The Griffon basketball team hopes that they can improve on last season’s poor regular season and build off a strong finish in the regular season and their upset in the MIAA tournament. Western finished 11th in the MIAA with a 12-18 record. Head coach Brett Weiberg has been pleased with the effort he has seen over the off-season.
“Every one of these kids have bought into what we call our preseason,” Weiberg said. “They have bought into our training staff, coaches, and they have done everything that we have asked them to do.”
The team will need to improve offensively after finishing 12th last season–averaging just 66.7 points per game. It will be a tough task to start with last season’s leading scorer, Aaron Emmanuel, out for an extended period of time with a knee injury.
“The things that Aaron did, he scored it at a decent clip, and he is the best rebounding guard in the conference,” Weiberg said. “We’re going to have to try and replace him with toughness and have the next guy up mentality.”
The Griffons also lost their second, third and fourth leading scorers from a season ago. The pressure will land on junior Cole Clearman. Clearman averaged 7.5 points per game but led the team in scoring in three of the team’s final six games.
Missouri Western finished the 2015-2016 season winning six of their final nine games.
“We have guys that know how to win in this league, but they know how hard it is to win in this league,” Weiberg said. “They know that we can’t take anything for granted and that every night is going to be a fight.”
The Griffons went 10-5 at home last season (8-3 in the MIAA) but where they struggled was when they left the friendly confines of the fieldhouse.
“We really struggled on the road, and I think a lot of that was consistency, and that’s just – you have to have mental toughness,” Weiberg said.
Missouri Western will begin the season with three of their first four games at home, and Weiberg hopes that will help his team get off to a good start. But before starting the regular season at home, the team will take a trip to Lubbock, Texas, for an exhibition game against Texas Tech University.
“It’ll be one heck of a challenge for us, and that is how we have to look at it,” Weiberg said. “Our whole goal will be to go down there and control what we can control.”
The Griffons started last season with a win against Wayne State University, but then fell short against Upper Iowa University. They will begin this season against those same opponents.
“We’ve got some pretty good Division II teams at home, and then we play some tough games on the road,” Weiber said. “I think we’re going to come out of the non-conference tested.”
Missouri Western hopes to come out of their non-conference schedule having a better start than they did last season. The Griffons started the 2015-2016 campaign with a 2-6 start. Weiberg says that a fast start is crucial for this team.
“You’ve got to have some success early, especially with these guys,” Weiberg said. “And if we play well we will have some success.”