Coming off a highflying performance at Purple Palooza, the Tennessee Tech men’s basketball team is looking to the 2013-2014 season with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.
The 2013-2014 men’s basketball team has just a little over a week until their home opener against Loyola but the preseason poll has stirred up some feelings. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish last in the Ohio Valley Conference this season.
“It’s very disrespectful,” said senior guard Jeremiah Samarrippas. “At the same time it could be a blessing, people may take us lightly and it makes guys on the team hungrier.”
The entire team does not support the feeling of disrespect.
“I didn’t like it, of course,” said senior forward Dennis Ogbe. “I’m not going say it’s disrespectful, but it’s what people think. In the end, it’s going to get decided on the court.”
Regardless of preseason picks the Golden Eagles have some nonconference games to begin the season. They travel to the University of South Florida and start the season off against the Bulls on Nov. 9. The team has its home opener Nov.12, followed by a Texas tournament and a few other well equaled nonconferencematchups throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
The game that seems to be circled on the nonconference slate is the in-state battle with the Tennessee Volunteers.
“That’s just a big match up,” said Ogbe. “I’ve wanted to play them since I got here and now it’s my senior year and we get to play them.”
The conference games kick off Jan. 2 as the Golden Eagles travel to Tennessee State. They have their first conference opener against Eastern Illinois on Jan. 8.
The OVC was not kind to the Golden Eagles who finished 5-11 in conference games last season but head coach Steve Payne likes the team’s depth and hopeful of a blend between the new faces and veterans.
“Right now we’re playing at least two in every position,” said Payne, at OVC media day. “Our newcomers are going to be valuable to our team and our veteran guys have got to show the way.”
With the more familiar teams coming to the Hooper Eblen Center, there is that one last chance to get a win over a rival. The team that seems to get the most attention is the Belmont Bruins. They came to the Hoop last season and defeated the Golden Eagles 83-52.
“I don’t like to lose like that at home,” said Ogbe. “It’s even worse when you lose in front of the people that you play for.
“We got smacked by Belmont at home. I want to beat them this year.”
Other teammates feel that no one team is a redemption game.
“I don’t like Belmont,” said Samarrippas, “but I’m hungry to beat everybody because, last year, we let a lot of games slip.”
The Golden Eagles won nine of 14 home games last season and know that winning games increases fan support, especially the student section.
“We want to win all our home games,” said Samarrippas.
“I love to play in front of the Cookeville crowd,” said Ogbe. “I would love to have a filled up student section.”
Samarrippas said, “College basketball is about the student section.”