Marietta College men’s basketball ready for unique season
High expectations are nothing new to the Marietta College men’s basketball team.
The Pioneers have set the standard of competing for the Ohio Athletic Conference championship and making a run in the Division III national tournament year in and year out. This year will be no different — well, in terms of Marietta’s expectations, this year will be no different.
In terms of nearly everything else, this year couldn’t be more different.
The COVID-19 pandemic which cut short last year’s college basketball tournaments still looms. The OAC has modified this year’s winter schedules — teams will play on Fridays and Saturdays each week.
They’ll play a home-and-away set with one OAC team a week. Each OAC team is scheduled for 12 regular season games — so only playing six different opponents — before the OAC Tournament begins March 1.
“It’s been a battle,” Marietta head coach Jon VanderWal said of the challenges presented by the pandemic. “Everything’s different. I’ve just been worried about COVID and contact tracing and keeping our guys safe. That part consumes more time than what plays we’re going to run or anything else. Even just trying to practice every day is an obstacle in itself.”
VanderWal said multiple players on his team have tested positive for the virus at one point or another, preventing the team from working together consistently.
“It’s been super frustrating,” he said. “It’s kind of stop and go all the time. We’ll get going and be able to do stuff, then get shut down for a bit. We got revved up again a little bit, but then the school had a bit of an outbreak. We got back on December 27th, and since then things have gone really well. It’s an incredible group of young men. I think they’ve handled everything extremely well. They’ve bought in and they’ve been working their tails off.”
Another change the OAC has made this season is that no fans, parents or media will be allowed inside gyms during games. Marietta is one of the nation’s leaders in attendance in Division III and Ban Johnson Arena has become one of the toughest places to play for visiting teams, but with no fans in the stands, the BanJo certainly will have a different vibe to it.
“Games are going to feel more like scrimmages,” VanderWal said.
“It is what it is. Obviously we would love to see fans in the stands. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it. For us in particular, guys come to Marietta to play for championships and play in front of sold out crowds. Ban Johnson Arena has been a huge home court advantage for us. Now, it’s going to come down to our guys playing their tails off and executing.”
Despite everything that will be different, Marietta will still be putting a quality group of players on the court each game.
Junior Lukas Isaly returns at point guard after starting there as a freshman and sophomore. Senior Jason Ellis, who led the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game last season, is back at wing. Junior Mason Lydic, who averaged 8.6 points off the bench last season, will step into a starting role at wing. Tim Kreeger led Marietta in rebounding (6.8 per game) and was third in scoring (12.1 per game) last season and is back in the post.
VanderWal said only one player who wasn’t in last year’s rotation is projected as a starter, and that’s redshirt freshman Brett Martin. Martin missed all of last season with an injury, but VanderWal said his ceiling is high.
“He can do a little bit of everything,” he said. “He’s 6-foot-5, but he’s longer than 6-5. He’s really long and athletic. He jumps out of the gym and he can shoot it really well. He’s got a little creativity to his game.”
VanderWal typically rotates five players off the bench, and he said there’s plenty of competition for those five spots.
Point guard Ryan Reidy, wings Jalen Greiser and Karson Snyder, and posts Sahmi Willoughy and Kyle Matoszkia are the frontrunners, while freshmen Jac Alexander (guard) and Cooper Parrott (wing) are also in the mix.
“I really like our group,” VanderWal. “I think we’ve got a chance to have a really good team.”
Marietta College Men
Head coach: Jon VanderWal, 14th season
Last year’s record: 21-7
Assistant coaches: Nick Sales, Brennan McKean, Michael Kenney, Kevin Knab, Connor McCreary, Chad Mugrage
4 Jason Ellis (5-11, W); 5 Tim Kreeger (6-8, P); 10 Karson Snyder (6-1, W); 33 Kyle Matoszkia (6-6, P); 42 Jake Montgomery (6-9, P)
2 Mason Lydic (5-11, W); 3 Lukas Isaly (5-10, PG); 12 Ryan Reidy (5-10, PG); 32 Bryan Washington (6-5, P)
11 Trey Ruhlman (5-9, PG); 13 Jalen Greiser (6-3, W); 14 Sahmi Willoughby (6-3, P); 15 Brennen Crawford (6-5, P); 24 Brett Martin (6-5, W); 25 Elliott Waller (6-2, W)
1 Jac Alexander (5-10, G); 20 Cam McCreary (6-0, G); 21 Cooper Parrott (6-3, W); 22 Gunner Murphy (6-4, G); 23 Torin Lochow (6-1, G); 44 Addy Black (6-4, W); Spencer Bills (6-4, G)
Jan. 22: at Otterbein, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23: Otterbein, 6 p.m.
Jan. 29: Baldwin Wallace, 7 p.m.
Jan. 30: at Baldwin Wallace, 6 p.m.
Feb. 5: Muskingum, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6: at Muskingum, 6 p.m.
Feb. 12: at Wilmington, 7 p.m.
Feb. 13: Wilmington, 6 p.m.
Feb. 19: at Mount Union, 7 p.m.
Feb. 20: Marietta, 6 p.m.
Feb. 26: Capital, 7 p.m.
Feb. 27: at Capital, 6 p.m.
March 1: OAC Tournament First Round, 7 p.m. at TBD
March 2: OAC Tournament Quarterfinals, 7 p.m. at RBD
March 4: OAC Tournament Semifinals, 7 p.m. at TBD
March 6: OAC Tournament Championship, 6 p.m. at TBD