Men ready for tournament

 Losing three straight games is not exactly the way that the Florida A&M University’s men’s basketball team hoped to end its season.

Coaches and players are still optimistic heading into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.

“I am expecting for us to go all the way and win the MEAC tournament to earn a bid to be a part of March Madness,” Senior point guard Rasheem Jenkins said.

Jenkins also added it’s about more than just accomplishing team goals. He wants to realize a few of his own dreams.

“It’ll be a special honor to play in the NCAA tournament,” Jenkins said. “If not, I’ll feel like I underachieved.”

The Rattlers understand there is a completely different atmosphere and tempo in tournament play compared to the regular season.

“Everybody’s going to come to play,” Jenkins said. “There’s no more home games or away games. Just that one, so it’s win or go home.”

Senior forward Larry Jackson agrees there is a different atmosphere and said the Rattlers must take it one game at a time.

“Everyone knows that and every team knows. Nothing that happened in the regular season matters anymore. It’s all about winning that game,” Jackson said.

The Rattlers have either beaten or played competitively against most of the teams in the MEAC and said they know what they need to do to be successful.

“I think we just need to follow the game plan like we’ve been doing at home, which is to play defense and just playing smart,” junior forward Yannick Crowder said.

The men’s basketball team finished the season with an 11-3 home record, holding teams to 53 points per game in the Al Lawson Center. They have a 1-16 road record, but Crowder said the team should play well in a neutral setting.

“[Playing at a neutral site] will have very little effect,” Crowder said. “Coach Harris told us, ‘we’re all we got,’ so that will give us an edge in the tournament.”

Although having fan support is important, the team said it all comes to down to playing defense.

“Our defense is the strong point of our team. We’re not a high scoring team, but we’re able to hold teams down in points,” Jackson said. “So as long as we can stop teams and rebound, we’ll be successful.”

Heading into the tournament, coach Eugene Harris has stressed to his players about executing and playing strong defense.

“We’re just working on staying more consistent and working on the mistakes we made with the previous [MEAC] teams,” Jenkins said.

Harris said he expects to play four games next week if his team does what it needs to do, but they may have to do it without their starting point guard Jeffrey Kennings who was injured during last Saturday’s game against North Carolina Central University.