Men’s basketball season is upon us, and for the first time in several years, there is hope. It’s not that the Flames will set the world on fire this year, because they won’t. Expectations for this season really couldn’t be any lower. The team returns two players who started a game last year for a total of 20 starts. First year (kind of) Coach Ritchie McKay had a short recruiting period and returns a handful of players from Dale Layer’s 2014-15 squad.
However, it is an exciting time for Liberty basketball. Coach McKay returns to the Vines Center with renewed passion, and his up tempo style of offense has been bolstered by an education in defense under UVA Coach Tony Bennett. I for one am pretty anxious to see what Ritchie is able to do with this inexperienced group of players. Expect an entertaining brand of basketball this season, but be ready for plenty of growing pains. The talent to be a great team just isn’t there…yet.
Wednesday began the early signing period for basketball, and Coach McKay’s presence has already made an impact. 6’8″ Forward Josiah Talbert has already signed on for the 2016 season, and 6’7″ prospect Brock Gardner has committed as well. What the new regime is bringing to the table is already a big step up. Don’t write off Ritchie’s recruits for this season either. Remember that Coach McKay brought in several key players for Liberty that had very little other D-1 interest, including Seth Curry. The future is bright once Coach McKay stocks his roster with talent that fits his systems.
In the mean time, Liberty fans and students should enjoy this season of transition. The Flames will rarely, if ever, be favored in 2015-16. They are predicted to be towards the bottom of the RPI yet again, and with the roster the team has, those projections are understandable. There just isn’t much experience or pedigree. This means Liberty basketball has nowhere to go but up, and the guys will have plenty of opportunities to surprise teams. So expect some upsets and fun moments. More than anything else though, expect a return of exciting basketball. We haven’t seen that since Ritchie headed to Charlottesville, and it will be a welcome return.
So, there’s no pressure this year. Let’s just enjoy the process of seeing this program grow again.