By Connor Powell ‘20
The Merrimack College men’s basketball team is coming off one of the best seasons in program history. Due to this success, they are facing off against the University of Connecticut in an exhibition matchup on Monday, October 30th. This is a huge opportunity for both the players and the program itself. UConn has been one of the best teams in Division I College Basketball over the past 20 years. The Huskies have made it to the Final Four in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2011, and 2014. They ended up winning the National Championship in all those years except in 2009.
These might be intimidating stats to go up against, but the players have an optimistic view on the opportunity. “It means a lot, especially when the competition level increases. We’ve been working hard since day one to get better and I believe we have a legitimate chance to beat UConn. not everyone receives an opportunity like that so it’s only right to make the best of it.” Said sophomore guard Jaleel Lord when asked about the upcoming matchup.
When asked about the upcoming schedule head coach Joe Gallo stated, “Our 2017-18 schedule features a challenging regional portion in addition to the high-quality opponents that we will face in the NE10, but we’re thrilled to be playing UConn at the XL Center for our exhibition. It will be a great way to prepare us for what lies ahead beginning on Nov. 11 in Philly.” (Via Merrimack Athletics)
Last year’s team made it to the NCAA tournament as the 8 seed. The Warriors’ first matchup was against a highly favored Le Moyne College. The team completed the upset with a huge thanks to the then freshman Juvaris Hayes, who’s finished with 21 points. After the historic victory, they were defeated by Saint Thomas Aquinas College by a final score of 73-70.
As exciting as last year was for the Warriors, this year is expected to be even more exciting, particularly with new challenges and competitors. The team has changed very little from last year with all 5 starters returning this season.