Bulldogs, McMillan finish highest in SoCon standings in program history
The momentum surrounding the Samford Men’s basketball program reached all-time heights this season, concluding with the first 20-win season for only the third time in program history.
The Bulldogs, who finished with an overall record of 21-11 and 10-8 Southern Conference record, started the season hot and finished on the same note. However, the team faced several challenges throughout the season, especially in early conference play.
The momentum that was built from upsetting Oregon State and Ole Miss appeared to be fading away as the Bulldogs began their SoCon schedule 1-6.
The season changed course once again when the Bulldogs took down Mercer on Jan 26. This was the first time Samford defeated Mercer since 2002.
The Bulldogs only lost two of their remaining 10 games after the Mercer victory. During the team’s winning streak, attendance inside the Pete Hanna Center reached record highs on multiple occasions.
The culture of Samford basketball changed in the middle of a season.
“Together, we have built a program that will be a force in the Southern Conference for years to come,” head coach Bucky McMillan said in an official statement after the season. “I can’t wait for next season, and I can’t wait for the Pete Hanna Center to pick up where we left off.”
With an NCAA Tournament bid on the line, the Bulldogs traveled to the SoCon Tournament in Asheville, North Carolina. Their first-round game was a nail-biting 66-64 victory against UNC Greensboro on March 5.
Samford’s season came to an end during the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament the following day. The Bulldogs fell to the Furman Paladins, 71-68.
Much of the success this season came from several newcomers to the team, specifically a stellar class of transfers recruited by McMillan last offseason.
Florida transfer Ques Glover undoubtedly led the offense at point guard. Glover led the team in scoring (19.2), assists (4.4) and steals (1.2) per game.
Akron transfer Jermaine Marshall was a dominant presence in the paint this season, leading the team in rebounds per game (8.2) and second in scoring per game (13.0). Loyola-Chicago transfer Cooper Kaifes was also an impact transfer player, adding a much-needed three-point threat to the offense.
This was the second season for McMillan at Samford. McMillan, formerly the head coach of Mountain Brook High School, started his Samford tenure in 2020 with a 6-13 (2-9 SoCon) record.
Needless to say, 2021-2022 was much kinder to McMillan and his now respected Bulldogs. On March 2, McMillan was named SoCon Coach of the Year.
With an accolade like coach of the year, the 2022-2023 season already has big expectations for McMillan and his Bulldogs. Samford will need to harness the momentum that was found this year to take home the program’s first-ever SoCon championship.
McMillan announced on March 9 that his team would not be participating in any postseason tournaments after the season concluded. This was due to several player injuries requiring “immediate medical attention.”
As for now, Samford has over seven months of offseason to prepare for the 2022-2023 season. McMillan has already begun his offseason recruiting with multiple prospects reporting offers from Samford.
The recruiting moves made by McMillan during the 2021 offseason allowed the Bulldogs to begin the season hot, allowing explosive new faces to find their groove before the conference schedule. The same outcome would be a significant bonus for the Bulldogs while preparing for year three of Bucky Ball.