Area colleges: Tough schedule for MTSU; short bench at TSU

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 9:45pm

Middle Tennessee State

Kermit Davis understands the importance of a strong non-conference schedule.

That is why the Middle Tennessee State coach has lined up several tough games at home (UAB and Vanderbilt) and on the road (Belmont, Auburn and Tennessee). He also knows that sort of schedule could deflate a team and those who support it if things aren’t going well.

“Sometimes it can hurt you, just with your fan base, but I do think it prepares you,” he said. “We’re going to know exactly where we are [heading into conference play] — that is for sure.”

Guard James Washington, last season’s leader in steals and assists, and a couple Division I transfers make this the “longest, most athletic team” Davis has had in his nine years at MTSU.

Tennessee State

Tennessee State begins this season the same way it ended the last one — with nine players.

In February, head coach John Cooper dismissed four for violating team rules, so the Tigers played the last nine games of a 9-23 season shorthanded. This summer he brought in three Division I transfers, but they won’t see the floor until next year.

The second-year coach does not have any seniors and returns only four lettermen, including sophomores Robert Covington and Jacquan Nobles, to lead a young bunch.

“Oh God, I’m really excited,” he said. “I’m excited about where we finished the year last year, where we are heading, the kind of kids we have, and the opportunity that will be there for these young men.”

Trevecca Nazarene University

The first month of the 2009-10 season was telling for Trevecca Nazarene. With nine freshmen, the Trojans jumped out to an 8-1 mark and won the Nazarene Classic. They used the start as a springboard for a 21-10 season.

This year they return 11 lettermen, led by all-conference junior guard Michael France, to a roster that includes eight sophomores and six freshmen. Once again, they aim for a fast start.

“I think we’ve got to do better early. I hope our returning players know that,” coach Sam Harris said. “I think a couple of our early tournament games in November will — and I hate to say this — probably determine how we finish.”