By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Just in time for winter weather; basketball.
College basketball season in the region begins tonight, weather permitting, when Bluefield College plays an exhibition game at Marshall.
Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at the Cam Henderson Center.
While the game won’t count in the standings for either team, Bluefield College head coach Richard Morgan is looking for maximum effort from the Rams.
“We are looking forward to that because that gives our guys a very good sense of where we are,” Morgan said. “You can’t put much stock in those exhibition games, those guys may not even play hard, I don’t know.
“I know we have to go up there and we have a job to do and that is compete and play hard and play with passion.”
While Bluefield returns three talented starters from last year’s 19-16 squad that finished third in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, the Thundering Herd also returns three starters, and all they did was finish 21-14 and played in the NIT for the first time since 1988.
Marshall was a loss from Memphis in the Conference USA championship game from playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987.
Bluefield will also face North Carolina-Asheville in another exhibition on Dec. 30, and the Bulldogs did play in the NCAA tourney last season.
“We are looking forward that one (Marshall) and then we have one right after Christmas,” Morgan said. “We have UNC-Asheville, which just recently played in the NCAA field of 64...”
Bluefield is led by Byron Carpenter, who averaged 21.3 points and 8.9 rebounds and earned AAC player of the year honors in the Rams’ final season in the league. Carpenter is joined by the talented backcourt of Kearsten Marion (16.7 ppg, 3.6 assists, 2.3 steals) and Andrew Wilson (14.6 ppg, 3.6 ast).
Marshall is paced by DeAndre Kane, a preseason All-Conference USA first team selection, who led the Herd last year with 16.5 points a game. He is joined by Dennis Tinnon, who had 10.0 rebounds a contest. Robert Goff is a senior who started in all but two games last year for Tom Herrion.
Bluefield will open its season with games that count on Saturday when the Rams host Lynchburg at 4 p.m. Bluefield State will visit the Dome for the “Battle of the Bluefields” on Nov. 7, and will begin Mid-South Conference play on Nov. 15 with league favorite Georgetown.
Playing a game like this one, whether it counts on the schedule or not, can only help the Rams as the season approaches. Morgan is quick to point out that the move to the MSC puts Bluefield in what many consider the best league in NAIA.
“We are looking forward to those situations,” Morgan said. “It is more of just to go out and compete and see how it is with the big boys, but now that we are in this league it doesn’t matter anymore.
“Our league tough. It is going to be a tough situation for us, but we are going to be ready for the challenge and we will ready for sure to play hard.”
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Three other local basketball teams will be playing exhibitions against Division 1 squads in the coming weeks.
Bluefield State’s men’s team will visit North Carolina-Greenboro of the Southern Conference on Saturday, while the Concord women will play at West Virginia on Tuesday, and will visit Marshall on Thursday.
The Bluefield College women will travel to Radford (Nov. 18) and High Point (Nov. 25) next month.
A brief look at each of the local and regional basketball teams:
•Bluefield (19-16): Season opens: Nov. 3, vs. Lynchburg. (exh.-Oct. 29, at Marshall). Nov. 7, vs. Bluefield, games counts on schedule.
•Bluefield State (1-26 last year): Season opens: Nov. 20, at Pitt-Johnstown. (exh.-at UNC-Greensboro (Nov. 3), at West Virginia Tech (Nov. 5), at Bluefield (Nov. 7).
•Concord (17-12): Season opens: Nov. 9, at Mercyhurst College in Mercyhurst Invitational Tournament, Erie, Pa.
•Virginia Tech (16-17) : Season opens: Nov. 10, vs. East Tennessee State. James Johnson in first season as head coach.
•West Virginia (19-14): Season opens: Nov. 12, at Gonzaga.
•Marshall (21-14): Season opens: Nov. 9, vs. Longwood. (exh.-Oct. 29, vs. Bluefield).
•Virginia (22-10): Season opens: Nov. 9, at George Mason.
•Bluefield (22-12): Season opens: Nov. 2, vs. Virginia Intermont, Nov. 4, vs. Allen, Nov. 7, vs. Bluefield (exh.-Nov. 18, at Radford, Nov. 25, at High Point).
•Bluefield State (7-22): Season opens: Nov. 20, at Pitt-Johnstown. (exh-Oct. 31, at West Virginia Tech, Nov. 7, at Bluefield).
•Concord (23-6): Season opens: Nov. 9, at Indiana-Pennsylvania, in WVIAC-PSAC Challenge. (exh-Oct. 30, at West Virginia, Nov. 1, at Marshall.
•Virginia Tech (7-23): Season opens: Nov. 9, vs. Old Dominion.
•West Virginia (24-10): Season opens: Nov. 9, vs. North Carolina-Wilmington. (exh-Oct. 30, vs. Concord).
•Marshall (16-14): Season opens: Nov. 9, vs. Radford. (exh.-Nov. 1, vs. Concord, Nov. 4, vs. Kentucky State). Matt Daniel in first season as head coach.
•Virginia (25-11): Season opens: Nov. 9, vs. James Madison.