At times last season, just keeping games close was a victory for the Lincoln men's basketball team.
This time around, getting victories will be the victory.
Lincoln coach John Redmond said even with the Blue Tigers returning to the extremely deep Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, he thinks they can improve on last year's 5-22 record.
"It's going to be tough, but I like our chances," he said as the Blue Tigers prepared to open the season at 7 p.m. today against Avila in an exhibition game at Jason Gym.
"We've got an opportunity, with the type of kids we have, to make games out of it. We're going to be in situations where we're going to have an opportunity to win, and that's all I was asking for, an opportunity. When it comes down the final minutes, we're not going to be down by 20 or 30.
"I think we have the caliber of talent now to compete every night."
Still, the goal isn't necessarily to win one of the toughest leagues in Division II, as Lincoln was their guy, we just have to contain everybody else."
But you can't totally forget about the Cougars' passing game.
"They're probably 65-35, run to pass," Howard said. "And because they're in the spread, they can throw it anytime. They use a lot of short, quick passes. So while they may not come out of the game with a bunch of yards, it wouldn't be unusual for them to throw it 25, 30 times."
When the Blue Tigers get the Cougars' offense off the field, they'll be attacking a version of the 3-3-5 stack.
"They get a lot of pressure on the football," Howard said "They want to get a lot of athletes on the field and cause trouble with extra blitzers. But the thing about our offense is that when you send a lot of pressure, if you blitz the wrong side, we'll gash you on the other side."
Today will be the Blue Tigers' first home contest after three straight road games, and it will also be important for the road team.
"They're fighting for a spot in the NAIA playoffs," Howard said. "They have a great shot at getting in with a win, so you would hope for some jetlag or some trouble adjusting to the time zone from their trip. But I bet they'll be ready to play."