Basketball season is a vibrant time at Bethel College, and it is almost here. As excitement builds and Tip-Off Madness nears, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams opened up for a media day on Tuesday, Oct. 16. For the men, a panel of four (Head Coach Mike Lightfoot, junior Taylor Kolbus, senior Jordan Bowerman and junior Ryan Benner) discussed the upcoming season and expressed a positive outlook for the team this year. “Our expectations are very high,” said Lightfoot. Some may not feel the same way about the Bethel basketball program on paper at least. In the preseason coaches’ poll, Bethel is ranked seventh in the Crossroads League. Still, Lightfoot said that the ranking doesn’t affect the Pilots’ approach. “As we all know, preseason polls really don’t have an impact on what happens – it’s what happens during the season and through the grind of a full conference schedule,” he said. In fact, Lightfoot said that being under the radar could give the Pilots a fresh outlook. “Sometimes it’s fun not to have the target on our back but (to be) going after people,” said Lightfoot. “I kind of like that.” However, the players see the low ranking as motivation. “(The ranking) is definitely motivation,” said Benner. “Anything not in the top one or two…it’s almost an embarrassment.” The Pilot men have an impressive crop of new talent coming into the program this year, but Lightfoot wants to make it clear that the veteran leadership will determine the team’s fate. “We’ve got some newcomers, but our intent…is not to rely on new faces,” said Lightfoot. “We have a lot of familiar faces back and we want to make sure those people are going to make an impact right away.” On the women’s side, the panel included Head Coach Jody Martinez, senior Ashlee Ort, senior Georgia Boisse and senior Chrissy Hooks. A strong season last year in which the Lady Pilots finished second in the Crossroads League gives Martinez reason for excitement as the season begins. “Hopefully we can get you guys excited as much as we are for this season,” said Martinez. On top of the momentum from last season, the ladies come in as the preseason no. 2 in the Crossroads League. Martinez downplayed the significance of the ranking but he also pointed to the Lady Pilots’ recent history as a reason for all the hype. “I think they earned the respect from how they performed last year when they were picked seventh and finished second,” said Martinez. Ort acknowledged that the expectations bring with them some added pressure. “Now we’re proving that we earned that spot and we deserve it,” said Ort. The basketball season begins in earnest with Tip-Off Madness in Goodman Gymnasium on Monday, Oct. 22. Then the men begin their season at home against Holy Cross on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. while the girls kick off their season with a home game against the University of Saint Francis the following night at 7 p.m.