Maryville College’s basketball teams begin making up games missed due to the flu tonight traveling to Fayetteville, N.C., for a visit to Methodist University.
Jack Nicholson may not be stealing the team bus to take the Scots fishing, but it’s nonetheless, the start of one cuckoo of a road swing.
For the men, this is a no-doubt-about-it must road win. The Scots knocked off the Covenant men by a dozen Saturday, but are still looking for some answers on consistent defensive intensity and adapting to how teams are gimmicking up junk defenses designed to use extra bodies to either deny, slow, mug, frustrate or otherwise defend Jaumonee Byrd in the paint.
Methodist (6-10, 2-4) is probably MC’s best opportunity to bloodhound the search for the confident swagger that was misplaced at the end of last season. Maybe it’s locked up in the basement of the Cooper Athletic Center or was accidentally walled up in the Anderson Hall renovation in a case of The Tell-Tale Mo Jo. Whatever the reason, since the quarterfinal upset in the USA South tournament Maryville’s winning mindset has been a Loch Ness Monster spotted only in blurry flashes.
Tonight starts a stretch of five consecutive road games as MC plays the role of conscientious student making up all the work missed while they were forced to stay home with plague. Missing their scheduled N.C. Reel on Jan. 9 and 10 for the CDC advisory on epidemic like flu counts in Blount County, the Scots can only wish they faked it like Ferris Bueller, because they get no days off.
Maryville was already slated to open the heart of South Division play within the USA South with three road games in eight days — Piedmont on Jan. 31, Covenant on Feb. 4 and LaGrange on Feb. 7 — but the makeup road dates against the North were tacked into that span. The Scots now add tonight’s trip to MU and drive back over the mountains Monday, Feb. 2, to get the Greensboro College reschedule. It ends up as five games and 2,398 miles over 13 days.
For the MC women, it’s a spin that includes a who’s who cast of Clue, who would all like to be one who bumps off the conference front-runner with a national ranking. No ill will involved, well not too much anyway, but with twice as many teams as Division I, knocking off a Top 25 can make a Division III team’s season. Greensboro is playing tag with Meredith to lead the North, Piedmont and LaGrange are both chasing MC (15-1, 7-0) in the South with one-loss each, and in the polls where both could jump from “also receiving votes” to a number value by the expedience of catching the Scots in a wrong night and right place setting.
To keep that 14-game win streak headed toward teetering on 20 when this five-stop roller coaster returns to Randy Lambert Court on Valentine’s Day, the Maryville women will have to rely on what got them into the polls in the first place. MC isn’t just benefitting from the hot hand adding the scoring support to preseason All-America Mackenzie Puckett. They are capitalizing on a team versatility that lets MC set up a group of players to take advantage of situations, then seeing who steps up to thrive in the environment. And when all else fails, rely on a team defense that on bad days in formidable and on good afternoons — like Saturday when a weak Mary Baldwin team was held to 8 first half points — absolutely terrifying.
POLL: Transylvania got two Katelyn Smith free throws Saturday to hold off Rose-Hulman in a 67-66 win for the No. 15 Pioneers (16-1). Maryville remains TU’s only loss this season, but even a month later, Transy remains five spots above Maryville, with the d3hoops.com Week 8 poll due out late today.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at thedailytimes.com