Fall is many people's favorite time of year — the crisp air, pumpkins and apples, the blaze of color.
Not to mention competitive National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) women's and men's basketball.
Here's a look at the college's two powerhouse teams:
The powerhouse Lady Cougars made the national tournament last season, as they have three years in a row. In fact, they have only missed nationals twice in 10 seasons.
Last season, a largely new squad started slowly but ended their season with an undefeated conference record, a 19-game winning streak and a seventh American Midwest Conference (AMC) championship.
Women's Basketball Head Coach Mike Davis has every intention of getting an eighth.
Davis likes an up-tempo style of play and builds his team around versatile, aggressive players — resulting in fast, fun, visceral games.
New players to watch for:
- Celeste Smith, a 6-foot sophomore from Melbourne, Australia, was ranked eighth in National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) free throw percentage (an amazing 83 percent) after one season with Northern Oklahoma College, where she averaged 10.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and was also an all-conference and all-region recipient.
- Laurel Wichmann, a 6-foot-1-inch post, joins the Lady Cougars as a junior after spending the previous two seasons at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City, Mo. Wichmann averaged nine points and seven rebounds per game.
- Airelle Eldridge, a 5-foot-9-inch forward from Baltimore, Md., joining the team as a senior. Eldridge spent a season at Coppin State (Md.) University and two seasons at Iowa Western College. As a sophomore, Eldridge led her team to a 22-10 record while scoring 12.1 points and posting 4.7 rebounds and two assists per game.
There is plenty of free parking behind Southwell. Here is a campus map
Last season's hard-charging Cougars, a largely new team, finished with a 26-6 record, 12-2 in conference play. But Men's Basketball Head Coach and Columbia College Director of Athletics Bob Burchard recruits more than athletes, he recruits academic stars:
- Greg Stegeman, who graduated in May, was named a 2011 NAIA Scholar-Athlete (GPA 3.5 or above). He also averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, leading the team in field goal percentage.
- Senior Taylor Evans, also an NAIA Scholar-Athlete who played in every game last season and averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game; and Blake Walker (not to be confused with his identical twin, Brock, also a Cougar) will make an impact.
- Zach Rockers, a 6-foot-3-inch freshman guard from Centertown, Mo., and graduate of Helias High School, Jefferson City, Mo., excelled in football, basketball and baseball, earning first team all-district in all three sports in 2010-11. He led the Helias Crusaders to three basketball district titles. Rockers was also his class's valedictorian and is a member of the National Honor Society.
- Ben Bowman, a Warragul, Australia native, came to the United States in 2009 to play for Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Neb. The 6-foot-7-inch forward averaged 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore as well as shooting 77.9 percent from the charity stripe. Bowman and current Cougar Matt Woodcock played together at Southeast in 2009-10.
- Marquette Murrell, a 6-foot-6-inch junior forward from Memphis, Tenn., comes to Columbia after spending two seasons at Glendale (Ariz.) Community College, where he averaged 10.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game as a sophomore.
- Tanner Sutton, a 6-foot-2-inch guard from Harrisonville, Mo., joins the Cougars after leading his high school team to conference and district championships his junior and senior years, averaging 15.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game as a senior.
The Cougars home opener is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 2 vs. Concordia Seminary (Mo.) College at 7 p.m. in the Southwell Arena.
Meanwhile, the volleyball Cougars, whose regular season ends in early November, are ranked No. 3 nationally and have won more than 130 consecutive regular season conference victories, an incredible nine-year streak.
Next fall, Cougar fans will have three new sports to root for: women's soccer, men's and women's cross-country.