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Never Made The Tournament Club Season Opener: HATTERSZN OFF TO INAUSPICIOUS START.

Stetson tried their best to lose to an NAIA school, which is not a good way to start your season.

Around Kennedy Oaks Day Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images for the VRC

Stetson has long been a favorite of the Never Made The Tournament Club.

There’s not a lot of reason for that other than the Stetson nickname: The Hatters.

Stetson is not really supposed to compete in the Atlantic Sun, and the Hatters took precisely no time in confirming those doubts in a struggle fest against NAIA Webber International. The Hatters would win, comfortably, even, using a second half spurt and some garbage time foul shots to wrap up a 98-89 opening afternoon win against Webber International.

But make no mistake: Stetson’s got some problems.

The last time we saw Stetson, they were playing defense like this.

Fortunately, Hatters head coach, Corey Williams, kept the 1-3-1 zone in his pocket to run out a defense that structurally made sense. Unfortunately, they were toasted by an NAIA school.

Stetson surrendered 49 first half points, allowing Webber to shoot 62% from the floor. Even though Webber had 8 turnovers, they still were able to rack up points against the Hatters. That doesn’t bode well for Stetson’s future, seeing as they are a Division 1 program, and Webber International is an NAIA school who have had two coaching changes in 7 months. You shouldn’t be trailing that team at halftime.

Fortunately for the Hatters, they heated up in the second half thanks to outside bombs from Kenny Aninye and Raine McKeython, who combined to hit 5 of their 7 three-pointers in the second stanza. A cool 1.1 points per possession in the second half erased the deficit and put Stetson far enough ahead where their shaky foul shooting (13/27 on the day) wasn’t a problem.

If we’re looking for positives for a Stetson team that is in rebuilding mode, it all starts with freshman big, Abayomi Iyiola. All he did in his first ever collegiate game was get loose for 21 points and 13 rebounds. Welcome to the big show, Abayomi. He displayed a nice touch from the midrange and springy athleticism that Stetson could use more of in their front court. He’s absolutely going to be a player to watch in the Atlantic Sun this season.

The overwhelming feeling after one game of Never Made The Tournament Club action is one of relief, but also impending doom. We didn’t expect Stetson to make it out of the club this season, but unless their young core improves in a hurry, they’re going to have a long season. After just 40 minutes, it doesn’t feel like an overstatement to point that out. And, yet, here we are, undefeated after about two hours of NMTC action. It won’t last long, but we’re spotless for now. Let’s enjoy these fleeting moments of glory before they melt away into the background radiation of the college basketball season.