Team preview: Nicholls State

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 326 Division I teams. To order the complete 2006-07 edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

There's something different in Thibodaux, La. these days.

No, it's not just the floor at Nicholls State's Stopher Gym, a forced replacement and upgrade thanks to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. It's not the new chair-back seats at the facility either -- compliments of the guarantee money earned by the Colonels for subjecting themselves to road games at places like Indiana, LSU, Penn State, Maryland and Ole Miss just last year alone.

Actually, it's pride.

That's right, pride.

How, might you ask, can a team that won just nine games, and a mere five in the Southland Conference while finishing in 10th place, possibly have pride?

Because the Colonels see growth. They see the potential. And they see a future that could very well be much different than their recent past.

And they see it with good reason.

"Our kids recognize things are changing, and there's a buzz in this town that hasn't been here since I've been here," third year head coach J.P. Piper said. "The kids sense it and feel it.

"I know it's unrealistic to say 'lets win the league' because we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores we're depending on to do things for us. But we're beginning to develop a little pride in who we are and what we're about. Our kids are beginning to sense that they are close to turning the corner, and that just makes them work harder."

The Colonels have every reason to be proud. Nine wins may not seem a lot, but for a team that had won 17 in the previous four seasons combined -- including seasons of two and three victories -- nine is a major step in the right direction.

Even more encouraging is the fact the Colonels actually had a winning record at home, going 6-4 overall and 4-4 in league play. They also won a couple of road games -- one each in non-conference and the league -- for the first time in five seasons.

But the most important thing to Piper was establishing a show of strength at home. Several coaches throughout the league talked of how tough it is now to play at Nicholls, and that, he said, is how a team becomes more than a cellar dweller.

"The first step to turning a program around is holding serve at home," he said. "You can't let folks walk into your place and just expect an easy win. There wasn't much we could do about it in the past, but the first level of respect you can earn is that people have to be concerned with coming to play at your place."