HARROGATE, TN – One day before squaring off against their biggest arch-rival, the Lincoln Memorial University men’s basketball team learned it has moved up to no. 8 in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches poll released late Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement of the Railsplitter’s highest ranking since joining the ranks of the NCAA Division II and their second highest ranking in the program’s history comes just hours before the Railsplitters are scheduled to take on one of their oldest and biggest rivals, Carson-Newman College.
More than 85 years ago LMU and Carson-Newman began playing at least one yearly men’s basketball game. Since that time, the Railsplitters trail in the series 89-96 with the two teams splitting the home-and-away series last year. In fact, in both of Josh Schertz two seasons at the helm of the program, the Railsplitters have split the series with the Eagles entering Wednesday’s meeting first meeting of the year.
This season however, the Railsplitters are off to a 16-0 start and are atop the South Atlantic Conference with at least a three-game lead on the remainder of the competition at 8-0. Adding fuel to what will be an already heated rivalry, the Eagles will enter Wednesday night’s game riding a four-game win streak and tied for second in the league standings. The combination of recent success from the two hotest teams in the conference is expected to produce the largest crowd to watch a Railsplitters verses Eagles basketball game since the late 1980’s when both were members of the Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference and the NAIA.
“Carson-Newman is playing as well as any team in the South Atlantic Conference right now, and will enter our game with tremendous confidence,” says LMU Head Coach Josh Schertz. “Chuck Benson has done a wonderful job blending almost an entirely new roster and getting his players to buy into doing what it takes to win. They lead our league in three-point shooting in conference play and also lead the league in three-point defense. It should be a great atmosphere against a very good team, we are looking forward to the opportunity to compete.”
In addition to the moving to no. 8 in the latest NABC poll, the Railsplitters were also named the NCAA Southeast Region’s no. 1 ranked team this week. The accolade marks the first time an LMU men’s basketball team has ever achieved such a ranking and will surely create even more anticipation of the game.
“Being ranked no. 1 in the region for the first time in school history and moving up to a school record no. 8 ranking in the national poll are nice rewards to our kids for their hard work,” said Schertz. What’s most important though is that we remain focused on the present as you can’t compete in the past. We need to remain committed to improving as a team every day and doing what is necessary to play our best basketball each game. We approach our schedule as 26 one game seasons, all that matters to us right now is preparing for the Carson Newman game.”
Wednesday’s night’s action is a twin bill with both school’s women’s programs. The Lady Railsplitters and Lady Eagles will meeting in the opening game of the evening at 6:00 p.m., while the Railsplitters and Eagles are slated to tip-off somewhere around eight o’clock.
Weather forecasts for the east Tennessee area are again calling for wintery conditions and could possibly force a postponement of the South Atlantic Conference event. However, as of right both teams have both barrels locked and loaded for what is expected to be a war in Jefferson City.