His teams have played in big venues before. So that won’t be anything new when the Bisons open the 2010-11 season Friday night at 6 against North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
“Our players are going to be a little nervous,” Sanderson said. “That is human nature.
“How we start the game is going to be important. They will try to knock you out of the game in the first five minutes.”
Sanderson stops short of calling this game the biggest challenge his team has faced, but he admits it is the highest ranked team. North Carolina is ranked eighth nationally this week. North Carolina is 93-7 all-time in home openers. This is the first meeting between the two schools.
The game will be televised live on Fox Sports South.
“We won at Indiana which has such a tradition,” Sanderson said. “And everybody in the country knows about North Carolina basketball and the national championships they have won. It will be one of the biggest challenges we have had since I have been here.”
Sanderson has also been careful about how he talks about the game with his players.
“It is more about what I don’t say than what I do say,” Sanderson said. “I don’t have to give a rah, rah speech. They are already going to be excited.
“They know what is at stake. We expect to be competitive in this game.”
North Carolina features preseason All-American selection Harrison Barnes, a freshman who has never played in an official college game.
Sanderson doesn’t think his players will be intimidated by all of the history of the North Carolina program that will be on display.
“Games are won and lost on the floor,” Sanderson said. “We do have a good team for the Atlantic Sun Conference. How well we do on the national stage in a game like this is something we will see.
“Our history says that we have traditionally played well in games like this in places like Indiana and Arizona. We have a lot of the same players back.”
The Bisons are led by center Adnan Hodzic, who has been projected to repeat as Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, and guard Josh Slater.
“There are high expectations with this team with so many players coming back from last season,” Sanderson said. “Obviously, we want to win the game. But if we get beat I don’t think this team is going to be down and lose confidence.
“This team won a league championship last season. They have been around.”
The fact that North Carolina is the opening foe has already paid dividends. Preseason practices were focused and intense.
“I know it has energized preseason conditioning and the 20 practices we have had,” Sanderson said. “It has helped us in practice. We have been practicing at a higher pitch.
“Part of the reason is that we have older players who are showing their maturity. But I also think part of it is because we are playing North Carolina.”
Sanderson has three critical keys of the game for the Bisons starting with strong transition defense.
“They score on made shots and missed shots in transition so fast that it will make your head spin,” Sanderson said. “We have to get back in transition.
“We have to cut down on our unforced turnovers. And we have to be able to try to match them on the boards in rebounding.” Sanderson stressed the Bisons also have to be careful about the shots they decide to take.
“We have to get quality shots and then we to some way by committee try to match them on the backboards,” Sanderson said. “That is easier said than done.
“Just because it also is the first game of the season we will do some things in this game that will have us scratching our heads. The fact that we are playing in North Carolina will add to that. Hopefully, because we have played in these types of venues before, those experiences will help us weather any storms.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.