Lucky Number 7

Lucky Number 7

Lucky Number 7

Cody Dyer

When the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association released its preseason coaches poll for the men’s basketball season, opposing coaches probably didn’t have a 8-0 start by Missouri Southern in mind.

Southwest Baptist, which finished first in the MIAA last season, received an overwhelming 98 points for a No. 1 preseason ranking. Thus far, the Bearcats are living up to expectations entering MIAA conference play this week.

The Lions, on the other hand, are outplaying their No.7 preseason conference ranking.

Southern, picked seventh in the MIAA Basketball Coaches Preseason Poll, is off to its best start since beginning the 1999-2000 season 9-0. The Lions, of course, went on to win the MIAA championship before winning the MIAA Tournament and advancing to the NCAA-II Final Four.

Last season, the Lions were picked last in the MIAA preseason poll.

“It was kind of a shock,” said senior guard Tony Webb of last season’s preseason pick. “A lot of us took it to the heart, and we felt we had a lot to prove.”

Webb and the Lions confirmed they were among the best in conference last season with an 11-7 conference record.

“We felt we did prove a lot last season,” Webb said. “From what we did last year, we thought we would be picked higher than seventh.”

But for the third consecutive year, Southern was bumped from the MIAA Tournament in the first round last season, which may have hindered the Lions from earning a higher ranking in the preseason polls.

Now, the Lions are on a mission, so to speak, to prove they have the capability to stay consistent for the conference season and on into the MIAA Tournament.

“It put another chip on our shoulders,” Webb said of the rankings, “and we have the same mindset to go out and get back to where we were last year.”

One thing is for certain: The Lions believe they have the makings for something special this season. In order for everything to come together, though, the Lions will have to rely on a mixture of veterans such as Webb, Vincent Ateba and Matt Monroe and a bevy of talented, younger players such as Skyler Bowlin, Chris Scruggs and Jason Adams.

“I don’t want to have just a good season and end it with the conference tournament,” Webb said. “I want to win the conference championship and go on to play in the national tournament.”

Thus far, the mixture has worked in the Lions’ favor, but the real test will come when the MIAA schedule begins in earnest.

Adams, a Carthage High School product, has already contributed valuable minutes for the Lions.

“I look to help keep the intensity up and help the team do the right things,” said Adams, a 6-foot-5, 187-pound freshmen. “Coach (Robert Corn) tells us what we need to do, and, in my mind, I look at that like I need to go out and do things to help this team win.”

Adams is averaging 16.4 minutes off the bench through seven games this season, and already is among the team leaders in scoring (86 points) and blocks with three.

“If I score two points that’s good with me or if I score 20 points that’s good with me,” Adams said. “I look to go out and make plays any way I can.”

Both Lion teams entered this week with unblemished records, which is nothing new to women’s coach Maryann Mitts.

The women’s team has won its first five game in a season for three successive years in hopes it would lead to a successful conference run. The Lions began last season with a 9-0 mark before scuffling down the stretch.

The women are currently 6-0 coming off a 71-65 win on Wednesday against Truman.

Both teams open up their respective home conference slates on Saturday against Central Missouri.