Managing expectations may be among the biggest challenges facing the McPherson High School boy’s basketball team this season.

It’s hard not to be optimistic about McPherson's chances of advancing to a fifth straight state championship game. The Bullpups returns their entire starting five, while seven returning lettermen will come off the bench.

A team full of juniors and seniors with state championship experience, the Bullpups know the discipline and adversity it takes to make a championship game.

“We have a team that knows what it takes to be a championship contender,” McPherson head coach Kurt Kinnamon said, “and they take pride in doing the little things that it takes.”

Offensively, the Bullpups are led by Western Illinois commit Ben Pyle. Pyle, a walking double-double, averaged nearly 23 points and nine rebounds per game last season.

With his 6-foot-8 inch frame, and his ability to shoot the 3-pointer with ease, Pyle is a matchup nightmare with just about anybody the Bullpups will see.

If a team tries to double team Pyle, they will be sorry for leaving Mason or Jake Alexander open. Mason, a senior, averaged 14.3 points and led the team with 4.3 assists per game. Jake, a junior, completed the three-headed monster that was the McPherson offense with 12.8 points per game last year.

Seniors Drew Labertew and Thomas Diggs are trustworthy players who excel at their roles, and altogether add to the team chemistry that is evident on the court. Seniors Jayse Alexander and Wyatt Seidl -- perhaps the two most physical players on the team -- look to be Kinnamon’s top two players off the bench once again this season.

Jace Kinnamon, Gabe Hoover, and Kyler Hoppes are a trio of junior guards that will fight for playing time, while Cody Stufflebean (6-4) and Aren Trost (6-5) will provide excellent size.

Coach Kinnamon has no shortage of options when it comes to the versatility of his squad.

“There are several guys that are interchangeable and can play a variety of positions,” Kinnamon said. “This team should be a very good outside shooting team.”

The Bullpups begin their quest for state championship No. 14 on Dec. 1 at El Dorado.

Contact Gallagher Martin by email at gmartin@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @GMartinSentinel