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Georgetown College men's basketball team is setting its sights on a 22nd straight trip to Kansas City for the national tournament. The preseason No. 3 Tigers have a packed schedule, mostly filled with the ever-expanding Mid-South Conference opponents.
Bluefield College and Cumberland University join the MSC, giving the league 11 schools now that West Virginia Tech is gone. No divisions and home and home schedules mean most of the Tigers games will be inside conference.
"We have an extremely tough conference," said GC coach Chris Briggs. "Three other schools are in the Top 25 and one school is receiving votes. It will be another year of tough battles inside this league.
"Then of course we have the Central Bank Jim Reid Classic which always brings top competition. Life University will be back in that, and we will go to Life again this year."
The Tigers are picked to win the conference again this season and 2010-11 national championship University of Pikeville is tabbed second.
Returning players this year are Garel Craig, Allan Thomas, Russ Middleton, Deondre McWhorter and Vic Moses - five key pieces the young coach will look to for help in finding chemistry with eight new players.
"This is a good core of returning players," Briggs said. "Garel, Allan, Russ and Vic know what it takes to win and have all played multiple games in Kansas City. Deondre took a redshirt as a freshman and he brings a lot of passion and energy to get back out on the court."
Leading the list of transfers is junior Mychal Parker. The North Carolina native transferred from Maryland University. Monty Wilson, Corey Washburn, Joe Caldwell and Montavious Marc are also transfers with college experience. True freshmen are DJ Townsend, Bopper Stenzel and Charlie Rogers.
"We've got a good group and a very athletic group," Briggs said. "It is going to take some time and game experience together. I'm looking forward to watching this group grow closer every day and work toward being the best basketball team they can possibly be. The must realize they can take nothing for granted and that they must work hard and earn the success they want, nothing will be easy and nothing will be given to them."
Craig will be moving to his natural position of point guard and be the floor leader for Briggs. Thomas and Middleton are pure shooters and Moses provides the stability and strength in the post.
Briggs will count on Townsend to help spell Craig, while Wilson has the ability to score and get to the basket.
McWhorter, Marc, Parker and Washburn bring speed and length that Briggs hopes adds an uptempo style that can disrupt opponents.
"You can't replace guys such as Maurice Pearson and Jordan DeMercy, but we do have a lot of guys with those type of talents and a deeper bench this season," Briggs said. "We should be versatile and athletic.
"In order to do so, we must continue to develop chemistry and mental toughness in practice. We have to be tough enough to execute on both ends down the stretch, late in games."
The long season starts Oct. 30 when the Tigers tip off against Miami-Hamilton at Davis-Reid Alumni Gym.