CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Life after the Mid-South Conference begins for WVU Tech men's basketball Saturday when the Golden Bears host Salem International in the team's season opener.
Tech was ruled ineligible for the league championship last year by the MSC, but that didn't stop the Golden Bears from finishing with the league's best record. This year Tech will play as an NAIA independent and work to break in many new players after losing seven seniors from last year's squad to graduation.
The move will help Tech in being more flexible with scheduling, which will allow the school to play more games in and against competition from West Virginia.
"It's a major adjustment," Tech head coach Bob Williams said. "Instead of scheduling 10 or 15 games you have to schedule 30. It's especially difficult in the second semester when teams are in conference [play]. For us it's been good because it has worked out where we get some in-state games. Instead of driving to Kentucky for league games, most of our games are in the state."
Tech is in the odd position, as a basketball team, to be the main attraction for the school's homecoming festivities this weekend. With no Golden Bear football team, Williams said it's different for a basketball team to play the homecoming game but he is just glad to be playing.
"NAIA usually starts earlier and we would have normally opened around the first of November. We're happy to play homecoming," he said. "It's different than going to a homecoming football game but the schools that don't have football have to play volleyball, basketball or soccer."
The Golden Bears were listed as "also receving votes" in the preseason NAIA poll but Williams' faces the task of replacing seven seniors from last year's squad.
"We still have some question marks," Williams said. "We'll be smaller and not as experienced but we'll compete."
Tech's top recruit, Jacob Copley from Tolsia, left school early in the semester and will not play for the Golden Bears. Williams said Floyd Campbell, Terrale Clark, Brandon Burgraff and Jaren Marino will all start against Salem on Saturday and to expect the team to play a guard-oriented lineup most of the time.
Charleston opens its season Nov. 6 with an exhibition at Conference USA's Southern Mississippi before starting regular-season play at home Nov. 20 against Davis & Elkins.
The Golden Eagles have to fill the void left by departed West Virginia Conference Player of the Year P.J. Reyes, but coach Mark Downey said he thinks he and his staff and put the pieces in place to maintain the success the team had last year when UC finished in second place in the regular season WVC standings and lost to West Liberty in overtime of the conference tournament championship game.