Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
We sit down for a second go around to check in with Stetson head coach Casey Alexander, whose Hatters are off to their best start in conference since the 1998-99 season.
Stetson knocked off Lipscomb by a comfortable 85-69 margin Saturday night, and while it only brought their overall record to 9-10, it was the Hatters' fifth win in a row, and their sixth in the past seven games. That marks both the team's longest win streak and the best start in Atlantic Sun play (6-2) in over a decade.
What better time than now to take a few minutes and talk with the lead architect of this program and get a feel for where his team is at.
Mid-Major Madness: They say that winning can cure what ails you - or at least make curing it a lot easier. Do you think that applies here?
Casey Alexander: I think the winning makes a big difference, in that it makes the guys a lot more willing to show up and work hard in the practices. When you are able to go out on the court and turn all that effort into results in terms of your record, it shows you that all the work you are putting in during the (practice) sessions is paying off in a tangible way, and that's exciting for them.
MMM: The offensive numbers seem almost identical to last season, so is there anything in particular that has changed to get the team to where it is at with the current winning streak?
CA: This team – as we showed last season – has always been strong offensively, and that has continued this year. The defense is what was lacking, and we are by no means a great defensive team, but we are much improved over last season.
I think this year there isn't one particular thing, it’s just been a matter of doing a lot of little things better and having that all come together as an improved overall product.
MMM: You talked recently about improving turnover margin, how does that factor in to the team's improvement going forward?
CA: We aren't a team that is really going to force a lot of turnovers on defense, so it’s more about reducing them on the offensive end. Our offense does a lot of passing, so there is some inherent chance for turning the ball over, but we need to be much more active in chasing down our own turnovers and limiting those, as opposed to getting tips and deflections on the other end.
MMM: It seems like there is a lot of inconsistency in the Atlantic Sun this season, as there have been almost as many close games (7 decided by one or two points) as blowouts (11 by 14+ points). Does that make your opponents any more difficult to scout?
CA: I wouldn't say it makes it hard to scout, we can still go through the same process of seeing trends. What I think it does do is prove that anything can happen in this conference, and that you can’t get too ahead of yourself in counting on wins.
I think our guys are smart enough to know that, while it’s great to be in the position we’re in this far into the conference season, we haven’t really accomplished anything yet, and won’t really know until we get through the remainder of the season
MMM: Speaking of that remainder, you must be looking forward to what appears to be a tough upcoming schedule?
CA: I'm definitely looking forward to it. I think we will know a lot more about our team in two weeks than we do right now. We've got three straight road games (against Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, and North Florida) and each one of those will be a challenge. I wouldn't pin a number to it and say that we expect to win all three or that losing all three is a disappointment. I’m more interested in seeing the guys do everything they can to win.
We recently had two road games and we still took one game at a time – we did everything we could to beat East Tennessee and won, and then we went back out and did everything we could to beat USC Upstate and won. And the effort I saw in those two games is just as important to me as the fact that we won the games.