The Binghamton men’s basketball team roster is full of new faces and a fresh energy that the squad looks to use against big-name opponents this winter. After a disappointing finish to an initially promising season last year, the Bearcats knew that they needed to institute some changes.
“We haven’t played well in conference play so I decided to play a bigger schedule, just focus on putting the guys in some different environments against some bigger, stronger teams and trying to grow through that process,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey.
Binghamton will face powerhouses such as Notre Dame, Northwestern and Michigan. The team hopes that the elevated level of competition will translate into the conference victories that were in short supply last year. The 2017-18 season ended poorly for the Bearcats, who fell to conference opponents in all but one of their final 12 games, despite having cultivated a seven-game winning streak against nonconference teams earlier in the season.
However, this year’s squad has an entirely different look and was placed sixth of nine teams in the annual America East (AE) Preseason Poll, its highest projected ranking since 2016. Dempsey, in addition to upping the ante for matchups outside of the AE conference, has incorporated eight new players into the Bearcat roster. New additions to the roster include graduate student forward Chancellor Barnard, junior guard Richard Caldwell, Jr., freshman guard Sam Sessoms and classmate forward Calvin Poulina.
“Those are the four guys that are new faces that are playing a lot of minutes,” Dempsey said.
According to graduate student guard J.C Show, these additions will help the team as it strives to improve upon certain aspects of its game. His words echoed his coach’s assertion: This team is quicker and more agile than its predecessor.
“We’re working a lot on pushing the ball in transition and to increase the amount of possessions in the game,” Show explained. “Coach Dempsey has always been preaching that to us. but I feel like we have a team this year that is maybe a little more suited to that.”
Show also stressed the importance of rebounding, which may prove a difficult area to improve in without senior forward Thomas Bruce. Bruce led the team in both offensive and defensive rebounds last season, with 56 and 200, respectively, and averaged 11.1 points per game. He sustained a concussion in September and has not been cleared to practice. The team is unsure of when he will be able to return.
Bruce is just one of several familiar faces that did not appear in the starting lineup for Binghamton in its scrimmage against Lehigh on Oct. 20. Three of the five starters were new to the squad, reflecting a shift in the team dynamic and style.
“Other returning guys will have to settle into some roles that are different than what they’ve had in the past,” Dempsey said. “Everybody has seemed to be all team-oriented at this point.”
The fluctuating responsibilities that accompany the integration of so many new players could have left the squad feeling disjointed. But the team seems to be gelling well atop the solid foundation provided by Show. The seasoned guard led the team in average minutes played and points per game with 32 minutes and 13.8 points last season. His anchoring leadership is a cornerstone of the team’s structure and vital to the successful transfusion of its new blood. With his experience and the fresh energy of unfamiliar faces, Dempsey believes that the team will come together and develop as a unit.
“It could be a team that could take a little time to find it stride, but it looks like a talented group that will probably get better and better as the year goes on,” Dempsey said.
The Bearcats will soon have an opportunity to test their chemistry when they take on the Cornell Big Red in their first game of the season on Nov. 6. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.