Photo Courtesy of Jacob Turner
BANNER ELK, N.C. – The Lees-McRae College men's basketball team will open its 2018-19 season this week with three games on tap. LMC will start the week with an exhibition contest at Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday before competing in a pair of neutral site games in Bristol, Tennessee against Columbus State and Flagler on Friday and Saturday. Tuesday's game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tip-off time, while Friday's and Saturday's tilts are slated for 5 p.m. and 2 p.m. start times, respectively.
New Year, New Team – Bobcat fans will see several new faces on the court for the team this season. Just four players (Quay Kimble, Malik Wright, Dylan Gollihar and Juwan Blanton) on the current active roster were on the conference championship team from a season ago. Overall, there will be 13 players making their Bobcat debut this week.
Preseason Prognostication – The Bobcats were selected to finish fifth in the annual Conference Carolinas Coaches' Poll last month. Kimble, Wright and Gollihar were tabbed as players to watch for Lees-McRae this season.
Branching out to the Peach Belt – Lees-McRae will play a pair of institutions from the Peach Belt Conference this weekend in Bristol. Despite competing in the same region as the PBC, Lees-McRae has played just eight games against current members of that conference since 2006. Additionally, LMC has never faced Columbus State and Flagler.
About the Opponents – Middle Tennessee State has turned itself into one of more consistently competitive mid-major teams at the Division I level. MTSU is coming off three consecutive seasons with 25 wins or more to go along with two appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Raiders will be under new leadership in 2018-19, however, as former UNC Asheville Head Coach Nick McDevitt takes over Kermit Davis who left the school to become the next Head Coach at Ole Miss.
Columbus State, meanwhile, is coming off a nine-win season in 2017-18. The Cougars, who were picked to finish sixth in the 12 team PBC, are in an interesting spot in their program. CSU does return eight players from last season's team, but it will have to find a way to replace its top four leading scorers from last season.
Much like Columbus State, Flagler posted nine victories a season ago. The Saints have already played an exhibition game this season when they took on UCF. Even with a 23-point effort from Vaughn McCall, Flagler came out on the losing side of an 86-69 final score to the Golden Knights.