The men’s basketball team has a lofty goal, but one head coach Gary Chupp believes the team can achieve.

“Our goal is to get to Branson to the national tournament,” Chupp said. “We were close two years ago, finished 32nd in the country and a game out of third place.”

Even with the rough patch that the men’s basketball team encountered last year, going 4-12 in conference play and 11-18 overall, Chupp believes that this year’s team can do well in conference play.

“The Mid-Central Conference is so strong,” Chupp said. “If you can get to the top half of our league then you’re in consideration for the national stage. We are not at that point right now, but I think the personnel we’ve got and the makeup of our team, we can certainly get there.”

When it comes to strengths and weaknesses of the team Chupp says, “We have a much better post play this year, but I also felt like we had to improve our overall team shooting. We are going to be a much better shooting team this year.”

Chupp also added, “On the other side of the ball, we are not where we want to be defensively yet. I don’t know who on our team is going to be our defensive stopper, or someone to cover their leading scorer.”

When it comes to conference play, Chupp believes that, “The three conference games we play before Christmas, versus Taylor, Bethel and Saint Francis, are going to be huge.”

Chupp added, “The last couple years, we have had a very difficult stretch of conference games and we try to crawl out of the hole for the rest of the year.”

The Maple Leafs opened their season with a close loss at Aquinas College, 60-69. The men will return to Goshen on Nov. 4 and 5 for the Maple City Hoopfest, starting at 8 p.m. against Berea College.