coach Payne first acknowledged his appreciation in the leadership of the team that Craig and Glenn bring. He also acknowledged them as reasons why the men’s basketball team has become more competitive in conference play. With the appreciation received, both Craig and Glenn acknowledged a sense of urgency, this being their last year with the program.

The panel showed an interesting perspective when the topic of Florida Gulf Coast was brought up in the room. As America was introduced to the electric Dunk City last year, many did not recognize that the Atlantic Sun Conference was their home conference. With their deep run in the final tournament last year still fresh in the team’s memory, Craig responded well stating, “We’re just as talented. I think we can compete with them, and I think we can beat them.”

When asked if Upstate felt any pressure based off of FGCU’s performance, Craig again responded confidently stating, “It builds confidence, and it motivates us. We see what they [FGCU] were capable of, and we are just as talented as they are. The sky is the limit for this team.”

Coach Payne reinforced this confident feeling. This situation, where FGCU is a dominant force in the A-Sun Conference, creates “opportunity” instead of pressure.

“It’s good to be able to think you can get a basket sometimes, without tricking anybody,” said Coach Payne. Later he went on to say, “I think what I’d like to see us get better at, which would allow us to take the step we are all aspiring to, is to become a tougher defensive team in half-court situations.”

Along with acknowledging the need to be tougher on defense, the players personally acknowledged their weaknesses. During the offseason, Glenn worked on free throws, and Craig increased his patience on the offensive side of the ball.

While point guard play might be an early season concern, it seems the veteran leadership of the Spartan team will soften any worries the public may have. With this year being claimed as “our year” in promos for the season, this team is going to be exciting to watch, as records may be set, both on the university and conference level.

While Upstate is surely going to have an exciting season, the fans are encouraged to come out and support their team. The team urges students to fill the Hodge Center and support the Spartan’s basketball team. Follow the team on twitter: @UPSTMBB, stay up to date on games, statistics, and  conference standings on www.upstatespartans.com

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