Welcome, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, to the first official game preview of the 2013-14 basketball season. The exhibition season is now in the rear-view mirror, and what lies immediately ahead are basically two games against relatively lesser foes with the mighty Michigan St. Spartans looming a mere five days hence.
victim opponent of this young Kentucky team are the UNC Asheville Bulldogs of the Big South Conference. The Bulldogs' conference mates include teams like High Point, VMI, Longwood, Gardner Webb (remember them?) and my all-mascot team member, the Presbyterian Blue Hose.
Last year, UNC Asheville finished 4th overall in the Big South and second in the South division with a 10-6 conference record and 16-16 overall. Last season, the Bulldogs played the likes of the Tennessee Volunteers, who beat them by 19 and the NC State Wolfpack who escaped in an unusual road game, 82-80.
This year, the Bulldogs are picked to finish 4th in their division and 7th overall in the Big South, and return only two starters from last season's team, senior lead guard Trent Meyer (6'3", 170#, 9.7 ppg, 22% assist rate, 34% 3-point shooter) and sophomore forward Will Weeks (6'6", 220# 9 ppg, 5.4 rpg. Weeks had the 16th highest free throw rate in Division I, so he gets to the line a lot.)
In their exhibition opener, the Bulldogs defeated Brevard College, a Division II team 86-45. Andrew Rowsey, a 5'10" 175# freshman led them in scoring that night, and a total of four Bulldogs wound up in double figures.
The Bulldogs earned their first invitation to the NCAA tournament in 2003, and won 23 games in 2008, earning an NIT bid. You may remember that Kenny George, the tallest basketball player (7'7") played on that 2008 team.
The team this year consists of 5 true freshmen, 2 redshirt freshmen, 4 sophomores, 3 juniors, one true senior and 2 redshirt seniors.
UNC Asheville has a new coach this season, Nick McDivitt. Former coach Eddie Biedenbach resigned in April of this year to take the assistant coaching position at UNC Wilmington. This was definitely a weird thing, but... there you go. McDivitt was promoted from Biedenbach's assistant to the head coaching spot. McDivitt is a UNC Asheville alumni, just 12 years removed from graduation day. He's literally been an assistant ever since he got his shingle, and was a 4-year letterman for the Bulldogs.
I have no idea what to expect from McDivitt's team, except that there is little doubt they will play hard for their new coach and try to win. The ease with which they handled their exhibition opponent gives me some pause, however — you normally don't see Big South teams picked low in their conference crushing Division II squads by 44 points. Division III or NAIA, maybe, but that result is pretty impressive.
With that said, they face off against talent the likes of which few have seen. Even though the Wildcats are anything but a cohesive unit, they should be able to handle UNC Asheville tonight. The question is, will they continue to struggle as they did in their exhibitions, and I use that word advisedly. It's hard to call a 30 point victory struggling, but given the talent this team has, you have to think it's so.
Anyway, enjoy the game tonight, it should be fun.