Redhawks basketball finishes preseason unscathed

Monday, November 5, 2007

Southeast Missouri State sports fans who have been clamoring for the college basketball season to get here won't have to wait much longer.

Both your teams are just about ready to start their campaigns.

Southeast's men and women each had exhibition tuneups over the past several days and came away unscathed against lower-division opponents.

The men beat a pair of Division II squads, first having trouble with Lincoln (102-96) and then routing Missouri-Rolla (80-43), while the women ripped NAIA Auburn-Montgomery (63-41) in their lone exhibition contest.

But now the games will count on the Redhawks' records, as the men open Saturday night at Xavier and the women tip off the same evening at home against Tulsa.

Of course, the real seasons for both teams -- when their campaigns will actually be defined -- will come a little later, when Ohio Valley Conference play begins.

But this week we'll start to get early glimpses of what Southeast's respective squads are made of.

On the men's side, Scott Edgar's first season last year featured the normal growing pains of a new coach implementing a new system. The Redhawks had their moments, but wound up 11-20 overall and a sixth-place 9-11 in the OVC.

With four starters and plenty of other experience returning, along with some key newcomers, the second season of Edgar's "fast and furious" style figures to be more successful because there appears to be plenty of talent on hand.

Just how successful, however, could hinge on how much the Redhawks improve defensively after they ranked toward the bottom nationally in most major defensive statistical categories last season.

Edgar's Redhawks face another rugged nonconference schedule, with what basically amounts to four money games -- at Xavier and Illinois State as part of the Chicago Invitational Challenge, at Bradley and at Tulsa.

Defending Atlantic 10 champion Xavier, which nearly upset Ohio State in a second-round NCAA tournament game last year, is predicted to repeat its league title after winning 25 games last season.

Bradley and Illinois State are picked second and fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference, while Tulsa is picked fifth in Conference USA. Bradley and Tulsa both won at least 20 games a year ago.

If the Redhawks can survive their nonleague slate in decent shape -- especially with senior center Mike Rembert likely to miss early time after having knee surgery -- it should help prepare them for the all-important OVC season.

As for the women, coach John Ishee's second squad appears fairly loaded as it makes a run at three consecutive OVC regular-season and tournament titles, along with a third straight NCAA tournament berth.

The Redhawks lost just one starter from last year, although it was a big loss as national rebounding leader Lachelle Lyles completed her eligibility.

But with their top four scorers back and with other returning players and some key newcomers providing more depth than last year, the Redhawks are the consensus OVC preseason favorite.

Like the men, Ishee's squad faces a demanding nonconference schedule, topped by a home game with 2004-05 national champion Baylor and a road test against Purdue.

Purdue made last year's NCAA Elite Eight, while Baylor advanced to the Sweet 16.

The bottom line is that if you're a Southeast hoops fan, both seasons should be interesting and exciting to follow.

And they begin in a few days.

He's still got his entire final season ahead of him, but here's wishing longtime Southeast track and field coach Joey Haines all the best as he recently announced his intention to retire following the current school year, which is his 26th at the university.

Haines is one of the most decorated coaches in school history, with 20 OVC titles on the Division I level and 18 top-four national finishes on the Division II level.

Haines has left a legacy that will be hard to approach by anybody who takes over the program.

And not only that, he's been one of the area's classiest and most likable coaches over the years.

Let's hope there will be big crowds at Houck Stadium this weekend to support the Southeast women's soccer team as it aims for a second straight OVC tournament championship.

By winning their third OVC regular-season title, the Redhawks earned the right to host the conference tournament semifinals and finals.

In Friday's 7 p.m. semifinal, top-seeded Southeast will play the winner of Tuesday's first-round game between No. 4 Tennessee-Martin and No. 5 Morehead State.

The championship game will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning an automatic NCAA tournament berth.

Former Southeast assistant women's basketball coach Franqua Bedell has taken over as the head coach at perennial junior college power Southeastern Illinois College.

Bedell, a Southeast assistant under B.J. Smith during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, was an assistant at SIC last year.

SIC, located in Harrisburg, Ill., has made four straight trips to the national junior college tournament. The Falcons, who went 33-3 and finished fourth last year, also have not lost a conference or region game over the past four seasons.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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