Ron Spry gives a sheepish grin when asked about his team's tournament chances.
Can Paine do what it did in 1999 and 2002 and bring home another Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship?
"We're capable of winning the tournament," he said. "We have to do three things: we have to shoot the ball well, play defense and rebound."
The Lions (15-12) received a bye into the SIAC quarterfinals as a No. 3 seed. Paine will face the Lane-Clark Atlanta winner at 6 p.m. Thursday at Albany Civic Center in Albany, Ga.
The Paine women (15-11) open tournament action at 7 p.m. today. The fourth-seeded Lady Lions will face No. 5 seed Clark Atlanta. The winner advances to Friday's semifinals.
Both Paine teams dropped their final regular-season matchups at home to Benedict. For the Lady Lions, it was their fourth loss in their past five outings.
Paine women's coach Selina Kohn, who has yet to advance past the tournament quarterfinals, is concerned with her team's offense.
The Lady Lions are shooting 38 percent from the field and averaging 22 turnovers a game.
"We're going to have to do a better job of executing on offense," she said. "We've also got to do a better job of blocking out and stopping the dribble penetration."
One asset the Lady Lions have this season is a potent outside game.
Freshmen Savoyia Barrett and Kendra Williams, both players who came on in the second half of the season, are a combined 55-for-188 from 3-point range.
"It's added a little more to our offense," Kohn said. "We're going to have a little more firepower going into the conference tournament."
The Paine men are looking to extend their stay longer than they did a season ago when they dropped their first-round matchup to Kentucky State. The Lions swept Clark Atlanta in the regular season, but lost twice to Lane College.
Spry said he wants to get more scoring from Brian Harper and Dwayne Jones during the tournament.
Harper displayed his ability to take over games, scoring a combined 36 points against Stillman and Tuskegee two weeks ago. In the regular season, though, Harper averaged just 6.8 points a game, while Jones managed 3.6 points.
Sophomore forward Daniel Lomax leads the Lions with a 12.9 point per game average, while senior guard Nate Lewis follows at 12.2 and sophomore center Chris Jackson at 10.1
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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