"But W&M has made three finals in seven years after a recent history devoid even of hope. We're brutally disappointed today, but there will be a tomorrow. As Tony Shaver said last night, "The thing I get angry about is people trying to define whether or not you made the NCAA Tournament as whether you had a good year. If our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, we can move into a conference that has the same academic restrictions we have. We choose to play at a higher level. I think that's admirable to be honest. We're not going to let the NCAA Tournament define our team." (We're grateful to Defiantly Dutch for finding us that quote.)
In 2003, the New York Yankees came from behind to beat the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on an Aaron Boone walkoff homerun. That's the worst I ever felt after a sporting event. Second worst, I guess. But one year later, that pain was long forgotten."
Today, on the cusp of a new season, hope's eternal wellspring is renewed, and we're a few short months away from one year later. Time will tell whether we're Kevin Millar or Charlie Brown. (I've asked TJ to frost his tips, Millar-style, to bring the Wrens luck. Still awaiting his answer.)
|Hoping to give a few more fan bases that look.|
Thornton begins his senior season with 1,519 points, best in school history over the first three seasons of a player's career. He trails Chet Giermak, W&M's all-time top scorer, by 532. While it's not a foregone conclusion, Thornton scored 599 points last year, so Giermak's mark is in sight. Thornton also enters the season second in Tribe history with 223 made three-pointers, trailing David Schneider's knuckling jumper by 55. Marcus is also in the top 5 among returning NCAA Division 1 players in career threes.
Beyond the numbers, though, Thornton's the most electric player ever to wear a Tribe uniform, a gym rat who's added a new dimension to his game in each of his seasons in Williamsburg. When we checked in on him this summer, his even-keeled, no drama demeanor was augmented with a bit of an edge, a hardness in the final minutes of a decidedly informal game that we'd only seen glimpses of before. As one of only two seniors on what's suddenly a very young Tribe team, Thornton's going to be called on to lead in a very different way.
The CAA's beat writers tapped Thornton as the league's preseason Player of the Year, while picking the Tribe to finish second behind Northeastern. Though last year's conference Rookie of the Year, Omar Prewitt, joined Thornton on the all-league first team, and Tony Shaver's team is just one year removed from a 20-win season and a CAA finals appearance, there are those that question such lofty expectations. W&M lost six seniors, including career 1,000-point scorers Tim Rusthoven and Brandon Britt, and athletic wing Kyle Gaillard.
|All hands on deck on defense around the rim this season.|
The size and skill of the guards and wings on Shaver's roster, though, offer the veteran coach a fascinating menu of potential options. The projected opening-day lineup pairs 6'4" redshirt freshman Michael Schlotman with Thornton in the back court, while 6'6" soph wing Prewitt, and hard-working 6'5" junior Terry Tarpey join Sheldon along the front line. 6'6" freshman Oliver Tot is a long-armed, strong guard with international experience, having played for the Slovakian men's national team. 6'5" guard Daniel Dixon blossomed as a defensive stopper and occasional scorer during his freshman season. 6'8" freshman wing Paul Rowley needs to gain weight and learn to create his own shot, but he's deadly from deep, and if he can prove he can defend his position, may get some run.
|Tot jokes? Why yes, we have some of those.|
We're less than three weeks away from the season-opener at (gulp) Florida. The non-conference schedule offers several decent tests, all on the road (the Tribe plays at the Gators, UNC, Richmond, and ODU), and a handful of winnable confidence-builders. More than most years, the out of conference slate is a feeling out opportunity. We'll be perfectly happy with 5-5, as long as it looks like progress, and we've figured out how we're going defend the post.
This Tribe season starts for all practical purposes on January 3, when W&M hosts the College of Charleston. We know better than to make predictions about our team, and we know from painful recent experience the pitfalls that come with even the most mildly positive expectations for Tribe hoops. But as the hashtag goes, #inmarcuswetrust, now more than ever, if only for a few more months.