UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — The John Carroll University Men's Basketball Team is on a tear. The Blue Streaks' hot streak has earned them a national ranking of No. 8 by D3hoops.com. It's an accomplishment that means even more to most of the roster as they play in the place they grew up.
Only one player on JCU's Men's Basketball team isn't from Ohio, most coming from Northeast Ohio specifically. For players like Luke Chicone, a sophomore point guard, playing at JCU comes with deep roots.
"Ever since I've been born, I've been coming to John Carroll games because of my grandpa," he said. "Just with all the family ties, it makes it really exciting. And it just makes me that much more passionate."
Chicone is not alone in that feeling. Head coach Pete Moran said that the entire team has a deep rooted connection with the area and that translates to the court.
"It's special for these young men. They come from different backgrounds and different universities, different high schools. And to be able to do this in front of their parents, grandparents, it's special. A lot of these guys, this is kind of a second chance for them," Moran said. "And they're really flourishing, they're gelling together and their happiness is really the most important thing. All these guys, they're a fun group to be around their great kids with giant hearts. And it makes my job a heck of a lot more enjoyable."
That chemistry has helped lead the Blue Streaks to a 15-2 record, 9-1 in conference play. In the Ohio Athletic Conference, that puts JCU tied for the top spot with conference rival Mount Union, who boast a 16-1 record, also 9-1 in conference play.
This week's DIII national rankings has Mount Union at No. 3, and JCU not too far behind at No. 8.
That makes Wednesday night's matchup a high stakes affair.
"If we win this game I think we're looking at possibly being top five ranked in the country and on top of that, putting ourselves in a position to win the OAC," Chicone said.
The Blue Streaks versus the Purple Raiders is set to be a major conference clash, and while the JCU has been preparing for the length and athleticism of Mount Union, they're also preparing for a much larger crowd than they're typically used to.
'We haven't really played in front of as big of a crowd as I think we're going to get tomorrow," Chicone said.
Giving the players, their families and the community as a whole, a big-time experience with a lot on the line.
"This is an opportunity for our guys to play a high caliber basketball team like Mount Union. But at the national stage, our guys have earned the right to play at this stage," Moran said. "This place will be packed. This will be exciting. And I think it's good for small college basketball, this really great atmosphere."
JCU is set to take on Mount Union inside the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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