We're not listening. Like emus, we're sticking our heads in the sand. Holding our hands over our ears. (Note: in this way, we're not like emus. Which don't have hands.) Saying, loudly, lalalalalalala.
The William & Mary Tribe men's basketball squad opens its 2013-14 season tonight at Hampton, seeking to build on a 13-17 campaign that was thisclose thisoften from being significantly better. Tony Shaver's Wrens return the top four scorers from a team that was third in the CAA in scoring, and first in shooting percentage and three-point percentage, losing only Matt Rum from last year's rotation.
Marcus Thornton's entering his junior season, confident and improved. Tim Rusthoven comes off a 14.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg campaign in which he led the conference in field goal accuracy. The two are W&M's first returning all-league players since 1976. Kyle Gaillard is a year removed from the injury that sapped his confidence at times in 2012-13, and ready to return to the form that saw him as often the most explosive player on the court in his sophomore season. Brandon Britt finishes his career in Williamsburg after scoring 13.9 points as a junior with a balance of penetration and long-range bombing. (He's also suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, which offers the potential for a terrific redemption story or a distraction.)
Thornton finished last season scoring in double figures in 32 consecutive games, the longest such current streak in the nation. His 18.8 points per game was second in the CAA, while he led the league in three-point percentage and made three-pointers. He was also among the league leaders and tops on the team in assists. Those whisperers we mentioned above are saying absurd things about Thornton's offseason work and his potential this season. He's already the best W&M player in our lifetime, but if he continues to improve his ability to involve his teammates, he'll burnish his credentials as the greatest Wren of all-time.
Meanwhile, sophomore Terry Tarpey, an athletic 6'5" wing, will take over Rum's defensive stopper role while seeking to add more offense to his game. Senior Julian Boatner led the team in three-point percentage last year (though he didn't have enough attempts to qualify for the league lead), knocking down nearly 45% of his triples. He'll be counted on once again to spot up and knock down shots when he gets them, and he'll begin the season as a starter in Britt's absence.
At the same time, W&M brings in one of the most highly-lauded recruiting class in recent memory, with wing Omar Prewitt and point guard Michael Schlotman pushing for time in the early going while 6'5" Daniel Dixon and 6'9" Jack Whitman add depth.
No less a luminary than FOG:TB Dave Fairbank sees this collection of returning talent and improved depth and says things like, "If W&M doesn't finish in the top half of the league and challenge the best teams, the season will be a disappointment." Others in the know, off the record, use phrases like "twenty-win season", and, Lord help me, "This could be the year."
To which we respond, "watch the video":
We also say, "read this stuff that we wrote last March":
"Invariably, and almost predictably, this W&M team has inexplicable stretches of somnambulant play. They go from crisp, attacking basketball to head-scratchingly passive effort. Since February 11 alone, the Tribe blew a 10-point second-half lead to lose at home to Northeastern, let a 25-point lead dwindle to three before beating UNCW at home, let George Mason go on a 19-1 run to erase a 13-point deficit and win in Fairfax, allowed a 15-0 run to end the first half at UNCW before regrouping to win, and gacked a 16-point halftime edge to drop the season finale at home against JMU. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest that this team should be headed to Richmond on a seven-game winning streak. Because they should."This Tribe squad clearly has the talent to play with the top tier of a radically revamped CAA, which features only nine teams, including the College of Charleston. The league's coaches tapped W&M to finish 4th in the preseason poll, behind Towson, Charleston, and Drexel. Last year, nearly the same talent couldn't figure out how to close out games, losing three times in double overtime in addition to the exasperating efforts listed above. We'll be keeping a close eye on this team's ability to stay focused.
After tonight's opener, the Tribe plays a handful of intriguing non-conference contests, including a road trip to 15th-ranked Wichita State next week, a game in the RAC against Rutgers on November 23, a home grudge match versus Richmond in early December, a roadie against Huggy Bear and the Mountaineers in Charleston, WN on December 29, and a New Year's Day tilt at home against former conference foe Old Dominion. (If you don't think the Teej and I are inviting ourselves to Clarence's house for a combined New Year's Eve/Tribe Hoops celebration, you may need to rethink things.)
By our reckoning, the over/under for non-conference wins is eight. Anything less would be cause for concern. But you won't get us to say anything more than that.
Emu, and everything.