When the temperatures drop and you can see your breath while walking to class, it signals the start of one thing: college basketball season.
West Chester University’s men’s basketball team looks to improve upon last year’s sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East division. Head coach Damien Blair led the Golden Rams to a record of 14-12, and 5-9 in conference play.
Blair is entering his fourth year at the controls and leads a Golden Rams team that is returning three starters from a year ago as well as bringing in a large recruiting class consisting of five freshmen and two transfers.
The Golden Rams were picked to come in fifth place in the PSAC East division this year in the PSAC preseason poll, and we can expect this young team, which only has two seniors, to get better as the season progresses. In the poll, the coaches voted that Kutztown would finish first in the division, narrowly ahead of East Stroudsburg, then Bloomsburg who just missed out on the playoffs last year, last year’s division champion Mansfield, followed by West Chester, Cheyney, Millersville, and Shippensburg rounding out the division.
Seniors Lance McDowell and Khalif Foster return to lead a team that aims at making a run at the PSAC playoffs at the end of February. The Golden Rams finished up their preparation for the season with a scrimmage against Goldley-Beacom College (DE) last Tuesday.
The Golden Rams will look to incorporate two junior transfers, Jon Breeden and Gary Lawrence, into the gameplan, along with looking for contributions from the five freshmen. With all the new faces it may take the team a few games to gel with one another. Once that happens, we will find out just what kind of team West Chester will be this year.
The Golden Rams open their season with a nonconference game against the University of Sciences of Philadelphia, but will have three other games this week. West Chester will travel to Philadelphia University on Tuesday for a nonconference game at 8 p.m. They return home for a pair of very important PSAC games over the weekend. On Saturday, they will play host to Slippery Rock, and on Sunday, Mercyhurst will be paying a visit to Hollinger Field House, with both games being at 3 p.m.
The weekend’s conference games will help West Chester get an idea of just how much success they can expect this season in the PSAC, as Mercyhurst and Slippery Rock are projected to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, in the PSAC West division.
As far as some games that you should circle on your calendar for the upcoming year, there are a number of key games. On Dec. 4, West Chester hosts Gannon who is picked to finish third in the PSAC West. Then from Dec. 9 through Jan. 14, the Golden Rams face by far their toughest stretch of the season with six straight away games.
In the middle of that road trip, West Chester faces two-time defending PSAC champions, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, followed by California University of Pennsylvania, who is picked to finish behind IUP, and Kutztown: all between Jan. 6 and Jan. 11. So while most of the students are at home celebrating the holidays with friends and family, the men’s basketball team will be trying to establish itself as a contender in the PSAC.
Once the spring semester kicks off, West Chester will host PSAC East contenders, Mansfield (Feb. 2), Kutztown (Feb. 8), and East Stroudsburg (Feb. 18). The Golden Rams finish their 2011-2012 home campaign against PSAC East rival Cheyney on Feb. 22. The PSAC conference tournament will be held at a destination yet to be determined from Feb. 28 through March 3.
This restructured team has spent countless hours in the off season working hard and practicing with one another in hopes of creating a chemistry and brotherhood that will be vital to the team’s success.
When the Golden Rams step on the court for the first time this season, these young men will have their minds set on accomplishing two goals, reestablishing West Chester as a prominent basketball program and making history. So join these young men and come out to support them, and help them reach their goals for the upcoming 2011-2012 basketball season.
Riley Wallace is a third-year student at West Chester University. He can be reached at RW718681@wcupa.edu.