It takes a few ingredients to create what was arguably the greatest season in the history of UNCG Men’s Basketball. It begins with becoming SoCon regular season champions, then making your way into the SoCon conference tournament champions. Winning a school record of 27 games, defeating NC State on their home floor and having the fifth best defense in all of college basketball doesn’t hurt either.
The players are another vital ingredient to this recipe, with UNCG having three All-SoCon selections on the roster, sophomore forward James Dickey being named SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, guard Isaiah Miller being named the SoCon All-freshman team and Wes Miller being named the SoCon Coach of the Year. With the added bonus of countless classic Francis Alonso clutch moments, and, to top it all off, nearly upsetting the defending national runner-up and then no. eight ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament, you have a real recipe for success.
However, the Spartans and Coach Miller are hoping to build upon these records, and the team is hungry for more. With the exception of forward Marvin Smith who was an All-SoCon Third Team selection last season, every person mentioned above will be back on the team for this upcoming season. That also includes Wes Miller himself, who agreed to a seven-year contract extension that will keep him at UNCG through at least the 2028-29 season.
Impactful new additions to the team include Eric Hamilton, an uber-athletic forward standing at 6 feet 9 inches. Hamilton is a transfer from Wichita State University, a school that made the Final Four in 2013 and is consistently ranked in the AP Top 25.
Expect Hamilton and Dickey to terrorize opponents defensively with their length and athleticism this season. UNCG will likely be in the running, having the best defense in the nation as the addition of Hamilton only makes our fifth-ranked defense from last year even better.
Last but not least is senior Guard, Francis Alonso. Alonso has a great case for being one of the most decorated UNCG Basketball players of all time, and will very likely have his jersey in the rafters of Fleming Gymnasium alongside Kyle Hines, Courtney Eldridge and Scott Hartzell.
However, Francis Alonso is still here to dazzle us with his clutch performances for one more season. Although the SoCon preseason projections have yet to be released, expect Alonso to be among the favorites for the SoCon Player of the Year award as well as numerous other accolades.
Knowing that we have the talent to compete in the NCAA Tournament, Wes Miller made sure to schedule numerous quality opponents to go against in order to boost our resume going into March Madness. UNCG will begin the season with a three-game road trip.
The Spartans’ first stop will be at the Corbett Sports Center on Nov. 6 against crosstown rival NC A&T. UNCG will then move on to an even harsher test on Nov. 9, as they travel to Baton Rouge to face off against the Tigers of Louisiana State University who boast the no. four ranked recruiting class in the nation this season. After this, the Spartans will return to North Carolina to face UNC Wilmington on Nov. 13.
Most importantly, on Dec. 1, the Spartans will travel to Lexington, KY to match up against the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky is considered by many sportswriters to be the favorites to win the national championship this season, and will more than likely begin the season ranked as the no. one team in the nation.
If UNCG were to pull off this upset, it would almost guarantee that the team would be able to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. This means UNCG would not be forced into winning to the SoCon tournament in order to earn a bid as has been the case for the last two years.
Also- even if we do lose- depending on how well we play, the exposure gained from going to one of the most hostile sports environments in the country is a major accomplishment.
The 2018-2019 season has the potential to be one of the greatest seasons in the history of UNCG Athletics.