By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 21, 2015) — The Sporting News says Tarleton State has the best Division II men’s basketball team in the nation.
The nationally respected medium released its basketball preseason polls Monday with Tarleton State ranked No. 1 in Division II.
“I heard it’s a misprint,” quipped head coach Lonn Reisman Monday afternoon. “That just couldn’t be right.”
As usual with the intense Reisman, the winningest active college coach in Texas, the joking did not last long.
“It’s a huge honor for our basketball program. We believe we have built a strong tradition here and that we have one of the best programs in the country, but this doesn’t win us anything,” Reisman said. “We still have to go out and prove it each year, the target just gets bigger and bigger.”
Never bigger than when you’re ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Of course, the visibility is never bigger, either.
“It’s good for the visibility of Tarleton and the City of Stephenville. When you’re ranked No. 1, people from the west coast to the east coast suddenly start watching. They want to know what Tarleton’s up to, how did Tarleton do, all across the nation. It’s great for the university, the community, the alumni, the boosters and obviously for our basketball program.”
The Texans have three starters and a host of reserves back after reaching the national semifinals last season. They won the South Central Regional and Lone Star Conference regular season titles with a modern era school record 31 wins. Reisman enters his 28th season at Tarleton with 589 wins.
The returning starters include point guard Michael Hardge, small forward Nosa Ebomwonyi and power forward EJ Reed. You won’t find any of them on preseason All-America teams, but that’s fine with Reisman.
“We’re unselfish, we don’t care about personal honors, we only care about team honors,” the veteran head coach said. “That’s why we can compete in regional and national tournaments, because we’re built on balance throughout our program and we’re a family. We’re built like a team and that is why we succeed.”
Tarleton plays in a marquee exhibition contest at the University of Texas in Austin on Nov. 6. The regular season begins with the Texan Tipoff Classic Nov. 13-14 at Wisdom Gym. Tarleton faces Colorado-Colorado Springs on Friday, Nov. 13, and Adams State (Colo.) on Saturday, Nov. 14.
“It’s here, or at least it will be here before you know it,” said Reisman. “I like this team, I like the chemistry I already see from our veterans being leaders and our returning players working well with the newcomers, I just have a good feeling about it. Does it mean we’re the No. 1 team in the country? We have a lot of work to do before I’ll believe that.”
Midwestern State, arch-rival to Tarleton for much of the last decade, is ranked No. 7, giving the LSC two teams in the top 10. The league was rated as the toughest in the nation last season by BennettRank.com.
Sporting News Division II Preseason Top 10:
1. Tarleton State
2. Augustana (SD)
3. West Liberty (WVa)
4. Lincoln Memorial (Tenn)
5. Missouri Southern
6. Bellarmine (Ky)
7. Midwestern State
8. St. Cloud State (Minn)
9. Montevallo (Ala)
10. California Baptist