PITTSBURGH, Pa. - When thinking about the 2013-14 Abilene Christian men's basketball team, head coach Joe Golding reflects back to some of the thoughts of one of history's greatest military minds: Chinese general, strategist and philosopher, Sun Tzu, who wrote the book "The Art of War."
"Our guards will definitely be the strongest part of our team, and they'll have to know when to push the ball and when to back off," said Golding, who is beginning his third season as the head coach of the program. "For us to win games, we have to take care of the ball, guard and defend. If we do that, we'll have a chance to win games.
"But we have to be smart with the ball and how we play on the defensive end," he said. "We want teams to take tough shots and only get one shot per possession, which probably isn't any different than every other team in the country. Offensively we've got to know when to push the ball and when to back off and be patient and run our sets. It's a bit like one of the philosophies of Sun Tzu when he said (paraphrasing) that when you have the advantage you push forward, but when you don't have the advantage you have to be smart enough to back off and be patient."
The Wildcats will put the first NCAA Division I men's basketball team on the floor for the first time Saturday at 1 p.m. (Abilene time; 2 p.m. eastern time) when they take on Atlantic-10 Conference member Duquesne at the A.J. Palumbo Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The game can be heard live on acusports.com for free.
That game is the first of a three-game season-opening road trip that will also see the Wildcat play at St. Bonaventure on Monday night and at Maryland on Wednesday night.
The start to the Wildcats' schedule might well be one of the toughest in the nation as ACU is on the road for their first 10 games and won't play in Abilene until Dec. 3. ACU's first five games are against Dusquesne, St. Bonaventure, Maryland, Iowa, TCU with a Nov. 25 game at Xavier mixed in as the Wildcats will take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Not to mention playing 14 tough games in the tough Southland Conference.
"Our hopes in setting up our schedule were that it would allow our kids to play against great teams in great venues and give them a great experience," Golding said. "But we also wanted to get ourselves ready to play and have a chance to win in the Southland Conference."
Golding and his revamped coaching staff – led by assistant coach Brette Tanner, who was an assistant at Stephen F. Austin the previous seven seasons – welcome 12 new faces to the program as the Wildcats get ready to play their first season at the NCAA Division I level as part of the Southland Conference.
Four of those players are high school signees, but three of them will redshirt in 2013-14, while 6-5 guard Michael Grant will be in the rotation at the small forward spot. The Wildcats brought in eight junior college transfers, led by LaDarrien Williams, Julian Edmonson and Austin Cooke. Those three players will play key roles for the Wildcats, whose program has recorded just one winning season (2007-08) since 1998-99. The other transfers are Raphael Farley, Harrison Hawkins, Alexsander Milosavljevic, James Pegues and Jacob Lancaster.
The only returning player from last season is sophomore guard Parker Wentz, who averaged 8.3 points per game and shot 39.0 percent from 3-point range last season.
"With so many new guys on this roster, our chemistry and how this team comes together will be huge," Golding said. "That's always tough when you have as many new guys as we have, but we've got good guys with good attitudes who are tough-minded, competitive and want to be here, and that's where we have to start."
Information for this story provided by ACU Athletics.