2013 Basketball Blogger Q&A: Green Bay

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

December 7: A date that UVa fans hope won't live in infamy, as the Cavs head north to take on Coach B's alma mater. Green Bay blog Phear the Phoenix gives us the lowdown on this year's team

A little preface from Brian Dickmann of Phear the Phoenix: The Resch Center, across the street from Lambeau Field, seats 10,000 and it should be absolutely rocking for the return home of Tony Bennett. He is still GB's all-time leading scorer and has the only number hanging from the rafters. The Phoenix are 3-2 all-time vs BCS conference teams at home, beating Kansas State in 2003, Wisconsin in 2009, and Marquette last year. Should be a good game!

The Phoenix put together a respectable season last year, finishing three games on the right side of .500 and 10-6 in Horizon League play. How does your fan base feel about last year's results?

Last year went how most expected. The pre-season league poll as well as most media previews picked GB to finish third a season ago and they actually did end up tying for third in the league and lost in the Horizon League Tournament semi-finals on a buzzer beater at Valparaiso. The year prior to that in Brian Wardle's second season, Green Bay was one of the youngest teams in the country so last season was sort of a step up after that. It has all been building up towards this season.

What's the biggest piece you've lost since last season?

The Phoenix lost just one senior to graduation, Brennan Cougill, who earlier this summer signed a contract to play professionally in Germany. They did lose 3 shooting guards who transferred out, leaving a question mark at that position.

Who is the player who needs to step up the most this year?

Alfonzo McKinnie (6-8 forward), a transfer from Chicago, averaged over 10 points and 7 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Eastern Illinois. He recently had knee surgery and will miss 4-6 weeks but will be back in time for the UVA game. Hopefully he can be the third scoring option behind 7-1 big man Alec Brown and 5-10 point guard Keifer Sykes

Who is the player UVA fans ought to look out for the most?

While Brown will likely be an NBA draft pick, point guard Keifer Sykes runs the show. A preseason first team All-Horizon League pick, Sykes was third in the league in scoring a season ago with 15.9 points per game and fourth in assists per game with 4.3. In Green Bay's exhibition trip to the Bahamas this summer, Sykes averaged 24 points and 6 assists per game. A quick and athletic guard, the junior recently won the team's dunk contest at the Green and White scrimmage and this summer in Chicago had a thunderous one handed dunk that has been making the rounds online.

What's your outlook for the season? What's a success, what's a failure, and what's something you can live with?

This is the best team (on paper) that Green Bay has had since the Phoenix made their last trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1996, where they were an 8 seed and lost to the 9 seed Virginia Tech. GB is the preseason favorite to win the Horizon League for the first time since that 1995-1996 season. Most fans (including this one) feel this team is capable of winning the Horizon League and making the tournament. With the amount of talent this team has, anything less than an NIT appearance would be considered a failure, in my opinion.

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