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Tip-off dinner brings excitement to program, Beard back to old stomping roots

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ABILENE, Texas - The college basketball season starts on Friday for ACU, so what better way to get ready than by inviting a former Wildcat back to Abilene?

It was a mixture of purple plus some red and black for Tuesday night's Men's Basketball tip-off dinner with special guest Chris Beard speaking to Wildcat fans. Beard is now the Texas Tech head coach, but prior to, he led McMurry for a season, and his ties to ACU go back to when he was a graduate assistant - while current Wildcat head coach Joe Golding was a player.

"The secret is starting to get out, but I don't know if everybody really understands that ACU is about to have a really good team," said Beard at Tuesday's dinner. "This is Division I basketball right here in Abilene, Texas, where not only can you support the Wildcats, but you can see really good teams that come in to play Golding's teams. This is big-time basketball. This is the first year they're eligible for postseason, so this is a team that could play in the Big Dance."

And the bar is set pretty high for ACU this season, as they come into its first year of postseason eligibility - starting against Randall on Friday at home.

The Wildcats return five starters from a team that finished 13-16 overall and 7-11 in the league last year, preseason picked to finish 7 th . But those predictions aren't very accurate when you aren't eligible to be in the postseason tournament, which is why the Wildcats may be a bit under the radar to start.

But they've got the last 2 freshman of the year -- Jaylen Franklin and Jalone Friday as core leaders of the team, not to mention Drake Green and Isaiah Tripp as seniors to back up an emerging class of experienced young players.

All that making this team eager to get out and make a statement.

"It's a team that we're excited to put on the floor and a team that hasn't proved anything yet, but has the ability to do that this year and kind of grow up on the floor," said head coach Joe Golding. "Hopefully, they'll put a good product on the floor that can compete in the postseason."

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