Division I opponents dot Milligan College schedule

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   The schedule for the Milligan College men's basketball team will be a challenge to say the least.
   Games against three Division I opponents highlight the 'Buffs itinerary for the 2002-2003 season.
   Milligan will take on Tennessee Tech on Nov. 25, David Lipscomb on Nov. 26 and Chattanooga on Dec. 14.
   Tennessee Tech won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season last year, while Chattanooga tied for the SoCon South Division title in 2001-2002.
   Milligan guard and former Elizabethton Cyclone standout Michael Morrell is looking forward to taking on some of the nation's best teams.
   "That's something that you really dream about playing," Morrell said. "Some of us when we played in high school, that's the level we would have like to have got to. Some of us ended up here, some of us ended up in junior college and different ranks, but that's definitely something that you would like to get up there. Nobody really expects us to win those games, but coach (Tony) Wallingford has talked about it many times. We're going to look at it from a positive aspect.
   "We're going to go there, and we're going to get better. And when you play UTC or Tennessee Tech, when you come back and play some of the teams in our conference, there's going to be a big difference there. But we're not looking at it in a negative way, we're going to take the positives out of it. We're going to go down there and play hard. Hopefully, we'll shoot it well and just play with them. You never know.
   Milligan head coach Tony Wallingford also looks at it as a challenge, but sees it as a way to build up the program as well.
   "There are a lot of factors that go into the game when it is scheduled," Wallingford said. "Yes it's a tremendous challenge, and yes we're going to be exposed. Two weakness that are going to be made obvious to us, things that we are going to have to work on, because we are going against a bigger, stronger, faster athlete.
   "But on the perimeter of this thing, most games come with guarantees. Those games provide money for our program, which is necessary for us to enhance our program to make it better. On the outside that's always a factor, is to take the guarantee money, and use that money within the program to make us a better program."
   Most teams like to play better schools in order to get better. And even though the 'Buffs will be heavy underdogs in those three games, the goal for Wallingford is to have his team improve.
   "It's a great opportunity for those guys to go into those places and play against that caliber of athlete," Wallingford said. "If we go in and compete and challenge and play hard, we'll get better regardless of the score. If we don't go in and compete and play hard and challenge, then I'm not sure we're getting anything out of that game other than getting our brains beat out."
   Milligan will have a very young team this season, but Wallingford will still prepare his team for wins in those contests.
   "We're going to prepare for those games like we do every other game," Wallingford said. "We're going to prepare to win. We know that it's going to be a tremendous task and a great challenge, but we're going to prepare and go in and try to do good.
   Even though the 'Buffs are definitely looking forward to these games, everything continues to be put in perspective.
   Wallingford knows that the 'Buffs are looking towards the Appalachian Athletic Conference season, but hopes these games will be good preparation.
   "We're not going to make those the centerpiece of our schedule," Wallingford said. "The centerpiece of our schedule is obviously NAIA Division II schools and our conference. Those are not the games the games we're focusing on, but we'll prepare like we do every other night."
   The 'Buffs look like they're ready to tackle the big boys. Morrell says he's been even more motivated in practice knowing these schools are on the schedule.
   "I think it's been a motivating factor knowing that we've got bigger teams that we've got to prepare for," Morrell said. "Our main goal is to win the AAC, although we want to win every game we step on the floor and play."
   Milligan opens up November 9 at Berea College.