ASHLAND, Va. (WWBT) - Randolph-Macon’s basketball season is only two weeks old, but the Yellow Jackets appear to have picked up where they left off last season.
The Jackets are out to a 5-0 start and are the top-ranked team in the country among Division III teams. Four of their wins have come by double-digits, most recently a 102-51 win over Shenandoah on Tuesday night.
“We don’t talk a ton about it. I’m sure the guys know about it, but the important thing is that’s what the outside world things of us, or at least some people do,” head coach Josh Merkel said regarding the number one national ranking. “I think what’s important is our hunger, our striving to get better, not getting caught up in what anyone else thinks of us.”
Success is nothing new to Randolph-Macon. Last season, the Yellow Jackets were preparing for the Sweet 16 when the NCAA Tournament was cancelled at the start of the pandemic. The feeling still sticks with those who were part of last year’s squad and they’ve spent most of the last ten months wondering if they would even have a 2020-2021 campaign. That chance to play basketball may be a little bit more appreciated than before.
“Very appreciative of the games this year,” said guard Lorenzo Woods, the only senior on this year’s team. “Especially, from my standpoint, how it was taken away from us last year, not even expecting to have a game this season with how everything played out, so just to be able to go out there and play one game at a time, very appreciative, very happy.”
Of course, the Jackets understand that each game could be their last, depending on how things go with regards to the pandemic. The NCAA announced on Wednesday that Division III championships have been cancelled due to low participation numbers, so Randolph-Macon will not get a chance to see how this team stacks up in the big dance. Still, Merkel and his group are grateful for each chance they get to take the floor and realize that the opportunity to continue relies mostly on themselves.
“If you ask them, probably everyday, ad nauseam, they can probably repeat what I’m going to say after practice,” Merkel said. “We’ve talked about control what you can and follow the protocols, stay safe, stay masked, stay distanced.”
Despite the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, the ODAC Tournament is still scheduled to be played, so the Yellow Jackets will have a chance to chase a conference championship.
Randolph-Macon’s next scheduled game is Friday night at 7:00 PM when the Jackets host Randolph.
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