Wed. Jan 19th, 2022

Warm up the auditorium ladies and gentlemen because it is time for some WCU men’s basketball. This year’s team is predicted to win the PSAC East. West Chester went 20-8 last season, and they were poised to win the PSAC championship, but division leader East Stroudsburg got in the way. The best quality this team has on their side is their scrappy play. They are not the biggest team but they will be playing till the final buzzer.
In their most recent preseason game against Villanova, they were clearly unmatched in size. Nova’s forwards towered over the West Chester squad. This should have forced the Rams to take more perimeter shots. This was not the case.
West Chester continually drove to the basket in most of their possessions. The strategy looked to be that WCU wanted to draw fouls and get Nova’s players in foul trouble. This strategy might have worked against any PSAC east team, but not a potential final four team like Villanova. Each time West Chester drove they were denied, no fouls drawn. On the opposite end, West Chester needed to foul to make sure Nova did not get easy baskets.
It was surprising that more three pointers where not shot by the Rams because the Wildcats gave them the perimeter shot on many occasions. Had West Chester been able to make more shots from the outside the game might have been closer than the 88-50 score board indicated.
In a positive turn of events, West Chester showed bright spots in a few players. Eddie Mitchell was a stand out as he led the WCU offense. His ball handling skills really shined against Villanova. He penetrated the Nova defense better than most. The multiple moves he possesses will be vital to WCU success this season.
Another player to be highlighted is Shannon Givens. The former Drexel University player brings Division I experience to the team. Givens led the team in scoring in the Villanova exhibition with 11 points. Experience at the Division I level is invaluable.
Givens has some shoes to fill as well. His father, Kevin Givens, is the all-time leading scorer in WCU men’s basketball.
Finally, junior Cory Blake was named to the preseason all PSAC team, with him being the only WCU player on the list. Blake was among the leaders on the team in most offensive categories last season. He averaged 10 points a game last season and 13 in the playoffs.
In WCU’s first regular season game, the Rams lost a close match to Lincoln University by a score of 69-60. Mitchell and R.J. Griffin played extremely well for the purple and gold, but it was not enough to hold off Lincoln from storming back to win the contest.
It is the first time since 2007 that the Golden Rams have been picked to win the PSAC east. The team is now looking to avenge its loss last season in the semifinals. West Chester has not captured a division title since the 2006 season. Coach Damien Blair took over five years ago and has grown the program into one of the best in the division. The Golden Rams have not won a PSAC championship.
Coach Blair looks to change that this season. Last season marked the first time since 2003 that the team had won 20 games. It is safe to say that Blair’s team will be a contender for this season. It shows in his players’ performance that they want to win at all costs. That is either by driving the lanes and drawing fouls, scrambling for loose balls on the floor. Even taking a charge in the paint, knowing that the defender will knock them down. This is all fundamental basketball that requires discipline.
The pressure will be on the Rams this year to out peform the competition. With discipline and fundamentally sound defense, this team will win a PSAC championship. A team that continues to set history at this school is more than likely to put a championship season together. The stands should be packed. The auditorium should be loud. When it is all said and done there could be a trophy sitting in WCU’s case inscribed “PSAC Champions 2013-2014”.
Michael Murphy is a first-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at 

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