QUINCY -- Brad Hoyt sees this weekend's Fairfield Inn Classic as this area's unofficial tipoff for basketball season.
"I do look at it that way," the John Wood Community College men's basketball coach said. "So I want to provide as good of a field as we can to kick off basketball season for a basketball crazy area."
Hoyt certainly has done that.
Not only are the Trail Blazers ranked 14th in the NJCAA Division II preseason national poll, but JWCC's two opponents are receiving national respect as well. Milwaukee Area Tech was ninth in the preseason poll, while Arkansas State Mid-South was the top vote-getter among schools not in the top 20.
That's bound to change after Mid-South beat No. 7 Parkland 67-56 during a 3-0 start to the season.
"It's probably going to be the most well-coached team we play early on from a structure standpoint," Hoyt said of Arkansas State Mid-South. "They are really structured. It's going to be a really good test for us."
That will be at 7 p.m. Friday at JWCC's Student Activity Center. John Wood (1-2) will face Milwaukee Area Tech at 3 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last year's fifth-place game at the NJCAA D-II national tournament.
The Stormers beat the Trail Blazers 85-68 to cap a 31-6 season, and the details for this game were ironed out shortly after the tournament ended. Hoyt and Stormers coach Randy Casey had tried to schedule matchup to no avail in previous years.
This time, the open dates lined up, and Friday's matchup with Black Hawk College will be the Stormers' season opener.
"We both play a completely different style, so I think it's good for the both of us," Hoyt said. "We're anxious to have them here. It worked out great."
Win or lose, Hoyt hopes to see another step in the right direction for his relatively inexperienced team.
"We have so many pieces to the puzzle," Hoyt said. "We have so many versatile, interchangeable parts in a lot of ways. That's great, but that's tough at the same time. So at the end of the day, it's going to be about our ability to work as a group.
"It's figuring out the team personality. Every one of our seasons start out this way because we challenge them. The way we schedule them, you have to have a certain level of toughness. Every team searches for that. I know our guys will find it."
Fairfield Inn Classic
At JWCC Student Activity Center
Black Hawk College vs. Milwaukee Area Tech, 5 p.m.
Arkansas State Mid-South vs. JWCC, 7 p.m.
Black Hawk College vs. Arkansas State Mid-South, 1 p.m.
Milwaukee Area Tech vs. JWCC, 3 p.m.