Opening nights are always exciting affairs. The HU men's basketball team had a couple of dry runs prior to tonight's regular season opener against Northwestern at Hutton Arena. They went 1-1 in exhibition games, losing a freewheeling 98-95 decision to Lakehead and then rebounding with a barrage of 3-pointers (16 in all) and some tough defense in a 87-63 over Division II foe Minnesota, Crookston.
So, head coach Nelson Whitmore has had a chance to assess his team in game situations. He knows they will have to bring their 'A' game in the opener against an Eagle team that is the preseason pick to return to the NCAA tournament as the camps of the UMAC. Among the Eagles' 21 overall wins: a 62-61 win over the Pipers.
But it's a fresh start and the Pipers are hoping to prove the conference coaches wrong who have picked them to finish in sixth place this season. (The coaches' poll and MIAC preview can be found here.)
The coaches' skepticism is somewhat understandable.
Carl Hipp, the burly center who led Hamline in
nearly every offensive category there is last year, has graduated and, as Whitmore notes, “You can’t replace a guy like
So the 2011-12 Pipers may not look alike their predecessors. There may a different scoring leader every night. No two trips down
the court may look the same. But, if Whitmore’s will works out, the concept will
look the same: five guys going full-blast at both ends of the court.
That certainly was the case in the two pre-season games.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of games in the
80s and 90s,” Whitmore said. “It’s the style I like to play and it’s the style
that suits our talent. It should be a lot of fun this season."
But this opener is about more than the first official look at the Pipers. Before the game, HU will honor Don Meyer, the winningest men's college basketball coach ever in pre-game ceremonies and at a post-game reception. Meyer retired in 2010 with 923 victories. The first 37 of those took place at Hamline in the early 70s. His last team in1974-75 went to the NCAA Division III quarterfinals. He later coached at Lipscomb and Northern State.
Meyer was one of 10 former HU basketball greats to be enshrined in the school's Row of Honor that hangs proudly in Hutton Arena. Unfortunately, the original ceremony last December was postponed due to a snowstorm. Meyer was unable to make it for the re-scheduled event.
So, he will be honored prior to the game with the Eagles. The Pipers hope to reward him with a winning effort.