The 2016-17 season is less than three weeks away, and teams all across the nation are chomping at the bit to get things under way.
One team in particular is the Lamar Cardinals, as they are looking for a rebound year after limping to the finish in 2015-16.
After starting the year at 9-4, optimism started to build around the program and whether or not they could contend for the Southland Conference title with the top teams in the conference. After their win over the Nicholls State Colonels to open conference play, the Cardinals would win just two more games on the year, finishing with a record of 11-19 overall, and 3-15 in conference play.
This season, while the team will still be young, the Cardinals are hoping for a better showing from start to finish. With only two seniors on their roster, inexperience may be an issue, but the talent is there, without question.
Outside of the power conference, the Lamar Cardinals boast one of the top groups of sophomore players in the nation. With Nick Garth, Josh Nzeakor, and Dorian Chatman all back for year two, plus a slew of talented additions, there is reason for optimism around the program once more.
Their schedule presents several opportunities for statement wins right from the outset. We took a look at their upcoming schedule and identified three games that you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan of the Cardinals, or just a fan of great basketball.
From power conference foes to rematches from last season, the Cardinals will be looking to seize each and every opportunity that is presented to them.
Nov. 16th: Lamar Cardinals @ Oregon State Beavers (Corvallis, OR)
After opening the season against Howard Payne on November 11th, the Cardinals play their first Division I opponents in their second game of the season when they travel to take on the Oregon State Beavers. It’s one of two games on the West Coast for the team before returning to Beaumont.
Any time you play a power conference opponent on their home floor, you want to go in and make a statement. On paper, the Beavers will be double-digit favourites in the game, but they won’t be at full strength when Lamar comes to town.
The Beavers will be without Malcolm Duvivier, who left the program during the off-season, leaving a hole in the lineup that will be tough to fill. Sophomore forward Tres Tinkle will be at full strength by the start of the year, which will undoubtedly give the Beavers a boost on both ends of the floor.
It may only be game two, but the Cardinals have a big opportunity to shock a Pac-12 opponent and make a statement early in 2016-17.
Dec. 19th: Liberty Flames @ Lamar Cardinals (Beaumont, TX)
Lamar’s contest on December 19th against the Liberty Flames marks another rematch from last season. The Cardinals and the Flames met on December 12th, 2015 in Lynchburg, VA. Behind a dominant first half, and guard Nick Garth‘s 22 points, the Cardinals came away with the 73-58 victory to push their winning streak to three games.
This time around, in Beaumont, TX, the Flames will be looking for a little redemption and score a road win of their own in the home-and-home series.
Liberty is expected to contend for the Big South crown this season, and guard John Dawson is a big reason for their rise up the conference standings. Dawson is a sleeper for Big South Player of the Year, and will look to give the Cardinals all kinds of problems on game day.
Jan. 25th: Texas A&M-CC Islanders @ Lamar Cardinals (Beaumont, TX)
January 25th marks the start of a gruelling four-game home stand for the Cardinals in Southland Conference play. To kick things off, the Texas A&M-CC Islanders come to town, providing Lamar with an opportunity to pull off a massive victory.
The Islanders have been picked by some to take home the Southland Conference title this season, and they have the Pre-Season Conference Player of the Year in Rashawn Thomas leading the way. Lamar’s forwards will have their hands full guarding the high-flying senior forward, but they will be up to the task.
Following the game against the Islanders, the Cardinals will take on the Northwestern State Demons, the McNeese State Cowboys, and then the Sam Houston State Bearkats to close out the home stand. A win over the Islanders would set themselves up for success over the following three games.
– T. Bennett