High expectations surround East Tennessee State

By Seth Bartee
STAR Correspondent

   ETSU men's head coach Murry Bartow said that his Buccaneers would probably not face a bigger team than Global Sports, which defeated them narrowly in a preseason exhibition.
   That's good news as the Bucs, who are trying to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in school history. Another positive is having a head coach with the credentials to lead this ETSU back to greatness, again.
   Bartow most recently served as head coach for the University of Alabama-Birmingham, from 1996-2002. During his tenure at UAB he led them to one NCAA tournament berth and two appearances in the NIT. But Bartow does not really feel any pressure because he's beaten college coaching great Jerry "Tark the Shark" Tarkanian's teams before. He has also beaten Division I teams such as Florida, UNLV, Fresno State, Missouri, Louisville and Marquette.
   "We have got good players and we have high expectations of them," said Bartow when asked about feeling under pressure after filling Ed DeChellis's place. "We have a good group of core guys. If they can stay healthy, we have a chance to have a good year."
   ETSU has been picked to finish at the top of the North Division in the SoCon. The Bucs are picked right above SoCon runner-up UT-Chattanooga. In the South Division, College of Charleston is picked to be number one.
   The Bucs are a deep team. Bartow believes they can go eight or nine players deep if they have to.
   "I have a lot of confidence in our bench," he said. "James Anthony, Michael Tolliver and Sam Oatman have done some good things in the past. James has had some good strong performances in big game."
   Not only is the Bucs' bench looking to be one of the best, but their starting five is golden.
   The Bucs' frontcourt will be dominated by SoCon player of the year Zakee Wadood and Jerald Fields. Both Wadood and Fields are on the brink of eclipsing the 1,000 point mark for their careers. The two have rewritten the ETSU record books for single-season and career blocks, and both have ranked at the top of the SoCon in rebounding the last two seasons.
   In the backcourt, sophomore standout Tim Smith is on target to wow fans again this season. Smith, nicknamed "Tiny" Tim by the Associated Press during the NCAA Tournament, scored 15.3 points a game last season. He was among the nation's best in steals with 2.4 per game, and was freshman of the year in the SoCon and the SoCon's Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
   "We are doing good keeping the intensity up this year," said Smith.
   It's obvious that Smith wants not only to return to the big dance, but has hopes of being in the top 25 this season. "We want to start off strong early and end up strong. I think we can end up in the top 25 if we win early."
   One of those players Bartow is looking to come off the bench strongly is Tolliver. Tolliver is a 6-3 junior guard who was rarely used under DeChellis, but Bartow has already said he plans to change that.
   "I've worked hard in the off-season," said Tolliver. "I can come off the bench and knock down some threes and play tough defense." He also said he believes that he's not just a defensive or offensive player but a balanced one.
   Junior, guard James Anthony, one of the key contributors to Bucs late last year is ready to play the big games.
   "I feed off of the big teams," said Anthony. "Our whole team feeds off of playing big teams."
   Anthony has surrounded himself with great players. In his hometown of Tampa, Fla., he practiced this summer with friends who play for top programs such as Illinois and Ohio State.
   Wadood knows his team is good but as a team captain he wants confidence, not arrogance.
   "I think we are pretty good but it's not arrogance," said Wadood. "We are confident that we can play with anybody."
   The Bucs start out with a tough schedule as they head down to Texas to play Houston tonight and Bobby Knight's Texas Tech team Nov. 23. The Bucs go against Mars Hill in their home opener on Nov. 25.