Basketball Completes Record-Breaking Season
Preseason rankings placed the 2005–2006 men’s Hilltoppers last in the Heartland Conference. The team proceeded to prove those numbers wrong. St. Edward’s ended up taking the Heartland Conference Championship, sharing co-champion status with Montana State University–Billings: Both teams finished the regular season with identical 9-3 conference records. Along the way, the team won 20 games for first time since the 1993–1994 season (a 21-9 finish), defeated two Division I teams and two nationally ranked teams, and advanced to the first round of Division II playoffs.
The men’s team wasn’t alone in its victory. The St. Edward’s University women’s basketball team captured the Heartland Conference championship as well. By coincidence, the women share co-champion status with Montana State University–Billings, which also finished the regular season with a 9-3 conference record.
Men’s coach Ryan Marks culled this year’s seven top scorers from six states and one foreign country (Bulgaria), making the Hilltoppers the most geographically diverse team in the Heartland Conference. “Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program,” says Marks. “I think we have broadened our perspective both nationally and internationally, and it has paid major dividends.”
But, Marks says, recruiting played only one small part of a much larger picture: teamwork. “The student-athletes truly trusted in a vision that the team could be much more successful in a relatively short amount of time if they functioned as a family.”