The UNO men’s basketball team finally gets to tip off one of their most anticipated seasons in recent memory when they play Pensacola Christian College on Tuesday night at UNO’s Lakefront Arena.
This season will be UNO’s first opportunity since 2010 to compete for a postseason berth and, despite losing his top three scorers from last year’s team, coach Mark Slessinger believes his team has the talent necessary to make some noise in the Southland Conference.
The top scorer and rebounder returning from last year’s team — which finished 11-15 and 8-10 within the Southland Conference — will be junior forward Kevin Hill. The former John Ehret standout averaged 7.9 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Privateers last year and really began to rise his level of play later in the season during conference play.
Hill and senior forward Terrence Syon will be key in replacing Cory Dixon, who led the team in scoring (13.5 points per game) and rebounding (7.7) last year. Hill and Syon have made an effort to find ways to compliment each other’s games while they are on the court, including Hill making an effort to add a 12 to 15-foot jump shot to his repertoire over the offseason.
The Privateers’ backcourt loses Tradarrius McPhearson and Isaac Mack to graduation, but still boast a deep group of players with experience on the collegiate level.
Slessinger returns three sophomore guards that got significant playing time last season, including sharp-shooter Christavious Gill, who averaged 10.3 points per game and shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc last season during conference play.
The Privateers also added another veteran player to their backcourt during the offseason with senior guard Kevin Brown, who transferred to UNO from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Brown, 6-foot-1, played in 35 games (starting in 13) and averaged 5.5 points per game as a member of the Ragin’ Cajuns team that won the Sun Belt Conference tournament last season and made a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Slessinger has also stated that Brown’s versatility at either guard position will make it easier for him to transition into UNO’s style of play and fit in along with Gill and the other sophomore guards—Tevin Broyles and Nate Frye.
It will be important for Slessinger’s team to mesh quickly, because after Tuesday night’s game against Pensacola Christian, the Privateers will take road trips to play against several of the best teams on their schedule.
After the season opener, UNO will play road games against TCU on Thursday, Texas A&M on Nov. 28 and at the University of Denver on Nov. 30.
It doesn’t get any easier in December either, with road games against the University of San Diego, Southern Illinois and Indiana three days before Christmas.
Slessinger has said throughout the offseason that he believes the experiences his team has to deal with early in the schedule will make them a better team once the new year rolls around, but only time will tell.
UNO’s season opener against Pensacola Christian will be played at the Lakefront Arena on Tuesday at 7 p.m.