By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
The question was about half way out of the reporter’s mouth before Brendan Cooper butted in.
“National championship,” said the Fairmont State senior forward when asked about his expectations for the season.
This lofty goal has been repeated and reiterated time and again by coach Jerrod Calhoun, his staff, players and anyone else who is even tangentially linked to the program.
Well, the time for talking is over. It’s now time to play.
The quest for the title begins this weekend with the Joe Retton Classic.
The Falcons kick off their season at 3 p.m. when they host Bowie State. They play their second game Sunday against Virginia State at 4 p.m.
The women’s basketball team will open the tournament against Bluefield State at 1 p.m. The Lady Fighting Falcons were selected to finish third in the inaugural Mountain East Conference preseason poll; however, coach Steve McDonald isn’t reading much into it.
“Rankings have hardly ever meant anything. They create interest, but more often than not they're incorrect,” he said. “I think we can be the best team in the league. Or, as I’ve told our girls, every team on our schedule can beat us. You have to show up every night.”
West Virginia Wesleyan will also play Virginia State Saturday at 5 p.m and Bowie State Sunday at 2 p.m to wrap up the tournament.
The tournament is what is known as an “exempt tournament.” Each Division II university is permitted to play a maximum of 26 games. Once every four seasons, a team can hold a tournament and play two additional contests that count for the team’s overall record.
Calhoun selected the CIAA opponents because he believes they will challenge his team and help them prepare them for a rigorous schedule that he called “one of the toughest in the country.”
“We’ve got to be very good early,” Calhoun said. “We wanted to get really good teams in that tournament because we think that’s really going to kick off our year. It’s going to be a great two days of basketball.”
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