Booneville, Miss. - The Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball program is once again being placed among the top teams in the country based upon high expectations for the upcoming season.
The Tigers check in at No. 25 in Street & Smith's preseason rankings for two-year institutions, which were released in its annual college basketball yearbook magazine.
"I think it's just a situation where Northeast has had some consistency. Our teams have been good over the last couple of years," said Tigers head coach Cord Wright. "That's just a sign of where the program is continuing to grow. For us to start there is obviously a great beginning to the season.
"We have a good group of sophomores coming back. I think we've done another great job in our recruiting class and they're going to impact our program immediately. This team has a lot of momentum."
This is the third consecutive year for Northeast to receive a national ranking at some point during the season. The Tigers rose to as high as No. 21 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll during the previous campaign.
Northeast opened the 2016-17 campaign at No. 25 in the Sporting News preseason ratings before eventually capturing the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division championship.
No other MACJC affiliates appeared in this particular ranking, which includes members of both the NJCAA and the independent California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).
The Tigers are garnering this abundance of recognition after reaching at least the semifinal round of the MACJC State Tournament, the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament or both events in each of the previous four years.
Northeast is also averaging right at 20 wins per season over the last three campaigns. The Tigers have also accrued two major championships in that span, including the 2016 NJCAA Region 23 title.
The Tigers bring back four players that started in at least 10 games from one year ago. Denzel McDuffey headlines that group after collecting MACJC All-State honors during his freshman campaign.
McDuffey was Northeast's leading scorer during the 2017-18 season with 14.3 points per outing. He compiled additional team-best averages of 1.7 steals and one block as well.
Antares Gwyn had the most individual starts of any athlete last year with 22 and was also the lone Tiger to play in all 27 games. He finished as the top rebounder in the entire Magnolia State with 9.4 per contest.
Felix Hayes is the second leading returning scorer for Northeast with an average of nine points while JaQuante Bell had a field goal percentage of over 50 during his inaugural campaign on the Booneville campus.
Another key reason for the hype surrounding the Tigers is an extremely talented freshman class. Among the newcomers for Northeast are previous high school state champions Jalen Perkins, Jordan Temple and DeAnthony Tipler.
The Tigers begin their promising new season on Tuesday, November 6 by welcoming Faith (Ark.) Preparatory Academy. That game immediately follows the conclusion of the women's matchup versus Wallace State (Ala.) Community College at Hanceville, which starts at 5:30 p.m. inside historic Bonner Arnold Coliseum.