THIBODAUX, LA (WVUE) - The recipe for success isn't as simple as just having a veteran roster, but Nicholls State knows it certainly helps to have a strong group of seniors paving the way.
"Old guys win," says head coach Richie Riley. "That's part of it. We're in a culture of one and done throughout the country, especially in power five leagues. But you look at who are the top teams in the country, and old guys win. I really believe in that."
It's a credit to Coach Riley, in just his second season in Thibodaux, finding the right mix of young and old, high school recruit and transfer, to build a team that's contending for a Southland Conference Title. But no matter the age and experience of each player, they've all bought in.
"Coach made us focus completely on defense," says freshman forward and John Curtis alum Ryghe Lyons. "We practiced on defense for two hours, not really even touching the ball until after practice."
"Shots are going to fall some nights, but it's not always the offense," says senior guard Javaughn Powell. "Most of the time, it's the defense. If we can rebound the basketball and get stops, we know that we're going to put ourselves in a pretty good position to be where we want to be at the end of the game with our ability to score the basketball."
But even as Nicholls sits atop the conference standings, they haven't forgotten where they were picked to start the year. They were 10th in the Southland preseason poll, behind a lot of the teams they've beaten up and down their schedule. Now, the Colonels plan to hang on to their top spot and prove all of their doubters wrong.
"Just handle it with the same way you come into the season, with a chip on your shoulder," says Powell. "We were picked 10th, and we know that. And we know that just being in first now doesn't change what people think of us, and what people are still thinking right now.
"I don't know why we were picked 10th, but that's what the coaches and media thought of us," says three-time conference player of the week Roddy Peters. "I don't really pay too much attention to it."
That's because what they're focused on now is bigger than a clearly meaningless pre-season ranking. Nicholls State is all in on winning the conference, their tournament, and making it back to the big dance for the first time since 1998.